Address from TRS Congregational meeting (June 11, 2013)
I want to thank everyone for attending our annual spring Congregational Meeting.
For this meeting, as the Presidential report, I would look to highlight three areas: Development, Clergy, and Community.
First, development: As things currently stand, we do not have a Development Director at TRS. In a congregation with a $6 million dollar budget, more than 1500 families, and a large piece of infrastructure – our building – we must have help to assure that we can sustain our financial future and assure that we are proper stewards for those who given or those who hope to give. A Development Director can collaborate with the clergy, staff, and lay leadership to create plans that will help fulfill this need. Thus, it is important that we fill this position, but in a deliberative way. For the past few months I have spent time with Rabbi Schwartzman, Beth Silver, Robert Schlossberg, our Vice President of Administration, and Hannah Moore, the Chair of our Development Committee visioning the type of person that we would want to fill this post. We are now beginning the process of putting a search committee together, with the hope that we could have someone in the position by the end of this calendar year.
The second item is clergy. Simply put, we need more clergy help. We have had essentially the same clergy structure for 5 years. The necessary liturgical, pastoral, and educational duties can easily overwhelm what has essentially been a 3.5 full time equivalent clergy members. In the time we have had this structure we have grown by 150 families, the size of many URJ member synagogues. We continue to bring young families into our congregation. But also we see more and more of retirees staying in this area. Our clergy must attend to all of our populations. And our congregational survey has told us that one of the most important desires of members is to have more access to the clergy. We will continue to work through this issue of the appropriate clergy structure over the next year – while keeping an eye on budgetary constraints. I have asked our current clergy, working with our lay leaders, to develop a more permanent future plan that we hope can incorporate more clergy for our synagogue.
And while we plan over this next year, we will have three full time clergy, along with a part-time student cantor, and we have asked our current Adjunct Rabbi, Stephanie Bernstein, to be with us all of next year.
The last item I would like to mention is our work to maintain a sense of community. The willingness of our congregants to help make our synagogue a welcoming place, and feel small even though it is large, has been extremely gratifying. There are over 60 members in the Shalom Corps – the group that welcomes members and visitors to our Friday evening services. Members of this group are now expanding their roles to include what they are calling ambassadors. This group will work on making sure that our new members are contacted and made to feel welcome. These are all small gestures but they mean a lot to people. And maybe it is the simplicity of all it that makes it works so well for members and for all of the volunteers. The Shalom Corps was one of the winners of the 2013 Belin Award from the URJ for outstanding Outreach and Membership Programs – an award that comes with a $1,000 award. I want to thank Cantor Scher, Bruce Barishman, Ted Kavich, and all of the volunteers for their work on this project. This is all part of work to work on different ways, including through social media, to engage members and for them to have conversations with each other.
And looking ahead on the topic of welcoming, next April, Ron Wolfson, author of the book “The Spirituality of Welcoming” will visit our Congregation. Board members and congregants will have a chance to interact and learn from him over the weekend he spends with us.
In sum, we will be working to sustain and enhance connections within our congregation, to sustain our clergy, and to sustain ourselves financially.
Andy Joskow, President