President’s Message

Hi…I would like to introduce myself as the new, incoming president of RTPV. I know I have some big shoes to fill, following Lisa Keogh who did such an amazing job navigating us through the pandemic shut down. I hope as you get to know me, we will find common ground as we move forward in person with our new rabbi.

My background…I was raised in a very secular family in Queens, NY. We did belong to a Reform temple there but I found the Classical Reform Judaism of the 1950s unbearable and, because I was a girl, I was allowed to drop out when I was very young.

As some of you already know, I am not new to Putnam Valley. My grandparents had a summer home on Lake Oscawana and I spent my childhood summers blissfully there. My grandfather was very involved in the early days of this Reform temple…but I had no interest, so, while I knew it existed, I never attended while growing up. My grandparents sold their home in 1980, the same time I had my daughter and moved to Brooklyn, NY. It was there my journey into a temple life began.

It was slow at first. I found a reform congregation and discovered that things had changed a great deal from my childhood…The rabbi was a woman, the music was folksy and the prayer book was gender neutral.  I liked it. We stayed for a few years after my son was born but it was on the other side of Brooklyn and we were going less and less as he got older.

I found another Reform congregation when he was around seven…based totally on the fact that it was down the block from where he played soccer every Saturday and they had a Saturday religious school so we would not have to come back on Sunday. In the beginning I did not have the same feeling as I had for my previous congregation because they were still using the outdated prayer book of my childhood. However, I grew to love attending services and wanted to find a way to resolve this.

After my son became a bar mitzvah, I went to the rabbi and told him that if they were going to continue using that prayer book, I would have to find another congregation; he gave me the opportunity to find a way to bring in Gates of Prayer. Subsequently, I was invited to become a board member. I really loved this congregation and became more and more involved. After a few more years, and with a new rabbi, I became a vice president, and over the years learned a great deal about the workings of a congregation.

I always knew I wanted to come back to Putnam Valley and when I retired, I found a cottage on Lake Oscawana. Although I continued to split my time between here and Brooklyn, I knew I wanted to get involved in this temple as well. When I came up, I began attending services every Friday and somewhat to my surprise, I found a second community that welcomed my quirky, tattooed self. I loved my life in Brooklyn and Putnam Valley, and continued to split my time between my two spiritual homes. Even though I was a ‘part timer’ I was asked to join the board here last year. and at the same time, I also resigned as vice president in Brooklyn as I was not there regularly anymore. I was content.

Then the pandemic hit. I moved up here last March with my daughter and grandson, expecting to be here for a few weeks…a year passed and I realized I was really happy being here full time. I bought a bigger house and even though my daughter eventually moved back to Brooklyn…I have made Putnam Valley my home.

I came to RTPV about the same time as our retiring rabbis, seven years ago, and they were a big reason I fell in love with this congregation. Their decision to retire was difficult to accept. At the same time, I am a big believer in change, and when we connected with Rabbi Sklarz and found that he wanted to come back to us, I knew we were in a good place. When I was asked to become the president, I thought it was a good time for me.

I like challenges, so starting with a new rabbi seemed exciting. I liked the idea that both Rabbi Sklarz and I had a previous life in Putnam Valley and were both coming home again.

All in all, it seemed that there was an energizing convergence of events and I am happy to be part of this new chapter in the life of the Reform Temple of Putnam Valley.

Robin Bass