Before I begin any speech like this one, where I am going to reprimand and admonish the congregation members, I usually begin by saying, Prepare to Duck! However, since the attendance at our Congregational Meeting was low, and since I feel that the entire congregation needed to hear it, I’ve asked it to be put into the Congregational Bulletin. Here are my remarks for my Rabbi’s Report:::
Yesterday, I was wondering what in the world I should be talking about as my Rabbi’s report for this congregational meeting. I was wondering, of course, until I was sitting at the Kiddush Luncheon with a few people and the topic came around to gratitude and to saying ‘thank you,’ and how absent it is in our society. Sharon Rosenthal was talking about saying thank you, and showing one’s gratitude to those who rarely hear it, and, well, at the risk of repeating myself, because I know I speak on this every so often, it has been on my mind a lot lately, and so I want to speak to it again. Because it is detrimentally missing here at Shaar Hashalom.
In that conversation, I said, and I will say it here again, Saying thank you is a way of not only showing one’s appreciation for something, it is also a way of saying that one hopes that it is repeated, that the act is done again. Thank you, means I appreciate what you did, and also please do it again!
But Sharon was right, there are not enough expressions of thank you and of appreciation in our world, and that is unfortunately especially true at our congregation, and so many people do so much at our congregation and for very little, if any recognition. They see a need, they fill that need, and then go on to the next need they recognize.
And that is great, Thank Gd they do, but also thank them that they do.
Now, believe it or not, since my point is NOT to have me say thank you to them now individually or collectively, but rather to have YOU to say thank you to them individually over the next year, I am not going to name anyone. I am saying this, here and now, as my report, because I see it as a severe lack in our congregation. It is a common complaint I hear from an awful lot of people. So I am speaking of it now.
Yes, every year we have a Congregant of the Year award that is given to worthy people or to a worthy person, but I am quite sure that there are those who are sitting in the pews every Rosh Hashanah, who want their names to be read.
They believe, and rightly so, that they deserve such an award, but not everyone who should win can win, and they are disappointed that, once again, they think their work goes unnoticed, because people here at Shaar Hashalom do not say thank you enough!
Or at all.
Do you know the definition, or one of them, for burnout? It is how someone feels when one no longer gets out of doing something, what used to spur them to do it. So, they ask, why am I doing this? And they begin to stop doing it. Burnout in small congregations is so common, because the same people get called on to do the work, but if they rarely get a pat on the back, a simple thank you, they burn out, and the synagogue stops.
People once active in our congregation are no longer active because of burnout, at least in some cases,and a part of that burnout is the feeling that their enormous work was simply not appreciated. Which is a real sad shame. And I have news for you, it is a sad shame for every one of us.
Lets start with the Board, but remember I am not naming names, they all deserve our verbal thanks and our gratitude.
As I tell them, if they ask me if they should keep their position on the board, There is no lengthy line of people waiting to take their position. Which is too bad, they need relief, and new blood on the board brings new ideas, new ideas that may not IMMEDIATELY be tried, but, you know, actually, with a little patience, our board is pretty good at trying them, eventually.
But the people on our board, All Of Them, do so much for our congregation and rarely do they get to hear any appreciation from members, although I am quite sure they do hear the complaints. You know who they are, you are going to hear from them or most of them today, not just with applause, but when you see them doing something for or synagogue, which means for YOU, over the next long while, tell them thanks!
As a matter of fact, my whole point is whenever you see ANYONE doing anything for you, you should be saying thanks, and that goes for anyone in your synagogue as well.
But I am not only talking about the board.
I am speaking of anyone and everyone who does things for the congregation. And it does not have to be tangible. It does not have to be something whose effect is obvious.
For example, By and large, our congregation does have a good reputation for being warm and inviting and accepting.
Why? Because there are those of us, here, who warmly greet someone new to our building, those who have come here for whatever reason, and someone in our congregation has gone out of their way to make them feel warmly welcome. Thank you to all those of you who do this. More of you when you are here, should. And maybe as your rabbi, I should say you should be here more often, so that you Can be warmly welcoming.
There are plenty of activities that take place at our congregation. Every Shabbat, when someone on the board reads the announcements, and thank you board members for reading them, there is usually a laundry list of things going on over the coming few weeks. But every one of those things are put on because someone works, and I mean works, to make them happen.
Help them, and when you enjoy these things, these activities, tell the individuals who worked on it, thank you for all their work in making those things happen, and, by the way, thank you to all of you who have made them happen.
And once you have said thank you, then turn around and ask them to call on you for the next time for help, so it can happen again.
And again and again.
You know that pitching in is a great way to show your appreciation to those who are doing something. Pitching in is also a way of saying thank you, a way of saying I want it to happen again.
Our congregation, YOUR congregation, has a lot of unsung heroes, but people do not always need to have songs sung about them (especially if sung by me). A simple thank you can go a long way. And it is a lack in our congregation. Nothing happens here without someone doing a lot of work, to make it happen, and our mouths should be as full of appreciation for their work, as our mouths are full of complaints for it not happening the way we would like to see it being done or as fast as we would like to have seen it happen. All I am asking is that you be aware of this, and go out of your way, every time, to show your appreciation.
Finally, there is One more thing, I must add.
Thank you, all, for giving me the privilege of being your rabbi.
Respectfully submitted and with love,
Rabbi Stuart Federow