Articles

We're Making Progress, Together
May 15th 2013

Four years ago, when I became chair of Beth Tzedec’s Board of Governors, there were so many things I hoped to accomplish, in partnership with then incoming President Norman Kahn and the support of our new  Executive and Board. Thanks to your participation in Town Hall meetings, surveys, focus groups, emails and  informal discussions, we identified a number of goals  and objectives, and we all set out to work to achieve  them together. Looking back, I’m very proud of what we’ve all achieved for our Congregation since then; I’m  also very much aware of what is yet to be accomplished. 

Policies and Programs 

Many of you shared your thoughts and wishes about  the Beth Tzedec you wanted to see. Based on your feedback, policies were changed and new programs were  launched. It was your comments that led us to make a  formal request of Rabbi Frydman-Kohl to consider the  role of women in our religious community, resulting in his teshuvah determining that women could be counted  in a minyan. Based on your requests for more options for celebrating B’nei Mitzvah, we developed and introduced  a new Bar/Bat Mitzvah policy. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah  program was revamped in response to the many parents  who wanted their children’s experience to be different  and better. Youth programs, such as our Paperclips trip  and new tikkun olam opportunities, were developed in  response to the wishes of teens which were conceived  and communicated through the TAC (Teen Advisory Committee). We fully expect this trend to continue, as  you help us to determine which policies and programs are evaluated and evolved in the year to come. 

Financial Viability 

Four years ago, Beth Tzedec was facing a dismal  financial situation, having experienced repeated substantial  operating deficits which had been funded by the sale of  capital investments and cemetery lands. We worked with  staff,the Budget and Finance Committee and other committees across the board to address both our top and  bottom lines. We renegotiated key contracts,put strict  spending restrictions in place and developed plans to  improve critical sources of revenues. The result has been considerable improvement in our financial situation over  the last three years. We have restored the Congregation  to the point where it can meet its operational needs without depleting its capital and sacrificing its future.  At the same time, we have developed new budgeting processes, new policies for budget and spending  approvals and improved internal financial reporting. 

The coming year will be the first time we will benefit  from the new budgeting processes from the start of the  annual cycle. We will continue to tweak the  reporting process, to ensure that the metrics and insights  from last year’s programs and events effectively inform planning for the coming year. 

Organizational Alignment 


As you might remember, you used to receive various  annual program guides from the shul. One described Adult Education; another outlined Youth and Family  Programs. There were listings of Music Events, Library  Programs, Museum Programs... all  separately devised, advertised and mounted. Sometimes,  various Beth Tzedec programs competed on the same night.

Our leadership believed in one Beth Tzedec, offering  a rich variety of attractive programming as a  Community Destination for Jewish Living. We wanted  to ensure that our resources were deployed strategically, and that programs were coordinated and jointly developed. In 2009, all Beth Tzedec program listings  were consolidated into a single annual Adult, Family  and Youth Program Guide. One regular weekly eblast  was created (which is currently being redeveloped and  will be re-launched in the coming weeks). Speakers brought in by the Adult Education Committee have offered presentations at dinners for Families, at events  for Young Professionals and Teens, and following musical Friday Night Live services. Children’s programming has run concurrently at adult events. Holiday celebrations have been scheduled and promoted across  departments and age groups. We expect the coming  year’s process to continue to utilize this model, as our professionals work together to provide the best varied programming for our community.

Operational Effectiveness

Four years ago, our computer systems were in dire need of  updating; our communications were tired; our website was cluttered  and not fully functioning; and it was impossible to access the  Internet wirelessly within our building (an objective sought to be  achieved on occasions other than Shabbat and holidays!). 

Today, we have acquired and deployed new computers and productivity  tools, with proper back-up systems and support. We have wireless access. Our posters, ads, brochures and other communications  materials share a consistent vibrant look and feel; our Bulletin has  been redesigned; and we’ve launched a new sparkling website. 

The website roll-out will continue over the summer, when we will add new functionality, the ability for members to access their  accounts and update personal information and email preferences  online and the introduction of the means to make payments (for  membership contributions or other donations), to make event  reservations and to purchase event tickets online. Within the next six to twelve months, our office systems for processing information  and reporting will have been entirely overhauled, streamlined and  improved. 

Our Building 


Four years ago, some people thought our first priority had to  be the renovation of our aging building; however, we believed that  it was premature to discuss what would become of our building  without first addressing what goes on inside it. Having made  significant strides on programming in the first three years, it was  time this year to start to focus on the building itself. 

Our Renovation Committee met several times over the past  year, and the plans to meet current and future needs are evolving.  Our expectation is that we will bring them to the Congregation for  consultation and review before the end of 2013. In the meantime,  our House Committee continues to oversee the upkeep of our  building (in consultation with the Renovation Committee and the  Board), with a view to ensuring that money spent on ongoing  needed repairs and improvements will not be wasted in the long run. 

Strategic Partnerships


While we focussed on harmonizing the efforts of the various departments inside the synagogue, we also reached out to other  organizations to partner. Leveraging key existing and developing  relationships among our Klei Kodeshour executive director and  our lay leaders, we have developed programs in partnership with  UJA Federation, the Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, the  Bernard Betel Centre, the Jewish Outreach Institute, Jsport, Hillel  Toronto, the Office of the Israeli Consulate, the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto, the Shalom Hartman Institute and more. 

At the same time, we have invested in our relationship with  Robbins Hebrew Academy (formerly USDS) which has shared our  building for decades, finding new opportunities to mount and promote joint initiatives. In addition, we transitioned successfully  to a new relationship with Applause Catering, with a return to full  and regular use of our kitchen facilities. 

What’s Next

Over the last several months, I have been  approached by many of you inquiring whether or not I would be willing to serve a third (and final) year as  President. There has been some debate about whether it is permitted  or appropriate to serve a third year as President. Our Constitution states that an individual may serve in  any position on the Executive for a maximum of three consecutive years, and, while most presidents have  served for two years, some have served for only one year, and others have served for three. 

After careful consideration, I have confirmed my willingness to serve the Congregation as President for a third  and final year. However, because a Board election has been triggered, it is the new Board (once elected) who will vote to determine who will serve as President (and in the other six elected roles on our Executive). It is up to you, as members, to choose your elected representatives, who will in turn determine who will serve as your President. 

My willingness to stand for a third year in this position is driven by my deep desire to ensure that the new initiatives, changes, relationships, policies and programs described above will have the greatest chance of continuing success, as they are nurtured over one additional year through a consistent vision and approach. Further, I really  hope to have the opportunity to build on current momentum and consolidate the key projects and initiatives of the past four years into a comprehensive Strategic Plan, to support those of you who have expressed interest and desire to get involved with our shul, to guide the completion in the coming year of conceptual  plans for the restoration and renovation of our building, and to participate in the creation of a fresh fundraising and development plan to meet our future needs. 

Thank You 

No matter what happens with this election, it has  been my honour and privilege to serve this  Congregation. It would not have been possible to accomplish all we have without the help and support of  so many people: Our board members and executive committee, Klei Kodesh and staff, committees and other volunteers have helped to shape and execute various pieces of the overall strategy. Your contributions and input, along with those of the Beth Tzedec Men's Club and Sisterhood, have been invaluable in developing  and delivering our programs and other offerings. 

As always, I invite you to share your thoughts with  me about any of the points I’ve discussed, and about  what matters most to you for our synagogue. Please  contact me anytime at president@beth-tzedec.org. I look  forward to seeing you at the Annual General Meeting  on Thursday, May 30 at 7:30 PM.