My Dear Community-
I came to TI 4 years ago now, with a seven-year plan in mind. I felt I had one more good piece of work in me. My time here has been amazing and interesting. I am challenged on many levels, in a good way. I feel my main purpose here - embedded in the davening and the administration and the education and the pastoral care and the social justice work - is to effect human development and organizational development.
Human development happens inside me, as I work to stay centered, humble, loving and clear as decisions and inevitable conflicts arise. When I can do that, I earn the label of "spiritual leader" of our community. If I am doing my own work, I can be part of a mechanism for human development for others who are part of our community.
Organizational development occurs when we all, a little more and a little more, bring our insight and an objective estimation of what is best for the community when decisions and inevitable conflicts arise. OD does not happen all at once. Sometimes we have to live with the stretch and discomfort of being in tension, even around issues that seem urgent and about which people have strong feelings. That does not mean we are failing as a community. It means we are growing.
As examples, two issues are in front of us now that have some of this urgency and strong feeling.
We are weighing the importance of decorum during services VS distracting sounds. To be honest, I have only been bothered at the bima once and that was the sound of a frustrated adult! But recently, young families have attended a few services and this question arises. There is not a right or wrong. There is not a good or bad. There is a changing weight of needs and priorities. Since, in this case, I do have the "power of the pulpit," I have asked people to allow me to determine the level of distracting noise during services. (As Mel Brooks would say: It's good to be king). I expect push back and I expect people to continue to shush people. I cannot control that. Neither do I plan to blatantly ignore distracting and inappropriate behavior! Again, there is not a right or wrong. There is not a good or bad. There is a changing weight of needs and priorities.
The second issue around which we are now in a stretch is our response to anti-Semitism and our security efforts. I was in the "life is risky" camp. I am often in the building alone. If there was a violent attack here, I would die as I have lived, in service and faith.
But the moms have a vote. We were asked by a number of families to do due diligence to keep their kids safe and we initiated a policy of locking doors and started a process of self-education around Run-Hide-Fight and other strategies for minimizing risk.
When San Diego happened after Pittsburgh, rabbis in the valley were told that after 2 incidents, there is a risk of copy-cat events. The weight of risk shifted. A team of TI members is studying other measures and the board is digesting their input. As we evolve security measures, I will cooperate because we carry a risk as a public facility, not just as Jews. We will work to reduce risk and harm but we will not hide. We are planning programming at TI and in the town to address anti-Semitism. I am offering my time to meet with Christian congregations to open dialogue and relationships. The first such meeting: "What Do Jews Believe?" will be hosted at Trinity Church in Shelburne Falls, July 14 after worship. You are welcome to attend.
Our numbers, our vibrancy and our programming have increased with steady leadership and support at all levels. Paradoxically, this growth will challenge us all to keep an attitude of generosity, listening and inclusion as decisions and inevitable conflicts arise.