Annual Congregational Meeting
June 11, 2023
I find immense inspiration from the words of Psalm 118. And it's not only because it includes my name.
אֶבֶן מָאֲסוּ הַבּוֹנִים הָיְתָה לְרֹאשׁ פִּנָּה׃
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” This message speaks to the People who after generations of exile and alienation from God see themselves as returning to their place of glory. By holding fast to their commitments, they will find a path forward in hope and in strength.
I love this message because the cornerstone, a rosh pinah, is often unseen but essential for any building project. It is the first stone and sets the foundation for the building to come. Any Mason in the room can tell you the cornerstone is a key symbol for Masonry for this very reason.
The cornerstone, rosh pinah, is also a perfect metaphor for our community. Without a cornerstone, we are built like a Jenga tower, vulnerable to any change heading our way. If we hold fast to those values that ground us, we can weather any storm.
Here at Temple Tiferet Shalom, we have many cornerstones that keep us grounded. And we literally have new cornerstones which keep our beautifully renovated building standing. The light shining through the windows around us fills us with new hope and the potential of possibility. The fresh coat of paint is the communal facelift we all need. As you walk around, you will notice mezuzot adorning many of our doorways. Our mezuzot tell the story of our community, ones that have weathered former buildings and those created by current members.
We are blessed to have many doorways and in need of more mezuzot, so will continue to have moments to share in this communal mitzvah. Our physical building is now the spiritual center that will bring our community together.
We have a thriving preschool here at TTS, under the wonderful direction of Janice Ross. I can speak from personal experience that as a new parent in the preschool, I have already needed to reserve my spot for the summer of 2024 because we already have a waiting list. Many of you sitting in this room have spent time in the preschool, as students and parents, and know the impact it has on families, inspiring connection with our Jewish community. Our recognized and sought-after preschool helps us build relationships with families as they evolve through their lives. Moving forward, we are working to increase connection between families in the preschool and families in the Temple, encouraging membership and program attendance so they know TTS is here to support them.
Our religious school, an initial attraction for many families, has been reinvented. With the help of Head of School, Tracy Cranson, and the newly resurrected Religious School Committee, we are committed to working with families to provide better and more inspiring educational opportunities. To share a few new changes for the upcoming school year: Our family services will now occur on Saturday mornings, allowing our religious school to experience Shabbat Shacharit services on a regular basis, bringing familiarity to kids and their families to what their B’nai Mitzvah day will look like. We have a new post-B’nai Mitzvah program: J-School, which provides a variety of electives, allowing teens in our community to reflect on their identity and form lasting habits for their future. There will also be increased transparency towards parents and families of our religious school students so the entire family can grow and learn together as they advance through our school. We will have a school unlike any other on the North Shore!
We also have been a destination throughout the holidays. Purim brought out the goofiness of our spiel, bringing together this room in laughter, costume, and song. During Passover, we held a variety of seders, from our 2nd community seder with new haggadot to a religious school backward seder to our women’s seder by the Sisterhood, engaging over a third of our community in this classic Passover ritual. Yizkor now takes place during a mincha afternoon service, where our community has joined together to support each other in our grief. Over Shavuot, we celebrated with our Music Director Bryna Toder Tabasky, and the adult education committee, the Jewish influence on Broadway. And if you were there, you know that “Somewhere over the Rainbow” will never be heard the same way again. And lest we forget, B’nai Mitzvah are back in our building, celebrating 9 newly admitted Jewish adults into our temple community.
Our foundation is strong and stable. Now we must turn these building blocks into Roshei Pinot, cornerstones for our community.
Three values connect these cornerstones.
The first is connection. Temple Tiferet Shalom brings people together in every moment of our lives. We challenge each other. We learn from one another. We grow together. The keyword here is together, in all our diverse needs and lifestyles. Connection between members has been a focus of mine during these first 6 months together as your rabbi. And I can share, so far, I have met in person and shared a meaningful conversation with 61% of the congregation. By the end of 2023, I believe we can make this 100%.
Second, we are a beacon of acceptance. I can share countless stories of members sharing thanks for our Temple’s acceptance of their family. Ranging from LGBTQ+ families, families with multi-heritages and religions, and families with disabled members. We are a center of acceptance of the contemporary Jewish family. This should not be taken for granted, as we know many communities do not believe the same. Temple Tiferet Shalom has been a welcomed beacon for each family to celebrate life’s milestones and embrace each other as a family and I only plan on strengthening this commitment in the years ahead.
Third, people come to the Temple looking for guidance. Whether looking for a safe place
for their Jewish identity to flourish, finding relief after encountering anti-Semitism, or feeling comforted through grief, Temple Tiferet Shalom has supported our members when they need it.
Our community quickly and effectively mobilizes to make each one of our lives fuller. At all levels of the Temple, people are finding the light and direction to manage the messiness of life. This is the organized part of organized religion in action.
Connection. Acceptance. Guidance. Three values are at the heart and foundation of Temple Tiferet Shalom. I hope all of us here in the room agree and know the power of TTS. The task for all of us here is to publicize to those searching for a community to call home. There is no doubt membership comes with a cost. Yet we also receive tremendously from our commitment. A synagogue is more than just a building. When we lay a foundation there are spiritual roots to be planted as well.
As we all take in the rest and warmth of the summer ahead of us, may more unnoticed building blocks become the cornerstones, the roshei pinot, that bring our Temple into its upcoming glorious chapter.