Thank you to all of those who have stepped forward
2021 is upon us and with it the hopes of a return to some degree of in-person community activities before too long.
On December 13th we held our semi-annual meeting – to elect the Board of Directors or “slate” for 2021 and I can report that we have a new board ready to be installed.
Steve Dines, President
Tami Raubvogel, First VP
Barry Cheskin, Second VP
Rachel Berg, Third VP
Bruce Fram, Secretary
Mark Kaufmann, Treasurer
Continuing Board Members
New Board Members
Thank you to all of those who have stepped forward, and also a thank you to departing board members Peter Breger who contributed so heavily to our security efforts and to Stuart Soffer, who continues to represent CBJ in our chevra kadisha activities.
2020 has certainly been an ordeal for all of us, including everyone at CBJ. But 2020 subjected CBJ to evolutionary pressures that have resulted in improvements in the way we serve the community, improvements that will continue long after COVID-19 is a memory.
Since the shutdown in March, the clergy and staff have been evolving our online services, education, community and life-cycle events. If you were present at our High Holiday services, this year, you participated in a set of services that seamlessly moved from the CBJ sanctuary into congregants’ homes. While many shuls chose to rely upon prerecorded content, our Clergy and Staff made the bold decision to conduct services live, and literally “zoomed” into multiple households for most of the aliyot. This took a lot of behind-the-scenes involvement from a lot of volunteers, and it represented the high-water mark of the skill and warmth with which CBJ is able to conduct online activities.
These online capabilities have not only helped us bridge the gulf of isolation that COVID-19 has created, but they have also helped us usher in global participation. Geographical separation is no longer a barrier to joint participation. Twelve months ago, who would have thought that distributed families could have come together online to share in lifecycle events? – many of us have been able to attend weddings, b’nei mitzvot and shiva minyans, where we “rubbed online shoulders” with participants from Israel, Europe, the East Coast and further afield.
But staying connected doesn’t just mean technology – it means reaching out to each other, to check in, help, or just listen to each other’s travails. Three times during this crisis, CBJ has organized a reach out – either a call or an email, to all of our congregants – over 60 volunteers made the calls and achieved a 95%+ success rate in making connections and living the word “Hineni”.
In March of 2020, we set up a COVID-19 working group, and I want to thank Bruce Fram, Elana Hornstein, Sabrina Braham, Rabbi Ilana, Ann Cauterucci, Rosa Whitten and Deborah Wahnich-Reitman – it has been my privilege to serve with this group and apply the principles of pikuach nefesh to a rapidly evolving crisis and plan a way forward for CBJ, while always being mindful of the safety of our clergy, staff and congregants. We successfully reopened Preschool and Religious school in September, (to the relief of many parents!) and we are now offering families a choice of location for b’nei-mitzvot ceremonies. By mid 2021, we hope to be able to start Shabbat services on the patio, initially in small numbers, and grow our activities from there.
I want to end with a word about the financial impact of COVID-19. Our budget predictions showed that we stood to lose around $1MM during this crisis, the worse financial situation for CBJ in at least a generation, and potentially an existential threat. While the current forecasts show some improvement, we are not out of the woods yet.
In response, back in June we started the Guardian Fund, with the goal of raising $1MM. I am delighted to tell you that as of December 31st, we have achieved our goal, and what is remarkable is the breadth of participation across the congregation, with large and small donations. So, on behalf of a very grateful clergy, staff and board, I would like to express our deep appreciation to all of you, to our congregation, and I look forward to being able to thank each and every one of you, in person, before the end of 2021.