High Holiday Remarks – President Ellen Bensusan
This past summer, I was able to get together with a friend who I have known since we were teenagers. It was fun to reminisce about our teenage years and times gone by. Then he mentioned that he had recently been to the doctor because his shoulder was bothering him. The doctor examined him and his diagnosis was arthritis. My friend looked at the doctor incredulously and said, “How can I have arthritis? That’s what people get when they get old.” Well, honey, it happens to the best of us. Now, I have to be honest and share with you that if one more doctor tells me that my aches and pains are “part of the aging process” I may have to scream, but it does happen to all of us. And, you know what? Thank God that it does! The alternative to having another birthday is not all that appealing.
Why am I sharing this with you? Well, our beautiful building is celebrating her 100th birthday. We’ve had contractors, electricians, plumbers, and other workers in and out of here checking the old girl out and they have asked me why I refer to the building as a “she”, particularly when it’s called United Brothers Synagogue. I don’t really know the answer to that question, because it’s more a feeling than anything else, but it also helps to relate the buildings needs to our own as we get a bit older. The diagnosis for our beautiful space is, and I am hesitant to use the phrase, “part of her aging process. “ She’s managed to stand tall and proud for 100 years and has given us little to complain about but now needs our attention and care.
The news this year has been glum with regard to existing religious institutions. Churches and temples alike have been closed due to lack of funds and dwindling memberships. The front page of local papers recently highlighted the sale of religious artifacts at Temple Am David in Warwick. In addition, a friend shared with me that her church recently had an air conditioner fail and found that their funds could not support the $5,000 repair bill. It is truly a sad commentary, but perhaps the reality of modern religious life.
Two years ago, we had a very successful fundraising campaign with a challenge from an anonymous donor that raised enough funds to get some renovation at UBS started. Our building committee has been hard at work getting estimates and bids on the various tasks to be completed. If any of you have done home renovation, you know that nothing gets done in the time frame you might like and there are always surprises. With a 100 year old building, we have yet to uncover all the surprises that might be within these walls. Over the next year, we hope to accomplish some of the bigger tasks, like reinforcing the roof, modifying our heating and air conditioning system and taking care of our electrical system that sometimes presents ghosts who light up some of the sconces. I wish I could say that that would be the end of the work, but again, she’s 100 years old and, as you may know very well, getting old is not for the faint of heart!
In this 100th birthday year, I would like to invite all of you to give United Brothers Synagogue a birthday gift. While donated funds are always needed and appreciated, your gift can come in the form of continued attendance at services, host an Oneg Shabbat, bring a friend with you to our services, join our hard working Board of Directors, come to play Mah Jong on Tuesday nights or just share stories with friends and family about our warm congregation who can offer a tremendous amount of kindness and support to the community. Don’t forget that you can even donate by credit card through our website! By giving this gift, you make our temple stronger and more able to face the next 100 years with the same enduring pride that have held her up for this first century.
So, happy New Year to you all and a very Happy Birthday to United Brothers Synagogue. May it be a healthy and meaningful year full of wonderful life events. May you all have a room full of loved ones and look this good when you are 100 years old.