Spring is finally here and with it a time for renewed growth and expectation.

It is our distinct pleasure to welcome Cantor Jason Green and his wife Jodi and their three sons Zev, Noah and Eytan. The Greens have just moved to Ottawa and are settling into their home. Please join us for a congregational Shabbat dinner on May 25th where you will have a chance to meet and greet the family. To make arrangements for this dinner, please call the office at 613-728-3501 or email rena@kehillatbethisrael.com.

Our Board, committees and working groups have been working very hard throughout the winter.  At the end of October at the Annual General Meeting, we made a number of commitments to you to:

1) Increase member engagement and programming to meet the needs of our diverse community;

2) Develop a plan towards financial stability and fundraising; and

3) Identify a vision for KBI and create a strategic plan for the next five years for continued growth and success within our community. This includes a building plan that balances our needs, our goals and our financial realities.

We are pleased to provide a status report:

  • Engagement and Programming: The Membership working group has been meeting regularly and is working on strategies to enhance member engagement and recruitment. We have been developing orientation packages for new members and working to ensure that all members feel welcomed and included at services and when participating in synagogue activities.

Our Programming group was divided into three sections to better meet the needs of our congregants. These are Lifelong Learning (adults), Teens and Youth, and KBI Kids. All three areas have been very active in bringing meaningful and interesting programming to all of our members. One of the most recent adult programs was a presentation by Dr. Avivah Gottleib Zornberg, a renowned Biblical scholar, who spoke on “Becoming Ruth”. This event drew a large crowd from KBI and the rest of the Ottawa community. The film Deliman was the latest in the film series at KBI. There is ongoing bridge and mah-jong during the week. The Teen and Youth working group ran a very successful USY and Kadima Basketball Tournament in April and is planning on how to enhance our youth lounge and make our Kehillah more inviting to this age group. To celebrate Shavuot, our KBI kids will be making cheesecake. As usual, the Tot Shabbat program is attracting large numbers of young families.

The Ritual committee has developed a comprehensive handbook for bar/bat mitzvah families and is tackling issues related to kashrut in our kitchens.

The Tov Team continues to be active on social issues and completed a successful coat drive. Members of their teamwork with the Multifaith Housing Initiative in Barrhaven.

Our Kosher Food Bank serves approximately 100 families and was the beneficiary of the recent Klez Concert benefit. Unfortunately, the need in our community continues to grow for this important service.

  • Financial stability and fundraising: Our Finance and Audit Committee is working hard to review the financial statements and prepare our budget for next year. Our newly formed Investment Advisory subgroup aims to maximize our revenue. Our executive director, Rena Garshowitz, has identified several areas where we can be more efficient and we are also working on these. Having said this, however, the reality is that synagogue fees only cover approximately 60 percent of expenses (this is a United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) statistic that is true for us as well). Our building is not efficient, and we are hoping to be able to refresh and update our facilities, which will ultimately save us money in the long term. There has not been any major fundraising in the last few years and we have formed a Development committee and are beginning to work on a campaign to address this, while still recognizing the financial realities we all face. We are looking to further increase our revenue by exploring all opportunities to rent out our available space and partner with other community agencies, where possible.

To further our commitment to openness and transparency, you will shortly find our upcoming budget, once passed by the Board, on our website.

The Personnel committee has hired our new Cantor and is developing human resource policies for consideration and approval of the Board.

  • Strategic planning: Through previous surveys and town halls, we heard from many of our congregants about what KBI means to them. We will be continuing to solicit feedback and our Strategic Planning committee is planning a series of “Parlour Meetings” to begin in June, to meet with smaller groups of congregants. We want to hear from you directly and to include you in our planning. Stay tuned for these dates and locations.

On the advice of several experts, our Board made the decision to remain in our current location but to look towards renovating our facilities. Despite its age, our building is basically sound and any identified deficiencies will be addressed in order of priority. Our Building committee has already had three architectural firms walk through the building to get ideas on what is possible in terms of refreshment and updating. There are some exciting possibilities in store for us and the congregation will have the opportunity to be involved in this process as it evolves.

The Governance committee introduced Operating Policy #7, which was passed by the Board in April. This important policy lays out the governance model for how we function as a Board. It clearly delineates the roles of the Board members, the Officers, the Executive Director and staff, and our committee structure. It too will be posted on our website.

The Nominating Committee will begin the process of assessing Board member vacancies and look to identify members with the capabilities and skill sets required to round out our Board. If you are interested in serving on our Board, please contact Helen Zipes at president@kehillatbethisrael.com.

The Information Technology workgroup is making the transition to our new and improved office operating program called Shulcloud. This process is taking a little longer than expected, as the data that was available from both legacy synagogues was not reliable. Once implemented, however, it will significantly improve the efficiency of the office. Members are already able to make donations online and we strongly encourage congregants to make use of this function as it saves the synagogue money and time. You are still able to personalize your message and designate your donation if you wish.

The Communication and Marketing committee is working on strategy and policy options for communication to present to the Board.

Our representatives on Jewish Memorial Garden, the Vaad Ha’Kashrut and Mercaz continue to work on our behalf to ensure our current and future needs and concerns are met and addressed.

As always, we welcome our members’ feedback and ideas to improve our operations. We are continuously improving and evolving. We have an outstanding clergy and staff team and a wonderful contingent of volunteers who are working tirelessly to help build Kehillat Beth Israel. We believe, however, that it is everyone’s responsibility to help make us the most progressive, welcoming and friendly egalitarian conservative synagogue in the region. Please make it your business to go up to new people in synagogue and introduce yourselves and invite them to join you in synagogue and at your table at Kiddush.

The Board