The simple headline would read Congregation Holds Annual Meeting on May 20th. The usual activities ensued and usual reports provided. The annual election of officers was held. But a little deeper in the story is the fact that we have a new president for the first time in 12 years.
You will recall that last year at the annual meeting, I notified the board that my 12th year as president would have to be my last. My duties as a borough councilman have taken away from the time that I can spend managing the shul. And since January 3 this year, my time has become even further constrained as my peers elected me Borough Council President. Fortunately, VP Larry Block offered to step up to the duties of shul president. We are fortunate to have someone who has a long history of dedication to our congregation and is ready to take on more responsibility. It is a big challenge and Larry has my full support and backing.
If you will allow me to reminisce just a bit… I actually did not ever expect to become shul president. If you were around during the 90’s you will recall that Stan (our Nusi, may he rest in peace) was prepping me to take his place, which was not president. Our president then was Dr. Zayne Wilk. Zayne came from a family of leaders. Zayne’s father was once shul president, as was his father’s father. I looked up to Zayne, who was not only a doctor, but a fellow Marine and a Vietnam veteran. I expected him to be president for a long time. Additionally, I was working out of town almost every week, and I didn’t view myself being able to take on the role of president. But 1999 didn’t just bring the end of the millennium, it brought significant changes in our shul. In February of ’99 Ike Sax, who led our religious services, was knocked down by a stroke. In the spring, Zayne learned that he was losing his battle with cancer. I was in the middle of changing jobs and would now be based full time in Pittsburgh. I remember vividly a moment in the back of the shul one Saturday morning after services. Most everyone had already headed downstairs for Kiddush, and Zayne stopped me by the doors and said, “I understand that you have a new job and you’re going to be around a lot more”. When I responded in the affirmative, he said, “Good, the shul is going to need you”. He said it without emotion, the way one of my Marine officers would give me a new assignment. I don’t mean to dwell on the Marine Corps piece of the story, but my experiences in the Marine Corps have affected everything I’ve done in my life since I was 17. I can’t really separate out the Marine Corps part of any story from any part of my life. When Zayne spoke to me that morning, for all of 30 seconds, he was my CO giving me my next assignment, and that was that.
Ike died in August that year, and Zayne in November. We spent the winter mulling over the situation. Then in April of 2000, a guy named Baumhammers would go on murderous spree killing 5 and wounding several others. He took the time to stop in Carnegie and shoot out our shul windows before he continued on his planned murder route. The next month at the shul annual meeting, I was elected president and Larry took full control of all religious services. It has stayed that way for a full dozen years. So, I guess we were due for a change. Thank God it was not prompted by tragedy this time.
I ask that you provide every support to Larry as he takes on these new responsibilities and the additional workload that comes with it. And understand that I’m not going away. I will still be here, helping in whatever way I can, as my time permits.