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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 — April 2019

My role as president requires me to be positive and encouraging, but there has been a lot of frustration and complaining around here lately. It’s OK with me because I am a first-rate complainer and even get whiny from time to time. As president, I long ago I learned not to take responsibility for every complaint. My kishkes can only take so much and I am only human. If I am to be honest about the complaining in our synagogue, I would have to say that it reflects an important conflict many members feel, one that reflects the following theme: I want more people to enjoy being Jewish the way I enjoy being Jewish and come to temple so we can enjoy my way of being Jewish together. The people who like the monthly Israeli movies want more people to come to the movies. The people who like adult education want more people to attend Saturday morning classes. The people who want a Shabbat Torah service on Saturday want a minyan. The people who have children in religious school want more programming and inclusion of children in synagogue events. The people who like the potluck dinners want more people to join them once a month for dinner. The people who like musical programming want more music in the sanctuary. The people who like interfaith connections want Temple Beth El to host more community events. The people who like alternative programs want us to offer Shabbat hikes, Torah yoga, and services out in nature. That is a lot to hope for (and to complain about), but the common thread is the wish for a greater sense of community. So many of us want more: more programs, more Jewish unity and we want everyone else to want it the way we want it. What do we do about this? How do we make all of these wishes come true?

We are in the midst of a rabbi search, and quite a few us hope a new rabbi will be able to bring everyone together and offer all the programs we need, thus, making everything better. However, we cannot expect a new rabbi to transform the culture of our synagogue. A rabbi cannot be all things to all people, offer all the programs needed, and satisfy everyone’s expectations. This is especially true for a part-time rabbi who doesn’t live in the Oneonta area. For these reasons, we can’t shift responsibility for our synagogue’s spirit and health to the new rabbi. It is not fair, and it will set up the new rabbi for failure. Thankfully, the solution is simple, but perhaps inconvenient. The only way to maintain a spirited and thriving Jewish community in Oneonta is for Jewish people to come to Temple Beth El. We can only thrive if you have the spirit and energy to show up. We can only offer the programs that maintain community if you have the spirit and energy to show up. We can only have a future if you have the spirit and energy to show up. If we don’t show up, there is no Temple Beth El.

I cannot stress enough how important it is that we NOT burden the next rabbi with the responsibility for single-handedly carrying the weight of Temple Beth El. That will only crush her/him and lead us to another rabbi search. The new rabbi needs us. We all need to be more involved. We all need to leave our comfort zones and attend something we might not know about or try something new. We need to participate more. We need to do this because it is what a healthy family does for one another. At this time, the Rabbi Search Committee is receiving resumes and applications from prospective rabbis. There is no box to check for “superhero,” so it is safe to say we will hire a human rabbi. Please help Temple Beth El thrive by doing your part: come to temple and be with your fellow congregants. And help the next rabbi help us. We need to ensure the future of Temple Beth El – together.