All posts by editor

President’s Message



A strong board of trustees in an essential element of a successful non-profit organization, and we are no exception. Even in the best of times, officers and trustees need to be engaged in both the short and long-term issues that impact their organization. And, when facing a crisis, it is all the more important for them to focus on the problems at hand, ask the hard questions, and be willing to make difficult decisions.

Over the past year, each and every member of the CBHT Board of Trustees has dedicated their time and attention to the success of our temple. They have tackled difficult issues and worked collaboratively toward solutions as we realized the extent of our financial problems. I hope you will join me in thanking them for their tremendous efforts. The progress we’ve made has everything to do with their commitment.

I want to especially thank Sabrina Rockoff, the only trustee who has cycled off the board for this year. Sabrina consistently contributed thoughtful advice, both legal and otherwise, and always with the best interests of our congregation in mind. We will all miss her frank and honest conversations, and her humor!

As we embark on this new year, with its own set of challenges, I am so grateful to welcome two new trustees who I know will enrich our organization. They are Raymond Capelouto and Lee Goldberg.

Raymond and his wife of 35 years, Wendy, moved to Asheville part time in 2016 and full time just this month. Raymond was the president of Temple Israel in Tallahassee, and served on the URJ board, including in the role of Vice Chair of the Camping Committee, for sixteen years. He and Wendy love Asheville, including how welcoming the temple has made them feel. He feels his experience will help him bring a big-picture perspective to the issues before the board. He has served on other non-profit boards, including as the Chairman of the board of their local hospice, and has learned the importance of thinking about how short-term decisions impact the long term well-being of an organization.

Lee Goldberg, who is our new assistant treasurer, is also new to Asheville. He and his wife, Robyn, moved here just a year ago, from North Miami Beach, Florida. When you ask Lee about his involvement at his old temple, Temple Sinai of North Dade, the first thing he tells you is that he blew the shofar on Rosh Hashanah for eight years. He also served on search committees for their cantor and executive director, the finance and security committees, and chaired the campus and facilities committee. He was a member of the board of trustees for four years and became their 2nd vice president before he relocated here. He also serves on the Insurance Advisory Committee of the URJ. Lee’s goal is to always leave a place better than he found it. He is honored to be a part of the leadership of what he thinks of as an historic Jewish community, where it is his goal, with Larry Weiss and the finance committee, to identify any and all possible ways to achieve and maintain a balanced budget and to create a financial plan that will sustain our temple for future generations.

Please join me in welcoming Raymond and Lee. They, along with the rest of us on your Board of Trustees, are looking forward to bringing their knowledge, experience and enthusiasm for sustaining our precious temple community.

As always, please feel free to give me a call or drop me a line if you’d like to talk.

My Best, Karen
Email: president@bethhatephila.org

Between You and Me



You may remember the NPR audio series called This I Believe that aired a decade ago. They were short, personal essays written by various guests about a core conviction borne from an impactful life experience. I will never forget one called, “Always Go to the Funeral.” In it, the author recalled how her father insisted on taking her to funerals throughout her childhood but that what he really meant to teach her was how to show up for things even when she didn’t want to and how to show up for people even when it’s hard.

When I became a rabbi, I signed up for a life of showing up and I can’t think of any more meaningful way to spend my time, even when it’s hard, even when I’m out of gas and don’t think there’s anything left in the tank. Showing up to all of that is both the greatest joy and greatest challenge of my rabbinate because it often isn’t possible to be everywhere I’d like to be and it’s not always clear where I truly need to be. Oftentimes, I am pulled in the direction of urgent matters only to run short of time for the ordinary, but sweet moments of people’s lives as much as I’d like.

Every once in a while, however, the waters part in my otherwise chaotic calendar. In June, after years of friendly invitations, I was finally able to show up at a book share at Pisgah View HeadStart where temple members Marty and Kathryn Mann and Jim Theobald volunteer as members of the Tikkun Olam committee. Every other High Holiday season, Marty invites our congregation to donate children’s books that he distributes to kids who don’t have the resources to enjoy reading in their homes. Each comes with a sticker that says that the book is a gift from their friends at Congregation Beth HaTephila. It’s a beautiful Temple project, but until I showed up, I didn’t realize just how moved I’d be.

I was greeted at the door lovingly by Lorraine, the supervisor of the program. I knew immediately from her smile that these kids were lucky to spend each weekday welcomed by her warmth. As I proceeded into the building, I was introduced in each classroom filled with children, dressed in their best, playing with toys, learning to share and do puzzles and build with blocks. After the tour, a display of books was set up in the common area. Marty took small groups of children one after the other and invited them to choose one book to take home with them. You can imagine how precious the expressions on their excited faces were.
The book share is a special event at Pisgah View HeadStart. But what is truly remarkable is that the kids there know they can count on Mr. and Mrs. Mann and Mr. Theobald. They come to visit them every week. They are a presence in their lives. And they make a difference.

This I believe: each of us has a circle of people we make a habit of showing up for: our partners, our parents, our children, our pets. But life is always beckoning us to stretch and show up for a child, for a sick friend, for a stranger. The only question is, will we?

Deep Jewish Family Roots in Asheville Pave the Future for the Green Family



“Temple Beth HaTephila holds such a significant place in our family history that we both wanted to help continue the tradition of giving and provide an example to our children. We both felt and continue to feel that it is important for this community to have a beautiful and state-of-the-art center for Jewish worship and education.”   Darren and Marissa Green

Hailing from St Petersburg and Maitland, Florida, Darren and Marissa Green met at a Bar Mitzvah of one of Darren’s cousins in Sarasota, FL in 2000. They were married in 2004 and had their first child Molly in 2007. Moving to Asheville in late 2007. They started a woodworking business called The Old Wood Co., now celebrating its 10th anniversary and joyfully added Judd and Quinn to their family in 2010 and 2013.

We have been members of CBHT since early 2008. We send all of our children to Sunday school and have contributed to the Capital Campaign as well as participate in family services,” adds Darren. Continue reading Deep Jewish Family Roots in Asheville Pave the Future for the Green Family

President’s Message



Last month I had a chance to spend some extra time with our religious school families, teachers and staff at both the May family service and the teacher appreciation ceremony on the last day of religious school.  On both occasions, I was reminded of the amazing effort put forth by our teachers, our madrichim, our musicians, our staff and administration, and our Rabbi to make our children’s and families’ experiences so rich.

On Friday night, the sanctuary was full (literally full!) of families, sometimes three generations deep, who were there to celebrate Shabbat, sing along with Seth and Eitan, and to encourage their children as they led prayers and songs from the bimah.  The joy on the faces of adults and children alike was truly infectious.  But what struck me the most were the teachers.  Whether they were kneeling in the aisle coaching the littlest ones through their song, or directing kids on and off the bimah, or sitting proudly in the pew while the older ones led a prayer, their commitment to our children was palpable.

On Sunday morning, as thank you’s and presents were being handed out, it was again clearly apparent how much our teachers love their students and their work.  As each teacher or madrichim received their award, a roar went up from the kids in their particular class, further expanding their joy.  When Toby Koritsky, our Education Director, thanked the teachers for giving up their Sunday mornings to teach our kids, I was reminded of the many Sundays when I brought my own kids to religious school.  I thanked the teachers for making it easier to get them out of bed and to school on time — they created a learning atmosphere that was worth getting up for!  These teachers continue to create an atmosphere of positive energy that excites and inspires their students.

I had the special honor on Sunday, along with Toby and Rabbi, of recognizing and thanking Debbie Cooper for her incredible efforts as the school’s administrator.  In that role, Debbie has gone above and beyond to make the school run seamlessly, managing countless tasks behind the scenes while making children and parents feel welcome.  Debbie planned to retire last year but offered to stay on one more year to ensure a smooth transition between Lauren’s and Toby’s leadership — another example of her dedication!

As we address our financial issues this year, including seeking ways to manage our expenses, several people have asked me about the religious school.  The concern is usually about the congregation ‘subsidizing’ the cost of the school.  And, it’s a great question.  Religious school fees cover about 70% of the expense of running our school.  We have bumped up tuition by 2% for the coming year and we’ve increased class fees for preschool classes.  The rest of the school’s expenses are covered by a portion of each of our annual commitments.  This support of the school fulfills our sacred responsibility as a congregational family, to instill in our children a Jewish identity and a love for Jewish learning.  It is also consistent with one of the goals of our strategic plan — to enrich the Jewish education of families with children from birth to 18 years.  Watching the children and their parents on that weekend in May reminds me how very fortunate we are to have a school that is fulfilling that responsibility.  Please join me in thanking Toby, Debbie, and all of the teachers and staff for making that possible, and in wishing them a wonderful, well-deserved summer break!

If you’re interested in helping out, by volunteering your time or offering other support to the school, I’m sure that Toby would love to hear from you.

My best,

Karen

 

 

Between You and Me



Two weeks after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February, I accompanied 12 students to the March for our Lives in Raleigh.  Shortly after, one of our teens organized a rally for students here in Asheville.  Inspired by their passion for change, their stories of being afraid at school and a deep conviction that all life is precious, I feel a shared responsibility to keep the issue of gun violence in the forefront of our minds.

I’ve been a rabbi for 22 years and a student of Tae Kwon Do for the last nine.  On the surface, it appears counterintuitive, but the two identities really do complement each other: the discipline, the ritual, the cultivation of awareness and character each demands feeds the other.  I practice mostly because martial arts are mind, body and spirit practices that teach deep respect for others and cultivate the qualities of perseverance, self control, indomitable spirit, integrity and courtesy. Despite having earned a third degree black belt, I’ve often still wondered whether I should rest more easily because I’m better equipped to defend myself.  As a martial artist, I walk taller and more confident when I’m alone at night.  But should I ever be in danger, would my training really be sufficient?

I had a memorable encounter with a visiting 6th degree master instructor early in my practice at a Tae Kwon Do tournament.  “At your skill level, do you feel confident you could defend yourself against anything, even if someone pulled a gun on you?”  I inquired.  His response floored me. “Yes, because I never leave the house without my pistol.”

Guns are a game changer.  Americans are 5% of the world’s population and we own 50% of the world’s guns.  In such an environment, it seems the only credible defense against a gun is another gun.  At the same time, studies are inconclusive whether putting more guns in the hands of good people is a good or a bad approach to gun violence.  Folks who study gun violence think the difficulty or ease with which guns can be acquired has more to do with changing the number of crimes committed with firearms.  In addition, we know painfully well from the school shooting in Florida that the authorities are not responding even when people who have guns are on FBI watchlists.  Addressing the scourge of gun violence has to be comprehensive and decisive.

I believe Parkland revealed to us too late to be prophetic that gun violence is a public health issue.  More than 210,000 students have experienced it at school since Columbine in 1999.  Those students will never be the same.  But I’m glad I am hearing their voices and I will join with them in making Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High be the tragedy that inspires us to do something collectively that will be sane and smart.  We Americans are good at tackling tough issues.  Remember how we radically changed American mores around tobacco, got people to start wearing seat belts and addressed the issue of drunk driving.  And our society is better for it. For all our sakes, now is the time to act on gun violence, too.