2023 President’s Kol Nidre Speech

I’m Patricia Kresner, Temple Beth El’s new President for the next 2 years.   I can’t believe I’m really President!  How did I get here?  It all started years ago when I agreed to bring apple juice to a temple event.  Then, one thing led to another.  But I must give credit to my late brother-in-law Howard Schneider, whose gentle touch and encouragement steered me along the path to temple leadership.  I also wish to extend my thanks and gratitude to our all our past Presidents on whose shoulders I stand.  Most especially to our recent past President, Mitch (Golf Outing) Kittenplan, whose selfless commitment to the temple, along with his leadership and support, have been invaluable.

My theme today concerns relationships.  In thinking about how best to introduce myself, I decided it would be simplest to go to a place that’s all about relationships: the dating app J-Date.  Here’s a sample from my J-Date profile.  I’m a divorced Huntington resident of a certain age.  I enjoy cooking, traveling, and gardening.  I’ve been a temple member for over 20 years.  I think it’s time to update my profile to include TBE President.

Typically, I use the High Holy Days to meditate on my relationships.  And this year is no exception.  But enough about me.  Let’s talk about you and our relationship.  Specifically, Temple Beth El’s relationship with you.  As with any relationship, it takes both parties to make it work.  It’s the old story of getting out of it what you put in.

I’m reminded of a famous quote from JFK, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  I’d like to switch it up to make it more relevant.  I’d like to change the “Ask Not” to “Ask”, as in “Ask what your temple can do for you.”

Yes, the temple is here just waiting to be of service to you.  Should you fall sick or need encouragement during a difficult time, our Caring Community is ready to drop by with a freshly baked challah and some homemade soup.   Are you looking for a place to recharge, engage in some spiritual renewal? Join us at Friday night services.  Maybe you’d like to give back to the community; our Social Action committee supports many worthwhile endeavors from feeding the hungry to providing toys in our Birthday Wishes program and so much more.   In search of something more intellectual? There’s Bible Diving with Rabbi Jeff on Saturday mornings and a whole host of Adult Education programs offered throughout the year.  Do you like to sing or are you musical? There’s our wonderful Adult Choir led by Cantor Alison and our upcoming Chutzpah Repertory Theatre production of 1776 to consider.

Let’s not forget the need for social engagement; Sisterhood, Brotherhood, Chai Club all offer a multitude of programs throughout the year and a chance to meet some wonderful people.  There’s something happening every week, from ROMEO lunches to Mah Jongg, from book clubs to thought provoking programs.  The temple even welcomes you to share your experience and expertise if you’re so inclined.

Looking to pass on our wonderful Jewish traditions and Biblical teachings to your children, or maybe you have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in the future?  The temple’s Religious School is second to none.  We are so pleased to welcome our new Religious School Director Lauren Chizner who, with our teaching staff, provides a first-rate Jewish education.

Last, but not least, Temple Beth El is a welcoming shelter amidst the storm of antisemitism so prevalent in the news today.

Yes, ask what the temple can do for you, and you’ll get an ear full. But then, there’s the flip side, and here’s the pitch:  ask what YOU can do for the temple.  As you reflect on this past year, include thinking about your relationship with Temple Beth El.  We’re here for you in so many ways, both large and small.  We’re always looking to improve, to meet your needs, and to help and support our greater Huntington community. As with any relationship, it takes some effort.  Dip your toe in and volunteer.  Don’t know where to get started?  Reach out to our Partnership Liaison, Lisa Tricomi, who can offer guidance, or touch base with me and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

When you come to the temple look around.  There’s no doubt your gaze will fall upon one of the many volunteers and staff who are dedicated toward keeping the temple running.  Whether it’s our clergy and educators, tech team and office workers, building maintenance and operations experts, committee chairs and board members, or our financial gurus and philanthropic leaders – we are so thankful to all who work hard on the temple’s behalf.  They deserve our appreciation and thanks.

But those efforts alone are not enough.  That’s why we have the Kol Nidre appeal.  The Kol Nidre appeal is our traditional annual fundraising campaign.   Elana Goodridge is this year’s Kol Nidre chair, and she has already reached out asking for your participation.  These donations represent a significant, I’d say even critical part of our budget, and go directly towards our annual operating expenses.  I’ve been told that some temples even read the names and amounts of each donation out loud in front of the congregation.  Not to worry, we won’t be doing that at Temple Beth El.   But I’d like you to think about making a difference to the temple this year when you fill out your Kol Nidre card.  It should have come in the mail, or you can pick one up at the temple.  We ask that you approach this with consideration.  That you keep in mind all the temple does for us individually, for our congregation as a whole, and for the greater Huntington community.  There is much to feel good about, to be proud of, and to balance the scales when we reflect and repent.

One final note.  After hearing the Rabbi’s sermon on Rosh Hashanah morning, I’m happy to confirm that this entire speech was written by a human being.  Myself!

I extend best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year from my family, my sons and daughters-in-laws Michael and Jessica, and Alex and Melanie, my sisters Weslie and Miriam, and nephews Evan and Jordan.

I look forward to seeing you in shul over this next year!