Reflecting on the Past Two Years
It is hard to believe that Laurie and my presidency is nearly over. It’s been my great honor to serve our congregation in this way these past two years, as well as a wonderful experience. While I’ve felt part of our Temple Judah community for many years, I've found a connection to the broader Reform Jewish community through this work that I’ve not felt since my teenage Jewish camping and youth group participation.
One key element of this connection came from the URJ Temple President’s listserv. Every day, Temple Presidents across the country ask one another questions and share their experiences. I’ve generally been a spectator to these discussions, finding that congregations across the country are experiencing many of the same challenges that we see in Eastern Iowa.
In truth, we are very fortunate at Temple Judah. As a relatively small congregation, we are able to maintain a fully-functional Temple with full-time clergy, wonderful staff support, a weekly religious school and a regular flow of programming and events. Many congregations our size simply can't do that any longer.
Looking forward, while we will clearly need to be cautious with our finances, our greater challenge is in member participation and volunteering. This again is a circumstance faced by most congregations in America, both large and small. So many of us have such full and busy lives. Our children have non-stop schedules of sports and club obligations. Few of us are stay at home parents any longer. It’s left less time in our lives for the Temple community.
The short-term challenge is the work to be done for services, onegs, Temple events, religious education, grounds upkeep and other Temple works. Fewer people take on more and more of the burden or we pay to have others take care of more and more, upping the stain on our finances.
However, it's actually the long-term challenge which is more my concern. The “doing together” of these activities has been critical to the building of a strong Jewish community in Cedar Rapids. As we do less together and share fewer experiences, we risk losing our community cohesion.
It’s because of this that we've put focus these past two years around creating opportunities for us to spend time together as a community, experimenting with different types of programming and events. Not all of these events have been a success, but I hope we have been successful in maintaining and building that sense of community.
So in my final President's column, I ask all of you to take some time in the next year to contribute to community building. This doesn't take much. Come to some events that you might otherwise skip. Host an oneg one week in the next year. Plan and organize a Temple-centric event or help someone else who is.
Bottom line, our Temple community needs regular care and feeding to thrive. This can be a monumental contribution by a small handful of congregants or it can be a very modest effort from all of us. And ultimately, we will be a stronger community as more and more of us participate!
The first step in this is to join us for the congregation annual meeting on June 9th at Temple. We will have a BBQ dinner at 5:30 PM followed by our meeting at 6:30 PM. Please bring a dish to share. Hope to see you there!