Nn a January 29 eblast to the Congregation, I was pleased to announce that Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl has agreed to defer his retirement by two years, to July 2019. Over the past 22+ years, Rabbi Frydman-Kohl has provided tremendous leadership to our congregational family. As our spiritual leader, he has celebrated with us in times of joy and has provided guidance in times of sorrow. Under Rav Baruch’s leadership, Beth Tzedec continues to be an outstanding voice for Conservative Judaism in North America.
With the Rabbi continuing to provide caring leadership to our membership, the Board will continue to move forward, planning and implementing a broad range of programs and services to our members and to the entire community. Over the past several years, with changes to our operations, we have eliminated the operating deficit that existed a number of years ago, as we deliver more than 250 programs to our membership each year. We continue to introduce exciting new programs that touch our youth, our 20s & 30s and our young families. None of this would have been possible without the volunteer efforts of numerous committees and our Beth Tzedec staff, all working together.
The Rabbi’s extension comes at a time when we are embarking upon a physical and spiritual renewal. The renovation of the Paul and Ted Orenstein Mezzanine Hall and surrounding areas is now well underway. We look forward to the completion of a stunning event venue this summer. This phase of our renovation plans is but the first of a series of renovations designed to transform our building, making our services and programs more accessible and engaging to the Congregation. The budget for this phase is $3.7 million. Most of the bids for the work in this phase have come in and we anticipate that we will be under budget by approximately $200,000.
Beth Tzedec continues to lead in its delivery of ẖesed activities. For one week starting May 15, Beth Tzedec members will participate in the Peace of Mind program by hosting soldiers who have served in an IDF high-risk combat unit. Peace of Mind, developed by the Herzog Israel Centre for the Treatment of Psycho–Trauma, is an intervention program that changes lives. A crucial element of the program includes hosting by an overseas Jewish community during the most intensive therapeutic work. The program provides the treatment needed in order to strengthen the IDF soldiers’ emotional health and resilience, allowing them to continue their civilian lives as healthy and productive citizens. I invite you to support this program by calling 416-433-6617 to contribute funds to Beth Tzedec’s involvement in Peace of Mind Canada. We are grateful to Marnie Burke, chair of our Israel Action Committee, along with Rhonda Charlat, Vered Feldman and Risa Levine, for leading this initiative at Beth Tzedec.
I want to thank all who have taken the time to respond to the strategic planning survey that was made available to every member of the Congregation. The information submitted will be organized and analyzed by our consultant working with the Strategic Planning Committee. It’s not too late to respond to the survey. You can access it online at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QPZCKZ6 or contact the Synagogue office to have it mailed to you. We look forward to the completion of our strategic plan in the near future.
As my term as President of the Congregation comes to a close, I reflect on the hundreds and even thousands of hours that volunteers devote to so many committees. In service to the community, our members attend meetings, host and organize Shabbat dinners, daven at shiva houses and nursing homes, sponsor the rescue of refugees and even bake cookies for hundreds of 20s & 30s who attend the Connect Lounge on Rosh Hashanah. We are fully engaged in the task of repairing the world—tikkun olam.
Our volunteers come aboard to build our community and to strengthen the kehillah kedoshah, the sacred congregation, that is Beth Tzedec. Even our name, the House of Righteousness, is a call to action, a call to ẖesed and tzedakah. I have been privileged to be enrolled in this year’s Shalom Hartman Institute of North America’s seminar series on “Justice and Righteousness”. In the first session in November, we explored the covenant that God made with Abraham and identified three central ideas that came from Bereisheet, Chapter 17: 1. We should not be indifferent to suffering; 2. We should not be indifferent to evil; and 3. How do we systematically improve society to create the adaptive change that will enable justice and righteousness to thrive? We continue to devote our efforts to this last question.
H̱ag Purim sameaẖ and ẖag kasher v’sameaẖ!