In 2015, renowned academician and author on business and management, Henry Mintzberg penned an article entitled “We need both networks and communities.” In it, he began with the words, “if you want to understand the difference between a network and a community, ask your Facebook friends to help you paint your house.”
The article caught my attention on several levels and I’ve tucked it away in my ‘saved’ box since then. When not spending my time here at the synagogue, I work as an IT Project Manager at JPMorgan Chase in downtown Chicago. For the past 8 years, my work has centered around building and supporting a vast internal social network of sorts, bringing together tens of thousands of employees around the globe by creating virtual communities in which they can help solve problems in real time, far more effectively than they ever could using traditional methods such as Email or instant messaging. From a professional standpoint, Mintzberg’s comments helped to validate the years of work I’ve spent building our vast internal social network.
On another level, however, the article had a poignant statement to make about the type of community spirit I, and our board of trustees continue to work towards, and the challenges we face not only here at B’nai Tikvah, but in our lives in general.
Today, we live in a society where our status is often measured by the number of ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ we have. Our children arrive home from a summer spent up in the north woods, anxious to grab hold of their smart phones in order to ‘reconnect’ with their lives – and their friends. And as of late, we run down the street chasing after virtual creatures that have magically invaded our schools, restaurants, and yes, even our synagogues, all in the name of Pokemon Go. As Mintzberg wrote, “When it feels like we’re up-to-date on our friends’ lives through Facebook or Instagram, we may become less likely to call them, much less meet up. Networks connect; communities care.”
This year, we are celebrating our 40th year as a congregation. The number 40 itself, appears 146 times in our Tanach, and generally symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation. In Genesis, the earth was flooded by a rain that lasted 40 days and 40 nights. Moses lived 40 years in Egypt and another 40 in the desert before God selected him to lead the people from Egypt. He then spent 40 days and nights on top of Mt. Saini before receiving our laws. And of course, having left Egypt as slaves, an entire generation spent 40 years in the desert before the next generation entered the land of Israel. It’s no coincidence that this number has such significance in our ancient history, and in some respects, reflects where we are as a congregation in the Conservative movement and here in the community of Deerfield today.
Lead by our executive director, and with the help of our board of trustees, we do our utmost to watch every dollar that is spent on our facility, faculty and staff. Since I stood before you this time last year, we’ve taken care of number of aging infrastructure items, worked to replace our lighting around the outside of our building for safety and security, and are in the final stages of our information systems upgrade this year. We began that project by replacing our membership and accounting systems. Over the summer, we opened the doors to our new and improved website which will continue to evolve over the next year. I ended my appeal last year with the words “Each of you has your own B’nai Tikvah story…” With our new web site up and running, now is your opportunity to share with others – as well as prospective members – what makes B’nai Tikvah special to you. Send us, in a few short words or sentences, why you’ve chosen to make B’nai Tikvah your Jewish home, so we can embellish our new website with quotes from our members on an ongoing basis.
We are now in the next phase of our IT Upgrade, the process of scrubbing all our Email lists and moving most, if not all our newsletters, school bulletins, announcements and program notices to constant contact, a system that will allow you as a congregant to opt in or out of a variety of Emails you receive from us. All of this takes time, patience and dollars – and I greatly appreciate your support in all 3 categories.
The dues and fees you provide throughout the year help with our basic essentials – our mortgage, staff and clergy, utilities and program costs. The contributions made tonight and throughout the year, allow us to go beyond the basics. Many of the enhancements to our home are made possible by generous donations from congregants. In fact, later this year, we’ll be adorning our ark with a beautiful new Parochet, made possible by private donations from several long-standing congregants. Donations help to offset the costs of many of our youth activities, add books to our libraries, help bring outstanding speakers to the synagogue, and more importantly, allow us to never turn away anyone from this synagogue for financial reasons whatsoever.
Our community comes together during wonderful holidays such as our gathering here this evening, but we are also there to support your personal times as well. We’ve lost many special members of our extended family this year, and our Bikur Cholim committee has made it a goal to provide special care packages to those who have experienced a recent loss. But it’s important that we also celebrate the joyous occasions together, and so, I’ve asked that same committee to extend these care packages to our new parents in the community, fresh home from the hospital with a newborn. This is why we contribute to B’nai Tikvah beyond our dues. We are a family, and families care for one another. As Mintzberg wrote – “networks connect; communities care.”
As I mentioned a moment ago, this year is a special year for us – the celebration of our 40th anniversary. Starting tonight, and throughout the year, culminating in special events in the spring, we will celebrate where we’ve been – and where we are headed as a congregation.
At this time, I’d like to ask those in our congregation who are founding members to please stand. I ask you to stand, not to be recognized by the rest of the congregation, but rather for you to recognize what this congregation has become, 40 years after you made the commitment to form B’nai Tikvah – children of hope. The vision that you had some 40 years ago – to create an Egalitarian, conservative congregation in what, at the time, was a bit of an oasis of a Jewish community here in Deerfield, has grown into a vibrant alternative for those looking to deepen their Jewish faith while at the same time, be open to the ideas that our modern society presents us. For the vision that you had those 40 years ago, I want to thank you on behalf of the rest of the congregation for taking the steps you did to establish B’nai Tikvah. You may be seated.
Now, I’d like to ask our new members, as well as those of you who are college age or younger to please stand. Friends, I’d like to introduce you to the next generation of congregation B’nai Tikvah. Into your hands do we entrust the future of our congregation.
Our founders saw fit to establish the congregation. Some 20 years ago, that generation and the next saw fit to establish our building here on Wilmot road after spending the early years at Wilmot Elementary school. With the help of countless boards of trustees and years of donations and membership dollars, this facility stands ready for you and future generations. What becomes of B’nai Tikvah as a congregation is up to each and everyone one of us in this sanctuary tonight. As much as we invest in our building, our staff and programs, the vitality of this congregation and the ability to serve future generations is wholly dependent upon the continued participation of each and everyone one of us here tonight.
I and my peers do not represent the future of this congregation. Those of you who are standing do. Ilisa and I have already gone through two major life cycle events here at synagogue – first naming our children Ari, Mason and Shira, and then this past April, having celebrated the last of 3 bar and bat mitzvoth when Shira read from the Torah along with the rest in the family. As an aside, there is nothing more special than having the entire family on the Bimah reading together from the Torah. I hope you have that same opportunity here on our Bimah. And God willing, Ilisa and I will be celebrating an Auf Ruf, Wedding or even next generation baby naming provided that we all do our part to keep the vibrancy of Congregation B’nai Tikvah alive and well. Being part of this congregation – in fact being part of any religious institution today – is not a spectator sport. We are at that inflection point so often mention in the Torah – this year looking back at the first 40 years of our existence, and contemplating what the next 40 will be – with 3 generations standing at the gates. (You may be seated)
Later this year, we will be having several events and occasions to honor our founding members and celebrate our first 40 years. Be a part of those celebrations. More importantly, be a part of planning them.
Tonight is my last opportunity to speak before the entire congregation. I join all our past presidents in telling you what an honor and privilege it is to serve this congregation. Moshe rabenu was one of the most important leaders in our 5,000+ year old history. Moshe spoke with a lisp, relying on his brother Aaron to be his spokesperson on many occasions. One thing I’ve learned in my professional life, is that the truly great leaders aren’t those who speak with fire and brimstone from their position, but rather lead through the examples they set, and recognize the value that each and every team member has in the success of the project, the company, or in our case, the congregation. I and our board of trustees will continue to set the example and invite you to join us in every aspect of congregational life.
As I did last year, I’ve provided you two pledge cards to encourage your participation – one financial and one to ask for your active participation in shaping our future. I’m pleased to announce that our entire board has already made its commitment in both regards. I hope I’ve encouraged you this evening to help write the next 40 years of our history – not only through your financial commitment, but through your help in shaping and building our future. Let your voice be heard, but more importantly, let your actions be seen. In the Torah we read “Na’aseh v’Nishman” – we will do, and we will listen. Please. Come do. Tonight, together, let’s begin writing the next 40-year chapter of congregation B’nai Tikvah. May 5,777 be a year of health and happiness for you and your family. On behalf of our board of trustees, and on a personal level on behalf of my wife Ilisa, and children Ari, Mason and Shira, I wish you a G’mar Chatimah Tovah.