KOL NIDRE SPEECH 2019
Good Evening. I’m Alan Kline, and I serve as president of the Board of Trustees of Har Sinai Temple. Under the Temple By-Laws, an individual may only serve four years in the same position, so this will be my fourth and final year as president of Har Sinai. And since this is the last time I will have the privilege of addressing you at Kol Nidre, I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Executive Committee – most of whom have been kind enough to serve as Temple officers with me over the past several years. Thank you to Vice President Ada Gallichio, Vice President Lisa Kimmelman, Vice President Casey Faiman, recording Secretary Lois Krause, Financial Secretary Deborah Gnatt, immediate past President Heather Fehn, and Treasurer Arnold Speert for their outstanding service to the Temple and their unwavering support of the Board and the mission of Har Sinai Temple. They are all volunteers. They serve out of love for our Temple and an appreciation that as Jews we each bear a responsibility to do what we can to help our community and our people. Their willingness to spend long hours on very difficult and often controversial issues is amazingly generous. We all owe them our gratitude and appreciation for a job well done.
The Board of Trustees and Executive Committee have accomplished a great deal over the past several years. We have stabilized our financial situation by entering into an agreement with our mortgage holder that significantly reduced our monthly payments on our debt while allowing us to continue at our current location in Pennington for the foreseeable future. In addition, we have stopped depleting the Temple’s Endowment to pay the Temple’s mortgage and related expenses. All Temple expenditures are now being paid out of the Temple’s operating budget. Since July of 2018, there have been no outflow of funds from the Endowment, which has given it a chance to stabilize and grow. For the first time in many years, we had no increase in our membership dues, and our plan is to gradually begin reducing membership dues in the years ahead.
Over the summer, Cantor Green became the head of our religious school, and she has been effective in attracting new students and families to our religious school program. And it appears that for the first time in many years our membership numbers are stabilizing, and even beginning to grow. I detect a new spirit of optimism and enthusiasm in our Congregation. There is a sense that we have overcome adversity and are beginning to turn the corner on a brighter future. Of course, there is much work remaining, and many challenges to overcome. But we have made good progress over the past several years and with your support, we will continue that progress.
In recent years, our Board has been dealing with some very hard issues. We identified challenges, formulated action plans to address those challenges, and then put those plans into effect. And throughout, I have kept you advised of what we were doing, how we were doing it, and the progress we were making toward our goals. Sometimes we were successful, and sometimes we were not. But you were always kept in the loop. Many people cautioned me that I should not be so candid, that our members did not want to hear about the challenges we were facing, and that pointing out problems would cause many members to abandon ship. And some have. But you can’t resolve issues unless you first acknowledge that issues exist, and then, that you are willing to confront those problems head-on. And that is what our Board and Executive Committee have done over the past several years – with favorable results.
Over the past year, many people from both inside and outside of our Congregation have told me that undisclosed sources had advised them that Har Sinai Temple had fallen on hard times and that in a matter of weeks or months we would be merging with another local congregation, or even that we would be closing our doors. People do love to gossip. And this appears to be especially true when it comes to what the future holds for our Congregation. So let me be clear and remove any doubts or uncertainty about the future of Har Sinai Temple. Har Sinai’s financial position is now stable. We are not merging with another Congregation. We will remain independent, as we have for the past 162 years. We will remain a proud member of the Reform Movement. And we will remain at our current location in Pennington – at least for the next several years, and we are looking forward to a brighter future.
As you all know, the Rabbi will be retiring this coming summer after over twenty years of dedicated service to our Congregation. He is the second longest serving Rabbi in the history of Har Sinai Temple – second only to Rabbi Abraham Holtzberg. He has served Har Sinai in the finest traditions of our Congregation – building on the legacies of Rabbis Abraham Holtzberg, Joshua Haberman, Bernard Perelmuter, David Gelfand, and David Strauss. This coming spring, the Board plans to celebrate and honor Rabbi Pollack’s accomplishments and contributions to Har Sinai and the greater Trenton Jewish community over more than two decades. In addition, the Board has voted to extend a very high and well deserved honor on Rabbi Pollack that has previously never been bestowed upon a retiring leader of our Congregation – Rabbi Pollack has been named Rabbi Emeritus of Har Sinai Temple effective on his retirement. Over the years, Har Sinai’s Rabbis have been leaders of the Reform Movement in America. Therefore, as a Congregation, we truly have a great responsibility in selecting a successor to Rabbi Pollack to continue and build upon this illustrious legacy.
We are truly fortunate that our Treasurer, Arnold Speert, has agreed to undertake the responsibility of chairing the Rabbinical Search Committee. Arnie served as President of William Patterson University for many years. He is well acquainted with finding qualified candidates for difficult jobs. He is supported by an outstanding and diverse search committee: Ada Gallichio, Casey Faiman, Heather Fehn, Lew Dauer, Lois Krause and Kristen Gurdin. And I will serve as an ex officio member. The search committee will make a thorough search for a new Rabbi. It will review resumes, conduct interviews, and establish focus groups with our membership to determine what qualities you deem most important in a new Rabbi. After a thorough and complete vetting by the Search Committee, it will then make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees, who will then decide whether to extend an offer to a candidate, along with the terms of such an offer.
To say the Search Committee’s work is important is a significant understatement. Har Sinai Temple is at the crossroads. The most important decision we will make this year, and for many years, will be who to select as our next Rabbi. To my mind, this selection will be the single most important factor in determining whether our Congregation will thrive and succeed in the years ahead. Therefore, we need to do everything we can to make sure that we, as a Congregation, get this right. To the extent you are asked to participate in this process through offering your opinions through focus groups, please make every effort to fully participate in this process. The Search Committee is eager to hear your ideas and welcomes your advice and suggestions. Do not leave it to others. Take responsibility to participate in this process. As Jews, and members of this Congregation, we are all connected. We have a responsibility to each other, and so we should all be involved in the process of selecting our next Rabbi.
Although any rabbi has one foot in the spiritual world, he or she, like the rest of us, live in the temporal world. They have financial obligations and real world personal concerns for themselves and their families. So to attract the best candidates, we must offer an attractive salary and benefits package. This will be somewhat difficult for a Congregation of our size. Therefore, to enable us to attract a first rate candidate, I encourage you to donate generously to this year’s High Holiday Appeal. We plan to target most of the funds raised this season to enhancing the financial package offered to the new Rabbi to attract the best candidates.
What are we looking for in our next Rabbi? We are looking for an individual, man or woman, young or old, which will unite and energize our Congregation. We are looking to do more than merely fill a position. We are looking for an individual who will inspire us and our children to live good lives and attempt great things, someone who will lift our spirits and rekindle our enthusiasm to lead lives filled with purpose and meaning for ourselves, our families, our community and our people.
Perhaps I am asking for the impossible. Can such a person really exist? A person who can lead and inspire us? All I can tell you is that when I was younger we were blessed with such people here at Har Sinai who were truly remarkable and gifted. Individuals like Joshua Haberman, Marshall Glatzer and Bernard Perelmuter. They made a difference in my life and in the lives of many others from my generation. So I have to believe there are such people out there. And it is our obligation to go and find such a person so they can lead, inspire, and motivate a new generation of Har Sinai congregants to dream great dreams, do great things, and make the world a better place. If we can find such a person, our Congregation’s best days are truly ahead of us.
I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year. L’Shanah Tovah.