Family Matters

Only Connect!

Back by popular demand. following is a reprint of the Kol Nidre appeal made by CBI President, Ali Climo.


I recently watched a new film adaptation of E. M. Forster’s novel, Howards End, and one of the book and film’s most famous lines (indeed, the book’s epigraph) has been on my mind: Only Connect!

“Only Connect!” carries several meanings. One, interestingly enough, is like the shofar blast at Rosh Hashanah: A call to wake up! Tune in! And to connect our inner darkness and light. One of the book’s main characters, Margaret Schlegel, calls these “the beast and the monk, the prose and the passion.”

Another meaning of Only Connect is a call to invest our best selves, our greatest energy, into our personal relationships. Scholars note that Forster wrote Howard’s End at the turn of the 20th century and that in this and other writings, he seems keenly aware of the notion that technological advance is at the expense of authentic human connection.

And, so, here we are. This evening begins a 25-hour period in which we fast and practice self-denial. For some of us, I will venture to say, this may include an electronic fast as well And over 100 years later, Forster’s question continues to resonate.

So, in response to his call to Only Connect!, I pose to you this question:

Why Connect? Why put your personal energy into your relationship with CBI? Why invest?

I believe for many of us, the answer, or answers, are obvious – the uniqueness of our shul speaks for itself. But let me also suggest a couple of other possible answers:

Why Connect?

Because CBI feels good. I have often heard folks use the work “haimish” to describe our community. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “haimish” is a Yiddish word for something that is friendly, warm and familial. This is us, no? Investing in CBI is a way to express our love and gratitude for this feeling of hominess. And how amazing is it that we experience this home even in places and spaces that are not our actual physical home on Murdock Avenue?

Why Connect?

Because CBI does good. There are so many examples of the ways we live the core values of Tikkun Olam (repair the world) and Gemilut Hassadim (the giving of loving kindness). Whether it is through our social action committee’s work to become a Sanctuary Support Synagogue for this – the Universalist Unitarian congregation – or our active role in supporting Habitat for Humanity’s annual construction of the Interfaith House (by the way, CBI volunteers filled up our assigned work times within a week of the initial announcement).

CBI also does good through our multigenerational, hands on youth education program, described on our website this way:

CBI is family the Jewish identity of every child is our collective responsibility. We empower families from all backgrounds to pursue their unique Jewish path in their homes and communities. Through our Youth Education Program we transmit our love of Torah by helping each other discover ourselves in its stories, live its values, and develop the curiosity and literacy for an engaged and meaningful Jewish life.”

Why Connect?

Because CBI looks good! Actually our new space looks AMAZING!! And if you’ve enjoyed being in this beautiful sanctuary for our high holiday services, just you wait and experience our new sanctuary space!

Because CBI IS good. And by this I mean: We are in an incredibly exciting moment in the life of our shul. From where we are perched, we have a good long view back to our roots, our history; and an exciting view into our future.

When as I read the story of our “First Hundred Years,” written by our own Sheldon Neuringer on the occasion of our centennial in 1999, I am struck by our long history of lay leadership and folks pitching in.

And we do a very good job honoring this history. I was sorry to have to miss our most recent One Light event in June, which honors individuals and families whose longstanding commitment to our community has helped sustain our synagogue. This year, One Light honored Paul and Barbara Michalove, Sheldon and Rochelle Neruinger, Gail Shulimson and Sandy Slosman. By all accounts this was a deeply moving and meaningful event.

Investing in CBI is a way to express our humility and the perspective we gain by looking to those who came before us. But we are not just good because of our past. CBI is pivoting toward an exciting future, as we speak.

CBI is good.

We’re approaching our congregation’s 120th year and our building’s 50th year. To celebrate, we are renovating, indeed transforming, our space to welcome and serve generations to come;

We are considering expanding our youth education program such that children would connect with their bar/bat mitzvah Torah portion very early, perhaps from the moment they enroll, and use it as original source material for their Jewish learning.

This year’s board has welcomed five new members who bring new energy and perspectives. We are utilizing a new form of leadership called Dynamic Governance; we are examining and upgrading many of our Shul’s systems and processes, which will enable us to be more streamlined and strategic; and we are breaking down silos and increasing communication between our many active committees. All of this so that we can spend less time reinventing the wheel and more time doing the important work of Connecting.

And, as I wrote in the summary of last year’s congregational survey, we are privileged to have an exceptional Rabbi. As one respondent put it: “THE best Rabbi in nearly 40 years.Investing in CBI is a way to express our hope and excitement for the possibilities our future holds.

So that is a little about Why Connect. I’d also like you to consider the question “How?” How do you connect with CBI? How do you contribute? The truth is that there are infinite ways to connect and therefore to contribute to CBI.

Maybe you’re like Hannah Limov, Julie Sherman and Patti Frankel, who conceived of a monthly Shabbatluck dinner program;

Maybe you’re like Bob Elkin, a fairly new member, who, when I asked if he would consider serving as our treasurer said no, because he did not want to serve on the board. But then offered to work behind the scenes with our treasurer to organize and streamline our entire finance system;

Like Caren Fraade or Eileen Elkin, who stepped up in various support capacities to help these High Holiday services go smoothly;

Like Ken Vallario and Dusty Fox, parents of Poppy, who saw a need for leadership in our Youth Education Program and drew upon their work as educators, to step up, and now Ken is working as our program coordinator;

Like the anonymous donor who wants to see us develop a garden and granted us $4,000 of “seed” money;

Like Ira and Sheila Naiman, who have taken it upon themselves to research and create a new menu and plan for us to provide Kiddush lunches when we’re back in our building;

Like Gail Gordon, who agreed to chair the Social Action Committee not long after joining CBI;

Like Sophia Morgan, a gifted teacher who agreed to teach our Gan Katan kindergarten even before she became a member;

Like Jillian Krupp and her husband Bart Martindale (parents of Alan, whose bris, you may recall, was about this time last year). Jillian and Bart have taken the reins for the Mommy and Me toddler program, which is engaging our growing contingent of very young families.

And of course there are many long-term members who have contributed their gifts in many ways over the years – Jay Jacoby, who has led Friday Noon Study Group for something like 20 years; Bernard Coleman, who edits and prints our Yizkor booket; Beth Appel, who initiated the Membership Directory fundraiser; Hanan and Goldie Weizman, who initiated Celebration and Café Israel. And, of course, there is our Rummage Sale team and our lay Torah and Haftarah readers, gabbaim and service leaders, and many, many more.

Maybe you’re like one of them.

In each of these cases, members of our Congregation have matched their passions and skills with a need they understood we had.

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes. Author Fredrick Buechner said vocation is “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”  And, by the way, the world needs everything.

And it recalls my earlier comments about Only Connect: as a call to invest our best selves, our greatest energy, into our personal relationships; and as a caution to not rely solely on technology (or e-blasts) to stay connected.

So where is your deep gladness? And how can you use it to help us meet our world’s – our CBI world’s – many deep needs? Despite all of the incredible, generous contributions so many of you make and have made to CBI, our needs persist.

My call to you – Only Connect! – is to invest your best self into our relationship.

Obviously I’m standing up here tonight to make an appeal – and our specific goal is to raise $23,000 to help pay our bills. Dues pledges represent only 55% of CBI’s revenue and alone, are not sufficient to cover our expenses, including the many programs we all love and enjoy. And let me point out that we will not have a Rummage Sale this fiscal year. Last year that brought in over $14,000. So, the money raised tonight is clearly a critical piece of our operating budget.

I thank you for giving all that you can give this evening to sustain our Congregation. And I wish you all a healthy and happy New Year, and an easy fast tomorrow.

Thank you.

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