This will be my last communication with you in the Shofar as your President. When I stepped into this role, I could not have anticipated the life-changing events that were to modify our world forever. I cannot say I’m reluctant to step down – the stress has been overwhelming at times.
Due to COVID-19, changes in our congregation demographic that I thought we could navigate and mitigate 5 years down the road, are taking place now. Changes in the way we have provided religious services via ZOOM, every meeting and all programming taking place on ZOOM, staff working virtually – community means something different now.
I am aware that some congregants are eager to be back together, attending services, sharing a Shabbat dinner together, meeting in person. For some of us, ZOOM has provided access to an array of online communities, professional and personal, and we are no longer bound by the nuts and bolts of a physical place, as we had been in the past – not emotionally, physically or mentally. I wonder how the time apart will affect our numbers as we re-open and we begin to welcome members in person back to the synagogue.
Beth Ami Community Nursery School (BACNS) is and has been a different story. Raising children continues to best be done in person! The nursery school’s families and staff made a commitment to follow strict guidelines and protocols issued by the State of CA to keep everyone safe and it has worked!
It meant that the children were together every day since last August under the competent guidance of amazing teachers and administrative staff leading to happy parents who can “go to work daily,” happy children who can be with friends, and staff who get to do the work they love and are trained to do. This program has been an incredible success story amid a sea of isolation and desperation.
I recently had a frustrated congregant say to me, “What are we? A large nursery school with a small synagogue attached?” and my short answer is, “Yes.” That is how our story line has evolved over time. And I know the frustration is that the nursery school no longer “serves” the congregation as it did in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, by providing members to CBA, even though 1/3 of the nursery school families are Jewish. It’s a very different generation; they’re not joining any congregation.
We basically serve the 2 most vulnerable populations at Congregation Beth Ami, the elderly and the very young, with a governance structure whose primary focus has been the congregation. You can see where this is heading. The needs of each community are different and our governance model no longer does justice to either.
What I do believe is that we can come together as a community to successfully navigate a transition we are already in. Working together we will find the best way forward to maintain the synagogue while continuing to provide the supervision and operational support for BACNS.
Please join me and your Board of Directors at the upcoming Annual Meeting, on ZOOM, Sunday, June 13, 10:30AM. Be part of the conversation. Until then, be safe and get the vaccine!
B’Shalom, Carolyn Metz, President