President’s Yom Kippur Address

September 21, 2018
By Beth Mordecai
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President’s Yom Kippur Address

Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die…

We say it every year, Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die.

But have you actually thought about that statement and the impact that it has on your own life. I have, often throughout this past year. You see, last Rosh Hashanah, as I stood on the bemah to address you, the person who was my champion, my biggest supporter, my biggest fan, was no longer in her seat watching you, watching me. Her name, along with my father’s, is now another name on the memorial tablets adorning our sanctuary walls.

I thought about this phrase when I decided that it was time to sell my childhood home, and again as I removed from the wall, my father’s citation for catching a really big fish and my mother’s Literacy Volunteer Teacher of the Year Award. But the defining moment that made me not just tear, but actually breakdown was when I removed from the wall, the award that my mother received in 1970 from this temple for her and I quote,”Devoted Service to Congregation Beth Mordecai”.

At that moment, I realized that this Congregation is all about Life. That it lives, and it gives life. For the last 120 years, thru economic downturns and upswings, this Congregation powers on. But Beth Mordecai, isn’t standing here 120 years later because of its good looks and let’s face it is good looking. It stands here today, it survives today, because of the continued support of people like you.

I want to share with you something that happened to me just last week. It’s the kind of thing that I have heard about but have never experienced until that moment. I was running errands and decided to stop at Starbucks for an iced coffee. I thought about parking and going in, but opted for the drive thru instead. I placed my order and drove up to the window with my Starbucks card at the ready to pay. At the window, the cashier didn’t take my card, but informed me that the car ahead paid my tab. When I inquired as to why, the response was, they just wanted to do something nice. Overwhelmed I did the only thing I could do at that moment. I handed the cashier my card and said, I’m going to pay it forward. I would like to pay for the car behind me.

As I drove away, I was struck at the timing of this act of generosity, so close to the New Year. And as I happily sipped my iced coffee, I thought about: What does it mean to give back, Return the Favor, Pay it Forward? I thought about my mother helping out in the office upstairs, and now here I am in my second year as the President of this amazing Congregation. Giving back, returning the favor, paying it forward, is clearly an action that takes many forms, but it is how we respond that sets us apart.

Let’s look at some absolutes:

The Board of Trustees is absolutely committed to and strives to stay current meeting the needs of our growing Congregation.

Dedicated in 1927, this building is absolutely feeling every one of its 91 years. While there is no building fund, our building does have needs; a new sump pump in the subbasement, electrical, and the plaster is not just a peeling it’s appealing. These items are not part of our general operating budget, but are imperative nonetheless.

The Cemetery absolutely needs better accessibility and new walkways.

These seats are absolutely hard on the tush and sitting for extended periods like we do during these High Holidays can quite frankly be a challenge and we are looking into how to best soften the impact.

And we absolutely know that getting to Perth Amboy for classes and social events can be difficult, so we are looking into bringing Beth Mordecai to you. We are in talks with Woodbridge Center Mall for a storefront at a greatly reduced, not free, but reduced, rent. The vision for this satellite location is that it will be utilized day and night for adult learning, such as, Hebrew classes, torah study, learning about and how to chant the prayers, Ask the Rabbi, Mah Jong, Movie Nights, Book Club, a Hebrew School and Bar and Bat Mitzvah training.

• This will make Beth Mordecai more centrally located

• Parking will no longer be an issue

• Parents bringing their kids for Hebrew Class and Bar/Bat Mitzvah training will have the option of running errands or taking a little time for themselves with a coffee or maybe a stiff drink.

• With a presence in the mall, stores will be more responsive to a shopper loyalty program for our members which would bring us some additional revenue.

There are the things that we need and things that we want – but both come down to funds: what we absolutely need in order to maintain our infrastructure and what we would and could accomplish with that extra.

The new carpet and this podium, these upgrades to our sanctuary, were a result of several congregants coming forward and saying we see a need and we want to help. Now, we have a sanctuary that feels a little more intimate, enables us to provide accessibility and opens us up to rental possibilities.

One final absolute, this is our final fundraising appeal for the year. Over 200 tickets were distributed for today. Think about the impact that a donation from each and every one of you sitting in the sanctuary today will have on our ability to meet these needs. Think about how lucky we are to have this amazing sanctuary to come back to not just every year but every week and how you have the power to be a part of something great.

The future is exciting for Beth Mordecai and like my parents before me, I am thrilled to be a part of that future and hope that you are as well. In a few moments, ushers will be walking up and down the aisles, collecting your envelopes.

On Rosh Hashanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed. The contributions you make here today play a significant role in ensuring:

• That Beth Mordecai continues to maintain this building and this magnificent sanctuary.

• And the acquisition of a location that not only broadens our community outreach, but makes us more easily accessible and will provide us numerous possibilities for fresh and innovative programs and revenue streams.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees I wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year. Shana Tovah.

– Cheryl August

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