The TOS Board of Trustees wants to thank each of you who attended this year’s Annual Meeting. This was an unprecedented meeting for unprecedented times in our community’s 177-year history. We had over 100 attendees and spent over 3.5 hours discussing important issues including social justice, the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of current conditions on the sustainability of our budget. We also gathered, for the first time in our history, via Zoom. Thank you again for your patience with the format and the challenges in communicating as openly and robustly as would have otherwise been possible under normal, in-person conditions.
As you can imagine, the Temple had an extremely difficult year with the required COVID-19 response halting the regular cadence of our worship, our schools, our event programing, and the financial support that comes from our facility rentals.
When faced by this challenge, the Temple leadership team expertly pivoted into offering virtual classes, rituals, Zoomitzvahs, and gatherings for our community and we are extremely proud of the hard work that went into keeping us together spiritually even while we were physically apart. Our volunteers made hundreds of calls to our congregation, delivered groceries, provided handmade masks, and connected to you via phone, text, Zoom, and social media platforms to make sure you know the TOS community is here for you during this extraordinary time. As we look back at the 2019-2020 fiscal year, and in particular the last four months, we have much to be proud of and to celebrate.
The challenges to our community were not only operational, they were financial as well. Put directly, the COVID-related shutdown halted our outside rental income, reduced our preschool and afterschool tuition income, and radically reduced the Temple’s cashflow for the last quarter of the year. The Board recognizes that these challenges will not stop on June 30th, rather they have only just begun and will be carried, realistically, at least through the first half of the 2020-2021 fiscal year as we will continue to have reduced school capacity and we don’t know when we will be able to safety rent our facilities again. Unfortunately, these new budget challenges only compounded the precarious state of the Temple’s finances from years past, as the Temple has not carried a balanced budget and has been relying on deficit spending for several years. In fact, it has been the Board’s priority since the Strategic Plan was adopted two years ago to reposition the Temple on steady financial ground.
Given all this, the Finance Committee spent innumerable hours working to create a comprehensive budget that took into account the ongoing expected impacts from COVID-19, such as government restrictions around school size and gathering size, as well as the community expectations of the services you expect from your synagogue. The budget the Board ultimately unanimously approved, and which the community passed Monday evening by a 68-17 vote with 7 abstaining, was an incredibly difficult one for us to recommend and we acknowledge that these necessary decisions have nonetheless hurt members of our community. The budget incorporated four deeply regrettable position eliminations (including Clergy Assistant, Naomi Fisher and Office Staff, Karen Landman), salary reductions, and removed open roles, with the goal of TOS enduring through these arduous times and landing on a balanced budget over the next two years. Like many other Jewish organizations in our region and around the nation, we’ve had to make tough choices to ensure our Temple can endure not only for the present moment but for many generations to come.
The discussion at the Annual Meeting grew somewhat heated at times because many congregants were concerned that one of the positions being eliminated was the annual stipend given to Rabbi Emily Lipof, this Temple’s beloved Rabbi Emerita. Voting to eliminate this stipend was an extremely difficult decision and not one entered into lightly but was something deemed absolutely necessary by the stark limitations of our current budget. The Board heard loud and clear from the congregation that the Board should be tasked with finding a fiscally prudent manner by which to return Rabbi Lipof’s stipend, if possible. Please be assured that the Board is not ignoring that message and is doing everything in its power to find a solution to this matter that does not harm the financial integrity of the Temple.
The Board’s key job is to be a guardian for the future of Temple Ohabei Shalom through its fiduciary duties. We know some of you were very upset about the budget cuts, and we respect and appreciate the many points of view that were expressed during our Annual Meeting. Please know that the Board – a group of 16 volunteers – loves this community and is doing the best it can to manage through conditions it never anticipated it would face. But the Board is not the entirety of the Temple; the future of Temple Ohabei Shalom rests within each one of our over 300 households, as it is our community that keeps us strong and resilient. The Jewish people have endured many hardships over our almost six-thousand-year history, and this congregation will get through today’s hardships much as it did through the 1918 pandemic.
As we look toward the future, we welcome and encourage our members to step up and join us as we continue to navigate these remarkable times. The Board of Trustees, the Board Advisory Council, and the Nominating Committee are always looking for members to join and provide their perspectives on how best to protect and grow the Temple. Engagement doesn’t stop there, our Social Action/Social Justice, Operations, Worship and Programing, Membership, Adult Education Development, and School Committees are also seeking new members to help our Shul. To make a change, to be heard, please get involved (click here to contact any of our TOS committees).
Through it all, we will emerge stronger and we will continue to protect and promote the Jewish values that we hold so dear.
The Board of Trustees of Temple Ohabei Shalom
Benjamin Berkowitz, President
Mark Gale, President Elect
Penny Garver, Co-Treasurer
Richard Stern, Co-Treasurer
Rachel Greene, Secretary
Rabbi Audrey Marcus Berkman
Rabbi Daniel Schaefer
Shari Churwin, Executive Director