Annual Congregational Meeting Speech – 2018
Izzy Cohen was the president of his synagogue and wasn’t feeling well. He checked himself into a hospital and was laid up in bed for a few days. One day his friend and fellow temple Board member, Moishe, surprised Izzy with a visit. Izzy’s eyes lit up when he saw Moishe. They exchanged their usual pleasantries and after Izzy let Moishe know all about his aches and pains, Moishe exclaimed, “Izzy, guess what?” “We had a temple Board meeting last night and voted on a resolution to wish you a speedy, happy, healthy, and complete recovery” “The resolution passed, by a vote of 7 to 4.”
Don’t worry, my day job has nothing to do with telling jokes. My name is Evan Wilkoff and I have lived in Charlotte for the past 11 years. My family and I joined Temple Beth El literally the day after we moved here. Soon thereafter my wife and I were asked to participate in the Robyn Farber Leadership Development Group, and probably because I am a numbers guy –think corporate finance not accounting – I was asked to lead the Finance Committee for a few years. It sometimes seems like a blur because now – here I am. I grew up in Merrick, New York – a suburb of New York City located on the south shore of Long Island and received a reform education from our local temple that was nowhere near as cool as ours.
People ask me why I want to accept the honor and responsibility of the Presidency of Temple Beth El. The answer revolves around my family: Kim, my wife of 24 years and the one arguably responsible for me standing here right now. Ryan who is a rising junior at Chapel Hill and heading off to Israel on Birthright next week. And Ellie, who is about to graduate high school and will also be headed to Chapel Hill in the fall to start a new chapter in her life. Since we moved to Charlotte 11 years ago, when my kids were in elementary school, we were blessed to be able to literally walk into Temple Beth El and find a Jewish home that was both welcoming and exploding with both learning and enthusiasm. We were direct beneficiaries of all that was built before we arrived: not just the buildings, but more importantly the Community – those that came before us, those whose names are featured on the walls of our buildings, as well as everyone that sits in these very seats. My goal as President is to ensure that the next family who walks in these doors for the first time is greeted with the same opportunities that were offered to us 11 years ago. Of course I can’t do this alone. Thankfully we have a talented and passionate Board of Directors, world class Clergy, awesome and dedicated Staff, a large, committed, and diverse group of Committee and Lay Leaders, and most importantly, a thriving congregation of over 1,200 families.
Together WE will ensure the long-term sustainability of Temple Beth El and provide for our community consistent with our available resources and Jewish values. One of the benefits of being a part of such a large congregation is our ability to serve all of our members. We do a lot here, sometimes on a shoestring. In addition to some of this past year’s highlights summarized in the Annual Meeting booklet, I also want to point out that we educated more than 350 students in our religious school, managed 90 madrichim who commit to spending their Sunday mornings helping our kids learn our traditions, hosted over 600 attendees in our community-wide Comparative Religion series, engaged over 400 congregants in various listening campaigns, and had over 700 congregants participate in various social justice projects representing all ages and stages of our community. In addition to some of these more visible touchpoints, last year our clergy officiated more than 120 life cycle events including weddings, baby namings , conversions, funerals, and related shiva minyanim – all this is on top of 50 B’nei Mitzvahs and our leading our confirmation class. And, as of this morning, our professional team is dealing with over 150 active pastoral issues including hospital visits, counseling, and other challenging life situations.
Although you might not need us today, we are here for you if and when you do. Another reason for accepting this role is my obligation to give back. I will take the liberty of tweaking one of John F. Kennedy’s famous quotes from 1961 and suggest “ask not what your Temple can do for you; ask what you can do for your Temple.” I am fortunate to be in a position to giveback and help lead this congregation for the next 2 years.
Borrowing from Rabbi Zusya, one of the great Chasidic masters, with your help, I hope that I can be the best “Evan President” that I can be and leave this role with a stronger Temple Beth El than it is today. So, after this meeting, if you ever have questions about your Temple Beth El, please reach out to me, anyone on the Executive Committee or Board of Directors, Community of Leaders, or staff members – we will be sure to answer to the best of our abilities.
On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, thank you for your faith and confidence you have in us and may we all be blessed by a vote of at least 7 to 4.