Rabbi’s Remarks for Installation of Officers
January 20, 2017
What a delight it is to stand before you this Erev Shabbat to formally install this superb group of leaders as officers of Oheb Shalom Congregation of Baltimore City. This group of officers and trustees is among the most talented, experienced, and dedicated of any who have served Oheb Shalom, or any other synagogue for that matter. Before we offer our blessings to the new officers and trustees, I must express my gratitude to our immediate past president and friend, David Willner, who led our congregation these last two years with grace, dignity, and wisdom. David has served as a board member, officer and president for at least a decade. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with him on behalf of the congregation. He has guided us during a somewhat stressful time with a strong yet understanding approach to leading a volunteer board and professional staff. David is smart, funny, and hard working. We met regularly for breakfast and spent countless hours together here and elsewhere. His truly better half, Terri, supported David in all of his endeavors. Terri loves Oheb Shalom and, fortunate for us, David married into that relationship. So let me just say that we return that affection to you, David, as we thank you for your past and continuing service to this holy congregation.
Allow me just a few minutes to deliver a rabbi’s report on the state of Oheb Shalom before formally installing our new officers and trustees. In brief, we are in good hands and in good shape. Of course, we would be better off if a member won the lottery and donated about $20 million to us but, given the state of contemporary synagogue life, we are doing well. We went through a potentially difficult transition this year as Rabbi Nagel left after twelve years of service. The process through which we said farewell to Rabbi Nagel while interviewing for and selecting Rabbi Sarah Marion was essentially flawless. Of almost all we have done during my tenure, I am most proud of the process itself and those who were part of it. We identified and chose future leaders to sit on the search committee. They stepped up, worked hard and made an outstanding choice for our congregation in bringing Rabbi Marion to us. Several of these committee members are now officers and members of the Board of Trustees. We thank them as well as Adam Rosenberg and Mina Wender for co-chairing this exceptional committee.
We have continued our internal relationship building through our Young Families and Teen Task forces. Our programming, characterized by last night’s Challah bake, is exceptional. Just one caveat. Last night’s program took well over one hundred hours of staff time to execute. We will need to be very discriminating in future programming because we do not have enough staff to do all that is requested of us. Regarding staff, we have such an incredible group of people who work on our behalf. Each of them is devoted to God, the Jewish people, and Oheb Shalom. From our clergy to our senior and clerical staff, they give more of themselves than anyone can possibly require. They work not just for a salary but for the love of Torah and Kehilah. Our thanks to our clergy, Rabbi Marion and Cantor Braun, Ken, Susan, Maxine, Meredith, Aileen, and Sherri for their dedication to Oheb Shalom. A mazal tov and special thank you to Caitlin Brazner, who will marry Scott in March and then leave us in May to begin her rabbinic studies at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. We are very, very proud of her. I offer an extra special thanks to my partner and soul mate, Sally, for her relational skills, teaching ability, and especially for her tolerance of me. Needless to say, I am not easy to live with.
We are beginning the process of filling two positions, Caitlin’s membership, communications and programming portfolio, and a new position, that of a teen engagement associate. This person will help fill a huge gap in our post b’nei mitzvah programming and will concentrate on keeping our kids involved in Jewish life. With the demise of BEIT RJ in May, this position is absolutely necessary, despite our having to seek the funding to pay for it. This individual will teach seventh grade, run our manifold youth groups, and coordinate our soon to be unveiled sixth grade b’nei mitzvah group service program.
There is so much more to say, but our time tonight is quite limited. I now invite those newly elected members of our Board of Trustees and our appointed officers to please rise to be inducted into our leadership.
Now I invite Mina Wender to come forward. Mina, you have been Sally and my friend and co-worker for these last two decades. We have traveled together and shared many cocktails. We share goals for Oheb Shalom as well as a common world view. You have given so much of yourself to this holy congregation over these last forty years. This has been your family’s home away from home as you and Ed built a life for yourselves, Becca, and Melissa in Baltimore. You have taught in the religious school and confirmation program, served on several search committees and have been an officer for many years. Your taking the helm of leadership is a natural progression. No one has been more prepared for this day than you. We pray on your behalf:
Our God and God of our fathers and mother, bless Mina Wender as she takes up this mantle of leadership. Endow her with wisdom, vigor, and understanding as she guides Oheb Shalom in these trying times. May the Source of Strength grant her the fortitude and courage necessary to lead this family of families to even greater heights. Sustain her with Your spirit. Grant that that the words of her mouth be endowed with insight and that the work of her hands be imbued with blessing. May Your blessing, Adonai, come to rest upon us all as we say, Amen.
Would Rabbi Marion and Cantor Braun join me as we bless Mina with the ancient benediction of our ancestors?