Dear Congregation Agudas Achim,
In these unprecedented times it is often difficult to balance feelings of joy with what is happening in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is scary, as we fear for ourselves, our friends and loved ones. With so many unknowns, it is difficult to feel safe. A vaccine cannot come too soon. There are also too many reminders of the hate that still exists in the world. Many in our community are asking what we can do to help restore racial justice. In the words of Elie Wiesel, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides.”
Although these high holy days will not be what we are accustomed to, we are fortunate to have the technology available to bring us all together. Many of our congregants have been working hard since the beginning of the outbreak to ensure our community is safe and to make these holidays as fulfilling as possible. I truly admire their strength, creativity and resolve. Although we feel the loss of not being together at our beloved synagogue, we still have much to be thankful for. We now have Rabbi Alex Weissman and welcome his leadership as we enter the new year. We have seven b’nai mitzvah this year – a great reason for celebration! And we still have one another. Although it has been said many times, if you are in need, please reach out to any of us on the board, Rabbi Alex, or Erin and Keri in the office. We are a community that helps each other. This is just another reason I am thankful and proud to be part of our congregation.
Hi, temple family! I am Deborah Stoloff, a board member overseeing membership and hospitality. The Membership Committee has been successful at encouraging new individuals and families to join Congregation Agudas Achim at a time when, nationally, fewer people are joining synagogues. We want to keep growing, so I hope you will keep telling your friends and colleagues about our fabulous synagogue. We welcome them to visit and reach out with questions. We look forward to having other new members join us.
Being on the Board of Trustees has been an education for me. I get to experience and participate in a process that is wonderfully caring and detail oriented, working for the good of the congregation. Every want, need, request, and concern that comes our way is addressed thoughtfully and respectfully by caring volunteers. This is an impressive process that I knew nothing about until I went to my first meeting. If anyone wants to join the board, I offer my encouragement. No prior experience on a board is necessary.
Or how about stepping into one of these two important roles? Help is needed to spearhead the women’s group—to jump in fully or just put one activity together. We also need a mensch support person; when congregants request a helping hand, this person would simply send email to people who have already volunteered to be ready to help.
My husband Jerry Cohen and I joined the synagogue when our children, Leah (18) and Jonathan (16) were young. They graduated Hebrew School and had their B’nai Mitzvah here. As a Hebrew School parent, I worked in the office, was on the adult education and membership committees, cleaned the kitchen, drove kids to the soup kitchen, and weeded the outdoor space. In other words, I have done what many of you do: pitched in where needed. So many of us volunteer here, doing far more than me. Thanks to you all, we are the little temple that can.
Professionally, I have worked as a school psychologist and a newspaper reporter. I have jokingly said both careers are similar in that I got to ask people prying questions that were none of my business. Now I have a small business as an academic coach working with students in elementary school through college. Parents hire me to work with their capable, smart children who have barriers to learning. I have knowledge about learning differences, executive functioning, psychological diagnoses, etc. that help me understand and work with students on their journey to graduation. I work in many locations and I am fortunate to have an office at Bryant University’s Academic Center for Excellence. I also work with high school students and parents as a college consultant.
Now that Leah is in her first year at UMass Amherst Commonwealth Honors College and Jonathan has his first job within walking distance from home, I happily drive less. I visit my 88-year-old mother every week (I open jars, retrieve items from top shelves, and play many games of Scrabble) but now do so in a less hurried fashion and am more present. I hope to get back into creative writing and genealogy and remain active on behalf of temple members. Say hi if you see me when I am your board host at a service or attending temple events and feel free to let me know if I can be of help in any way. Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2020, temple family!
Hello and Happy New Year!
My name is Addam Brodsky and I currently serve on the Board of Trustees as Director for Building and Maintenance.
I grew up in Brockton and attended a Conservative temple, Temple Beth Emunah, until my college days took me down to Providence. After many years in Rhode Island, I moved back to the area and currently live in Norton with my wife and two daughters. I feel fortunate to have found such a loving, caring and close-knit Jewish community to call home here at Agudas Achim. I’ve been a member of the Temple for the past four years and both of my daughters attend Hebrew School at the Temple.
In my three years of service as a Board member I have worked to help recruit new members, supported new fundraising efforts, and assisted the Finance Committee in negotiating a new term loan to pay off the Temple’s revolving credit facility, I also spearheaded the just-completed effort to make Congregation Agudas Achim a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, a significant step forward—among other benefits, we are eligible to apply for and receive many more grants. If anyone has knowledge of local, state, or federal grants for religious organizations such as ours, please feel free to reach out to me or any of the Board members. However, one of the most rewarding roles I have taken on has been heading up the Purim Carnival each year!
In my current role, I support the hardworking efforts of the Building and Maintenance Committee who work tirelessly to keep the Temple building and property in great shape. Individuals such as Sharon Friedman, Gerry Bradie, Gary Price, Charlie Seelig, Brian Bodemer, and many others do so much without much recognition or fanfare. So let this letter serve as our sincere appreciation for all their efforts!
With that said, the Temple building is always in need of new improvements and we must continue to fund and support the activities to address some of the significant capital improvements needed in the coming years. Having replaced one half of the Temple HVAC system in 2018, we will need to replace the second half of the system within the next year or two. Additionally, we need to replace the roof over the classrooms, fix the sidewalks, repave the parking lot, implement new security features, and ultimately replace the septic system, just to name a few.
How can I help, you might ask? Increasing your dues by even a small amount would help greatly. I also encourage you to help recruit new families to join the congregation, and to participate in the many wonderful fundraisers we run each year.
For those families who have the ability to do more, specific donations to support any of the capital projects previously listed would be greatly appreciated. If you work for or have a connection to companies that might be able to do some of the work on the projects listed above at a discount, or provide charitable grants for such projects, let’s make a plan to follow up—we can use all the help we can get!
While we are a small congregation, keeping it running involves many people working together. I’m glad to help, and I hope you will get involved too.
P.S. if anyone wants to get involved with the planning, decorating, cooking or running of the Purim Carnival, I would greatly appreciate the help. Feel free to email me anytime at email@example.com.
A Shanah Tovah to all. I hope that this High Holyday season has been as much of a spiritual inspiration to you as it has been for me.
For those who don’t already know me, I’m Alan Wartenberg. In July I took on the position of Director of Marketing and Development for the synagogue, and I wanted to introduce myself in that capacity and talk about what it means.
I have been a member of Agudas Achim for 28 years. Both of my daughters, Eve and Ruth, went to its Hebrew School and were Bat Mitvah’ed on its Bimah, with both me and my late wife Carol, of blessed memory, watching them with pride.
My first formal role for the synagogue was as a member of the Religious School committee; I was ultimately its co-chair, and then chair. As its chair I also served on the Board. After several years I became Vice President and then President of the synagogue in the mid-’90s. My term was rudely interrupted by cancer, with which I have been struggling for 21 years. On my current bout, it has been putting up quite a fight, but with great medical care and enormous support from family and friends (including this congregation), I seem to be winning this battle. The tremendous support of the members of Agudas Achim has helped sustain me though not only this battle, but for the seven years that my beloved Carol and I struggled with her dementia.
Agudas Achim has, for over 100 years, been a spiritual and communal support for many thousands of families. All of that requires the time, talent and treasure of many people. The large number of volunteers, our Rabbi, administrative staff and teachers, must be themselves supported, as well as the building and other real property.
My role as Director of Marketing and Development is one of the ways to provide that support. My job is to find new ways to raise funds, both on an ongoing basis and with specific events. Finding appropriate grants that can support some Synagogue activities is another avenue. I am looking for congregants who have time and talents, and particularly ideas, to help with this process. I have spent my professional life as a physician specializing in Internal and Addiction Medicine, and these kinds of activities are new to me. All help will be greatly appreciated.
I also want to add that in the midst of the current drug use crisis, which not only involves opiate (narcotic) drugs but alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine and others, many people are seeing this crisis affect their families, their neighbors and others in their communities. As a physician with many years of experience in this field I am happy to be available to anyone with a need that I can help fill, whether that is for an ear, a shoulder or a voice for advice.
Thank you for your kind consideration and I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year of 5780.
Hello and Happy September!
My name is Molly Jacobs and I am excited to join the Congregation Agudas Achim board this year as the Director of Education. This is the beginning of a new tradition for our congregation in which the board members will be taking turns writing these letters from now on, both as an opportunity to introduce themselves to the community and to share excitement about the parts of the synagogue life for which they serve. My daughter, Sarah, is going into sixth grade this year and has been attending the Hebrew School program since she was 5 years old. Meanwhile, I have served on the Education Committee for the last three years.
I have been an educator in the Boston Public Schools since 2005. Located in Jamaica Plain (one mile from my old house), I have taught second, third and fourth grade Special Education-Inclusion classes and a combination of English as a Second Language and Literacy classes. This year marks my second year implementing a class in Mindfulness for approximately 250 of our kindergarten to eighth graders. Sarah and I now live in Smithfield, Rhode Island with my husband, Patrick and son, Alijah. and we have enjoyed being a part of the temple community for the past six years.
I’m excited about how our Hebrew school program continues to evolve to meet the needs of our youngest members and their families. This past year some of our Hebrew School students explored and shared what their Jewish identity means to them. Others participated in a play written and directed by our own playwright, Hannah Bell. Our youngest students in Kitah Gan, ages 3-4, focused on learning about Jewish Life. They learned about their Jewish names, food, holidays, Jewish values and Torah stories through hands-on activities, including music, games, movement, art, cooking and more!
The Lower School, grades 1-3, used a program from PJ Library, called PJ Goes to School, which explores Jewish life and values through children’s literature. These students considered Jewish time and how it differs from our secular lives. The students learned about Jewish holidays, Torah, prayer, and living Jewish values. The first graders began to learn Hebrew letters while the second graders studied Hebrew phonics and practiced decoding Hebrew words.
In the Upper School, grades 4-7, the students studied Jewish prayers, explored their meanings and developed their skills as service leaders by participating in and leading a weekly service as a school community. They also continued to develop their Hebrew reading skills through the study of modern Hebrew.
During seventh grade, in addition to attending Upper School, students prepared to become bar or bat mitzvah, including taking part in family educational sessions and working with an independent tutor to prepare their haftorah and Torah readings.
After their B’nei Mitvah, many temple teens have remained involved with the Hebrew School as madrichim (aides), supporting and assisting Hebrew School teachers for both the Lower and Upper School. They have also continued to maintain their friendships with each other through the teen youth group at our temple.
This year, the Education Committee is excited to continue to provide engaging educational experiences, including family learning opportunities through the Learning B’Yachad program. We also will be piloting a new project that builds on and refines the work that our students did through their regular visits to the Branches assisted living center in North Attleboro. In addition to having some of our students continue visiting the senior citizens, we are excited to partner with the temple’s Social Action Committee to create more opportunities to connect with the Jewish tenant of Tikkun Olam.
On behalf of the Education Committee, we are excited to share with you our plan for the year as it continues to unfold. New and innovative experiences are in store for this upcoming year!
PS I look forward to seeing all of you at the Temple Block Party on September 8. Not only do I serve on the board, but I am also a singer in the band, which will be performing at the Block Party!
Dear Fellow Congregants,
I am so thankful and proud to serve as our congregation's next president. Many of you have already approached me offering your support for which I am grateful. I am looking forward to working closely with our board to continue all of the excellent progress we have been making - raising the bar each year!
For those of you who were unable to attend the annual meeting, we have a strong combination of existing, past, and new members on our board. And thanks to Sammi and Roseanna, we now have a detailed organizational structure in place. Howard Tinberg will continue his role as VP of Jewish Life. Within Jewish Life, Molly Jacobs has come on board as the new Director of Education. Kim Bodemer will continue in her role as chair of the Ritual committee and Lauren Scher will continue to chair the Education committee. We are looking for folks to help with the school committee, so please let us know if you can help.
We are welcoming Aaron Weintraub to the board as our new Treasurer and VP of Finance. Also, we welcome Alan Wartenberg as our new Director of Development and Marketing. Within finance, we have our Fundraising and Development committee, Marketing and Finance committees. We already have some strong people in these committees, but we are looking for more to join. Please let us know if you can help in these important areas.
Though Rosanna Wertheimer is stepping down as President, fortunately she will be staying with us as the VP of Strategic Planning and Administration. In this role, Rosanna will continue to be a driving force for change, as well as a fount of knowledge as a past president.
Addam Brodsky will be continuing his role on the board as Director of Property Management. Sharon Friedman will continue as chair of the Building and Maintenance committee. Other committees in this area include the cemetery and security. Plus Addam runs one great Purim Carnival!
Another fresh change is that we are bringing both Hospitality & Support and the Membership committee under Deborah Stoloff. Her new title is Director of Membership and Retention. In this role she will also be responsible for the Mensches, the Men's and Women's Groups and the Community Dinners.
This year Peter Schwartz will be stepping down as Secretary, and Eve Condon will be taking his place. But we are not losing Peter; he will be staying on as a Director at Large. Also, we are welcoming Deb Mandell back to the board as an additional Director at Large.
As I look over the organizational chart that was handed out at the annual meeting, I think how fortunate we are to have a congregation where so many people are willing to devote their time. The beauty of volunteering at Agudas Achim is you can do a little, or do a lot and still make a difference. Plus, there are a multitude of ways to lend a hand. A huge thank you to everyone who works so hard to keep our synagogue as successful as it is. This includes our board, our committee heads and members, Keri and Erin, and those of you who just do things with little to no fanfare. And last, we wouldn't be who we are without Rabbi Leora, and the wisdom, leadership and inspiration she brings to our community.
Our fiscal year ends June 30th, so if you haven't sent in your last dues payment, please get it in so we can wrap up our finances for the year. And please send your renewal packets in as soon as possible. We need them by < >. If you have any questions, please contact the office.
Have a wonderful summer!
State of the Congregation
Congregation Agudas Achim
Annual Meeting - June 2, 2019
From Rosanna Wertheimer:
Today is the 43rd day of the Omer. The counting of the omer takes place during the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot, and it is one of my favorite Jewish practices. The practice I follow is to connect each day and week with the sefirot, Kabbalistic attributes of God. The week that just ended was the 6th week of the omer, the one associated with Yesod, often translated as foundation.
How fitting that as I was working to prepare for this meeting, the theme of the week was Foundation. The work of the Board, which culminates each year at the annual meeting, is all about foundation. Our task is to make sure that this congregation has a strong foundation from which to build all of our worship, learning, and activity.
I’m happy to report this year that our foundation is stable and solid, but also dynamic and flexible. Over 108 years, this congregation has maintained that strong and dynamic foundation, not dependent on any particular leaders, but rather on the interconnectedness of all the people who contribute to our cohesive community. It is difficult to summarize the four years of my co-presidency with Sammi, so I’m not going to try to do that but rather to reflect on where we are now. This year my main focus was in two areas: finances and governance.
On finances, I was part of a team that involved Amy Bono, who handled the day-to-day treasurer duties, Addam Brodsky, who chaired the finance committee, Lee Judson, our financial secretary, and Erin Shockley in the office. Through our combined effort, we made great strides in cleaning up our Quickbooks records, in developing clearer procedures for managing dues payments, and in applying for official 501c3 nonprofit status. Many thanks to Addam for spearheading that application, which will open up new opportunities for fundraising and cost savings. Addam also researched our options for refinancing our line of credit loan as a term loan that we can pay off in seven years. By refinancing, we hope to put ourselves in better position to finance future capital costs. In short, we have filled a lot of chinks in our foundation and are in a stronger position than we were a year ago.
The focus on governance was shared by Sammi and the entire board. We had a wonderful and productive retreat at Sammi’s cape house where we reviewed all of the functions of the synagogue, the board, and the presidency. We were able to arrive at a new structure for collaborative leadership that feels sustainable, manageable, and true to our identity as a Reconstructionist congregation. I’m excited to continue as a member of the board as we implement this new structure under Amy’s leadership. And I’d like to make a little pitch for gentleness during this transition. All transitions have their challenges, so I invite you to be extra supportive of Amy, the board, and committees as we adjust to our new roles.
My new role, with your assent, will be VP of Administration and Strategic Planning. I will be working Erin and Keri in the office to continue the work that we have already started to establish procedures and keep everything running smoothly. I also hope to use my vantage point as past president to advise the board in our work on longer term strategic goals.
One of the biggest lessons I learned as co-president is that since there is always more to do than is humanly possible, it’s important to set intentions and goals and then trust that all of our steps towards those goals add up over time. Sammi and I inherited a solid foundation, we worked hard to make many improvements to it, but ultimately we were simply taking our turn in leading this wonderful congregation.
I am so grateful for this opportunity to lead. My gratitude starts with Sammi. From start to finish our co-presidency has been a marvelous collaboration. We barely knew each other when we embarked on this adventure, and after four years, we have established a friendship that I hope will last a lifetime.
I am also so grateful for Rabbi Leora. I have treasured our weekly phone calls, and especially, our monthly in-person meetings that have been so spacious and generous. Having this close relationship has truly been the greatest perk of the job, and I know that we will find new ways to learn, explore, and work together.
My deepest thanks to my family: my sons, Gabe and Asa, who have been unfailingly encouraging of me in this role; my parents, Joan and Tom Webb, who have provided invaluable mentorship and support; and my husband James, who has been a rock throughout, never complaining about all the time I spend going to meetings and working on behalf of the congregation. Truly, I could not have done this without him!
Finally, I want to thank all of you for giving me this opportunity. Being co-president has been a labor of love. I have grown so much in the role, and it has been such meaningful and fulfilling work. Most of all, thank you for being my beloved holy community, my kehillat kedoshah .
From Sammi Robertson:
As I sat to put my thoughts together for today’s State of the Congregation address, it took me some time to figure out what to say. As most of you know, I am rarely at a loss for words, but during these last four years serving the congregation as your co-president, I feel as though I have often shared the same sentiments, asking everything of you while also trying to show my appreciation for this community and all of you who have played an integral part in seeing that we are able to sustain our temple family.
It is hard to believe that we are nearing the close of yet another fiscal year, and that our Presidency is quickly coming to an end. I don’t necessarily believe the years flew, although here we are reflecting on our time together. Serving two terms seemed daunting when we started in 2015, but we have survived and so did all of you.
As it is customary for us to reflect and report on the past year, Rosanna and I discussed that I would share the good stuff that transpired during our Presidency – to thank you all and to also inspire the good work to continue.
So here it goes...
We are a community that cares, warm and welcoming too,
And now the list of accomplishments I will share with you:
In our four years as Presidents, we worked hard side by side,
With rabbinic changes at first – we were in for quite a ride!
First Elyse’s departure, and then Margaret moved on,
Carolyn left quickly and Leora arrived strong.
This is where it all started as we had only just begun,
With a bit of trepidation, but soon learning to have fun.
Our Board grew as we revised our leadership design,
Building community and committees - things began to work out just fine.
We gained support from the people stepping forward so fast,
Committees working together – coming to fruition at last.
We empowered the people who were taking on tasks
All of whom working tirelessly as a result of our asks.
We introduced the retreat, to bring our leadership together,
To share ideas and make plans while getting to know each other better.
Chatham was a beautiful place for us all to escape,
To share moments and work, while enjoying the cape.
The Farm was also a place to retreat,
We oriented new members, while in a setting so sweet.
On another note...
We attempted to refresh and improve our space,
Pointing out the need for a plan, strongly stating our case.
The social hall was painted and new moldings erected,
New chairs were purchased and old ones were rejected.
We tossed the old freezer, fully iced inside,
We re-organized the kitchen with new rules to abide.
We purchased a fridge, something clean and sufficient,
No more oversized appliances, not nearly efficient.
We disposed of the bubbler and other items per request,
We replaced one HVAC unit, with plans to purchase the rest.
Our communications have shifted from newsletter to card,
Another effective attempt, change is not always hard.
We revamped the budget, and reports also improved.
Producing the sustaining cost is the direction in which we have moved.
Sharing transparently has been one of our goals,
As we continued making improvements, and re-defining our roles.
The next was the Board Structure or organizational chart,
We reached out for support and always asked from the heart.
We worked to engage and empower, inviting folks to the table,
Asking for their time and commitment, but only if able.
You all rose to the task, supporting our mission,
To successfully lead this congregation, bringing plans to come to fruition.
We thank you for your support through these last four years,
We will still be among you, although we are switching gears.
Rosanna will remain as an officer on the Board,
And my job will shift to Past President – as I’ve cut the cord.
I will maintain our leadership document seeing that we remain a strong force,
A group sustaining our second home, so that we stay on course.
I’ve enjoyed supporting our synagogue and congregation too,
I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many of you.
To Rosanna, the Rabbi, and the Board as well,
The women in the office – to you I will also tell,
I offer my appreciation for your kindness and I call you my friends.
So let’s simply say “see you later” as this is not nearly the end.
Spring is often considered the best season for the many beautiful things that it brings including heaps of sunshine, perfect temperatures, more sunny hours in a day, beautiful flowers, fresh breezes, and spending more time outside, to name only a few. It also represents new beginnings and celebrations. As we welcome spring at Agudas Achim, there are a number of activities and celebrations ahead, many of which will involve paying tribute to our community.
The first is on Friday, May 3rd, when we will host a special service honoring our high school seniors. This tradition lets us offer these young adults best wishes and good luck as graduation draws near and they make the transitions to the next phases of their lives. The congregation will extend its well wishes to these families with a special blessing.
At our service on Friday, May 17th, we will pay tribute to the vast number of members who have volunteered in the past year, donating their time by serving on a committee, serving on the Board, working to help improve our community, and supporting other congregants. Giving something of ourselves to help others is a hallmark of our congregation, and we look forward to celebrating this spirit.
As we approach the end of our fiscal year, it will be time to talk about transitions and new beginnings. As we continue to seek participation and input from our fellow members, we have planned a Town Hall Meeting on Sunday, May 5th, at 3:30 p.m. to discuss our plans for the future and invite your feedback. Among the important issues we will address is the need to spread our leadership responsibilities among more people to help ease the burden on what is now a core of very active volunteers. This will also help to make sure diverse needs and interests are represented.
We invite and encourage you to attend this important Town Hall Meeting. We are excited to share our thoughts and ideas with you; and we will also introduce our new synagogue president nominee.
Please also mark your calendars for Zimriyah and the Annual Meeting on Sunday, June 2nd, starting at 9 a.m., when we will celebrate Hebrew School graduations and transitions, review the year, and formally elect the new President and Board members.
Finally, we invite you to pay tribute to our congregation by supporting our annual campaign as well as our Tree of Life. Each year at this time, we reach out to our congregation to ask that all members consider making a contribution to the synagogue—perhaps an extra monthly payment or any amount you can spare to help sustain our community. There are many ways that we all give to Agudas Achim, but it is also important that we seek financial support throughout the year as well. You can support the synagogue by sending in a cash donation or by purchasing a leaf on the Tree of Life. Just recently, eight more leaves were added to the Tree and it is filling in nicely. We invite you to consider purchasing a leaf as a tribute to an individual or in honor of an important milestone in your life.
We hope to see you in the weeks ahead!
Rosanna, Sammi, and Rabbi Leora
We are so pleased to announce that after a thoughtful negotiation process, we have signed a contract with Rabbi Leora Abelson to extend her contract for at least another year (through
June 2020). The contract also includes options and incentives that would extend her contract an additional one-to-two years (through June 2022). We had hoped that she would sign a three-year contract, but we understand that one-year contracts are the norm for part-time positions. As she explains below, flexibility is a priority for her, just as stability is a priority for us. We think we found a way to meet both needs, and, more importantly, to retain Rabbi Leora who is such a capable, caring, and inspiring spiritual leader. We are very grateful that she will be continuing as our rabbi!
Rosanna and Sammi
Amy and her husband George have lived in North Attleboro for the past 21 years. She grew up as a member of Agudas Achim, and became a bat mitzvah in 1983. He son, Samuel, followed in her footsteps, becoming a bar mitzvah in 2013. After being a member of the board for the past 4 years, Amy is looking forward to continuing to build on the momentum from our previous leadership.