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From the President

  Happy New Year! On behalf of the board, I hope you found our services a time of renewal and meaning over the course of the high holy days. I have elected to share my Kol Nidre appeal to everyone who was unable to attend can read the message:

Rabbi Federow, Cantor Eisenberg, Members of the Congregation, Family, Friends and Guests, good evening and welcome to our Kol Nidre service.

I want to thank the members of the Ritual Committee, Facilities, Men’s Club and Sisterhood, Roger Weiss and his Shofarim, and to all the volunteers planning to bring food to the Break Fast.

Before we begin, I want to recognize that it is Rabbi Federow’s 25th year of service as our congregation’s spiritual leader. He is the longest serving Rabbi in our congregation’s history. We should consider this Yom Kippur even more special as we spend this time together.

Twenty-five years is quite an accomplishment and one worthy of celebration. With so many of you here, we are announcing a save the date for the evening of December 7th as a special night to share with Rabbi Federow as we celebrate his 25 years of service. Look for more information in the coming weeks.

As is customary in our synagogue, we precede this service with an appeal to your generosity, but tonight, I want to speak to you about our future as a Jewish community and how vital your role is.

After Rosh Hashanah services, I was visiting with a close family friend. During our discussion, she asked me when my term as President would end, and then she asked if I intended to continue on for a third term. She wondered aloud, “How did I think that it was possible to stem the tide of a shrinking congregation?” Especially with the decline in affiliation of Jews. Only a third of all Jews today belong to a synagogue. As our society becomes more affluent, the less organized religion, all religions, seem to have a role in our modern society.

Then she asked me if I would be so dedicated if it weren’t for my children being in religious school, and what role I could see for myself and our family after our children complete confirmation classes. Will we too disappear from synagogue life, our parental duties for religious upbringing complete?

Wow. Talk about cutting right to the quick. In 10 minutes, I was forced to question everything from my sanity - I am not always sure why anyone in their right mind would volunteer to be a synagogue president - to my commitment to Judaism - to my commitment to the Jewish community – to my commitment as a Jewish parent. As I thought about how to respond, the range of emotions and thoughts that played out in my head spanned from anger to sadness to frustration to determination. Reeling from the questions – all valid and fair, they were just unexpected in their directness, it took a moment to recover.

It took me a moment, but I knew the answers, but I searched for the words to more eloquently communicate them, hoping that would make them seem more impactful – for me as much as for her.

Yes, our children matter, especially mine matter to me and my wife. But making sure all of our children are raised with a proud sense of being Jewish and understanding their religion is important us all.

But how would that be possible if not for our synagogue? If dedicated people – many of you in this room – had never stepped forward and committed yourselves, there would not be a synagogue here today. We would not have talked about a 25th year of service with our Rabbi. If dedicated people – like yourselves and your friends - had not funded the building of the religious school, my children would not love to bake challah, love to learn about their religion, or read Hebrew. Without dedicated people – parents just like yourselves - our children would not have learned the Shabbat service, learned to chant their haftorah, or studied for their bar/bat mitzvah.

So, I think my answer about why, how long, for what purpose….is that if each of us doesn’t participate, doesn’t commit to sustaining our Jewish community, if each of us doesn’t help, then ultimately, there will be no Jewish community. Not just for us, but more importantly, there will be no community for the next generation. I ask you - what example will we set for future generations? In the face of overwhelming odds, our history tells us that if we persevere, the sacrifice and the effort will be worth it.

As you came into the synagogue, entered the sanctuary, or walked the hallways, you walked by the names on the walls, and maybe you recognized some, and wondered about others that we never met. But their names, their memories echo through the halls of this building, reminding us of their commitment to us and to future generations of Jews. From their commitments, and from yours, I am happy to report that in the past year, we celebrated 2 weddings, a baby naming, multiple bar/bat mitzvahs, and sadly sat Shiva with friends and loved ones … because you made the commitment to ensure there was a community here.

This summer, when we communicated the status of our synagogue, I said to many of you that I refused to merely “re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic”. I refused to believe our fate has already been written and sealed. But, I did hear comments questioning whether continued membership at CSH was worth the investment of time, participation, and money.

Instead, we moved forward with optimism and determination, trying to find a tenant to utilize our religious school facility as a means to raise income and better position our financial situation. And with the help and support of dedicated board members, we took our destiny into our own hand, and as if it was divined, we found a great tenant. But understand, we had to invest almost $10,000 in improvements to attract a high-quality tenant. That investment will take time to re-pay before we reap any reward. But this story reinforced in my mind that we are not on the Titanic, this congregation and community is still a viable concern, if we choose to be. Yes, we have significant challenges, but we have an opportunity to continue, if we as a community will embrace it.

So, what does this have to do with Kol Nidre? What does this have to do with you? You are the future of our synagogue, of our community, of Judaism. I mean no disrespect, but it isn’t the Rabbi. It isn’t the board. It isn’t me. It isn’t any one of us alone. It is all of you, all of us. Tonight you made a choice. You could have chosen to allow the demands of our secular world to keep you away, but you didn’t. You came to be with and pray together.

In a few short moments, as we begin our service, we call to the Bimah the officers of the board along with 4 young men and women, all members of our religious school – representatives of our Jewish future, to join us, because what we commit here to do tonight is about the future of our Jewish community.

What is it that I need you to take away from my message? You are the Jewish community and we need you. We need your support - throughout the year. Take a moment please to consider how thankful you are to have a Jewish community here, one to be with you when you mourned, to be with you when celebrated, to be with you when you needed spiritual guidance or emotional support?

Tonight as you hold your envelopes and as you pledge your level of commitment, I ask you to look into your hearts, to look around you at your neighbors and friends, and then choose to support a Jewish future here in Clear Lake, now and for future generations.

If you were unable to complete your pledge, you can still mail them in. Thank you to everyone who committed themselves to being a part of our community.

On behalf of the board, I want to extend to your family wishes for a healthy and happy New Year!

David Hirsch

October 2019

Mon, October 21 2019 22 Tishrei 5780