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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
Email: TBEOneonta@gmail.com

President’s Column — May 2019

At the May 2018 Board of Trustees meeting, I announced that I did not wish to be nominated for a sixth term as president. My reasons included the long-term demands of serving as president and the usual demands of one’s personal and professional life. A few weeks after my announcement it became clear that no one would replace me as president, so I stayed on for a sixth year. In April 2019, I informed the Board that I will not accept the nomination for a seventh year as president. At this time, the nominating committee is working on a slate for next year’s Board of Trustees which includes the nomination of Stephanie Bauer (our current vice-president) for president. I am very happy that Stephanie has agreed to be nominated as president.

I long ago began my service at Temple Beth El as a Board member, then took on the religious school chair role, and later moved up to vice-president. When it came time to succeed Howie Gelbsman as president, I did so for one year but stepped down after one term in order to attend UAlbany as a doctoral student. At that time, I promised the Board I would return as president after I completed my degree. Howie didn’t allow me to stay away quite as long as I needed, so I resumed serving as president before defending my dissertation. And I’m glad I did. I have enjoyed being president of Temple Beth El. I arrived here in 1984, and have fond memories of the old synagogue with its leaky sanctuary ceiling. I remember studying Hebrew with Rabbi Karpov at a folding table placed between five gallon buckets that caught the drips. I also remember our synagogue with many more members, especially grandparents and young families. We are smaller today, but thankfully, we have a dedicated membership and continually attract new members.

After six years as president, it is time to step down. I have been teaching full-time in the public schools for over thirty years, working at SUNY Oneonta as an adjunct professor for fourteen years (teaching four undergraduate and two graduate courses each year), serving on the Ninash Foundation’s Board of Directors, writing journal articles and chapters in books, and have completed my first book, a research study being published this summer. I am not stepping down merely because I am busy or tired, but also because of the importance of succession for our Board of Trustees. The rotation of Board seats is important to the healthy functioning of any organization as it allows new perspectives to be shared, new leaders to emerge, and institutional knowledge to be passed on. I hope members, especially the parents with children, will do what many of us did before them – put aside our household and family duties for a few evening hours each month in order to strengthen the synagogue. We all want a thriving synagogue, especially for the children. Temple Beth El’s children are precious and deserve a warm, welcoming Jewish space. The synagogue they need requires the ongoing commitment of dedicated adults. 

During my presidency, I have taken my responsibilities to our Jewish community very seriously and made sincere efforts to respect our traditions, create a welcoming environment, and keep the peace. I know I have not pleased everyone, but I always put the good of our Jewish community at the forefront of all decisions. I am proud to have served as president of this congregation in our beautiful, little synagogue. I have also been honored to represent Temple Beth El in our community. Whether lighting Oneonta’s first menorah on Main Street with Chabad, speaking at community events and other houses of worship, or communicating Jewish perspectives to the public, I always understood the importance of our presence and contributions in this town. I am grateful for the experiences I’ve had and the people I have worked with. I owe a special thank you to Steve Feuer and Hollie Jaffe for being there for me at all hours of the day and night. Fortunately, Hollie rises very early and Steve works very late so one of them was always “on-call” when I needed them. And I needed them. Thank you, Hollie and Steve. I don’t know what I would have done without both of you.

I now look forward to serving on the Board as the past president and supporting our new president.

I am confident that, when elected, Stephanie Bauer will be an outstanding president. During her time on the Board she has demonstrated a love of Judaism, Jewish values, and our congregation. Stephanie will have the support of a Board that is diligent, responsible, and deeply concerned about the success of Temple Beth El. Please look for information in the June Shofar about our annual congregational meeting. If you are interested in serving on the Board, please let me know right away. The recent survey conducted by the GPS reported that members want to serve, but I don’t know who you are (ksider@hotmail.com or 432-8480).

As always, I hope to see you at Temple Beth El.    
Ken