We are at crossroads for our congregation, testing whether that Temple, or any Temple so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We have come together to pray, atone and repent, in a time of self-examination and reflection to prepare for the coming year.
In paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, I don’t mean to exaggerate our situation by comparing the obstacles in front of us to those of the great Civil War. However, clearly, we are at a historic and significant juncture for Temple Beth Am.
Over the years, we have seen a sharp decline in many of our key revenue items. In 1999, Bingo revenue was in excess of $200,000 per year, we had close to 500 membership units, and our family annual dues were approximately $950.
Today, 15 years later, Bingo will struggle to reach our reduced budget figure of $70,000, membership has dropped to below 230 units, and I don’t want to remind you where our family annual dues now stand.
Without question, we are asking significantly more from a significantly smaller group of members. If nothing changes, where will we be in, not another 15 years, but in 2, 3, or 5 years? Further warning signs include the decrease in the number of ads and donations listed in our monthly bulletin, or the fewer number of minyans we can offer or the reduction in occupied seats today. Our fundraising opportunity at Gillette Stadium has almost completely fizzled out and the scrip gift card program has never even closely reached the substantial earnings power that it should have. And for many reasons, it has become increasingly difficult to fundraise, attract and retain the necessary level of volunteers to sufficiently run the operations and programs of our Temple.
On the positive, we control our own destiny, but as Maya Angelou proclaimed, “Nothing will work unless you do!” It is up to us, all of us, to determine what our future holds and the path we choose. We are extremely fortunate to have Reb Dawvid leading us in prayer and I look around at a room full of members with a wealth of knowledge and experiences, I see a room full of ideas and potential that can be drawn upon to change the status quo, to craft a new beginning to our rich history. It may not sound like it, but again, I’m not proposing or advocating a particular option.
My family has only known TBA as our place of worship and our home, and we would love to see us prosper into the future, but the realties are making that extremely difficult. My intentions are to move many of you from the sidelines into action, from spectator to contributor, to become involved and play a role in improving our future outlook – there is power in numbers, but we must all be willing to lend a hand in support of our Temple community.
We must adapt or become extinct. Do not fear the unknown, but embrace the new opportunities that will be cultivated. Whether physically at 871 North Main Street or elsewhere, alone or combined, our community and our family will persevere through our dedication and commitment to Judaism and our family.
We all have a vision and strong feelings about what lies ahead. But it’s been said that “vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. But Vision with action can change the world.”
I can guarantee you that in my vision, Temple Beth Am is not going anywhere. Yes, we may move, and even change our name, but to me, and I know that you will all agree, Temple Beth Am has and will continue to be the home for my family, our family. Temple Beth Am is much more than the brick and mortar. As Marvin Gaye sang, “wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home.”
While we are all full of questions and concerns, we need to be open to all the possibilities and remain committed to continuing the operations of Temple Beth Am even during this period of transition. We cannot lose site of the here and now - this must be a time that we all rally together to support our congregation. Any change will take time and while we debate, deliberate, and decide our future, we need you to help our Temple, today, by giving in our annual High Holiday Appeal.
Only you can shape the future of our Temple, everyone sitting in this Sanctuary. To those sitting in the back, some who come year after year, to those who have not donated in the past, today, I urge you to make this pivotal year, the time that you contribute and help the cause - stop assuming that everyone else can and will continue to provide the needed financial support so that you have a place to worship on these High Holy Days.