Kol Nidre Address
Jerry Hermes, President
Sue and I wish a g’mar chatimah tovah to all of our fellow Tifereth Israel members, as well as to our guests and visitors, and hope for an easy fast, for those of you who are fasting. It is an incredible personal honor for me to be up here again as your president and to be given the opportunity to address you.
“Who needs a synagogue?” “I don’t need to be a member.” “Ahhh, I’m not that Jewish.” “Hey, it’s not for me.” ‘Who needs it?” ‘What’s the point?”
“It’s not for me”. Hmmm. Really? It may not be for you. Until it is. Until you have kids. Until you need a wedding, rabbinic counseling, a bar or bat mitzvah, or sadly, a proper Jewish funeral for a loved one who wanted one.
Then, we all need a rabbi, we all need a synagogue, we all need fellow Jews, and we all could use a community of kindred and understanding souls.
Well, you know what? We actually need it more often than that. We might need and want to say a kaddish sometime during the year. We might like it for someone to take us in for a seder when we discover, a week prior, that we aren’t making one and now have nowhere to go. Maybe we don’t want to spend Chanukah alone. We may just want to add a little more Jewishness into our lives, at whatever point that is, like we had in the old days.
And, whenever that happens, Tifereth Israel will be there. Yes, there are fewer Jews living in this part of San Diego and East County than there were, say, 30 years ago when this congregation moved to the base of this mountain, but for those of us in who do live in this area, and for those who want a traditional, relatively halachic, egalitarian Jewish service or camaraderie, Tifereth Israel is here.
While other synagogues and congregations are struggling, or merging, Tifereth Israel is growing, because, as I said in my first Kol Nidre address to you two years ago, we are no longer your father’s Tifereth Israel. We’ve changed. A lot. For the better. We are really quite modern yet remain traditional.
Whether it is adding a needed, and asked-for, infant-care program for babies six weeks old and up, to our already-thriving preschool, Tifereth Israel is there.
Whether it is having a Jewishly-meaningful USY group for our pre-teens and teenagers, in an era when, sadly, being known as Jews is sometimes a challenge at their public schools and elsewhere, due to some anti-Semitic idiots, Tifereth Israel is there.
When it is helping to found, establish and operate the Community Jewish High for this part of town, so that our kids’ Jewish educations doesn’t come to an abrupt halt after their B’nai Mitzvah, and so that they can actually learn something Jewish after they are graduated from our Torah School, and they can interact every Tuesday night with Jewish kids from other congregations, both educationally and socially, Tifereth Israel is there.
Whether it is having both a Sisterhood and a Men’s Club that positively affects their members’ and our congregation’s lives through service, enrichment programs and fun events, Tifereth Israel is there.
When our adult members long for some educational opportunities which are not comfortably available elsewhere around here, Tifereth Israel is there.
When Jewish people really need what a truly full-service synagogue has to offer, and are having legitimate financial hardships, Tifereth Israel is there.
We are proud to be a large and major beacon of Judaism in the East County area and we intend on staying that way. As you all know, this year marks Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal’s final High Holy Days leading our services. He retires next year after almost 30 years of service to our congregation, and he goes out as the longest serving rabbi we have ever had, going all the way back to our founding in 1905.
The task of identifying the best new rabbi we can find, and then getting that rabbi to sign on the dotted line, is a huge undertaking. For those of us on the search committee it is both exhilarating as well as daunting. We really need to find and hire the right person and we will settle for nothing less.
It is our hope that our new 2017 rabbi will bring to us a new vibe and an excitement that will go towards further expanding our membership and the enhancement of our mission to be what we are—-where we are—-right here—-for our people. There will, undoubtedly be changes, but, as we have seen with many of our changes these past two to three years, change can be good. Really good.
One change was hiring the best Silverman preschool director we have ever had, Amy Stanley (my daughter attended Silverman as a classmate of our current director in the early 1980s, so I know a little about preschool directors).
Another change was hiring a dynamic Youth Director, Micah Klareich, for our expanding USY program. Another very good change.
And now, we’re really happy to have a new energized Ratner Torah School director, Cantor Avital Lazar onboard, who will take the continuously expanding Torah School to new heights I’m sure. For our kids, from cradle to high school diploma, Tifereth Israel is there.
None of this comes cheaply. Being excellent, and being there for everybody, carries a cost. I hope and trust that everyone who donates to us via our voluntary T’rumah membership system does so to the maximum that they are able. But it takes more than your T’rumah to keep us going. Watching expenses carefully is another crucial component, and we have already seen a major drop in our electric bills since I flipped on the solar panels switch ten weeks ago in late July.
But, one aspect of sustaining ourselves isn’t talked about as often as it should be. Because of how important and crucial to us it is, I’m going to talk about it now. That is our endowment. Through an incredible amount of hard work by those who came before me, we have built up a nice and decent endowment fund, not huge by any means, but better than most synagogues our size anywhere.
The annual investment gains from our endowment, provides money for preschool and torah school scholarships for our kids, summertime Camp Ramah scholarships, subsidies for our youth to spend part of their summers in Eretz Yisroel, pays for on the Ratner Scholar In Residence weekend, and, most importantly, contributes about 7% of our annual operating budget, (which, to let you know, is now over one-point-four-million dollars a year) yet, after all of that, leaving a significant amount behind to keep working for us on the investment side with the Jewish Community Foundation.
Chevrat Bonim is the program we have, which all of you can join, whereby you pledge to leave Tifereth Israel an unspecified amount of money from your estate when you die. All such bequests that we receive go straight into the endowment fund. All such bequests are fully tax deductible as a charitable donation from your estate. We have never used as much as one penny from the principal of any money bequeathed to us. We just take a portion, of the annual investment gains, to help us operate and to pay for the other things I just mentioned. Your estate gift to us, in your name, will live on, in perpetuity, helping Tifereth Israel to continue to be there for everyone who needs us whenever they need us.
The endowment also accepts regular donations at any time, and people do donate straight to into it throughout the year, but the bulk of both the assets and the deposits came from, and come from, bequests.
I’m not going to go into details tonight. I recently appointed Norman Katz, whom many of you know as our former Finance & Development Vice President and who formerly headed our Men’s Club, to chair our Endowment Committee and run the Chevrat Bonim program. Norm has a huge responsibility to further build our endowment for our future. One of these days, don’t be surprised if you are contacted by Norm, or by a member of his committee, to see if you would kindly consider joining those of us who already are Chevrat Bonim participant members. You can see our names, on the beautiful multicolored glass display, in the Lobby, on the wall between the Gift Shop and our Program Director Beth Klareich’s office. I can only to tell you that your donations made to the general fund, which we also really need, are spent to keep us operating today, while donations and bequests to the endowment are invested in order to cement our future and to very slightly fund our present.
At this Kol Nidre night, when we ask Hashem to be charitable and to be gracious to us, with ah-say eemawnoo tzedakah v’chesed v’hoshe-aynoo, I am asking everyone here to please be charitable and gracious to Tifereth Israel, if not now, then, via bequest, later. Please think about doing this, because we need you. And, yeah, it’s that important.
Again, I am incredibly honored and humbled to be up here. Have an easy fast and may all of your prayers, tonight and tomorrow, for yourselves and for your loved ones, be granted. Rabbi, Cantor, I think I’ve spoken long enough so that it is now sufficiently dark for us to be able to continue.
Thank you so much for listening. Shalom everyone.