Erev Shabbat. It’s a few minutes past 7:00 PM. A large round table is set in the middle of the social hall, filled thoughtfully with savory hors d’oeuvres, fresh fruit and vegetables, rich chocolate brownies and other sweet treats, hot coffee and wine to delight. Around the table—generations young and old—laughing, conversing, sharing and reflecting. Each personally fulfilled from the previous hour, feeling more spiritually connected or emotionally comforted from his or her shared, yet individual experience. This is a most perfect Shabbat and this Shabbat took place at our Temple on July 2nd with our new, charismatic and engaging Interim Rabbi, Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff and our talented congregant musicians leading evening services. This is my hope and desire for all Shabbat and Temple gatherings; to connect spiritually and to connect as a congregation. As one congregant expressed, “This is fun! We need to bring back the fun!”, and I could not agree more.
It’s been a doozy of a year and a half. Luckily, as Jews, we are quite resilient and skilled at pressing forward. We are together in this “new space”. This year we will hire a new settled Rabbi to lead our congregation. This year we will have the unique opportunity to rediscover who we are as a congregation, something that has evolved tremendously over the decades. And this year, we will work with Rabbi Nemitoff to define and build on our greatest strengths including our longevity and supportive community. But first, we need to pause, take a breath, and remember this can only happen if we work together, communicate effectively, and look at this not as a problem, but as an exciting chance for growth. Our application for a Full-Time Senior Solo Rabbi has been submitted and posted by the CCAR and can now be reviewed by all interested member Rabbis. As we have more information, we will certainly share with the congregation.
As I begin my role as President of Temple B’nai Jeshurun, goal setting is a significant part of the process. To name just a few, audacious hospitality, transparency, communication through multiple medium such as email, a new text messaging reminder service (being implemented very soon), good old fashioned phone trees and free lox and bagel Fridays (I’m kidding about the lox, but I’ll see what I can do…) all make the goal sheet. These are attainable and possible with our hard working and dedicated staff, our newly slated and incredibly motivated Board of Trustees and with the wisdom and guidance of Rabbi Nemitoff who will be with us throughout the year. I encourage you to reach out and talk to me. Tell me what you love about the Temple, what may be missing for you, and your hopes and dreams for the future of TBJ. Please help me shape these goals. This is OUR sacred space. My new email is DanaforTBJ@gmail.com. Please send an email and introduce yourself if we have not met. As the mother of three young children, I will happily meet you for a strong cup of coffee and a good, uninterrupted conversation anytime.
In looking ahead to September and our High Holy Day schedule—as of now—we plan on conducting all High Holy Day services in person with flexible options to accommodate our TBJ community—read on. Services will be lead by Rabbi Nemitoff with special guest Cantor Elias Roochvarg; the Cantor will be joining our congregant lay-musicians and four-piece choir to make Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur extra memorable and meaningful. As we have learned, this pandemic is ever-changing and plans are subject to modification. We continue to follow CDC guidance and will do whatever is necessary to keep our congregants safe and healthy. Our plan is to utilize the Sanctuary, Social Hall, and an outdoor tent to create extra space to comfortably and safely seat all our congregants and guests for the holidays. We will stream services in the Social Hall and outdoor tent, as well as online, for those choosing to stay home. If you have children who cannot be vaccinated, have not been vaccinated, or would simply prefer to sit outside, please indicate your preference in your RSVP (coming to your email very soon). In your RSVP, please choose the space that best accommodates you and your family. We ask that while inside the Temple, all congregants and guests wear a mask. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the Temple.
We will open the Temple doors 45 minutes prior to services. An usher will assist with seating in the Sanctuary and Social Hall, as indicated in your RSVP. Again, we believe this will be the most efficient and safest way to create proper physical spacing.
Following Erev Rosh Hashanah Services, we plan on having an outdoor Oneg with treats and beverages to-go, as well as something sweet to take home from our Temple Sisterhood. Following Rosh Hashanah morning services (around 12:30 PM), boxed lunches will be available to take and enjoy al fresco. Yom Kippur break-the-fast boxed meals will also be available following Neilah Services (around 6:00 PM). Please indicate if you would like to pick up one or both boxes in your RSVP.
I am honored to serve as your President for the next two years. Together, we will define the future of Temple B’nai Jeshurun. I look forward to our opportunities, our transitions and our many triumphs ahead. I believe we are an institution that exists to serve our congregants both religiously and spiritually, but there is also a great desire for social interaction, connection and “fun”. I promise, whether masked, via Zoom, or six feet apart, we will have joy and we will have fun!
May this year be a very good year, a very sweet year, and may I wish you the best health and all the happiness. Shanah Tovah!
Dana Yentis Dickson