the President's Corner March, 2018

Change. It’s coming whether we like it or not. Everything changes, and such is the nature of life.  The only question is whether that change will be for the better or worse, and whose perspective we are using when making that determination.

      Judaism has changed over time.  Changing from a primarily Temple and Sacrificially based Religion to a mobile Religion capable of overcoming any location based problems. Imagine that, a Religion built on the promise of a specific piece of land and progeny living on that land, no longer seeing the promise of land as its primary objective.  For 2000 years it was this way.  Theology and practice adjusted to this new reality until 1948, when the original promise became a possibility once again.  Now we had find a way to have both ideas in the same Religion. The land that was promised was now an option among many.

Prayers and prayer books have also changed.  Phrases have been edited, replaced, and then added back in over the years.  I wonder if Moses, or Judah Ha Nasi, Maimonides, or Isaac Meyer Wise would recognize our services.  Who knows, maybe they would find them to be better than their own?  At every change, every progression, every development of Judaism, there were plenty who criticized the changes as altering the core of Judaism. Turning aside from the good path that God intended.  Young people criticizing their elders for holding onto to outdated traditions. Elders criticizing the young for showing no respect to the traditions that have brought peace and comfort to generations of Jews.  We find this struggle in each generation, and not just in Judaism. Other religious and political groups have these same conversations.  How do we adapt to change without losing what’s truly important?

15 years ago, Temple Beth Shalom had a roster of almost 100 families and as much as 30 children in religious school.  The budget was $60,000 to $70,000 per year.  10 years ago, about the time I showed up, our Temple was down in the 80 family range.  Fast forward to now, and we have close to 55 families with 10-14 children in Religious School. The budget is still $70,000 for the whole Temple.  Change happened as we were watching.  It’s no one’s fault that our family count is down almost fifty percent over 15 years.  The only question is what to do to adapt to this change that has happened right before our eyes. 

To adapt means to either become accustomed to new conditions, or to make something more suitable for a new use or purpose.  I prefer the latter of these two options, but our Temple is making this choice every month. Every Year. Every Decade.  Are we becoming accustomed to this reality or making ourselves more suitable for the community we serve?

The first adaptation we have to make is related to money. Yes, Money.  The dues structure that worked for 100 families, or 80 families, just won’t work for 55 families. It’s really easy math. So, the board has decided to raise dues modestly starting in April of this year in order to begin down the path of getting our budget in order.  The board will also be discussing ways to adjust our dues structure over the next few years to make sure that our foundation is strong.  The board is already discussing ways to make our Temple more welcoming to new visitors and implementing follow up programs to make sure that we are available to answer questions and show our guests that we value their attendance.  We are also looking at ways to increase our presence in the local community via social media, primarily Facebook.  If we make it easier for those in our community who are unaffiliated, more will be able to see what a welcoming community we have here at Temple Beth Shalom.  We will make an effort to get our events listed on Facebook and in the local paper to make sure the community knows we are here.  We really have a lot to offer the Jewish Community of the Emerald Coast, and I am willing to bet that if more people see us more often, many more will join us, making this community even stronger for many years to come.  We will adjust our services on the first of the month for the next 6 months to be more family friendly with more music and a potluck Shabbat dinner.   I hope you will join me in embracing these changes, and furthermore, join with me in looking ahead and adapting to the challenges that are still to come.

Chad Hill