Friday, January 11, 2013

TBE's Vision, the Conservative Movement and our New Roof

Shorashim 1.10.13  

The latest news about the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's budget woes is not good.  When our board decided to step back from membership in the USCJ a couple of years ago, it was with deep reservations and concern for the future of Conservative Judaism.  I had some hope that the synagogue arm of the movement would revitalize itself with the implementation of its new strategic plan.  That may or not be happening, but we, for our part, are making a greater contribution from the outside, using the tens of thousands of dollars formerly given to the national organization to hire new staff and upgrade our programming. 

We've done our part.  The past two years have been a time of growth for TBE, as we have refined our mission and drawn in scores of new families and individuals looking for a vision of Judaism that is inclusive, egalitarian, open, honest, spiritually engaging and vital.  Just last week our Shorashim nursery school welcomed its second class and we are nearly full for the fall.  Our January class for twos and not-yet twos is also nearly full.  

If you've happened by TBE this week you might have noticed quite a bit of activity going on, especially if you happened to look up.  We are getting a new roof (I call it our Uf-ROOF :)).  You may notice that the workers, in strict accordance with Deuteronomy 22:8, installed a parapet at the edge to minimize the danger of falling.  When our James Taylor sound-alike joins us for Temple Rock Cafe on Feb. 2, no doubt we'll expect him to sing, "Up on the Roof."

This new roof is part of a long-term project that will ultimately bring us to the forefront of environmentally friendly religious institutions in the country.  We already enjoy the fruits of our Mitzvah Garden, but the current project will propel us light years beyond that.  More details will be shared over the coming weeks.  Being the greenest synagogue isn't about being trendy, or, for that matter, thrifty (although the project will save us lots of money).  It's about being God's stewards in sustaining our fragile planet, at a time when we've experienced the hottest year on record and one of the most devastating storms ever.  That photo of our Shorashim students with the hard hats is a perfect way of demonstrating TBE's vision.  Those hard hats are our kippot.  From the very youngest to the oldest, we roll up our sleeves to repair our fragile earth - and in doing so, we engage the world on so many levels.

We are leading the effort to educate our families about the dangers of gun violence, to engage interfaith dialogue, to support both public and Jewish education, to encourage voluntarism of all sorts along with vibrant, life-affirming prayer and meaningful engagement with Israel.  In short, we are doing what a Conservative synagogue should be doing and, as such, are making an important contribution to the movement.   But for us to be able to make those investments, we needed to, ironically, leave the synagogue arm, at least temporarily.  We are still very much Conservative, but we are helping to reinvent it.

Our board has been engaging in a process of strategic planning, and very soon, the congregation will be invited to participate in that effort. As we move forward along this path, one thing is clear about this congregation:
We are determined to make a difference.

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