42 Individuals Who Became a Family

by Rabbi Jeff Clopper

It may sound hard to believe, but when you spend 10 days traveling around on a bus, it isn’t so farfetched.  And when the traveling destination is Israel, it becomes even more understandable.

Looking back, I am in total awe of the wonderful people who were a part of this trip.  Together, we laughed, we cried, we saw incredible sites, and experienced the beauty and complexity that is Israel.  Walking among centuries-old ruins, navigating bustling open-air markets, huddling at times against a chilling wind or enjoying the relaxing breeze at the Mediterranean Sea – each moment was remarkable.  Each place we saw held a significance, but I could see that being there together added a layer that can only come when you share an experience with someone close.

When we came back, I heard many of our weary travelers (believe me, it was a PACKED itinerary) reflect on the various sites and scenes.  Each could tell you about their favorite, the place in Israel that had the greatest impact, and you would hear a variety of answers.  At the same time, there seemed to be a constant theme upon our return to the United States – even after 10 days riding around from one side of the country to the other in that same coach bus, we missed being together.

The picture below is one we took of the whole group during our first Shabbat in Israel.  Friday evening, we traveled to the Kotel (the Western Wall) as many groups will do.  Several who had been in Israel before were familiar with the site.  However, for most of us, myself included, this was the first time at the plaza that has been designated for Reform and other progressive-minded Jews to gather.  Unlike on the traditional side, divided in accordance with Orthodox standards, we were able to stand together and welcome Shabbat.  Together we sang, we prayed and we welcomed Shabbat.  Toward the end of our time at that place, I asked people to share something for which they are thankful.  Even as I asked the question, I knew the answer for me right away – I was thankful for this incredible group!

I guess I’d better start planning our next trip!


Thinking About the Future

by Michael Heiberger, VP of Finance and Development

Having been a member, and now a Sustaining Partner, of Temple Beth El for over 39 years, I have seen the past, am living the present and planning for the future. Several decades ago, we were a vibrant congregation of almost 500 households with a building somewhat smaller than the space we occupy today. Over the years, that number dwindled to the low 300’s as synagogue affiliation ceased to be a priority for many families, particularly after the last child became a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Certainly, economic pressures and competing priorities played a role. There was a major growth of the “unaffiliated” for synagogues as well for houses of worship of all religions.

Temple Beth El, not immune to these societal pressures, nevertheless has always had a sense of warmth and community that so many of us appreciated. So, how to get others to embrace this? For the past two years, our Gift Membership program has produced a phenomenal number of new partner households (56 from last year who have become partners and 70 new potential partner households this year). The transition from dues based financing to a voluntary partnership mechanism has made this possible. This mix of new households has included significant numbers of “empty nesters,” singles and single households as well as some young families and a surprising number of former TBE members who have returned.  They also come from a wider geographic area than has been the case over the years.

Our challenge now is to continue to support our temple financially. It will take time for our Sustaining Partnership model to evolve. Signs in this first year are encouraging but, as expected, not all households are able to participate at or above the sustaining amount. A number have, but as Joanne Fried, our Partnership Liaison explains, it is vital that we maintain and even increase the numbers participating above the sustaining amount so that we can continue to bring everyone who wants to join into our community. Everyone must continue to pledge their support at the highest level that their financial circumstances permit. Over time, more partners and higher levels of commitment will lower the cost of belonging for all.  You can call the temple at (631) 421-5835, Ext. 200 and someone from the Sustaining Partnership Committee would be happy to speak with you and answer any questions you may have.  Meetings about Sustaining Partnership are planned for May and June – be on the lookout for more information.

But how is the Board managing your money? Our annual expense budget of approximately $1.2 million covers about 60% or our annual expenses. That budget has not increased significantly for many years. While income from school tuition contributes somewhat, there is still a need for additional fundraising from various philanthropic endeavors.

With the help of our many dedicated Board members and generous congregants, we are pursuing fundraising efforts that go beyond our basic partnership income to assure financial stability so that future generations can enjoy the benefits of a caring Jewish community. Whether it is a gift via a Kol Nidre contribution at the High Holy Days, participation in our major gifts initiative, a bequest to the temple through our Ner Tamid program or a contribution to one of our tribute funds, we can assure that future.


Tikkun Olam: The Next Level

by Howard Schneider, VP, Operations & Programs

The Reform Jewish Movement, and in particular Temple Beth El of Huntington, has always felt a strong connection to the concept of Tikkun Olam. TBE offers many opportunities to participate in the mitzvah of “Repairing the World” through a multitude of successful social action programs.

It is now time for us to broaden our definition of Tikkun Olam to include the earth that we all live on. Our oceans, waterways and beaches have become clogged with plastic. Our landscape is being taken over by landfills. At B’nei Mitzvah ceremonies, we pass the Torah from generation to generation. It is time to do that for the Earth as well.  It is time to change our past ways and pave the way towards a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future.

Starting this summer TBE will begin modifying several of our current practices in order to make our temple community a more environmentally friendly place. Some of these changes will include: using biodegradable alternatives for plastic cups, plates and silverware; using reusable items whenever possible; and recycling the plastic waste that we do produce.

I would like to invite you to join me in the venture by being mindful of any products you purchase for temple events and making use of our recycling bins. As always, if you have additional ideas on how to make our temple home a more environmentally friendly place, please email me at vpops@tbeli.org

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