We had a good meeting at the shul on May 17. Aside from typical annual reports on finances, membership, etc., the Board approved funding the completion of the social hall renovations. More about that in a separate post. More significantly perhaps, the Board approved a motion to invite women to receive aliyahs. I know that a number of you didn’t understand why there was such a lengthy debate over this issue, but it’s now decided and we can move on to other matters. The following is the text of my formal remarks at the meeting.
President’s Annual Remarks to the Congregation- 17MAY2010
Yesterday, Debbie and I, and Jack and Gerrie Ketler attended the unveiling of the grave markers for Lynn and Stan Roth. And we are reminded that Stan lived almost his entire 90 years here and that Lynn was active here since her and Stan were married during WWII and she moved to Carnegie. Last week we celebrated the 90th birthday of one of our very active members, Mr. Bob Adler, who continues to amaze me with his energy and vitality. He called me today and said he was feeling a little under the weather; he apologized for not being here this evening, but that he expects to be here for services on Wednesday and Thursday for Shavuos. These occasions can’t help but to remind us that our congregation is aging. Our “younger” members are in their 40s and 50s. Our average member is around 70 years of age. It should go without saying that this can’t continue indefinitely.
The congregation passed a policy change tonight that may cause us to attract some younger members, although it must be pointed out that we did not make this change simply as an advertising gimmick. None the less, with each generation there are changes in attitudes, and it is not something that can be ignored. Recently, former first lady Laura Bush made some poignant remarks regarding a controversial subject, gay marriage. She said she does not object to it, and that this was a matter that her and President Bush argued and disagreed over. But she added that in the big picture it really doesn’t matter what George and she thought, because most younger people are ok with it, and therefore it’s just a matter of time until it becomes the law of the land. She’s seems to me a very insightful woman and although it appears that she didn’t consider it appropriate to voice her opinions while her husband was president, perhaps now we will get to hear more from her.
So here in the shul we have recognized that most younger people (and many older people as well) are ok with women getting aliyahs. We should not be embarrassed or distressed over this. We just need to recognize that it is what it is. The key is not what decisions we make, it’s how we make them. Here in this shul, we make our decisions in thoughtful and respectful ways. We respect our elders, but we also invite our youngsters to speak their minds. We listen to everyone; really listen. We are empathetic; we feel what others are feeling and earnestly attempt to understand what they understand because that’s how a congregation should behave. There are some congregations that don’t behave that way. But they aren’t Carnegie. Many of our members are related, but even those who aren’t literally family members, you are part of our havurah, our congregation, and you will be treated like family. This is ultimately what our shul has to offer to prospective members, love and respect, like family. If it seems that we are stuck in the past, maybe it’s because we respect our elders. But at the same time our elders listen to the youngsters too. And so we are capable of changing and moving forward. We will just do so in a respectful and thoughtful manner.
And may we continue on for another hundred and twenty years.