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Julie Silbermann's Farewell to TBA Presidency

Remarks by TBA President Julie A. Silbermann given at the
TBA 170th Annual Meeting on Jan. 24

Good Evening. Welcome to the 170th Annual Meeting of Temple B’nai Abraham. I am honored to have the privilege of addressing you tonight, at my really final Annual Meeting as president. I would like to reflect on the past successful year and the two years of my presidency. When I began this two-year term in 2021, we were coming out of COVID-19 restrictions and trying to evaluate if we had reached our new stable ground. We were trying to figure out how to move forward from quarantine, how to keep our congregation safe while starting to open our doors and welcome you back inside. That has been, perhaps, the most challenging task I have faced in all my years of temple leadership. But we did it! Our doors are open, we have welcomed you all back, we are moving forward. I must thank the people who helped us along the way—our staff, lay leaders, and involved congregants making up our COVID-19 task force. Special thanks to Dr. Kerry LeBenger for his constant oversight and guidance and Dr. Eileen Klein for her diligence and assistance.

So here I start--with thanks and gratitude. Rabbi Vaisberg, Cantor Epstein, and Rabbi Edwards—you inspire us, teach us, and involve us in all facets of Jewish and spiritual life. Our services ring with music, have reflective commentary, and are warm and inviting. And as we evolve as a congregation, we are lucky to have you as clergy that moves with us, grows with us, and guides us along our path. 

Mara Suskauer and the entire administrative staff stand behind every activity and function at Temple B’nai Abraham. A sincere thank you to Mara and her staff, personally from me, and from a grateful congregation, for always making sure that Temple B’nai Abraham runs smoothly and is the best it can be! I can attest to the importance of an outstanding, hands-on Executive Director. With her gentle hand and strong presence, Mara has made my position so much easier.  And even fun. It is with true gratitude that I say thank you to her.

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I talked about the excellence of our schools. Once again, I’d like to say how The Early School and our Jewish Learning Program are filled with happy and engaged children. Debbie Ziering, our Director of Early Childhood Education, and her wonderful and caring teachers and staff ensure that our children spend their time in a socially nurturing and academically appropriate environment. Melissa Weiner, our Director of Jewish Learning, has brought innovative and forward-thinking techniques to our Jewish Learning Program which will help our children learn to celebrate being Jewish and participate in all its facets. Our teens are involved with Teen Tikkun Olam and our confirmation program. B’nai Brith Youth meets at TBA regularly. What could be better than having lots of Jewish teens involved in community-minded and social activities with each other?

Now it’s time to talk about the bricks and mortar of our physical building. A lot has been done to update, renovate, and refresh Temple B’nai Abraham. Certainly, none of this could have been accomplished without the wonderful supervision of Tracey Bent and his staff.  Thank you to Tracey for his dedication and diligence. As a result of Hurricane Ian, we have made major improvements to the area above the Sodowick Garden including a retaining wall and a new egress in case of emergency. Due to the flood in the Sanctuary, we are in the process of replacing our pews and carpet. Don’t worry—we seek to recreate the same warmth and feelings of comfort with our new furniture that we have now. We are embarking on a patio expansion project which will allow us to have larger events and services outside. This project should be completed in the spring and our summer BBQ will be held in this new beautiful space. We are mindful of our congregants and visitors with physical challenges and we are creating a space that is accessible to everyone.

My administration and I have spent a lot of time, energy, and financial resources on security. Mara, the senior staff, and I often meet with security providers to ensure that Temple B’nai Abraham is current with our emergency responses. Safety is our number one priority for our congregants, students, and staff. Security is a fluid concept; we are continually evaluating and revising our protocols as needed. Please be assured that we are implementing all recommendations from our security professionals to provide the safest environment possible.

My final piece to discuss is finances. As local demographic pressures increase, and financial difficulties grow for many, our membership level has declined. COVID-19 led to a decrease in our numbers, as well. Fewer people are joining a synagogue; some prefer to outsource Jewish education for their children or just prefer to sign onto a digital service as needed. But now is the time to underscore the importance of membership at Temple B’nai Abraham. It is imperative to be a part of your Jewish community. Let us grow again together.

Our successful annual giving program, Partners in Leadership, is in full swing. This annual program supplements our operating budget and is vital to our financial health. In addition, several large donations have been received over the last two years. These funds go toward growing our Ross Endowment Fund and Capital Improvements Fund as well as providing hard gifts in kind, as needed. We are so grateful to those of you who have given. By the way--our fiscal year ends on February 28 so there is still time for you to give!

We certainly accomplished a lot in the last two years—new staff, new building updates, technology, security, education, social action, etc. The list goes on. And we should be proud of what we have done. So, I must publicly, and profusely, thank my officers, trustees, committee chairs, and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to make sure we reach our goals and operate in the most efficient, effective, and exceptional way possible. We have tackled some very tough organizational and community issues with great results. Thank you.

I wish Jay, his new administration, and the new trustees who are being installed tonight all the best. Work hard, have fun, accomplish a lot.  Thank you for your commitment to Temple B’nai Abraham.

This is truly a bittersweet moment for me.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my tenure as president of Temple B’nai Abraham.  I have tried to do my job with enthusiasm, inclusiveness, and integrity. I hope you will extend the same courtesy, dedication, and diligence you have so graciously afforded me to Jay and the new administration, trustees, and lay leaders. Jay—I will be here if you need me.  I know you will be most successful.

Last but certainly not least—thank you to Max and my family for giving me the time, space, and support to be the president of Temple B’nai Abraham. I won’t say goodbye but, rather, good night. And as the Eagles said in Hotel California, “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” Temple B’nai Abraham is always in my heart. Thank you.

Please join TBA in celebrating Julie's tenure as president at Shabbat dinner on March 3

Thu, February 9 2023 18 Shevat 5783