President liz sherman’s Address
As you may know, I became president of Shaaray Tefila just a few short months ago. And now, the big day has arrived, and I’m really grateful to look out and see so many of my friends here today to give me courage.
Fifty-six years ago my parents hurried over here to Shaaray Tefila to register me and my sister for religious school. We—and Shaaray Tefila—were both new to this neighborhood at the time. My father‘s family had belonged to a Conservative shul for many generations. My great-grandfather would go almost every day for Minyan. But my home was distinctly secular: we went to services on the High Holy Days and we celebrated Hanukkah and Passover at home. To my parents, I imagine a Reform synagogue with services which were primarily in English, and a religious school which met only one day a week seemed like a perfect fit. So, you can imagine and that it was quite a shock to my parents when I found my faith, my own Judaism, here. Somehow, Shaaray Tefila became the place where I sought refuge from my family during my teen years. Yes, I came to Friday night Shabbat services! That was despite my parents’ resistance. They weren’t expecting me to turn into that kind of Jew.
And when I came here, I was embraced by the congregation. Now at the time, they seemed like old people, but I am guessing they were a lot younger than I am now. I became a teaching assistant in the religious school. And I made friends in TaSTY, our youth group. And together the youth group shocked this congregation when we played a guitar on the bimah! So, when my husband and I got engaged we joined Shaaray Tefila because I couldn’t imagine being married anywhere else.
Flash forward 12 years. When it came time to register our children for religious school, it was my turn to be a shocked parent. A lot had changed here! Religious school met more than one day a week! I didn’t recognize many of the prayers because they were now being taught and said in Hebrew. New melodies had been introduced. Even the ones that were “the same” had changed, like the Shema: the melody was the same, but when I was growing up, we were called upon to rise and “Proclaim the watchword of our faith!” So we rose as a congregation and belted out the Shema at the top of our lungs! Now, I was being told, that perhaps I should cover my eyes, or close my eyes, and say it a little more quietly and think about it while I said this prayer. So I adjusted, and learned to pray in new ways in order to worship alongside my kids. After all, I was Ben and Sarah‘s mother, and I didn’t want to embarrass them any more than necessary.
And somehow, my kids also felt embraced by this community. Shaaray Tefila became an important place for them as well, for learning and for connection, and quite frankly for a respite from school, and from their parents—now me!
Many years later, it was because of Sarah that I joined my first Shaaray Tefila committee as an adult. It was the Youth Committee. And the founder of the Youth Committee, Ruth Byowitz, thought it would be a good idea to to have youth leaders and adults on the same committees. So Sarah and I both received the invitation, and I thought “Oh, I’m not going to embarrass my daughter by doing that.” And she said, “Oh come on Mom, it will be a lot of fun!” So of course I agreed.
And now, I have become president of Shaaray Tefila. It’s not a role that I or my parents, or my grandparents, would have ever expected. Over the years, a lot of things have changed here. There have been at least five different rabbis, at least four different cantors, and more than three different prayer books. Even the sanctuary was re-designed, putting in a central aisle, and removing the individual chairs and adding pews.
In spite of all these changes, some things have remained constant. It remains a spiritual home, a place for support, for lifecycle events during challenging times, and for great joys. It’s a place to study and learn, and connect with others. It’s a caring community, dedicated to helping people in need, both within our own Shaaray community, and in the broader world. It’s a home where I know I will always be warmly welcomed as a member of the family.
As president, I’m committed to giving back to Shaaray to ensure that this continues to be a spiritual home for all of you. That there are opportunities for you to worship, to study, to learn, to help others and to connect with each other. And that each of you feels warmly welcomed when you come through these doors.
I know that our board, our clergy and our staff feel the same way. But we can’t do it alone. Shaaray depends on you too. We need your involvement and your enthusiasm. We really appreciate the decision you’ve made to continue to be part of our community.
I wish I could stand here and say that Shaaray Tefila could do all of these wonderful things relying only on your dues. But it cannot. And so we rely on your generosity as well. The board has already made pledges and once again, they have dug deep, committing over $110,000 to match increased gifts by you to our Annual Appeal. So now, I am asking you to dig deep too. Your ticket contains an opportunity for you to make a pledge to our Annual Appeal. Please be as generous as you can.
Thank you in advance for joining me and joining the board by investing in our community. Over this year, this first year of my presidency, I hope to have the opportunity to meet each of you. You’re all part of my family, and I want to hear your story.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I wish you and your family a sweet and healthy year.