President’s Message, Rosh Hashanah Day 1 – Changing Our Mindset

President’s Remarks on Rosh Hashanah Day 1, 9/16/23

L’Shana Tovah! It is wonderful to see so many of you in this space.

I want to speak with you today about abundance. When the COVID pandemic started, we were all so full of uncertainty. Nothing could be predicted or taken for granted. We collectively perceived ourselves in the same way I think conservative Judaism is perceived across the country – out of sync with modern Judaism, low-energy with a detached congregation. In addition, I believe the greater Jewish community in our region saw Shomrei as declining – congregants aging and new families looking for something different than what we have to offer. I can tell you after a year of incredible work and growth with the team that collectively makes Shomrei the great institution it is, WE DON’T FIT THAT DESCRIPTION!

What we have is a palpable hunger for more and better. We have an absolutely wonderful Rabbi Julie who brings her entire self to every event, every meeting, every collaborative thought process. Her dreams are immense, and I for one think we are all lucky to watch the magic she exudes and the passion of her commitments. To help her achieve those dreams, we have to embrace abundance. We have to be ready to say YES.

For her eighth year, we have the delight of being called in to prayer by our newly titled Shaliach Tzibbur, Lily Lucey, who works every day to explore all the ways, new and traditional, we can engage each other in a deep and meaningful spiritual way.

We have a dedicated and passionate education team, led by Aylah Winter, our education director, laying the path for how we teach and engage our youngest members to value Judaism and community in ways that feel rare these days. The enthusiasm coming from the kids, from the parents, and from the teachers is a testament to the education team’s work under her leadership – and her own vision for how Shomrei can give families MORE.

We have an organized and growing administrative staff led by the inexhaustible Ehud Klinger – always ready to jump in and support the operations of Shomrei as well as lead his and their own initiatives. Ehud can see what work needs doing to make sure that for years and years to come, every congregant at Shomrei is able to do MORE.

We have a wonderful board and lay leadership with deep institutional knowledge and immense professional expertise – with more ideas and action than we can take on in any one year. I can’t name them all, but the vice-presidents and other key lay leaders embody the spirit we crave and the drive to see us through every event happening here, and elsewhere – all the opportunities we want, and to take us farther.

How lucky are we to have an abundance of riches in these people? How treasured are they for seeing the immense potential and putting in the hard work to take us to new heights? And yet, for many years, we have operated from a conservative mindset of scarcity. It is time to embrace a change.
There is so much opportunity here – potential to expand our membership, potential to add new and exciting programming across a spectrum of desires, potential to deepen our collective connections with Judaism, potential to enrich our family’s educations, potential to DO MORE AND GO FURTHER. We have to be ready to embrace “YES” and accept the challenges being put before us – as those challenges are the legacy we can leave for our children, and for future generations to come. I can see the shape of that future coming into focus and I can embrace YES to help us all get where we want to go.

But in the end, I am one person, and the staff and leaders are still so few. The progress we are able to make comes down to you – the members of the congregation. We will be most successful when we all contribute towards the future – whether that is in the form of financial support, or by sharing the time and expertise you have as one of our treasured volunteers. If we all come together with a singular vision of a better Shomrei each and every year, it will be astonishing what we can accomplish.

I am committing myself to a changed mindset. I want to say “yes” to as much as possible – meet our congregants where they are and commit to achieve their vision for that blazing future of optimism and positivity I hope we all want. I want to increase our budget reach. I want to deeply engage with congregants, hear your ideas about this new growth, give the best of those ideas seed and sun and light, and help grow them.

We are stronger when we approach these things together. We are STRONGEST when we say YES, when we push for more. I hope you will, each in your way, join me to do MORE this coming year, and to celebrate every success along the way.

L’Shana Tova my friends and fellow congregants. My very best wishes to you and yours for a sweet sweet New Year.


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Michael Sag

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