Today is May 19, 2019 -

President’s Rosh Hashana Address 2015/5776

My name is Jonathan Morse.

I am honored to serve as President of our Board of Trustees.

First, I am grateful to each of the individuals I have had the privilege to work with on our Board.  Together, we have much to be proud of.

Friends, members, guests, thank you for being a part of High Holidays 5776 at Congregation Temple Emanu-El.  To those of you that we do not see often, to those of you that are new, our doors are always open to welcome and include you.  Raffi, it is a delight to hear your beautiful melodies again – Rabbi, welcome.

Permit me to present the State-of-the-Congregation.

I will frame this talk using a concept suggested to me by Marc Siegel – visualize the cornerstones that hold up our organization.

Ritual – Financial – Programming and Community Engagement.

Each of these cornerstones, founded in the bedrock of our faith, provide support and fulfillment to our numerous activities.  The significant change now is the opportunity to work closely with Rabbi Fasman.

Last year I spoke of the need for a rekindled effort to conduct a Rabbi search.  The committee formed with this charge was led by Iris Frank and included Alex Fratkin, Lynn Pierce and Marc Golberg.  Considerable effort was made to inform the worldwide Rabbisphere of our campaign.  Running parallel, our Visiting Religious Leader Initiative made it possible to do a number of things.  First, it provided funding to bring weekend visitors to lead our congregation, both to relieve lay leaders and to expose us to the workmanship of accomplished leaders in the field.  Next, it provided funding to permit us to kick start our Religious School.

I will share the story that some of you know.  I invited Rabbi Miller to lead us for a weekend.  Rabbi Miller was serving 3/4 full-time at a congregation in Northern California.  Other visiting leaders followed, then I circled back to invite Rabbi Miller again only to find out his commitment was now at 100%, preventing a return visit.  But he had a suggestion, he knew a Rabbi in St Louis that may be available for a weekend visit.

He also shared with me that this Rabbi may even consider a relocation.

So I contacted Rabbi Fasman.  We worked out a date for a visit.  As the date approached, I shared with our Board that this upcoming visitor may turn out to be a candidate for our search committee as well.

In fact, Rabbi and Alice visited and made a lasting impression leading to a formal application and interview process.  As further reinforcement, and by shear coincidence, our own John Duerson was spending time in St Louis – participating in services at Rabbi Fasman’s synagogue.  So these things happen for a reason.  Our needs were met and handsomely coincided with Rabbi’s desire to lead our Congregation.

Before I depart Ritual, let us recognize the individuals that led services every weekend up to Rabbi’s start in August – Mark Frank, Marc Siegel, Hershel Rosenbaum, Yaakov Varol, and John Duerson – thank you for your tireless commitment.

The financial activities of Temple Emanu-El are supervised by Marc Golberg and Michael Lambert.  Our financial house is in order.  Alan Liebman will issue an appeal in his address to all of us on Yom Kippur.

To be clear, we need to expand our membership and with that grow our revenue stream.

The physical plant is under the care and supervision of Hershel Rosenbaum and Marc Golberg.  It is by their consistent efforts our systems are maintained, our building is secure and when our doors open our building stands welcoming and ready.  The important space changes and upgrades just completed in our Temple Administrator’s office and Rabbi’s study can be attributed to their workmanship.  Thank you.

And let not another moment go by without acknowledging the person that weaves all of this together, the day-to-day business operations, the communication and the many responsibilities of Temple administration – they are professionally performed by Harriet Young.

I mentioned the Visiting Religious Leader Initiative seeded the return of our Religious School.  This past year, Matthew Levin, a Sophomore at UNR, served as instructor for the first 4 children.  This year, we anticipate 7 children and Matthew will soon return and work with Rabbi to craft a renewed program.

Soon, you will see several offerings in Adult Education.  We have started a Wednesday morning minyon.  Bible studies, Jewish history classes, weekly Torah reviews are all coming.  Rabbi will soon begin Hebrew classes and Bar Mitzvah classes.

I believe we have made great strides in Community Engagement.  Thanks to Merle Levy, our website is lively, informative and consistently updated.  Our own Sisterhood sponsors a meal preparation every month at Ronald MacDonald House.  SNUSY hosted a fun evening of Latkas and Vodka.  Mens Club has hosted interesting speakers, a Reno Aces game and more.  Catherine and John Farahi generously sponsored a memorable visit by the Israeli Scouts, which we showcased at Temple Sinai.

And yet, much more remains to be done.  I am working with Rabbi to expand our reach, both in-person and via social media, as we work to broaden the way we communicate to advance our image and visibility.

I read an interesting article recently by Jeremy Troy entitled The Ethos of Burning Man.  He spoke of the phenomenon of 65,000 people meeting in the desert for a “religious experience.”  He goes on to say, according to Burning Man’s website, their core philosophy is built on principles encompassing inclusion, community effort, giving, civic responsibility, decommodifcation, self-reliance, participation and self-expression.  These are noble principles indeed.  In fact, the core philosophy sounds a lot like the ethos of the Jewish people.

Burning Man spans one week. Once the desert dust settles, where does a burner turn for guidance and fulfillment?

Friends, Judaism satisfies all of these principles, and more.  Beneath this roof is your family to celebrate with you, mourn with you, learn with you and share with you.

Soon, we will have elections for Board positions and Committee posts.  The need for volunteer participation is great, the reward for service – immeasurable.

If you are interested and/or have experience in any of our important activities, please let us know.  Remember, each of the cornerstones that sustain us represent paths to connect unaffiliated people in our community, they include Education, Membership, Ritual and Community Engagement.

Friends, this is indeed an exciting time for Congregation Temple Emanu-El.  We are blessed with a strong, solid foundation held together by a very dedicated, caring congregation.

And yet, we bear the responsibility as Jews to maintain and grow our shul, seek out and share our activities – and volunteer, because we are a proactive congregation quite able to initiate and implement programming, promote and preserve our sacred Jewish identity, and sustain our institution …