President – October 2016


Around this time last year and under a similar headline, I welcomed Rabbi Susan Elkodsi to our Malverne Jewish Center family and discussed how Rabbi Elkodsi was what we so critically needed, not only to get our congregation on a path back to the vibrant and energetic congregation we were not that long ago, but to also be the kind of congregation that has adapted to today’s world of organized religion and spiritual practice. I spoke about my feeling of optimism about our future and how excited I was about this new stage in the life of our shul.

Looking back to last year’s article, it became obvious how I understated what was to occur over the coming year. Under Rabbi Elkodsi’s leadership and the hard work of our congregants, we’ve become a force to be reckoned with in terms of community outreach and involvement, exciting and relevant programs designed for a spectrum of religious observance and for meaningful and enriching religious services. Our programs are attracting the affiliated and non-affiliated from beyond our zip code who are looking for something more than they feel they’ve been receiving from their Jewishness, or who want to learn more about the religion they were born to but never really practiced beyond the magic age of 12 or 13, or who are just looking for some Jewish companionship.

For these reasons, MJC is becoming the place to go for the brand of Jewish practice and Jewish approaches to everyday life that people are looking for. That, my fellow congregants, will be the road to our rebirth and growth as a congregation at a time when Pew tells us that organized religion is struggling to maintain its relevancy and role in the everyday lives of its followers.

As much success as we’ve had this past year, there are challenges which lie ahead; challenges which, if not dealt with, could easily derail our continued success and progress. I’ve spoken before about the need to truly define our shul in terms of our vision for its future and what we see as our mission as a congregation to each other and to the Jewish community at large. What is the role of the Malverne Jewish Center? Is it a place where people come to daven or should we be more, playing a leadership role in the Jewish community? These and similar soul-searching questions will need to be answered as we go forward and will be addressed as part of a strategic planning process that will begin after the High Holidays.

Another challenge we will be facing, which depends greatly on how we define our future, is the renewal of our lease or the possible physical relocation of our shul. As you know, our lease with the Bridge Church expires in 2020. While the Church had initially told us that they did not plan to renew the lease, requiring more space for their own use, they subsequently changed their position and advised us that they would be willing to discuss renewal. Talks are presently in progress and while we are far apart on the terms of a new lease, I am hopeful that we will reach an agreement on what will be so important to our long-term longevity.

While a new long-term lease renewal or some variation thereof is important to the life of our congregation, what is just as critical is knowing who we are and how we will approach the future. The insular approach of the past will no longer serve us as we try to grow our numbers and play a leadership role in the Jewish community, running programs like Life Matters and Chai Mitzvah. With Rabbi Elkodsi at the helm, we are experiencing a reincarnation of sorts. This is, as they say, a fork in the road for us, where we have an opportunity to take the path which will assure our longevity as a congregation.

While the renewal of our lease is an important component in assuring that longevity, it is not as important as our continued commitment to our shul and to each other. That path entails not only attending services but actively participating in the planning and conduct of our programs as well. And as always, it requires being there and providing support for each other. That has always been the MJC of the past and it must be a part of our culture in the future.

With the New Year just around the corner, it has become traditional that I report to you on the past year. This year was one in which we continued our programs and rolled out a host of new ones. Our Lunch & Learn Series has produced some really enjoyable entertainment and has developed some dedicated audiences, all thanks to the efforts of Gloria Berger and Jaci Bernstein. Our MJC Film Series has been attracting audiences with a diversity of movies in both theme and language, all followed by very interesting and provocative discussions led by Mildred Castleman. Sue Dropkin’s Book Club continued to offer not only good selections, but a group of friends with which to discuss the current selection, including sharing your thoughts on what you liked and what you weren’t so crazy about.

Finally, let’s not forget the well-deserved honors Gloria Berger received at this year’s UJA-Federation/ Malverne Jewish Center annual brunch, which was also attended by NYS Senator Todd Kaminsky to extend his own personal mazel tov.

Rabbi Elkodsi introduced new, innovative and enriching programs designed for both our congregants and to attract attendees from the community at large. The Life Matters program installments have featured renowned speakers on interesting and relevant topics. Chai Mitzvah, a nine-month group learning program that will focus on real life issues, recently had its introduction. The Big Tent Judaism initiative allowed us to taste different kinds of honey and will introduce us to a variety of olive oils in December. And let’s not forget the success of our monthly Shabbat dinners and the programs held jointly with area synagogues.

On the dollars and cents side, our financial position remains sound and we continued to take the steps necessary to assure that it remains that way. Our budget process is strong and we should feel comfortable that it would stand up to even the most extreme outside scrutiny. Our Board of Trustees reviews budget variances, financial projections and investment results monthly, assuring transparency and appropriate oversight.

I’d like to conclude this message on the high note that I began it by saying that with your help and participation, I see a good year and an exciting future ahead for the Malverne Jewish Center. But as always, our ultimate success depends on you and your continued commitment to our shul.

Emilee and I would like to wish you and your family a New Year filled with only good things. I look forward to seeing you at High Holiday services and at our services and other events throughout the year.

L’ Shana Tova.
Dave Feldman, President