Today is April 5, 2020 -

Temple Emanu-El’s Board of Trustees President Jonathan Morse’s Rosh Hashana address 2017/5778


I stand before you, again, in my capacity as President of the Board of Trustees of Temple Emanu-El. It is customary for the President to provide a state-of-the-state address at this time.

Let’s review together:

We are a congregation of approximately 65 family units.

Our congregation is not growing, rather, it somehow right sizes and adjusts to unplanned and unwanted departures.

Participation in services is steady, fulfillment of membership dues … participation as a community, strong.

Our building is debt free, yet, our infrastructure is crumbling. From the top down, our roof is in disrepair. Sitting on our roof surfaces are Heating/AC units, most exceed 25 years in age, many are in need of replacement. Lighting systems are out of date.

Between the roof, heat and A/C units and lighting systems, we are looking at several hundred thousand dollars of repair/replace investment.

The real question for our Board and our membership to consider is this … do we apply a band aid to repairs to get us 1-2 years of service knowing full well we are a congregation of 65 family units, or do we invest in repairs that will sustain us for 10-20 years in anticipation of becoming a growing vibrant congregation, again.

Friends, this is an important question for us to consider.

We sit here amongst “empty chairs.” The same chairs that used to seat individuals, families, children…members.

What does it mean to be a member of Congregation Temple Emanu-El? What benefits come with membership? That is hard to quantify because our door is open, all are welcome to services. Or is it access to meet with Rabbi? That is a benefit. Access to Jewish learning? That is a benefit. Or perhaps the ability to participate in our Men’s Club or Sisterhood, well now that is definitely a benefit. And yet, there’s even more … the privilege to be part of a community, to fill an “empty chair.”

One such all too familiar ‘empty chair’ was a favorite of Richard Tode. Richard preferred to sit way in the back right corner by the door. Why? He sat prepared to protect us. Richard passed away only a few months ago. Some of you may know that Richard regarded Temple Emanu-El as his home, our congregation, his family. During Richard’s last days he became very sick, Rabbi was by his side towards the end of his life, even Rabbi’s sister stayed with Richard right to the time of his passing.

And Richard’s memorial service was not met with “empty chairs;” on the contrary, more than 40 congregation members were in attendance.

“Empty chairs,” “empty chairs.” These are the chairs of former leaders of our congregation, individuals that regarded Temple Emanu-El as their home, or second home.

Have you ever walked through the entire building, and read the names on the acknowledgement plaques? Have you ever taken in the beauty of the light that shines through the magnificent stained glass windows? Those names, those pioneers that came before us, they filled these “empty chairs.”

Look, it’s a new year, time to turn the page, to start anew … and yet, we still shoulder a responsibility to those that did all of the work before us. So together, we must fill those “empty chairs.” Filling those “empty chairs” serves to honor those acknowledged on the plaques, and it serves to honor those that give so much of their time, talent and resources today.

At this time, I want to specifically call out only a few for nothing short of remarkable dedication:

First, thank you, Rabbi, for your spiritual leadership and magnificent words. Rabbi has been a part of our community now for two years, and we are so grateful.

Thank you Alice. Your unselfish commitment to our Congregation and our religious school is recognized, measurable and deeply appreciated.

Thank you Harriet. You are caring, considerate and greatly appreciated for all you do.

Raffi: It is a joy to have you lead us again. We are grateful for the generous support by Heidi Rochlin, Sue and Alan Liebman, and Marijke and Hershel Rosenbaum for making your visit to us possible.

Before I finish, the Nominating Committee is again looking for individuals to serve on our Board. I described some of the challenges we face. We are a small congregation attempting to both meet the needs of our small group, while at the same time attract new individuals – those seeking to fulfill our traditions of worship, those seeking learning and fulfillment, those seeking Religious School for their children. I am grateful to our Board and as new individuals step forward for Board service, I believe deeply that our Board holds the possibility to serve as ambassadors to bring new vitality and advancement to Congregation Temple Emanu-El.

 A gut gebentsht yohr, “A good and blessed year”

Wishing you and your family a shanah tovah u’metukah, a year full of blessings, good health, happiness, and success in all endeavors.