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Temple Beth El

Offering Conservative Jewish worship since 1935

83 Chestnut Street/POBox 383
Oneonta, NY 13820
Phone: (607) 432-5522

President’s Column — July 2018

Our annual congregational meeting was held on June 21, and we covered a lot of ground. In my remarks on the State of the Shul, I shared my prognosis for Temple Beth El from two opposing points of view: pessimism and optimism. The pessimist’s perspective is of a synagogue fading away due to attrition. The optimist’s view is, of course, more encouraging, and leads us to regenerating our congregation’s investment in the synagogue and actively building our membership. If we do this, I believe we will strengthen and improve our congregational life. Currently, we have enough veteran members with institutional memory and new members with fresh eyes who are capable of investing in the future. This is not only a financial investment, but an investment in time and effort. If members commit to working on committees that build our future, we will continue to thrive. We need help with finance and budgeting, long-term planning, and membership. These are critical areas that demand action. I honestly believe the best thing we can do is to commit to forming committees that will work to improve our synagogue in the present and future.

Every synagogue needs a working committee structure to function well, but we are lacking very important committees. When the Board is forced to function as all the committees, we are forever in crisis mode instead of growth mode. Every Board member also serves in another capacity beyond attending monthly meetings, so we really need help from members. Committees work on goals so action can be taken. Committees comprised of caring, engaged members who meet and make recommendations will help push Temple Beth El forward. If you wish to be part of the optimists’ future for Temple Beth El, please let me know you can serve on one of the following committees: Membership, Finance and Budget, Religious School, Ritual, Social Action and Welfare, or Building and Grounds. You are needed. At the community meeting I asked people to help by joining committees, and we did sign up a number of members. If you have any questions or wish to help, please email me (

Our membership is steady; we currently have 61 member units down from 62 in the previous year. In order to attract new members, we need to know what unaffiliated Jewish people want and need. In other cities, synagogues offer off-site membership events such as wine-tasting, hikes, children’s play groups, yoga, etc. We get new members every year, but that is only because those who seek us out, join us. If they come through our door because they want a synagogue, they stay. If we could get more people through the door, we would grow. But we don’t have a membership committee that is focused on creative ways to attract new members. When new members come from larger cities, they are often shocked by our low dues. Sometimes I’m embarrassed by their reactions, but I explain that the economy here is different. Even so, paying dues is not always easy for members. We are grateful for every dollar we receive, and appreciate our members’ donations. If you are fortunate enough to be able to pay your dues in full, thank you. Our budget is skeletal, and there is no waste. Because we rely on donations, decisions by the board about spending are never made lightly. Now in its third year, the successful Chai to Life campaign asks members to donate an additional $18 per month ($216 per year). We will struggle financially with membership of this size if our income doesn’t keep up with our increasing costs. These donations help close the gap. Please look for your Chai to Life booklet in your dues letter, and support your shul. If you can give above the $18.00 level, please do.

Since 1935, Temple Beth El has been here for the Jewish community because of the participation and commitment of its members. Amazingly, after 83 years we are still here offering a meaningful and enjoyable Jewish experience while also playing an active role in the larger community. Let’s keep our synagogue strong – together.