Good yuntif, Shana Tovah . For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Robin Bass, our new congregational president. . It is my privilege and honor to give my first High Holiday speech to you, and, of course, my wish for all is to have a sweet, happy, and healthy 5782. Whether you are members or guests, we are so pleased that you are able to join us virtually to celebrate the holiday.
Before I go into the annual appeal, I want to thank our new Rabbi, Andrew Sklarz, for all his hard work preparing this beautiful service, Cantorial soloist Howard Kilik, accompanist Cary Brown, and the choir for the lovely music. Additionally I want to thank the reopening and HH committees for their work getting the sanctuary ready for the holidays and then making the difficult decision to go virtual given the constantly changing COVID situation. I want to thank the Board of Trustees and various committee members who work to keep us going; and the volunteers who step up whenever we need a helping hand. I also want to thank everyone who has donated this year and in past years, whether with money or time. Your support is truly appreciated Lastly, I personally want to thank our previous president, Lisa Keogh, because without her ongoing support and help, I would not be able to do this job!
I know that, as a new president I have made mistakes, ruffled feathers, pushed too hard, overstepped at times and I want to sincerely apologize to anyone who may have been hurt by my actions.
I’d like to share a little of my background…My family had a summer house here on Lake Oscawana and I spent the first 30 years of my life there. After they sold the house we left, but 40 years later, when I retired, I came home again. I moved back here almost 8 years ago and one of the first things I did was start going to Friday night services at RTPV. In the years that I was away I had joined and gotten very attached to a congregation in Brooklyn. Going to Friday night services had become a meaningful event for me. Although I was a part timer up here, splitting my time between Putnam Valley and Brooklyn I wanted to keep attending services when I was here. I did not expect to find a second community that meant as much to me as my Brooklyn one did. Much to my surprise, I did find a congregation that was welcoming and soon discovered that this, too, was now my home. I joined the Board of Trustees and last year when I made the decision to move here full time, I was asked to become the President. While I have never been a congregational president, in Brooklyn I was on the Board for over 15 years, a Vice President for 8 and chair of the Ritual Committee for many years, and I said yes.
As I mentioned, I have never given a HH appeal speech, but I have certainly listened to many over the years. Before writing this, I started thinking about which speeches were the most successful and meaningful. The one that stuck out was the year it poured during the holidays in Brooklyn and for the whole service, I was running around the sanctuary with bowls, buckets and towels because the roof leaked so badly. It was really easy to appeal for money that year as congregants had to move around to find seats where water wasn’t dripping on their heads.
While a leaky roof is not our issue, especially as we have had to stay on zoom for the holidays, we have our own serious problems. As I’m sure you know, COVID played havoc with this community as it did everywhere. Last year, and now for these Days of Awe, because we are completely on zoom, our tickets are much less expensive than in person tickets would be, and we have lost a lot of income. We also lost money because we couldn’t hold events, fundraisers and other events that we depend on to bring in much needed funds. What we didn’t lose, however, are expenses. Even with the temple closed for a year, we still had to pay salaries for our staff, pay for heat in the winter so the pipes wouldn’t freeze, upgrading the heating and cooling system, paying electric and phone bills and other building expenses. And emergencies didn’t take a break because we weren’t in the building. Right now we have a hole in a drainage pipe leading to the main road. Unfortunately it’s not a town issue…repairing it is our problem. This will probably end up costing us thousands of dollars and it can’t be put off because it will only get worse and end up costing us more.
Not everything was negative… this past year, possibly more than ever before, we found ourselves as a community. We reached out to each other, we cared for each other. We saw what it meant to be a member of our congregation. All of you who are here, even though virtually, chose the Reform Temple of PV because it offers something meaningful to you. You had other congregations to go to for your spiritual needs, and you chose us. That means we are important to you. I have a historical, as well as personal connection to RTPV. Back in the 60’s my grandfather was an early member of the newly formed congregation.… and when I came back to Putnam Valley 8 years ago, driving on Church Road after 40 years, I knew immediately, as I passed the temple, that this was the only place I wanted to be.
I hope that you will consider why RTPV is important to you and for whatever reason you chose to be part of RTPV, you recognize that the only way we will be here for you, is if we can count on you for financial support. If you are a guest, I hope you find these services meaningful and you too will consider supporting us, hopefully joining us as a member. As you probably know, compared to many other congregations, our dues are still very low…and we offer second congregation, senior and other even lower dues. At the same time, our expenses are as high as the congregations that charge much more. I hope you will consider all this when you decide how much to pledge during these holidays. Our High Holidays appeal ensures that we are able to continue to grow and thrive as a congregation, deliver outstanding programming, meet the needs of our members, and continue as center of Jewish life in the community. Please be as generous as you can, to help ensure our survival as we navigate these unsure times. And don’t forget to talk to others about how much this temple means to you so we can continue to grow and be here for you and future generations.
Thank you and may you have a healthy and safe new year and a spiritual and meaningful holiday.