When I assumed my responsibilities at the Annual Meeting three years ago, I spoke of the three meanings of Temple Ohabei Shalom: as a congregation, as an historic physical structure and as a long-standing Jewish Heritage.
With the help, support and generosity of hundreds of people, I am happy to say that today Temple Ohabei Shalom is stronger in each of its three meanings.
With over 150 new family units having joined us over the past three years from all walks of life, we are a larger and more vibrant congregation. We have reaffirmed our culture of welcome and we have placed inclusion as a priority. Our new members have made us an even more diverse community. Our diversity is a great strength, as there is so much we can learn from one another.
By building out the third floor of our Education building and by attending to a major restoration of our historic Sanctuary, Temple Ohabei Shalom as an historic physical structure is on much more solid footing today. The third floor buildout has permitted us to dramatically expand the Trust Center for Early Education, as we attract more students, and more new families than ever. The Sanctuary is our crown jewel, and thanks to the generosity of our congregants and friends, it has been properly restored for the coming generation.
And our longstanding heritage, now dating back 175 years, has been sustained. Not only does Ohabei Shalom serve as the spiritual home for its 350 member families, we have become a preeminent hub of Judaism for the Greater Community. Each year, thousands of people from all walks of life join us for our worship, educational and cultural offerings. We also graciously share our facility with so many other Jewish organizations, such as the Chai Center, Workmen’s Circle, JF&CS (Jewish Family and Children’s Service) and Koleinu.
All of this only happens because of loyal and generous congregants and dedicated clergy and staff. And this is where I get a bit sentimental. I will say to our new Co-Presidents, and I will say to any of you who might think about becoming a Temple President down the road: it is such a wonderfully enriching experience. You will have the privilege, as I have had, in helping to advance Ohabei Shalom’s sacred mission. And you will have, as I have had, the ability to affirmatively touch the lives of others. You will derive, as I have derived, great satisfaction as you sit on the bima and look at the faces of congregants moved by our worship, as you visit our classrooms and witness the excitement of our students, and as you see congregants of all ages energized on Mitzvah Day and otherwise involved in our many Social Action efforts.
Time does not permit me to individually thank you all, but I do want to express my deep gratitude to two individuals, both partners of mine. The successful operation of a congregation requires a strong partnership between lay leadership and clergy, and I want to thank you, Rabbi Sonia. It has been a privilege to have been your partner. I have learned so much from you and I have such great appreciation for your dedication and commitment to our congregation. And my other partner is, of course, my wonderful wife Denise. She has been the virtue of patience and understanding the past three years, and her love, support and sage counsel have been invaluable to me.
We are all familiar with Rabbi Tarfon’s statement, “It is not up to you to finish the task, but you are not free to avoid it.” I certainly have not finished the task, and there is much work that remains. My wish to my successors is that they will have the benefit of the support, counsel, and generosity that I have received from clergy, congregants and staff over the past three years.
I truly believe that Rabbi Rick Jacobs was correct when he said that our best years are still ahead of us. We enter the next chapter in the great heritage of Ohabei Shalom from a position of strength. As we say when we complete a book of the Torah and move on the the next: Hazak hazak v’nitkhazek. Be strong, be strong, and may you be strengthened.
Thank you to all, and erev tov.