On November 8, Temple Shaaray Tefila Executive Director, Amy Schwach was officially installed as President of the National Association of Temple Administrators (NATA). Rabbi Mosbacher had the honor and pleasure of installing Amy and sharing remarks on this wonderful ocassion. Read his remarks below.
INSTALLATION OF AMY SCHWACH AS PRESIDENT OF
THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF TEMPLE ADMINISTRATORS
Remarks from Rabbi Joel Mosbacher
November 8, 2022, 14 Cheshvan 5783
Making sure that the tent is clean, and that there’s enough food and drink for everyone, and making sure that everyone in the tent knows what their job is, and where they are supposed to be so that the tent can be an audaciously hospitable place, and, navigating disagreements patiently with everyone who thinks they know better about how everything should work and where the tables should be, and how check-in should work, and what the health protocols should look like.
And, dealing with windy days that threaten to blow the tent down and, becoming an expert in tent maintenance, for the moments when no one else is around to make repairs and, making sure that everyone
will both be and feel safe in the tent, and, oh, by the way, taking care of one’s own family and their needs while dealing with one’s own concerns about the world, and, doing one’s own self care in between it all through life’s trials and tribulations.
And, dealing with constant interruptions and distractions and, having to triage between things that are actual emergencies and things that are not emergencies at all, and even after years of being tested, of facing difficult situations, facing new challenges nearly every single day, and being looked to by others to face those challenges with patience and aplomb and professionalism and then, after long hard days of expecting and dealing with the unexpected, putting on a smile and graciously welcoming old friends and guests into the tent.
It seems that our ancestors Abraham and Sarah, in addition to being the first Jews, were also the first Executive Directors in Jewish history.
That’s part of what we learn in Parashat Vayera, this week’s Torah portion. Our Torah’s story is sacred, and there’s so much to learn from it. And, too, we don’t only need to look back 4000 years to see sacred stories and sacred work unfolding.
Today, we gather to celebrate the leadership of one of our own, who takes her place in the 4000 year tradition of Executive Directors dating back to Abraham and Sarah– Executive Directors who have always made room in our tents for friends and family and newcomers alike; whose work is holy, and without whom, there would be no holy work possible.
She also follows in the footsteps of Shirley Chernela, z”l, former Executive Director of Temple Shaaray Tefila who, exactly 40 years ago, became President of NATA.
What can I say about my friend and co-conspirator Amy Schwach?
Oh, so many things- (don’t be nervous, Amy!)
Here’s what I think you should know about Amy if you didn’t already know.
Amy learned to be the human being she is from her parents; in the biblical dictionary under “honor your father and your mother” is a picture of Amy Schwach. We’re thinking of Amy’s mother Susie of blessed memory who I know was so proud of you, my friend, and we’re also wishing that your dad Howie could be here; I know he’s watching online. I’m so thrilled that your brother Robbie could be here tonight.
From your family of origin you learned to be the mensch, the deeply good person that you are the kind of goodness that can’t be taught in a classroom or in a workplace. Above all, that’s who you are; that’s what makes you the person that your colleagues so respect; that your co-workers so respect; that your lay leaders, respect so deeply.
And here’s what I also know, and what everyone who knows Amy professionally also knows.
You are a tent builder and a tent keeper par excellence. You are a maker of holy spaces for the Jewish people to dwell in. You are a righteous inheritor of the legacy of our first tent builders and keepers that we see in this week’s Torah portion. Like them, you know what it takes to build a tent, and to anchor it so that it can withstand the winds that blow in our world.
Like them, you do whatever needs to be done, whether it’s in the job description or not.
Like them, you know the difference between real problems and laundry problems. Like them, you don’t say to others, “do as I say.” You say, “do as I do.” And that’s why we as a Jewish people thrive when you share your gifts by your incredible example. Like them, you are the calm in a storm; in storms that rock the worlds of individual members of our congregation and leaders and staff and professional colleagues in NATA, and in the storms that rock the synagogue as an institution in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world.
Like our biblical forebears, you, Amy Schwach, will work patiently with any person in any situation to invite them in to your tent, to help them on their journey, to listen to their story, to fix whatever is in your immense power to fix, and to hold as sacred those things you cannot fix.
At Shaaray Tefila, we jokingly call you Rabbi Schwach, which in a room of executive directors might sound like a curse! But in our tent on the corner of 79th and 2nd we use that term for you lovingly and respectfully, because you are so damn good at pastoral care and kindness; because you care so deeply about people and their sacred journeys- just like Sarah and Abraham did; because you approach even the most potentially transactional pieces of our work with a deep openness to the relational opportunities that those moments offer us.
Amy, I remember you once telling me that you feel like-your whole life long-people have underestimated you because of your gender, and,
because you are slightly less tall than other people.
Amy, in this room, we don’t underestimate you at all. You are a giant in our midst. You are a leader; you are a builder; you are a visionary. So when NATA chose you as their new President, they couldn’t have chosen better.
Thank you for being a tent builder, and for making the tent you build
warm and welcoming and for inviting all of us who are blessed to be your friends and family, your colleagues and congregants, to sit with you in safety and security, in the warmth and generosity of your tent.
In some ways we might say that the work Sarah and Abraham did, and the lives they lived, and the world they inhabited, and the tents they managed couldn’t be more different than our work, and our lives. But in many ways, nothing has changed in the last 4000 years.
Sarah and Abraham spent their lives in a complicated world, concerned about land, and gold, and sheep, and everything else.
And in many ways that’s still the work of Temple Adminstrators in the time in which we live.
Our tents are made of different materials than theirs were. But other than that, in so many ways, the work of the people-business hasn’t changed at all. Like Abraham and Sarah, who charted a new path for our people, you, Amy, will chart a new path for the Jewish people in this generation.
And we will follow you. And we will be strengthened by your wisdom, your hard work, your kindness, your patience, and your merit.