President’s Rosh Hashanah Speech

Keeping Connected     October 2023

I’m wondering… how did I get here?  Maybe you’re wondering the same thing?  Not in an existential kind of way, though that may be a thought for these days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur… but I mean, how did I end up standing in front of you on Rosh Hashanah morning, delivering the President’s speech?

The truth is, this is perhaps a role that has been generations in the making.  For those of you who don’t know me, I grew up at Congregation Shalom.  I had my Bat Mitzvah here with Rabbi Bard, my Confirmation with Rabbi Perry.  I was a religious school teacher as a high schooler, a Shalomites board member and President.  I was an advisor when I was in college.  I got married here in this sanctuary.  As I was growing up, I watched my mother involve herself in temple life.  I would see her already very busy calendar fill with temple activities – youth commission meetings, executive committee meetings, board meetings.  There would be special projects, events or fundraisers that she would commit herself to.  Maybe that commitment wasn’t a surprise for her, because she watched her father, my grandfather, as a founding member and President of the North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, NY.  He was involved in the purchasing of the land and the building of the temple, as well as the hiring of the first Rabbi there.

Maybe you too remember your parents or grandparents involved in their temple communities.  Maybe you remember leaders of your congregations who were always around, always helping.  While I can say that perhaps my role was family generations in the making, I can also say that it was created by who and what I saw right here in this temple.  Many of the people who I remember as leaders as a pre-teen and teen are still leaders here today.  Many who have retired and moved away to be closer to family are still in touch on social media and email.  These leaders who I watched – and still watch – didn’t just volunteer for a committee or a project.  They immersed themselves and their families into temple life so that their commitments didn’t seem like an extra task that needed to be done… it was just something that they did as part of their life.  It was part of their social group – because their friends were here and they were doing the same things.  Even if you didn’t grow up at Congregation Shalom, I’m certain you can imagine these same people at your own temple.  I’m sure you remember their names, knew their families – and could tell me the “thing” that they did.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Times have changed.  I know, they certainly have.  If you have kids, I know that you’re pulled in so many directions.  And those of you with grandkids, or family members with kids… you see it too.  Maybe it’s a demanding job, or a demanding dog (or two, in my case…) that pulls you in another direction.  Maybe it pulls you from here.  There are teams to coach, schools to fundraise for… activities, clubs, tutoring, prep courses, work travel, long commutes… the list goes on and on.  How on earth can we possibly take on one more extra task?

I think the better question is… how can we not?  How can we leave the next generation without the role models that you and I had?  If we don’t show our kids how to be leaders in a synagogue, who will lead their synagogue?  Who will lead their synagogue – and the temples and houses or worship that we all hope our future generations find homes and solace in?  We need to be the example for our children, and our grandchildren, and the children that fill the walls of this temple like I once did.  They are watching us.

The last thing I want to do on Rosh Hashanah is to ask you to do more.  On a day where we can look forward to a clean slate and allowing ourselves to be freed from the barbed wire that may have held us back over the past year… I don’t want to ask you to put another task on your to-do list.  But I do want to ask for your help.  There are so many important, mission critical opportunities that you might be able to do while you’re already here.  Is there a committee you could join, an idea you had, a special talent to share?  Is there time or space that you’re willing to lend to show the next generation what it means to be a member of a synagogue?

I want you to know… my role models… they are tired.  I know, they’ve told me.  They want us to ask how we can help, how we can learn.  How we can continue the legacy that they have created.  How we can help teach our own children in the process.  As you set your intentions for the new year, consider this.  When you think about the youth of congregations, do you want them to remember you when they are reading their own President’s speech on Rosh Hashanah?  Please help me in continuing that legacy here at Congregation Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom.