President’s Message


Yom Kippur, October 2016

Shana Tova and welcome to the Reform Temple of Putnam Valley.

In 1967 the first Rolling Stone Magazine is published. The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of rock’s most acclaimed albums. Thurgood Marshall becomes the first black justice on the Supreme Court and the price of gas was 33 cents/gallon.

And in 2017, RTPV will celebrate 50 years as a Reform synagogue serving Putnam and Westchester counties.

I spoke to you last year about how important it is to connect to one another and in order to nourish and straighten our Jewish community. The challenge RTPV faces in these times is to draw new members from our community and to retain those members. I can tell you that we are working very hard to promote ourselves to those who have an interest in wanting to belong to a Jewish community and once we have people walk through our doors and partake in a Shabbat service, Shabbat dinner, special event, or high holiday service they soon find out what a special synagogue we are and how much we have to offer. I guess that is why Ed and I have been members of RTPV for 23 years, gotten involved in many aspects of temple life, and supported it financially. We are not deeply religious people and not even that spiritual, but what we found here was a community that is so welcoming and caring and most of all eager to keep the Jewish faith alive here in Putnam Valley. 
But what I want to speak to you today is about the members and staff who make up RTPV and what they have given of themselves to maintain and straighten the Jewish community here in The Hudson Valley. I guess I should first start with our Rabbis, Laurie Levy and Steve Altarescu. Though fairly new to our temple, as soon as they were hired they jumped right in and got the ball rolling to engage our membership, bring a breath of fresh air to our Shabbat services, establish an innovative curriculum for our Hebrew school, and come up with new ideas and programs for our members to be a part of. We also got real lucky when we brought on board our year-round cantor, Annice Benamy, who challenges us to learn new songs and melodies and fills in for the Rabbis when they are on vacation. Our new teacher assistant, Isabelle Molle, has joined our staff and we are very excited to have her onboard. We also have Cynthia Zeboris who teaches our High Holiday workshop.

I also want to acknowledge our high holiday cantor, Howard Kilik, who has made Rosh Hashanah and You Kippur so special for us as he leads us in song, and accompanist Cary Brown, who never misses a beat. Our wonderful temple choir has filled this sanctuary with their sweet voices and inspired many of us to join along. Scott Levinson with his extraordinary shofar blowing and Tia Levinson for her shofar calling.

The operation of a vibrant congregation such as ours does not happen by chance. In addition to our rabbis the synagogue is led by a number of highly motivated lay leaders and volunteers. The elected lay leaders, including the President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, and board trustees, all share in the responsibility of setting the vision and leading the various volunteer activities. I would be remiss if I did mention those members who have contributed so much of their time and effort to this temple.

Let me start off first with Lee Joffee, our current Vice President, who is also a past President. He currently is chair of our Rabbi’s committee and makes sure that the lines of communication stay open between the board and the Rabbis, in addition to dealing with issues relating to service, ritual, and music.

Betty Joffee now has what I think is the most difficult volunteer job here at the temple and that is Treasurer. Betty has just taken over that position from Tia Levinson who has served as Treasurer for 6 years and did a wonderful job of making sure that dues were collected and bills were paid, and I know that Betty has already made it her priority to make sure that dues are collected in a timely fashion and that the temple’s account are in order.

Then we have Michelle Berner who has been our Secretary and kept our minutes for so many years that I do not recall that number. I am sure it has been for at least 20 years and in addition making sure that our monthly board meetings stay on track and end by 9:30pm.

Next I would like to move on to committee chairs in no particular order.

So where would we be without Shimon Bendavid who chairs our Buildings and Grounds committee. His expertise in construction and maintenance in addition to his hands-on maintenance of the building has kept this house of worship in good shape. He has also been assisted by Rand Gartman who I understand has just completed our temple menorah that will be displayed around town this coming Hanukkah.

Kathy Kinzel, our little temple elf, who behind the scenes comes here during the week to do odd jobs such as cleaning, gardening, polishing, and decorating. She transformed our kitchen from a drab room into one where we enjoy hanging out and setting up for a Shabbat oneg or dinner. Also thanks to the Devereau organization, a group of disabled adults who volunteer their services during the week to come and clean the temple.

Mel Gottesfeld, for providing us with our sound system for various events and for his prior ushering services on the High Holidays and building maintenance advice and expertise.

Harriet Gottesfeld, as our head of the Sunshine Committee, for reaching out to those members in time of need or to offer condolences on behalf of the temple.

Phil Hurowitz, who chairs our Fundraising committee, which is one of the most important committees of this temple. His and the committee’s tireless efforts in coming up with new programs and events that help us raise funds: Coffee House, Town Day, movie night, Dining to Donate, and of course our scrip/gift card program, which I hope you will all support. Add to our coffers in order for us to stay afloat and in the black.
Lisa Keogh, our Publicity chair, who is constantly busy making sure that the word gets out to the larger community about all of the wonderful events. Her mind is always working and advising us of new ways that we can market ourselves to the outside world.

Manching Tom, head of our education committee, and her dedicated staff of parent volunteers working in conjunction with the Rabbis on ways to enhance the religious school experience for our children.

Robert McLaughlin, our new membership chair, who is working hard to increase and maintain our temple membership. Also thanks for the apples and honey, Roberta.

Joyce Leone is chair of our Finance Committee. She and her committee have made sure that we are fiscally responsible, and come up with a feasible budget each year that has kept us in the black. She is also our oneg coordinator—and there is a sheet outside if you wish to host an oneg.

Brenda Sternbach president of our Sisterhood. Everyone know that Sisterhood is the backbone of this temple and has contributed so much to the upkeep of the facility. They also provide all of us who stay after Havdalah with a delicious break the Fast.

Dan Sussman chair of our Social Action committee which is working hard to offer educational and informative programs.

Jill Sussman chair of the newly formed committee to come up with a temple mission statement.

Nicole Berglas – chair of our newly formed 50th Anniversary celebration. Cannot wait to hear what they have in store for us.

Steve Alper – our webmaster who has made sure that our website is kept up to date.

Last but not least, my partner in life, Ed Rodman, who probably has the best Shabbat attendance here at RTPV besides the Rabbis. He has been President twice, chair of the education committee, and now chair of the High Holiday Committee, which has made this day possible for all of us. His attention to detail when it comes to leading a committee and making sure that all bases are covered might drive some people crazy, but I know that in the end the finished product will be one that we are all proud of. 

In closing, I ask that you think about what makes RTPV a special place for you and your family, what brings you here on the High Holiday and throughout the year, and what would move you to give generously, voluntarily, and from the heart.

We look to everyone to contribute financially to help us meet our contractual obligations, maintain and improve this building, and, at the same time, uphold a commitment to offer
engaging and meaningful educational, ritual, and social programming opportunities for all ages. The Board of Trustees strives to keep our annual dues as low as possible so that the payment of dues is not an obstacle to being part of our community. As a result, the dues and tuition we pay do not fully fund all of our operating costs, and therefore we depend each year on your pledges at this time of year to meet the financial needs of our congregation. And we welcome not only gifts of money but also gifts of your time and your hard work. Please get involved in whatever way feels right to you—and help us keep this Jewish community alive and serving those who wish to walk through our doors.

Thank you, and I wish you and your family a year filled with peace, love and good health.

Shana Tova.