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President’s Message - HHD Appeal 5782

Shana Tovah everyone.

When I was a kid, we played a game called Red light-Green light.  I don’t know if kids still play that game – they probably have some high-tech version like fast internet-slow internet - but those around my vintage will remember it was a game where you had to stop and start multiple times at the whim of another kid as you tried to reach your goal. 

Well, that’s what planning for this years High Holy Days was like.  What we thought was a green light one day, might become a red light the next day or week. So, thank you to our members and guests - those here in-person and those joining us remotely - for your patience and support during this time of such extraordinary uncertainty.  And thank you to everyone who worked so hard to prepare for these Holy Days, from our clergy and staff to numerous volunteers.

In my High Holy Day appeal a year ago, I said “No one knows how much longer we may be constrained by this virus.”  Now, a year later, much has changed – but the uncertainty remains.  I also said last year that in the face of that uncertainty, “I have no doubt about our community’s ability to meet any challenges that come our way.  That is what Habonim has always done.”  The uncertainty of our world remains and my optimism and faith in our community also remainsunshaken.

Even in the face of uncertainty and disruption, much has happened over the past year at Habonim.  In addition to offering multiple weekly online services, adult education programming and other events, our schools completed a full year of robust and joyful learning; and we celebrated b’nai mitzvah with many of our families.   Just over a month ago, we again started holding services in person in our sanctuary and, looking forward, we expect both of our schools to be in-person this coming year and that we will have increasing opportunities for in-person events and celebrations.

Over the past year, we have honored our Cantor Emeritus Bruce Halev and celebrated his 38-year career with us. We have welcomed with great anticipation and joy our new Cantorial Soloist, Jessica Futran.  We have also renewed the contract of our Rabbi, Lisa Gelber.  We look forward to her continued leadershipand teaching, and to sharing in the love and care she has devoted to our communitysince her first day with us.

A few weeks ago on Shabbat, we read a parsha which starts with a rather unusual scenario – The rules to follow if you are in battle and you see among your captives a beautiful woman who you want to take as your wife.  Whenever I read a biblical passage like that, my mind pictures some old movie full of sword fights and chariots.  Looking deeper than my casual daydreams, Rabbi Gelber explained the important lesson of this passage.  Our tradition teaches that even amidst the chaos and disruption of war there are rules to be followed.  Indeed, especially in those circumstances, when it is so easy to be swept up in mass turmoil and panic,we must find the strength to pursue justice and civility.  

Today, in our difficult and stressful times, it also may seem that uncertainty and disruption have prevailed.  In such times, it may be easy to feel that the only way to avoid being drawn into the turmoil is to isolate ourselves and focus on our own interests.  Yet we have the answer right here with us today, and throughout the year, in-person and online – our loving and caring Habonim community.  In our own times of uncertainty, we can focus on some of the timeless foundations of our faith, especially during these Days of Awe: acts of lovingkindness, a striving for renewal, and tzedakah - acts of righteousness and charity.  We must look deep within ourselves to find the commitment and strength that will allow us to see beyond the uncertainty and disruption that confronts us and pursue the higher values we reaffirm each year during the High Holy Days.

Part of this effort to overcome uncertainty and affirm our values must also include helping your Habonim community.   The past 18 months have been a test of faith for all of us.   Everyone’s faith is a little bit (or sometimes a lot) different; how we responded as individuals to the challenges of the past 18 months spans a broad range.  But whatever your particular faith looks like, however you have responded to the stress and uncertainty of the past year, our collective response - the response of our community – has been strong and consistent.  During this past year, we were fortunate that our loyal donors continued their vital support of our community and many others also stepped up.  That’s one of the beautiful things about the people who make up our Habonim community and we are grateful for your generosity.  

This will be my last High Holy Day Appeal as President of Congregation Habonim – after four years my term will end with the end of our fiscal year on June 30.    Over these next ten months and beyond, as our community, our country and the world continue the slow process of moving past the pandemic, Habonimwill be pursuing several strategic initiatives to reinvigorate and engage our current members and attract new members.  These include better integrating our Nursery School families into the Habonim community; developing our volunteer outreachprograms to help local community groups and the environment; and increasing member involvement in all aspects of Habonim life, such as participation in services and improving connections with new members.

​We ask that you help Habonim implement these programs and maintain our sacred community by contributing to our High Holy Day Appeal.  In light of thecurrent circumstances, there were no pledge cards distributed this year, but you can always contribute through the Habonim website or by sending your contribution to the synagogue.  Your gift to Habonim will allow us to honor the legacy of our founders, who in their own time of uncertainty and chaos in 1939 built Habonim from an idea into a robust Jewish community, and will help ensure that ourHabonim community will persevere and thrive. 

As I have said many times before – every contribution is important, and every contribution is appreciated.

I wish all of you a sweet and joyous new year.  On whatever roads you travel, may all your lights be green.

Thank you.  G’mar  Hatimah  Tovah

Wed, December 1 2021 27 Kislev 5782