Monday, October 10, 2011

My 5772 Kol Nidre Appeal: Reflect!

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish Year.  As I'm posting this, I realize I only blogged through half of our East Coast trip.  I started an entry last month about our fortieth wedding anniversary.   As I've said before, when I am doing interesting things, I run out of time.  When I have time, I don't have interesting things to blog about.   This piece was written, so I simply have to cut, paste and fine tune.  In the spirit of the High Holy Days, I hope my fans will forgive me.  I'd promise to do better but as I heard a speaker say last week, it is better to under-promise and over-deliver.  Here for your reading is what I presented just before the Amidah.  My friend Elaine leads the inspirational Kol Nidre service and did a lovely introduction, including that we're friends.  Picture me in my long white, embroidered dress, with my Tallit draped around my shoulders and a Kippah on my head, standing on stage with about 300 people seated in front of me. 

Thank you Elaine!.  That is the sweetest introduction I have ever received.  Shana Tovah!  As Elaine said, I am Esther Heller and  I am the Immediate Past President of Keddem Congregation, among other, mostly relevant roles. 

Many of you are here with us at Keddem Congregation for the first time, many have been with us before at High Holy Days and there are many regulars.  You are all welcome joining with us tonight to form the extended Kehillat Keddem, Keddem community.  Judaism as a religion is all about community. We see that most strongly tonight, as Kol Nidre, with it’s beautiful melody and profound meaning, begins our annual communal confession, repentance and  atonement.  These prayers allow us to move forward as individual people and as a community of people.

The nature of our communal confession causes us to become reflective as individuals and as a community.  In order for us to be together next year at this time, as a large community, Keddem Congregation must continue to function as a community throughout the year.  So while we treasure those of you who come only for tonight, there is an extra burden on those of us who are active beyond tonight.  I invite you to reflect upon how you might share that burden to keep this community strong. 
First, reflect on becoming a more connected, official member of Keddem Congregation.  There are practical reasons for doing so such as access to our mailing lists or being able to memorialize your deceased family and friends in the Yizkor book from which we worship our service tomorrow.  It’s the intangible reasons that I reflect upon.  I know that I can reach out to my many Keddem friends who will listen and advise (and actually take my calls or return my emails) or just hug as needed and I readily do the same for them.  Community is made up of personal relationships and they matter so much to me.   I know that not everyone gathers people as I do (my husband calls me a people gatherer0 but when you’re ready to reach out, we can be here for you too.  The first step is to become a member!

Secondly, reflect on all that we at Keddem Congregation offer through the High Holy Days and beyond.  We have our wonderful but part-time rabbi Elisheva and our wonderful but part-time administrative assistant, Myra, who do so much for us all year and I thank them.  But the bulk of effort to keep Keddem vibrant falls to our active participants and volunteers.  When President Hayley does her thank yous later on, reflect on the list and variety of tasks.  They too continue throughout the year. 

Quite frankly at the end of Tishrei, some of us are quite worn out.  I  thank Hayley and Elaine specifically.  I know how much of each of you has put into our being here tonight.   As you are reflecting upon the Alcheit, which literally is about missing the mark, or in my mind, intent versus effect, consider forming an intent to do more with Keddem in this new year - as a participant and as a volunteer.  We would love to have you and you can start building those community relationships!

Finally, you are probably ahead of me here, reflect upon the financial costs of maintaining a shul throughout the year.   We have been fortunate enough to have a professional consultant provided to us by the Jewish Federation.  He’s guided us through setting goals, learning how to make phone calls asking for funds and our approach to these appeals.   According to our consultant and other Fund Development professionals with whom I’ve worked, the larger Jewish community is quite generous.  You’ve seen the names on the wall at the other end of this Jewish Community Center courtyard.  You’ve seen names you know or recognize as Jewish in museums and on public television.  If you know where to look, you’ll even see my name!  But as a group, we’re not always as generous is within our own congregations and shuls.  

At Keddem Congregation, we’ve always believed in being accessible to all without regard to financial situation.  That continues to be a strong value for us as a community.  The challenges of being in leadership include supporting the values while staying sound.  We set our High Holy Days campaign goal at forty thousand dollars with a recommended donation of  five hundred dollars per household.  Through donations and pledges received thus far, we are forty-seven per cent of the way there. I thank all of you who have gotten us to this point. 

On this night of confessions, I confess  I had hoped we’d be further along.  It is a stretch goal for us.  As we resume our communal confession, repentance and atonement, perhaps each of can consider stretching our intent to a higher level of giving than we have done or planned.   I know that I have and plan to give more than my initial pledge using this very envelope. 

I wish you a gentle fast.  L’shanah tovah tichatemu!  May you and yours  be sealed for a good year.   

© 2011 Esther A. Heller