March 11, 2016—There is a lot happening at Beth Tzedec and below is a review of initiatives that relate to medium and long term planning. As always, please feel free to share your comments and questions by email to me at email@example.com.
Strategic Plan – Over the past two years, the Strategic Planning Committee, co-chaired by Larry Wallach and Carolyn Kolers, with the support of outside consultants and 20 members of our Congregation (some from the Board and some from the membership at large) has been working to lay the groundwork for a strategic plan for our shul to help us plan for our future. The strategic plan will deal with our prayer services, educational and programmatic offerings, hiring of senior clergy and other key staff, member engagement and outreach and so much more.
The Strategic Planning Survey was launched on February 29. All members should have received an email and/or letter inviting them to access the survey online or to contact the Synagogue to obtain a paper copy. Please encourage your friends and family members to respond and share their thoughts, anonymously and confidentially. The results of the survey, as well as the community consultations, town hall meetings and focus groups, will provide the critical data necessary for the creation of the Synagogue’s strategic plan.
Please ensure your voice is heard. The survey is available online at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QPZCKZ6. Or call 416-781-3511 to request a paper copy. Please complete the survey by no later than Friday, March 18, 2016.
Board of Governors – As required by our constitution, each year at this time we strike a Nominating Committee, chaired by the Immediate Past President, comprised of three current Board members and three additional members of the Congregation. The committee’s mandate is to put forward the names of ten individuals who will serve a two-year term on the Board. Each nominee must be a member of the synagogue who has been actively involved on shul committees and/or in the broader community. In particular, we are seeking individuals who have governance experience and who are willing to invest their time and passion in setting our future direction. If you know of someone who would like to be considered for nomination, please contact me or the Synagogue office. This year’s committee is comprised of current board members Marnie Burke, Naomi Pascoe Dales and Ellen Kachuck Rosenbluth, and additional synagogue members Paul Brown, Bernie Gropper and Jay Feldman.
Renovations Update – Our renovation of the upstairs banquet hall and surrounding areas (Phase 1a of the restoration of our building) is continuing in accordance with the plans that were shared with the Congregation in community meetings, at the High Holy Days and in various articles in the Beth Tzedec Bulletin. Weekly renovations updates, including photos, are included in our e-newsletter, The Week Ahead, and are posted on the Beth Tzedec website at www.beth-tzedec.org.
We are excited that Phase 1a will be completed in time for Rosh Hashanah, when our new banquet hall will be open for family and community events. If you’ve been at the shul lately, you would have seen that hoarding has been installed on the main floor, surrounding the rotunda and around the stairs outside the main floor banquet hall which are to be demolished, and on the second floor adjacent to the mezzanine hall and the rotunda. Demolition of the existing mezzanine hall is well underway: All doorways, the stage and decorative baffles and various walls have been removed, and openings have been created between the hall and the rotunda. The ceilings in the women’s washroom and the Rabbi’s study have also been removed to facilitate the stage demolition above. As always, our construction manager monitors the site to ensure the safety and security of all of the people who utilize our building. They have not reported any deficiencies, security issues, shortcomings or concerns.
Construction Financing – Members and donors have contributed to the Building Renovation Fund (BRF) over the years to pay for our capital projects, such as the current renovation. Prior to the start of work for Phase 1a, our Investment Committee informed the Board that our investment fund has been earning an average of 6.6 percent per year over the last three years, while the cost of borrowing is much less. It therefore seemed that, while there are sufficient funds in the BRF to cover the projected cost of Phase 1a, it would be more fiscally prudent to borrow the funds rather than cashing in a portion of our investments.
A committee comprising members of our Budget & Finance and Investment Committees was struck to review the financing options and develop a recommendation to the Board. After a thorough review, the committee recommended that we use bank debt to finance Phase 1a of the renovation. Sources of repayment of this debt include investment income, annual contributions to the BRF and other amounts contributed to the shul from time to time. If necessary, a portion of our investments can be liquidated at any time in order to repay the debt.
Based on this recommendation, the Board approved an amendment to our By-laws to increase the Congregation’s borrowing limit (from $1 million to $5 million). This change requires membership approval which will be sought at the upcoming AGM.
Planning for the High Holy Days – A subcommittee of the shul’s Ritual Committee is already planning for the upcoming High Holy Days. As was the case in the last two years, our goal is to create a variety of opportunities for our members to pray, think, interact and make their experience at Beth Tzedec over the High Holy Days meaningful. If you are interested in participating in this planning process, please let me know, or contact the Synagogue office.
Members’ Meetings – Our Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held on Tuesday, May 31, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. However, a number of members with some specific concerns felt that we should have a meeting prior to the AGM. Accordingly, I will shortly be convening a Special General Meeting to be held Tuesday, April 12, 2016. You will receive a notice soon. These meetings provide opportunities for us to share additional information with members concerning the activities of the Congregation and our outlook for the future, and for members to ask questions and share their thoughts. We hope you will attend and participate.