Strengthening the Pillars of our Congregation by Rabbi Asher Knight

In late April, Laura Bernstein and I sent a note to the congregation explaining that we were undertaking a reorganization of our systems, procedures and staffing. Retirements of key personnel, including Cantor Bernard and Steve Rosenauer, were concurrent with our lay leadership’s encouragement to realign the staff model to better realize Temple’s mission, vision, and priorities.

Our congregation has seen significant transition in the last two years. Change can be difficult especially given long-standing relationships. Your team of lay leaders, clergy and staff are working hard to guide the congregation through the transitions. I liken this transition to changing the tires on a bus while the bus is moving. We are making the changes with a strong grounding in Jewish values, respect and integrity for all involved, and in the best interest of our congregation. We are committed to living with kindness, honesty, compassion and fairness to all. Most of all, we appreciate your patience.

Over the past eleven months, I have met with congregants in large, small, and individual settings. In nearly every encounter, I have asked a similar question: What does Temple Beth El mean to you? It has long been true that there are many pathways to involvement at Temple Beth El. People enter through S.P.I.C.E., The Porch, our stellar Religious School, and clergy officiated lifecycles.  Others work to repair our world by volunteering in Temple’s many projects or advocacy efforts. Many people regularly participate in prayer and study.

We need clergy when facing pain and loss, and appreciate their presence in joyous lifecycle celebrations. We want friendships that help us share in the joy of Shabbat, holidays, and the rhythms of Jewish time and life. Regardless of doorways of entry, we believe the Temple Beth El community to be built on six pillars:

  • We learn together: mindful Jewish learning and the pursuit of wisdom.
  • We pray together: personal spiritual practices and inspiring communal worship that uplifts the soul and connects to God.
  • We act together: ongoing significant acts of loving kindness and world repair.
  • We play together: fun in social settings where we can relax, laugh, and be ourselves.
  • We care for each other: value and support one another in times of joy and sorrow, well connected to Jews in Charlotte, Israel, and across the world.
  • We are accountable to each other: shared leadership making sound decisions that serve our best interests, reflect shared values, and uphold our mission.

In truth, each pillar intersects and connects to the others. Lifelong learning can create community. A strong community increases our ability to care for one another and the vulnerable in our city. Acts of justice can be an expression of spiritual life. A deep spiritual life enlivens our communal observance of Shabbat and the holidays. Experiencing community in smaller social settings helps us feel more comfortable in our worship spaces.

Supporting all of our work are Temple operations. We want to make sure our congregation is financially sound and sustainable for generations to come.  From the most mundane to the most holy, our operations reflect our values and uphold our mission. We want Temple Beth El to help us develop relationships, cultivate Jewish meaning, inspire personal growth, so we can transform ourselves, our community, and the world.

Many members engage in one area, while others engage in multiple areas. And still others are trying to find their path. If Jewish learning is your thing, we want you to explore how learning reverberates in our prayer lives. If Tikkun Olam gets you up in the morning, we want to help deepen your action with meaningful learning. If you seek out the truths in your own soul during our services, we want you to connect with the needs of Jews here in Charlotte, Israel, and across the world.

In this spirit, we are aligning our staff and lay leadership to Temple’s important work. In the coming weeks and months, we will be adding a controller to help us with our financial management; a Director of Congregational Engagement whose focus will be to help weave a strong social fabric and substantive relational culture of people-to-people connections in everything we do; a lead administrative assistant who will help us organize our pastoral responsiveness; and music instrumentalists and a b’nei mitzvah tutor to ensure continued strength of our worship and B’nei Mitzvah training.

In some cases, we have realigned existing staff positions to focus on membership services, financial development, and communications that foster connections within the Temple community and beyond. In addition, we are working with our lay leaders to align our governance and staffing to create a shared vision of our mission and engagement efforts. These changes will put us in a position to strengthen our community upon the six pillars.

All of these efforts reflect a commitment to developing and nurturing relationships among lay leaders, clergy and staff that encourage innovative thinking, unlock individual and collective potential, utilize the sacred teachings and values of our Jewish tradition, elevate us to connect with the Divine, and realize our shared responsibilities to a dynamic world. As always, we welcome your comments and support.