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.
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.