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President's Message: Toldos

Dear friends,
This week’s Parsha, Toldos, recounts the life and times of Yitzchak. Yitzchak is described as “the son of his father, and the father of his son.” Rabbi Mirvis questions why he is described in such a mundane way. It’s almost insulting, when compared to Avraham, who is described as Nasi Elokim, a Prince of G-d, and Yaakov, who is renamed Yisrael and for whom the Jewish people are named. 
Looking closer, however, R’ Mirvis describes the true gift of Yitzchak, and why the quote is so apt. Yitchak is the symbol of continuity. He is the conduit between Avraham, the founder of the religion, and Yaakov, the founder of the Jewish people. Mincha, the prayer service attributed to Yitzchak, is the conduit between Shacharit and Maariv. While Avraham and Yaakov both traveled far and wide and married multiple times, Yitzchak stayed put, staying in the land of Israel and married one woman. Consistent. Capable. True. 
We refer to his character trait as "strength," because he is a rock of stability. These may not be the flashiest character traits, but they are the ones we wish for in our own children, in our friends and in our leaders. They insure our smooth path forward and our survival as a people. (Full dvar is here.)  
• • • 
I’ve been thinking a lot about character over the past few weeks, as we were putting together the Board slate for next year. I’ve heard from some members that they are not very familiar with some of the candidates, so I want to take this opportunity to give some of my own insights.

Brooke Bryant, our choice for President, has only been at CBA for a few years, but in that time, she has become involved in every facet of the Shul. She is a current Board member as well as serving as co-President of the sisterhood. Brooke also chairs the programming committee and has been instrumental in the development and execution of nearly every event we have had over the past two years, all while having a VERY long walk to Shul, raising a toddler with her husband, Alon, and working full time in non-profit fundraising and development. Because of her professional expertise, concepts such as transparency, good governance, inclusion and respect for individual preferences are not abstract ideas but fundamental requirements. After working closely with her over this past year, I have no doubt that Brooke will be an amazing President: creative, inclusive, approachable, and respectful.

Ellen Phillips and her husband Phil have had a family membership at CBA for almost a decade, but she has been a member almost continuously since 1998.  They had been members of Kane Street Synagogue for almost three decades, where Ellen was Financial Secretary for years. When not visiting their children and grandchildren, they are in Shul almost every Shabbos when they are in town. In addition to her role as Data Manager at the Ramaz Middle School and Lower School, Ellen served for many years as the Treasurer of the Hannah Senesh Community Day School in Cobble Hill, making her uniquely qualified to serve as Treasurer of CBA. She is intuitive, direct and detail-oriented, and has already started speaking with Brooke about procedures  and safeguards to continue to streamline the accounting and reporting procedures of the Shul. I have no doubt that the finances of the Shul will be in excellent hands under Ellen’s control. 

There has been much discussion and concern over the last two years about Officers not being members of the Board. In order to rectify this until the bylaws are changed, we have also nominated Ellen for a Board seat.

Bruce Rubenstein, a practicing psychiatrist, has been part of CBA for years. While he has lived Upstate and down South for the past several years, he has maintained his close relationship with the Rabbi, and now that he is back in the neighborhood, he has settled back into the CBA community. Bruce’s expertise in helping individuals improve relationships and conflict resolution will be a great asset in helping to heal as we come together. Even more, the path to mutual acceptance and respect and compromise can be smoother with a facilitator. As these are our priorities, Bruce should be a great asset.

If you’re reading this email, you probably don’t need to hear about me. I’ll just say that it has been an honor serving as President, and I would like to thank everyone for the support and advice (and criticism) I have received this year.  I feel that my ability to listen and my desire to build consensus would be an asset on the Board. It would be my honor to continue to serve in that capacity. 

The board tried very hard to put together a slate that reflected the differences in CBA. We tried to have as much diversity as possible in our choices, specifically in terms of gender, religious background, and minyan preference. We spoke to many members. We’ve had a long ongoing conversation with the Rabbi, incorporating his advice and getting his support. It is our hope that we achieved what we tried to accomplish. 

Please feel free to reach out to me, or any member of the Board, if you have any questions or concerns.

The mechitzah questionnaire will be coming out soon – we’re just trying to add some diagrams to make the options more understandable. We may also try a different seating layout for the next few weeks. This will just be an experiment. We look forward to all comments, for or against.

Next Shabbos, we will be hosting Rabbi Yonah Reiss as Scholar in Residence, sponsored by the Weinberger family in memory of Richard Weinberger a”h. For those of you who were privileged to hear him speak on zoom several months ago on Right to Life, Abortion and Halacha, you know that it will be an excellent program. A reservation link will be available soon.

I want to wish Zalmy Mazal Tov on starting to put on Tfillin. Mazal Tov to the entire Raskin family.

Wishing everyone a peaceful and meaningful Shabbat Shalom,

Steven Inker

Wed, April 24 2024 16 Nisan 5784