Oh, What a Year It’s Been!

by Cantor Alison Levine

Wow, what a year!  Brian and I welcomed a baby girl, Chloe Emma, on August 21, 2017.  She is now standing, babbling, and adores music.  I did some recruiting for the Junior Choir and our group grew from 8 to 13 children.  They are learning new songs, matching pitches with the piano, playing games, eating pizza, and singing at our Family Shabbat on the first Friday of the month.

Our Adult Choir remains strong with 20 members, and that includes 4 teens.  I always welcome new members.  You don’t need any experience, just a love of singing Jewish music.  We are going to be meeting for High Holy Day rehearsals on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. starting on August 7th!  The choirs will also be singing at the Long Island Ducks game Jewish Heritage Night on Sunday, August 5th at 5:00 p.m.

During the past year, I did outreach in the community, singing at the Interfaith Huntington Thanksgiving Service and singing the National Anthem at the Long Island Nets Jewish Heritage Night basketball game at the coliseum. I tutored 36 students as they prepared to become B’nei Mitzvah.  I helped them prepare to lead a service and strengthen their Hebrew, and also helped them grow in knowledge, skills, confidence, and Jewish identity. I continue to enjoy getting to know families through this process and to see it all come together at their B’nei Mitzvah service.   I work very hard to meet each child at his or her level and make sure that it is a positive and meaningful journey.  I find it special that I am now working with the siblings of previous students and my former Junior Choir members. It is also very meaningful for me to be involved in other Jewish life cycle events.  I have had the opportunity to be there for our families through moments of extreme joy and sadness.

Since January, I have been teaching Part 2 of my Adult Hebrew course.  The class has 6 adults who have done a wonderful job as we delve into Hebrew vocabulary, roots and grammar to help make the prayer book readable in the Hebrew.   The class will finish in June and restart next year with an Adult B’nei Mitzvah class.  Additionally, I also taught two Continuing Education courses, one on Jewish Weddings and another on the History of Reform Jewish music.

And last but not least, I have been enjoying leading creative worship services here at Temple Beth El.  I continue to bring in new melodies while respecting old favorites as well.   Most recently, I introduced a Ki l’olam Chasdo from the Israeli progressive minyanim, Nava Tehila.  Rabbi and I also introduced a new service called Shirei Shabbat this winter and on Friday, August 31st, I will be leading a Classic Reform Service filled with great pieces of the past.

In conclusion, I want to say how lucky I am to have found such a wonderful community here at Temple Beth El!  It is filled with warm congregants, great leadership, a fantastic clergy partner and excellent education director, and a caring and capable staff and I look forward to another fantastic year!

Thank You for Being Our Partner

by Lisa Tricomi, Vice President of Partnership

As we enter our second year of Sustaining Partnership and Gift Membership, I wanted to take the opportunity to truly thank each and every one of you for your kindness, generosity, and commitment to Temple Beth El.  The first year of Sustaining Partnership saw our community come together and grow. We had 58 new Gift Members in 2017, of which of 39 became temple partners. This year we have 75 Gift Members and I am hoping many will consider supporting our community with a Sustaining Partnership pledge.

Throughout this past year we had many fun events, and as usual Shabbat In The Lot kicked off the year. We also hosted an extremely well attended Gift Member Dinner and Sisterhood provided gift bags for each new Gift Member. Then came the High Holy Days, and our Social Action Committee helped collect food and canned goods for shelters in need. We also participated in the Huntington Fall Festival. This fall, we are also going to participate in Greenlawn’s Community Day as well as the Huntington Fall Festival. In December, we held our annual Chanukah Bash. Even though we had a snowstorm that evening, the candles burned bright on the bimah and together with Social Action, we collected gifts for the organization Birthday Wishes.  As a community, we continue to participate in H.I.H.I., Project H.O.P.E. and Hospice House of Northport.  In May, the Partnership Committee hosted a fun evening of exotic chocolate, wine tasting and mind-boggling trivia. Many of these events and initiatives were made possible with your support. The Board of Trustees voted to establish a new restricted fund called the Partnership Engagement Fund.  Donations to the fund will be used to foster partner involvement.

The Partnership Committee is excited to announce a new initiative with the Caring Community Committee, which will allow to us identify and help our own congregants in need. We recognize that we need to do more to support individuals emotionally, or TBE families in difficult times. We will be working closely with Caring Committee over the summer to put systems for support in place. If we can help you, please reach out to me so that my committee can help.

The letters for 2018 Sustaining Partnership went out at the beginning of June. Please consider pledging at your highest level. While our community has grown tremendously, we still continue to struggle to balance our temple budget. The Partnership Committee is hard at work for plans in 2018-2019. Advertising for Gift Membership will be in full swing at the end of this month.  With that being said, our temple partners are our best ambassadors. If you know of someone who is interested in becoming a Gift Member, you can always reach out to me. I have created a new email for any type of partnership inquiry. Feel free to email tbepartners@tbeli.org with any questions or feedback.  Remember, we are all partners on this journey and it is our responsibility to support, care for, and help sustain one another as a community of Jews.  I am thankful that you are a partner at Temple Beth El.

A Look to the Future

by Linda Braun, Vice President of Education

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

The education department of Temple Beth El has been working hard this year to facilitate the idea of changing the world for both the young and the old.

This past year in Religious School, in addition to our regular Hebrew and Judaic curricula, we had many extra programs, promoting Jewish values, such as feeding the community (Challah for Hunger) and kind treatment of animals (Chanukah Pet Extravaganza). As we look forward to the next school year, we will continue to bring strong Jewish values to our children. We are working to restructure our Hebrew program to make it more in keeping with preparations for our B’nei Mitzvah and we are hoping to incorporate more community service and connection with Community Hebrew High in the 7th grade. In addition, we are very excited to announce that we, in collaboration with Huntington Jewish Center, have employed the services of an Israeli Shinshinim – young adults who will help to create an informal connection between our students and Israel. This is a valuable program that has taken hold in many synagogues across the country, and allows for firsthand accounts of the culture and issues surrounding Israel.

We would also like to announce that with the introduction of Online Registration and the “Early Bird Discount,” as of this writing, we already have half of our students enrolled for the next school year.

Not only have we looked to inspire our young people, but our adults as well. Thanks to the efforts of Diane Berg and Ellen Gray, our Adult Education programs have grown exponentially in the past year.  In the coming year, look for discussions on topics as varied as Social Justice, Politics and Jewish Mysticism.

In short, education is thriving at Temple Beth El as we continue to strive to “change the world,” one step at a time.

New Additions to Temple Beth El

by Howard Schneider, VP, Operations & Programs

When you come to Summer Shabbat, you will notice something different.  We have a beautiful new portable ark.  Likewise, if you have recently attended services in the Sanctuary, you will have also noticed something different there as well – we have a new tallit cabinet and yarmulke stand!

How did all this come about?  In April, Rabbi Clopper received an email from Presentations Gallery in Mount Vernon that said they were having a sale on synagogue furnishings.  With the blessing of the Ritual Committee, Rabbi Clopper and I took two road trips up to Mount Vernon.   We were expecting a warehouse – instead, we found a workshop where every piece was lovingly made by hand. We also found out that our tastes in furniture are different; Rabbi Clopper tends to be more traditional while I tend to be more contemporary.  After looking at and rejecting multiple pieces, we finally found it – our ark – the one that we both fell in love with.  The end result of these trips is that we acquired three beautiful new pieces to enhance our ritual spaces.  Prior to the sale, the cost of obtaining our portable ark, tallit cabinet and yarmulke stand would have been $17,660.  The sale price brought it down to $5,200, a considerable savings.

Thanks to the generosity of the Men’s Club, Sisterhood, the Chai Club, and two anonymous donors, we have so far secured contributions totaling $3,000.  Where will the remaining money come from, you ask?  Good question.  This is the part where I ask you, our temple partners, to step in.  While Temple Beth El does have two restricted funds – the Ritual Beautification Fund, and the newly re-dedicated Marj Blauman Sanctuary Fund – that can be used for this purpose, my goal is not to use any existing resources from the Restricted Funds at all.  My hope is that we will not only receive enough generous donations from you to completely sponsor these three items, but that your generosity will also allow us to add to the Marj Blauman Sanctuary Fund, so that it can be used to make major improvements to our Sanctuary in the near future.  Please consider making a donation to help sponsor enhancing our ritual spaces. No donation is too small.  Thank you for your continued generosity and support of our temple community.

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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