Text of Speech:

Shana Tovah! My name is Jennifer Rako, acting president of Cape Cod Synagogue. For new members and guests, or more seasoned members who don’t read the monthly bulletin, I became acting president in June of 2022 due to a vacancy on the Board of Trustees after my official presidency ended. Our bylaws only allow one 2-year term for president and instead of amending the bylaws to allow a second 2-year term, we amended them to allow the immediate past president to serve as acting president when the first and 2nd VP do not want to take on those duties. The distinction is subtle, because in some way I’m still doing all that I did as president, but with some very major differences.

As acting president, the 1st and 2nd VP, Todd Friedenberg and Malcolm Finkelman are working with me in a very real way, in a way that makes acting president feel like a collaboration and not just a continuation of what I did before. For example, Todd, Malcom and I take turns representing the Board of Trustees on the Bima at Friday night shabbat services, with Bob Luss, our recording secretary, often filling in sometimes as well. So if you’re someone who attends services when it’s not just Rosh Hashanah, you would notice the rotating officers on the Bimah. I used to meet each week with the Rabbi. Now I meet with Todd and Malcolm and the rabbi bi-weekly. In addition to having a team approach to the presidency as acting president, I also inherited an extra two years to cement my initial goals as president. Those were three-fold: upgrade our communication and database technology, enhance our sense of a Jewish community, and strengthen our fiscal health.

As acting president, I didn’t make new goals, so it’s been nice to see my originals goals through. In terms of upgrading our communications and database technology, this has actually been fully accomplished. Our migration to Shulcloud gave us the ability to maintain a comprehensive database, send email and text message blasts, and utilize accounting software all in one. Prior to this we were using three separate platforms, one of which was so old it was no longer supported by its maker, to accomplish what ShulCloud does alone. And we got a new cloud-based phone system, but I don’t get any credit for that since our IT director, also known as Rabbi Freelund, took care of the ordering and installing of the system, though I was a major nudge to make sure it happened.

In terms of our sense of community, it’s always a work in progress, but boy have we progressed over the past 3 and a half years. When I first became president, we were relegated to zoom boxes. We had virtual services, virtual meetings and virtual social events. Zoom changed the world, by expanding and limiting it at the same time. I think we did an amazing job keeping our community together in 2020 and 2021, but it was hard. My first high holy days speech as president, was pre-recorded with the rest of our services and played on-line and on local access television. My second year as president we were here in 3D, but only with a very abbreviated in-person presence. Last year we had a pretty strong gathering in this sanctuary, and today even with a nor’easter we have a respectable showing for my last HHD speech. (I’m sure that’s why you’re all here.)

And in terms of community, during the past year CCS has had so much going on. Israel Action had more events than I can count, Ritual, Sisterhood, Men’s Club, Adult Ed, Social Action, Membership, the Middlers and Renaissance Group were busy churning out valuable reasons to gather together. CCS is a happening place. And those are just the groups that organize events. Caring Committee, Family Engagement, Publications, the Kitchen Crew, Philanthropy, Building and Grounds, (forgive me if I left some group out) are all working hard and regularly. Each spoke of the CCS wheel helps us move forward as our Jewish family of choice, a community.

My personal favorite event this past year was when Anat Hoffman from Women of the Wall spoke to us in this very room after a Saturday morning shabbat service and we all mingled in the social hall afterwards during the oneg shabbat. The sense of togetherness was wonderful. The Israel Action Committee reenactment of the 1947 UN vote (Resolution 181) establishing the state of Israel was also a highlight of the past year, with each person in attendance in this room representing one of the countries and their historic vote. It’s also been heartwarming to see Sisterhood and the Men’s Club collaborating on several breakfast events with speakers, and the super successful Membership committee, Renaissance and Middler groups creating a social network outside of 145 Winter Street.

I can say that having begun my presidency during an international pandemic, I have found the acting presidency a rewarding way to wrap up my time in this leadership role thanks to an array of dedicated volunteers and a rabbi who wears many hats. I had a goal to foster community, but it’s the membership who made it a reality.

And as for my final goal, financial health, you knew this speech was going to bring up money at some point; we are actually doing well. We have a beautiful building and grounds, zero debt, over 260 members, up by about 70 in the past four years. So much to be proud of. But we have a $450K budget and dues only bring in about $325K. We narrow the gap somewhat from general donations that roll in during the course of the year, but largely by the HHD appeal.

Our budget is lean. We have salaries which make up the bulk of our budget, but we also need to pay for utilities, security, copies, security, paper products, security, landscaping, oh, and did I say security? So we need to close the gap from what we raise by dues to what we need to make it until the end of the fiscal year. We have four families who in the aggregate are matching up to $28K for the appeal. And we are well on our way to meeting the match. But last year we raised $82K representing only 53% of our members giving. This is where my goals for community and fiscal strength intersect. We need you – our Jewish community to support the appeal. 53% participation was better than the year before, but that number should be much higher.

If you are a member, you should have received a blue envelope that asked for $1 a day. $365 for the year. If that’s too steep for you, give whatever you can. We understand some of you are on fixed incomes and that with inflation it makes giving hard, but do give something. And if you can be more generous, please do. Be counted. Be a participating member of the congregation by supporting the appeal. As I said last year, we have no funding stream besides our members and guests. If we, reform jews, don’t support Cape Cod Synagogue, then who will? Jewish organizations do not receive donations from the general public. We are supported by – Jews. It is up to us collectively to make sure we can survive and flourish.

If you have already given to the appeal, I greatly thank you. If you have not yet, please plan to so this week.

I am told that being a synagogue president is largely a thankless job. And sometimes I can’t disagree. But if you want to show support for me, the Board of Trustees, all of our many volunteers without whom CCS would not be what it is, our clergy, administrators and staff, please give to the appeal. You can do so by check (dropped off here or mailed) or online on ShulCloud.

CCS is our reform Jewish home in the middle of Cape Cod. Please hear this appeal, absorb the importance and commit. I hope to be able to say at Yom Kippur services that participation exceeds last year’s numbers. We have a week to do this. Please help me make this a reality.
And before concluding, I would like to say that as I look around the room, it’s amazing that I know most of you. Four years ago I could not say that. Not just because I was speaking to you on a prerecorded message, but because I really only knew a handful of you. I knew the families of the children who went to Hebrew School with my daughter, and I knew the Board of Trustees, and a few others, but over the course of the past 3+ years, I have really gotten to know so many of you and I will always cherish these connections. If you’re one of our new members, or a guest, and we have not met before, please introduce yourself to me during the oneg after the service. I try to reach out to new members when they join, but amazingly, we have had so many knew members of late, I am behind in making these new connections.

In conclusion, I wish you a healthy, happy and sweet new year, filled with promise and positive change and love.
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Shana Tovah!

 

Jenifer Rako, Esq.
Acting President