President’s High Holy Day Message by Evan Wilkoff

What I am so honored and privileged to see in front of me today is a large cross section of the Charlotte Jewish community: young and young at heart, those of you born as Jews, married to Jews and raising Jewish children, converted to Judaism, living in an interfaith home, and individuals exploring what it means to live a Jewish life.

The interesting thing about this home for almost 4,000 people is that Temple Beth El is a place that offers so much by, and for so many people.  Some people ask me, what do you do over there?  We do a lot.

We Learn Together:  Not only do we educate more than 300 children in our religious school who come from 71 different schools in 21 different zip codes, we also manage 100 madrichim who commit to spending their Sunday mornings helping our kids learn our traditions and their Wednesday nights learning in our Hebrew High.  In addition, we have a robust adult education program led by our outstanding clergy and passionate congregants because we believe that lifelong Jewish education and the pursuit of Jewish wisdom helps us to bring the values of Judaism to our daily lives.

We Pray Together:  Whether it be the High Holy Days or weekly Shabbat or festival worship, our clergy, musicians, teen band, vocal ensemble and choir help us create a “time out” from the chaotic hustle of daily life. Our clergy create worship experiences that helps us to uplift our souls.  For Temple Beth El, prayer is a time for celebration, tranquility, and individual reflection. Our customs encourage us to worship together alongside fellow Jews. We don’t face life alone.

We Act Together:  Temple Beth El has long been committed to Tikkun Olam. Our congregation is integral to the greater Charlotte community. This last year our congregation’s leaders listened to the diversity of hundreds of members in our congregation as we learned about and discussed the challenges around racial justice.  Our Tzedek Council is building teams of members to work with interfaith partners across lines of difference, and with area non-profits to help make our city better.  I’m proud that hundreds of congregants are participating in Temple’s social justice projects as we help people in need and do the hard work of world repair.

We Play Together:  From Porch get togethers at some of Charlotte’s finest brewpubs, going on hiking outings, group outings to Top Golf and Knights games, or even discussing biblical ghost stories while sampling some of the south’s finest bourbons, we as a community also take the time to play together – enjoying the pleasures of life alongside each other.  On October 23rd, we will hold our Baby Boomer/Empty Nester TriBE Launch Party to kick off our Small Groups initiative at Temple Beth El.  TriBEs are about creating authentic relationships and deep connections where congregants are in the driver’s seat and an active stakeholder in their own Jewish journey so they feel intimately connected to each other and our community.  Over 40 Small Group Leaders have trained to lead a TriBE around shared affinities, interests, or neighborhoods.  We want you to find your TriBE – Find your people.

We Care for Each Other:  We are a community that cares.  As of this morning, our professional team is dealing with over 150 active pastoral issues including hospital visits, deaths, counseling, and other challenging life situations. We open our doors to all. Our community, lay leadership and staff work hard to support congregants through all the oys and joys of life.

We are Accountable to Each Other:  We believe that each person is valued and has unique contributions. As your Temple President, I’m proud that our community of leaders and Board of Directors are making sound (and sometimes unpopular) decisions that serve our best interests, reflect shared Reform Jewish values, and uphold our mission.

12 years ago my family and I moved to Charlotte. We were amazed by what was built before we came and awestruck by everything that Temple Beth El meant to the Charlotte Jewish community.  This didn’t happen by accident.  This happened because of the support and action of all of the members who came before us.  Thankfully we were able to root ourselves and educate our children here and made many impactful friendships.  We participated in and witnessed a community that supported one another through illness and deaths, we danced at b’nei mitzvah, we learned alongside each other and celebrated the seasons and cycles of Jewish life.

This is why Kim and I support Temple, and it’s why I believe supporting Temple is so important.  Whether you choose to walk into this building once a year or find yourself engaged and connected to our community multiple times each week, please know that we will be here for you every day of the year. We provide a safe space to play, learn, pray and to connect to others.

This is why we must invest in supporting the congregation in both the near-term and the long-term.  Our annual “sacred gifts” help to pay for our world class clergy and phenomenal staff, maintain this beautiful building, and support our religious school including scholarships for those less fortunate.  In the long-term, a strong endowment will relieve the reliance on annual giving, especially in an economic downturn.  With a larger endowment we can add clergy and staff to appropriate levels.  With a proper endowment, we can not only repair our building but also make improvements.  We can continue to add opportunities to enhance the lives of our members, help create deeper connections, and make a positive lasting impact on our world. A strong endowment is a gift to those who come after us – it helps provide stability for future generations of Jews in our community and our world.

Thanks to the generosity of our congregation, over the last two years annual giving has increased over 5 percent each year. I love our community – when we ask, you respond.  For that reason, this year our Board of Directors will be working hard with the Development Committee on strengthening our endowment, through direct requests and legacy pledges.  In just a few months we will also hire a new Executive Director who will work alongside our board, clergy, and staff to help us make a vibrant and sustainable Temple Beth El for years to come.

Thank you for your support, for making Temple Beth El what it is today, and for the privilege of serving as your President of the Board of Directors.  It is truly an honor.  Kim and I wish you all a happy and healthy 5779.  L’Shanah Tovah Tikateyvu – May you all be inscribed in the book of life.