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Message from the President for the New Year

Bonnie Berman discusses what "welcoming" means to Congregation Bet Haverim.

Shana tova!

The Days of Awe are intended as a time for reflection.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our larger community all took a break and did the same.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case and I have been pushed to find time for baking apple and honey cake and greeting friends within the usual grind of the week.  That being said, I hope you will give me a pass if I re-share my message of welcoming from Erev Rosh Hashanah. This message still resonates for me and I would write something similar even if I started from scratch.  So, here is to hearing something twice, or once for those who couldn’t attend, and a hope that you find something that speaks to you the second time around.

My name is Bonnie Berman and I am the President of the Board of Directors.  

I want to start by telling you something about myself that says a lot about who I am.  I really value the idea of being welcoming.  I think it’s hugely important. For me, I would say it’s a core personal value. I think being welcoming leads to many other things. Welcoming means finding a connection with someone and recognizing that that person has worth and value. I think welcoming means keeping people safe and being understanding when someone is feeling hurt.  And being welcoming also means providing for people’s needs. And that’s what I want to foster here in this house of friends.  I want CBH to be a truly welcoming place. I want us to invite people in to our community so they feel at home.  I want our community to know want it means to be cared for and supported after we are feeling hurt like we were last year by the Imam’s speech.  And I want us to be offering the substance that nurtures us mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  I want us all to embrace the virtue of being welcoming.
 
As a community of friends, I think it’s vitally important that we make visitors and our partners, new and old, feel welcome and connected.  Recently, we renewed our efforts to be more fully welcoming of “new” friends. As I wrote last month in the e-tone, we have re-engaged the Partnership committee which is dedicated to welcoming new partners and striving to make CBH a meaningful place for our existing partners.  This is a fledgling committee of 6, chaired by Raychel Kubby-Adler.  I think if we want to call ourselves a House of Friends then we need to act on that.  Is there a better way to connect, than to be a part of a group working together to welcome others? And this welcoming “work” can be as small as a phone call or baking something for an event. Raychel and I invite you to join this team.

We already have strong connection points in some areas.  We now have a robust Young Families program. Any of you who attended the Summer movie night can vouch for this.  They have an upcoming program late afternoon on Yom Kippur.  Grandchildren and Grandparents are welcome! Also, our Mindful Meditation program is evolving from a monthly to weekly activity due to high demand. These are all opportunities for further connecting. Our Adult Education committee is providing monthly lectures, movies and other events, including a signature event in mid-November called Bridging the Secular-Religious Divide with Lawrence Bush, editor of Jewish Currents magazine.  There is more information on our website and a flyer is in the office. I encourage you to attend some of these events and make new friends or reconnect with old ones.

Welcoming also means taking care of each other and being there when a community has been hurt. For this reason we have a task force that has undertaken to listen deeply to our partners, our friends, and to help us process the events of last year.  You may have seen an announcement in the e-tone last week about this task force with an invitation to participate in a survey or a personal 1 on 1 interview.  The task force wants to know how you were affected in order to help us heal and to learn from these experiences as we move forward.  And as we learn and share our progress we will know how to be sensitive and proactive should we be faced with hateful speech and acts in our future.  So help us heal and help us learn. Please, share your experience and your feedback.  The survey will go out again on Sept 27th in the e-tone.

Welcoming also means providing for someone’s needs whatever these might be. Are you needs more physical?  Have you thought about Wednesday night Israeli dancing?  Are you looking for mental stimulation, theology or Jewish learning?  We will be promoting Kevah groups that bring together trained Jewish educators with our partners who want to learn. Kevah groups are in partnership with Lehrhaus Judaica and cover a wide range of topics. You can read about Kevah groups in the e-tone and we have a flyer on the outside table about other learning and spiritual offerings. As for making our space more physically welcoming, you have probably noticed the signs near the parking lot so people can find where they are going.  Your comfort is important so our new Executive Director assisted in having a large fan installed in the Social Hall which will keep the room cool without the noisy air conditioning.

We can bring the spirit of welcoming into all our actions.  We can bring people together and forge friendships, we can help people feel safe, we can nurture and provide for all kinds of needs, but none of this means anything if people don’t feel included. I want all of you to feel included!  Our whole community should feel included. So I urge you to be active, keep connecting through our weekly e-tone and on Facebook.  Keep tuning in and find out what we have to offer. We need to be a place where no one doesn’t know what they’re missing!   I know sometimes it’s hard to track everything going on, so it’s fortunate that our website is getting rebuilt.  You helped fund this at our Gala last year.  It will be easier for you to find things, and for people who don’t know us yet to more easily see if this is a place where they too want to belong.

I think we should always be working on ways to make Bet Haverim a welcoming place.  I think this starts with listening and being responsive. And I want you to know that as a board we will be responsive to the needs of our community.  The board will be acting as a partner.  As you feel we, as a community, are succeeding in being inclusive and responsive, practicing the art of being welcoming,  we are all going to be rewarded and we will all benefit from the relationships we are creating.  

And I want to leave you with this: Jewish doesn’t have a color, Jewish doesn’t have a shape, Jewish doesn’t have a gender.  We are all a family.  We all have worth and value. We are a community of friends. Let’s get to know each other better. At the end of services it’s traditional to turn to your neighbor and wish them l’shanah tova.  Tonight, turn to someone you don’t know, look them in the eye.  Maybe shake hands. Say your name, make them feel welcome, and ask… What connects you to CBH?  What are your connection points with this family?  Make that connection!  Make them welcome!  And then wish them — l’shanah tova.

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