My speech Sunday at Congregation Etz Chayim

I became president of my synagogue Sunday. The votes were counted (very appropriate since California’s primary was the previous Tuesday), I made a speech, and the virtual gavel was passed. Here is what I said to the congregation Sunday.

Dear Congregants,
After this meeting, the board, including the new members you just elected, is going to convene and choose the officers for the year. I’m excited to be working with them. Bart Hechtman is going to be EVP, Art Sklaroff will be Treasurer, and Celia Stern Aufdemberge will be Secretary. Joanne Goldberg continues to advise us as past president. These are great people, and talented. I am going to depend on them to help me do the best for Etz Chayim, since they have strengths that make up for my many personal shortcomings.

July 1 we will have a board meeting offsite, where the board will get to know each other and the heads of the committees that do most of the work around here. I am in the process of planning that offsite meeting now, and suggestions are welcome.
Here are my campaign promises for Etz for the coming year: More transparency, greater involvement and a stronger commitment to the future.
I want to continue to make Etz great.

Because Etz people are great.
Etz is a congregation for people who want to know how things work, who know what things mean, and who like knowledge. They are people who want to participate rather than watch, people who enjoy something more if f they have a contributing role.
They are people like my mother in law.
She was the caterer for most of the manager’s meetings Commodore Business Machines had. She had to be. They were held in her house. She would lay out a noontime meal for 30 people on a days notice, sometimes less. It was usually deli, she didn’t KILL herself, but it was nicely presented. And she made Shabbat dinner for her boys every week she could.
I have the china to prove it.
Many of you know that Commodore produced the best selling computer in history, the Commodore 64. But before that, for years, the company bumped along. Then things clicked, and Commodore stock started going up a lot . A LOT. fast. If you want more details, talk to my husband—I tried to find a price chart this morning, but couldn’t. But he knows.
Anyway, when Commodore stock became worth a lot, and the company got so international they got a private plane, my mother in law stopped fixing lunch for for the managers.
But she kept on cooking for the family. One day, when one of the managers came in to her house on a Friday afternoon, he found her cooking dinner. All of them had stock, so all of them followed Commodore prices. This manager said to her “you have so much money, why don’t you hire someone to cook for you?” and she said. “Listen, the money is in the bank, not in my head.” There are things, she told me, too important to give to hired help.

My in-laws started out in the US, in a cold water walk up on the lower east side of NY. That was a poor neighborhood back then. My mother-in-law said they were never poor, just short of money.
This agreed with my OWN father’s philosophy, which he taught me: If you have two cents more than you need, you are rich.

Call it European, call it old fashioned, my father and my in laws, who are survivors, love to DO. People who can do things, and keep doing what they can do because they love it that they can do something.

And that is what I think Etz people are, people who like to DO more than they like to HAVE.
They like to make the music, instead of just listening to it.
So here is my vision for us:

We continue to be, independent, and liberal, and proud.

Proud to believe in science. Proud to believe in co existing with the rest of the world. Proud to know the difference between the laws of Nature and the laws of Man. Proud to be Jewish, without being religious. Happy to learn more about Jewishness, without being enslaved by it. Happy to be able to do what needs doing .
I was going to end with a quote from Rebecca Goldstein, who is one of the smartest people I know, but I’m going to end here, and publish our correspondence in the next issue of Connections, our newsletter, which comes out July 1.

Thank you for this honor.

About Onecakebaker

Author of a memoir called The Girl On the Wall, and working on a novel. Former Synagogue president, gardener, empty nester. Raising bees.
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