On Erev Rosh Hashanah, I shared my vision for working with you to raise our “Sacred Capital,” a reference from Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman’s book ReThinking Synagogues. I spoke about what you could do to help us raise Sacred Capital at Rodef Sholom by showing up with your heart, spirit, mind and soul to deepen the meaning and purpose of all that we do, and to support one another throughout the years. Since that time, and with the help of Rabbi Hoffman’s most recent book, Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary, the board of directors, clergy, and many congregants have begun a process to ensure that all of the great individual initiatives at Rodef Sholom—Mitzvah Kitchen, Nichum (comfort through connection, e.g., visiting the sick, delivering meals and comforting mourners) Moreh Derech (Jewish guides who welcome and engage new members), Kol Hamishpacha (whole family education) Mitzvah Day, Tzedek Circles (social action projects created to help people do what they believe in—together), and more—work together to create a visionary whole that is—as a whole—more relevant to you and to our community. This will undoubtedly be a long-term process, but a process with enormous dividends for all of us.
Although the board feels an inspired imperative to focus on the long term health of the congregation, we also have a responsibility to ensure that our current operations operate in an efficient and financially sustainable manner. Like so many in our community, our congregation has been hard hit by the economic downturn. After two years of revenue shortfalls, achieving a balanced budget has required painful cuts to programs and positions held dear. Nonetheless, in accordance with the bylaws and our consciences, we adopted what we believed would be a balanced budget, including a repayment to the reserves from which we borrowed to meet prior shortfalls. Yet in spite of our most diligent planning and difficult spending cuts, we are once again facing a revenue shortfall.
This year, 62% of our members asked for a scholarship with their annual membership. As you know, Rodef Sholom does not deny membership or religious school to anyone for an inability to make payment in full. This policy, forged with great thought and care by those who founded this sacred home, reflects our deep concern for the spiritual health of all who cross our threshold and our commitment to ensuring that our spiritual home is a fully welcoming one.
Yet this holy commitment has financial implications, particularly during a time like this when so many are in need for so many years in a row. It is with gratitude that I share how generously many of you have responded to help us address this shortfall. Through the Tradition of Giving and other gifts, you have kept on track the programs and people we all cherish. Thank you. I wish I could report that our work in this regard was done, but it is not. And we will continue to reach out to all of you to ask for your help.
Next month, the Voice will include an article from our treasurer, Jay Bellin, about the status of our budget discussions. Following that, our finance committee and board will be finalizing and approving next year’s budget. Many very difficult decisions will have to be made.
Therefore, I have two urgent requests for you. First, please contact me and share with me your ideas for how to preserve what we have, grow to new heights and care for all those who need us. Second, when your membership renewal arrives in May, please consider thoughtfully whether you still need to receive every dollar of scholarship aid you have received in the past. If you do, we will be there for you. If you can do more, I assure you every dollar pledged makes an important difference.
Finally, on February 1, many of you were present at a funeral for a beloved member of our community, a young man who died suddenly, leaving behind a wife and young child. He grew up in our congregation and he taught at Rodef Sholom. Led by our clergy, more than 800 people gathered to support and carry his family through this time of indescribable grief. It was a day where nothing short of Sacred Community would do and a day in which the Sacred Capital of our congregational home was abundant. We need one another. And I am so very grateful to be entrusted with the job of ensuring we will be here for one another in strength, spirit and love now and for generations to come.