Below is President Ken Sider’s address to the congregation during the Kol Nidrei service.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, Shanah tovah. I’d like to welcome everyone, our loyal members and the guests who have joined us tonight for Kol Nidrei. We’re glad you are here and hope to see you throughout the coming year. Thanks are due to Rabbi Karp and Cantorial Soloist Phyllis Hoffman for providing meaningful Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, and moving harmonies. Special thanks go to our ensemble, Robin Seletsky, Barb Roberts, and Alice Lichtenstein, for bringing beautiful music to our service.
As is the custom at Temple Beth El, we do not ask for money on Yom Kippur. So I’ll just say quickly that your dues payments, contributions to our Chai to Life campaign, and donations keep this building standing and support the programs we enjoy. Thank you to those who have made donations and continue to donate. Temple Beth El, in its 83rd year, continues to defy the odds. We are surviving the demographic trends causing so many other Conservative synagogues to merge or close. In the metropolitan neighborhoods where most of us grew up, the Jewish population dwarfs our tiny community here, yet synagogues there are struggling while we, in a small rural city, continue on. Our success is due to those of you who care about the Temple, come to Temple, and support the Temple.
We are a small congregation with 60 families and we survive only because there are enough people who want a synagogue in Oneonta and are willing to support it. Whether you feel spirituality and warmth through prayer and Torah study or simply believe a Jewish presence in Oneonta is important, your participation and contributions keep this institution strong. There are many reasons to support the only synagogue in a 60-mile radius, and we all have our own.
As president, I hear a variety of reasons members care about Temple Beth El, so here is the top ten list of the most common ones in no particular order. We want a Torah in our town. We want a Jewish home for our family. We want the synagogue our children were raised in to be here when they visit. We want to keep alive the hope of Jewish continuity especially for our synagogue’s young families. We want a Jewish space where we can gather with fellow Jews. We want a place to seek refuge when the world outside these walls seems threatening and hateful. We want to be able to attend services, Israeli movies, Torah study, Lunch and Learn, potluck dinners, and special events. We want to be inspired – “Jewishly.” We want Judaism and Jewish values to be part of the Oneonta community. We want Temple Beth El to maintain strong relationships with other local religious communities. And we want this to continue long past our time in Oneonta.
But we can’t have any of it without your participation and support. So my Yom Kippur Appeal is to ask you to be part of this synagogue. Whether you have been a dues-paying member for 50 years or only joined us recently, we thank you. Whether you come to temple once a year or every Shabbat, we welcome you. Whether you feel strongly about God and Torah or not, we need you. Whether your knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish history is strong or weak, we don’t judge. It’s even OK if, like me, some days you only come for the kugel and kasha varnishkes.
In this community, every Jewish soul counts. And we need every soul. Please support Temple Beth El in the New Year. Come to temple, enjoy Jewish company, be Jewish in your own way, and support your local synagogue. Thank you. Shanah tovah.