Last year at this time, I spoke to you about my relationship/journey with Ahavas Israel over the past 70 plus years. How it began with the focus on my needs and what the synagogue could do for me and ended with my realization of the synagogue’s needs and what I could do to make it strong, successful, and stable for all of us now and for future generations.
After my speech last year, I noticed that many of you increased your Kol Nidre pledge. Thank you for that. Your help last year was very much appreciated and enabled us to have a good, strong, successful year. But now we are in a new year and have new needs. One is to fix our front doors that were blown out from that storm a few weeks ago. Not only do we have to replace them, but also we have to make our entrance very secure. Security is an important issue that many congregations throughout the country are worried about and working on.
In addition, I am also looking further ahead toward another change - a United Jewish community - and what we all can do to make the total Jewish community stronger and more successful.
There are many Jewish organizations in our community. There is A. I. of course, and Temple Emanual, The Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids, Chabad House of W. Michigan, United Jewish School, Jewish Theatre Grand Rapids, and Shir Sholom Choir, and Jewish Cultural Council. These organizations provide a lot of activities for us to participate in and support.
The leaders of the 3 main organizations (A. I., Temple, and Federation) have been meeting for a year or two to work to unite the Jewish community. When I was much younger, the relationship between the synagogue and the Temple was basically them and us. We each did our own thing. Not much seemed to bring us together. It took a long time and a lot of work to finally get the United Jewish School up and running in 2004. We have been averaging about 140 students a year; there are 22 teachers this year. The 3 major organizations equally support UJS financially. They all came together to make the school successful.
Now it seems that whenever an organization plans a speaker or a big occasion or event, it is open to the whole community, like the 25/125 celebration of Ahavas Israel. This was led by Ed Miller where everyone worked together for a very, very successful event! Now we are working together more for everybody. And to make our united Jewish community strong and stable, we have to work together, to collaborate, to share, and help pay the bills. These changes make all of us stronger.
This does not mean that we will lose our identity or give up who we are or what we have. We would still maintain our values, customs, traditions, and practices of our Conservative movement.
The hope of the leaders working toward a United Jewish Community is to eventually have one Campus where all the organizations have a place to practice everything they do individually as well as a place to do things together. If we do unite on a single campus we still would never give up our own practices, customs, traditions, Rabbi, or identity. We would be together and save dollars by sharing the costs of utilities, maintenance, security, and anything else we do jointly, like special speakers for the community or any activities/events designed for the entire community. In a unified campus, we would have our own facilities for our services and conservative events, but there would be communal facilities for events open to the entire community.
You may be asking why am I bringing all this up now, on Kol Nidre? Well, that’s because I have the largest audience here to introduce and communicate this idea to you. We are in the planning stages and want all our congregants informed about what your leaders are thinking about for our future. We would also like your cooperation and support as we work together to unite our Jewish community. If you have any questions, concerns, ideas, or suggestions, feel free to contact me & I will certainly bring it to the committee.
Keep in mind this is not going to happen overnight, but we would like everybody on board. And when it does go through, we, the members of A. I. have to be united and strong and able, with everyone actively on board. We have to be financially stable in order to uphold our part of the process, commitment, participation, and to make us a strong partner. That’s why I’m mentioning this now during Kol Nidre. That’s why I am asking you to add a few more dollars to increase your Kol Nidre pledge. And not only your Kol Nidre pledge, but also your membership dues, and down the road, think of us when you plan a legacy or an endowment to ensure our future. Our strength enables us to be a valuable partner in the untied Jewish community we all would like to create.
Ahavas Israel wants to be here for you now, and in the future, while we stand alone as well as when we become part of the United Jewish community with all the Jewish organizations in Grand Rapids.
Thank you, and let me wish you all a very Happy, healthy, and sweet New Year. Lashonah Tovah.