Acceptance Speech by Helen Zipes, President of the Board of Directors at the AGM, Kehillat Beth Israel, October 29, 2017
Rabbi Kenter, Rabbi Zuker, Board Members, and fellow congregants,
I am truly honoured and humbled to stand up here this evening as your new President.
My first official act must be to recognize the outgoing Co-Chairs, Lorne Goldstein and Stuart McCarthy and the past Board for the enormous amount of work they have done to bring us to this point in our synagogue’s evolution.
I would also like to acknowledge the rich history and dedication of the founding families of both legacy synagogues and of those that came before. It has been quite the journey to get here. Congregation Beth Shalom itself came to be in 1956 when Ottawa’s oldest orthodox congregations, Adath Jehsurun Congregation and Agudath Achim Congregation, amalgamated and moved to 151 Chapel Street.
Did you know that Adath Jeshurun was actually founded in 1892 and beginning in 1905 occupied the building at 375 King Edward Avenue. Agudath Achim was founded in 1902 and was located at 417 Rideau Street. At the time of this amalgamation the former Adath Jeshurun synagogue building became the Jewish Memorial Chapel or Chevra Kadisha. In 1971, B’nai Jacob congregation, which had been founded in 1911 and located at 54 James Street, also joined Beth Shalom.
Agudath Israel was formally organized in 1936, was chartered in 1938, and represented itself as Conservative. The congregation has always been located west of downtown, first occupying buildings at 17 Fairmont Ave. and 30 Rosemont Ave, and beginning in 1954 at 1400 Coldrey Ave.
So we have a long history which you can see reflected in the beautiful artwork, memorabilia, and windows that now adorn our walls. As I walk by the portraits of past presidents, I appreciate the dedication and vision of our predecessors in planning for the future of this community.
There is a story in the Midrash about an old man who planted a carob tree and was asked by Honi, the Wise one, how many years it will be before the tree bears fruit? When he responded 70 years, he was then asked why he would plant a tree from which he himself would derive no fruit, he replied, “When I was born into this world, I found many carob trees planted by my father and grandfather. Just as they planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children and grandchildren so they will be able to eat the fruit of these trees.”
I firmly believe that we are at a crossroads now. We need to ensure that Conservative Judaism continues to thrive in Ottawa and that we leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. I am passionate about this congregation. As many of you know, I lost my dear Mother, of blessed memory this year and am saying Kaddish for her. I am so thankful for the dedicated group of minyanaires that have made it possible for me to say kaddish, even when I am the only one there reciting it.
It is for these reasons that when I was approached to become President, I accepted readily. The time is now – we cannot say later.
My 3 main goals for the next 2 years are to:
1) Increase member engagement & programming to meet the needs of our diverse community.
2) Develop a plan towards financial stability & fundraising. (at minimum, revenue neutral, income & fundraising cover costs)
3) Identify a vision for KBI & the creation of a strategic plan for the next 5 years for continued growth & success within our community. This includes a building plan that balances our needs, our plans, our goals & our financial realities.
I cannot achieve these goals alone though and I and my new Board will be coming to you, the congregation for guidance, for consultation and for support. We want to hear what is important to you and what some of your ideas and suggestions are for change. I commit to you that we will be as open with you as possible and share as much with you as we can, in a timely fashion.
KBI is a community made up of very talented, committed and dedicated members, volunteers and staff. I am so moved and inspired when I see our lay leaders conducting parts of the service and when congregants chant Haftaroth and read from the Torah. When I see the children come up to the bimah to sing, especially at the end of services, I feel so hopeful for the future.
We have a wonderful opportunity to really create a great shul where all feel welcomed, comfortable and valued and can participate in a meaningful and spiritual way. I truly look forward to the next 2 years. Together we will build a future that is sustainable and relevant.
I am delighted to introduce the new board
Helen Zipes, President
Jane Ehrenworth Shore, 1st Vice President
Jay Amdur, 2nd Vice President
Sam Levine, Treasurer
Jonathan Meijer, Secretary
Kivi Shapiro, Director
Harvey Slack, Director
Jodi Gitter, Director
Judah Silverman, Director
Jenny Roberge, Director
Betsy Rigal, Director
Harland Tanner, Director
Joel Sachs, Director
Victor Rabinovitch, Director
2 Past Presidents, Stuart McCarthy and Lorne Goldstein.