President’s Speech Rosh Hashanah

L’ Shana Tova

I would like to welcome our members, their families and our guests to our High Holy Days services.

As I go into my fifth and final year as President of Adat Chaverim and before I review some of the highlights of my five years and then talk about my goals for Adat Chaverim’s future, I would like to thank all of those individuals and groups, from our clergy and staff to the many volunteers who work relentlessly to make Adat Chaverim a special place.  I would like to say a very special thank you to those who serve on our Board of Trustees in the past and in the future.

When I became President of Adat Chaverim, I decided that I would lead with my heart and try to let it guide me through the difficult decisions that a President must make. I surrounded myself with a group of volunteers willing to take on the hard chores that running a Synagogue requires. I rely on their knowledge and expertise to help guide me in decisions.

This past 5 years has been filled with challenges and milestones:

When I took over, our temple was in a small way in quite some turmoil, not due to no anybody’s fault in particular but a lot of things had occurred and Adat Chaverim needed to be stabilized.

To name some:

We had just had a Rabbinical change again, our 4th Rabbi in not that many years.

It was Rabbi Sternman’s 2nd year here at Adat Chaverim and he was still going through his growing pains, learning how to deal with us his congregants.

It was very clear that we had to work together, Ben I will cherish the talks we had and have. I really have enjoyed working and learning together with you.

I know that when I want to eat Chinese Food I can always call you and we can discuss Adat Chaverim over some egg drop soup and fried rice

Add to a new Rabbi the fact that in 2012 we did not have any financial security and no plan for the future. We were living in the past; we were not ready for change or for planning our future.

 

I am proud to say that the temple’s financial position is fiscally stable with our budgets running in the black for the last five years. I am very proud of the measures that our finance committee has taken to accomplish this feat which in today’s economy is not an easy feat for any organization especially a religious organization like ours.

Keep in mind, this does not mean that we do not need your help financially but I will talk about that on Kol Nidre.

Then I really saw the need for an Executive Director.

I knew that we could not hire another staff member but luckily Dotty Fox assumed this position as a volunteer with all the vim and vigor like someone who would be making a six-figure salary would be expected to do. She has made Adat Chaverim more efficient and cost responsible.

She does the work that needs to be done no matter what it is. I know I, we can rely on her. Thank you, Dotty, for your dedication and for caring so much about our Synagogue. You have made all of our jobs much easier.

Another project that came to life during my presidency was the College Outreach Program. Our Rabbi will send small gift boxes during Jewish holidays to our college kids, to remind them that, even far away, they are still a part of the Adat Chaverim family. I really do think that this is a very nice thought; please consider donating to the College Outreach Fund, so that we can continue this program.
During my presidency, our Religious Practice Committee, providing guidance to our services and daily religious life.

This dynamic committee has faced difficult challenges, and defined new policies to merge modern life with Jewish traditions.

This includes:

  • kashrut policies for our temple events
  • music for Shabbat, holidays and simchas
  • creating innovative ways to celebrate Shabbat, such as Shabbat in the park or a Shabbaton weekend
  • remembering Yom Hashoa and the 6 million who perished. Let us never forget

The RPC took these issues into their hands, turned them around and created positive religious experiences for our congregation.

Another process which I started was a personal greeting to new members. If you were a new member over that last 5 years, you received from me a welcome email including my phone number and personal email. I wanted you to feel at home here at Adat Chaverim, the minute you join. I want you to feel that you are part of our Community of Friends.

 

During my tenure, I have also worked with the board of trustees; we switched from endless board meetings to a consensus agenda. This allows for discussions to happen and decisions to be made.

I have always believed and operated under the uttermost transparency, any crucial decisions have been communicated or run by you, the congregation. It is my duty to keep all of you informed.

When I started I noticed that we were not prepared for succession, so I worked with many congregants and an outside consultant on leadership training to prepare for a next generation of leaders. Which we now have.

In 2011 a committee lead by a small group of dedicated congregants worked on defining a strategic plan a road map for Adat Chaverim’s future. This became Adat Chaverim’s new strategic plan.

Some of the areas defined in the document mainly regarding finances, religious practices and education have been successful and we have followed the strategic plan goals.

Other items like increasing our membership have changed course of direction, somewhat due to changing times in our congregation and in the North Texas Community.

To be honest my first thought of a strategic plan was something I was unfamiliar with but I must admit that it provided guidance throughout my presidency – a GPS of some sort –  I am now glad that we had one.

On a personal note, something that is very important to me is Tikkun Olam, healing the world, giving back to those in need.

I am pleased and proud to be an active member of our Social Action Committee and I will continue supporting this committee well after I am president.

Between 2012 and 2017 our members have participated and helped build 2 houses with Habitat for Humanity and did countless collections for various causes too many to lists.

Of course, right now the High Holy Days Food Drive is the top priority. Hunger is no fun and in a rich community such as Plano, no one should be hungry. So please participate in our food drive.

Tikkun Olam works both ways, for the community outside Adat Chaverim and inside our own community.

 

Our Temple developed a fund called Helping Hands. It will cover or help cover your membership when life throws you a curveball. Many things can happen in one’s life and it should not mean that you are no longer part of our community.

This fund is run with additional donations, so please consider supporting it. It could help you or one of your friends, you never know.

My presidency also came with some difficult tasks like repairing relationships. Many times, I was pulled in when conversations and situations had gone out of hand. Congregants felt wronged by staff members, or congregants overstepped boundaries, whatever it was, I took it to heart and tried to get relationships back on track.

It can be exhausting but we as Jews and as the Adat Chaverim family sometimes need to swallow our pride and get along with each other. United we are strong.

I am impressed by the amount of programming that we have for our members.  Whether it is Judaic learning through our Adult Education Committee, a program sponsored by our Brotherhood, Sisterhood, Membership, Kulanu, Fundraising or Social Action, there are not many days that go by where there is no activity at Adat Chaverim. One of the events from the past year was our 20th Anniversary Gala. This event held at the Hilton Gardens Hotel was one of our largest fundraisers ever and set a precedent for future events that our Temple will host. It was an amazing evening and one I will remember for a while.

In 2013 on a Tuesday in spring we created the capital campaign committee at Howard Flushman’s house over snacks and wine. It became very obvious that we need our own building – a place that we can call home. I am pleased to say that since that evening we have purchased 5 acres of land at the corner of Lebanon and Batsford, hired an architectural firm who are working diligently to develop the plans for our new future home and raised 1.7 million dollars and hopefully soon will break ground.  The one thing I ask from you our congregation is for you to participate by supporting our Capital Campaign for us to succeed we must all participate in this dream together.

One group of people who I must thank is my family. To My children Jared, Judith, Martin, and Zoe –  you have all gone on your own paths but you have always known how important Adat Chaverim is to me. Sometimes it has interfered with your lives and our time together. Thank you for allowing me this freedom. I could not teach you the values that I believe in if I did not do this job to the fullest.

To Sibylle who has put up with me for 5 years being away from the house to attend to Adat Chaverim – thank you. This is one of the many things that cause me to love you more and more every day. The patience and understanding to allow me to be the President of Adat Chaverim a place we both truly love. I promise I will love you forever and always.

Now let me ask you to use your imaginations and let’s consider the future of Adat Chaverim. To help us on this journey let’s use a mechanism from Science Fiction and HG Wells a Time Machine. I promise no Morlocks.

Now the time machine will move to the future. 2018, 2019, 2020 I see under the leadership of Terry Sigle we will move into our new home.

Terry, when you are president, lead with your heart, listen to the congregation, believe in the community of friends and most of all be yourself and all will be fine.
The Time machine is moving to 2022. Our building has become the center of Reform Judaic Life in North Texas and Collin County.

I see a larger congregation, increased supporting staff including a cantor, custodian, a paid executive director, a marketing director a fulltime director of education, a youth director and so much more.

The time machine moved now to 2027. I am entering our new building on a Tuesday night, the brotherhood is playing poker and pizza is available.

Rabbi I cannot tell you what toppings I can see on that pizza. Policies might have changed again but who knows.

My wife just stopped by and she reminds me that we need to go home, the country club has called 11 times already, wondering where I have been. I look at her in surprise and she says with a smile, with the way you tip them they will not stop calling. I tend to overtip! We now start to have a conversation:

Me: So what country club?

Her: Palm Springs – hello – are you awake – and you have a tee time 7AM tomorrow.

Me: So, are we taking a flight this evening?

She looks at me weirdly and takes my temperature with her hand.

Her: Flight? she says. Nobody is flying anymore since we can teleport.

We walk outside our beautiful building, the community garden is in full bloom, the sun is travelling through stained glass providing a warm glow, kids are playing outside during a break in their studies at our award-winning Hebrew School, sisterhood is sitting together in a meeting. Rabbi Sternman is working with twins to go over their upcoming b’nei mitzvah – things are looking great.

HWY 121 has become a greenbelt. We walk towards it to the teleportation hub. Although we are now fully retired and are living in Palm Springs, our hearts are still here at Adat Chaverim. After all this is where we got married and celebrated many simchas with our extended Adat Chaverim family.

We teleport every Friday night for services, sometimes several times a week to volunteer and work with our community of friends. The Future for Adat Chaverim is Promising.

My time machine will stop here, I do not want to ruin all the surprises, I leave some of it to your imaginations.

So, let me end my Rosh Hashana Address with this quote:

Albert Einstein wrote “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

In my life Adat Chaverim and my Community of Friends has helped me live as if every day is a miracle. I thank you for the opportunity you have given me to be your president it has always been my honor to serve you and I will cherish the memories.

L’ Shana Tova a Happy and Healthy New Year to us all.

Steve Jacobs