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Religious School News – May 2019

A Fond Farewell

This will be my final bulletin article for CBHT. I am writing with a certain amount of sadness, accomplishment and hopes for the future. I have worked with a wonderful group of teachers who have challenged me and risen to the challenge of new programs and approaches to teaching. Rabbi Meiri, Buffy and Craig, the school committee and the board, have supported my work. There have been new activities that I hope have and will become part of the religious school memory and experience even after I have left the school.

I know that the future for the school will be bright for students, teachers and parents under Seth Kellam’s leadership. I know you will go from strength to strength as a new chapter in the life of the school begins.

In a sense, I am not leaving completely. The experiences we have shared and the lessons we have learned together will hopefully stay with all of us. It is my prayer and hope that this will happen. Thank you for the experience of serving the congregation. My gratitude, appreciation and best wishes.


President’s Message – May 2019

As I wrote to you back in March, at the recommendation of the Executive Committee, the Board of Trustees authorized the sale of the property that CBHT owns on Washington Road, behind the playground.  Since then, we had measurements taken to assure that we had enough green space on temple property to meet city requirements, surveyed the parcel of land we were interested in selling, and divided it into three small lots suitable for residential construction.  I am delighted to report that we closed on the sale of that property on April 11th.  All three lots were sold to one private buyer for the price of $425,000.  After commissions, the cost of the survey, and other costs related to the closing, CBHT will net approximately $370,000 from this sale.

Please join me in thanking Tikkun Gottschalk and Larry Weiss for the tremendous amount of work they both put into this process.  They are very dedicated leaders, working on behalf of our temple.

About $280,000 (75%) of this $370,000 must be used to pay down our First Citizens’ mortgage, according to the terms of our mortgage loan.  We have the opportunity to further reduce the balance of our mortgage by using some or all of the remaining 25% of the proceeds.  This will save us money by reducing the amount of interest we pay on the mortgage.  The final amount will be decided at the April meeting of the Board of Trustees, after this article is due.  But, if we use the proceeds from the sale to pay down, for example, $300,000 on the mortgage, we will save more than $44,000 in interest over the next three years (at our current interest rate of 4.8%).

We are so fortunate to be able to make this significant payment toward the balance we owe on the mortgage.  And, after subtracting outstanding pledges and this payment from the sale of the property, we will still owe First Citizens Bank approximately $450,000 (before considering interest) for the construction of our social hall, gallery, and school, as well as renovations.  Selling this piece of property certainly puts us in a better place, but we continue to have a significant amount of money to raise to retire the rest of the debt.  This seems like the perfect time to reflect on how much our new and renovated space adds to our experience at CBHT

Dave Social Hall and the gallery have allowed us to hold so many memorable events in a light-filled, beautiful space.  We host life cycle events, temple community-building events, events for the greater Jewish community, and even pick up a little revenue from renting the space to other organizations.  As someone whose family celebrated one bar mitzvah in the old Unger Hall and one bar mitzvah in the new Dave Hall, I can attest that the new space is a world apart!

The same holds true for our school, including the final build-out that happened only a short time ago.  Those bright classrooms and the communal space and kitchen are such an improvement over our old school.  It’s easy to take it for granted, but it gave us the opportunity to grow and every week to present a welcoming space for our children and teachers.

Our sanctuary got a much-needed face lift, our rabbi and staff got new offices, and we got a library, new restrooms, and a new kitchen.  And an amphitheater! How lucky are we to enjoy Shabbat services outside on a beautiful summer evening, while watching the sun set over the mountains?!

The next time you walk into our temple, I hope that you’ll stop for a second to appreciate how beautiful our space is.  I hope that you’ll reflect on the important role the space plays in making your temple experience meaningful.  On behalf of the Board of Trustees, my thanks go out to everyone who has contributed to the capital campaign to make this space a reality.  If you haven’t contributed to the efforts that made all of this possible, or if you’re inspired to contribute more, I hope you’ll consider doing so.  We still need everyone’s help to retire the remaining debt.  Please reach out to our executive director, Craig, to discuss your contribution.

My Best,

Karen Hyman

President, CBHT

May, 2019


Between You and Me – May 2019

Carpet Story

A story from Iran: When a certain Muslim had been swindled by a Jew in business, the angered party went to the regional governor and prevailed upon him to issue an official edict requiring the conversion of every Jew by a certain date, upon pain of death.

As the deadline approached, the Jewish community was paralyzed with fear.  With two weeks left, the various elders finally buried their long-standing differences and held a solemn conference at the house of the chief rabbi.  After much thought, they agreed to send a delegation to the governor, but had no idea how to persuade him to change his mind.  The rabbi’s wife said, “Leave it to me and my sisters.”

When the time came, the Rabbi’s wife presented the delegation with two enormous silk rugs, woven by the women in the province.  She gave them specific instructions on what to do when they faced the governor.

A few days later the delegation stood trembling before the Governor. “There is nothing that will make me change my mind, but since you are here, what have you to say?”

“We have brought you a gift, as a token of our gratitude for these many long years during which we have been privileged to live quietly and obediently under your powerful protection.”  The governor liked gifts.  The elders had both of the carpets brought in and unfurled at the ruler’s feet.  “On behalf of the Jewish community of this province, we place these two humble offerings before His Excellency, and request that He choose one of them as our tribute.”

Both carpets were broad, plush, tightly woven, and made out of the most exquisite material.  The first one was covered with colorful curving calyxes and designs of gold and green and turquoise, intricately intertwined with whirling waves of purple petunias which spiraled ceaselessly and centripetally towards the median.  The second carpet was red.  That’s all it was.  The whole rug was just one sprawling, solid red mat, from warp to woof, from end to end.  “I should have you all decapitated for such insolence!” said the Governor.  “Do you take me for a fool?  Who in his right mind would not choose the first carpet—and who in full possession of his faculties would choose the second?”

The most senior member of the Jewish delegation stepped forward from amongst his peers and looked the governor straight in the eye.  “The silk rugs are the territories under your benevolent sway.  Today that province is filled with peoples of every imaginable culture and creed and in this way, it resembles the first carpet.  Would Your Excellency, then, exchange the first carpet for the second?”

Which rug, which neighborhood, which country, which world do you want?  At times, even I long for the ease of a plain rug.  It’s just easier to figure out how to make it work in my home.  But the monochromatic rug doesn’t dance in the light or offer my mind the possibility of seeing how green and blue do go together, especially when I’ve convinced myself that they don’t.  However, uniformity is not a worthy aspiration of an enlightened soul because it doesn’t accept the truth that the world by its nature, is and will be, full of dazzling diversity.  True peace and well-being will come when we can find a way to weave every difference into the whole so it finds its unique light.

May , 2019

Between You and Me – April 2019

The Hagaddah does a great job telling the story of the Israelite’s enslavement at the hands of the mighty Pharaoh.  How with an outstretched arm and with signs and wonders, God redeemed us from captivity.

Many of us will reflect at our Seder tables about those who are victims of tyranny today at the hand of modern day Pharaohs: the Syrians at the hand of Assad, the Venezuelans at the hand of Nicolas Maduro, the children who labor illegally in the flower markets in Columbia and Ecuador, the degradation of human beings at the hands of human traffickers of all kinds, the oppression of women all over the world, the slow destruction of planet earth at the hand of humanity.  There is no shortage of victims and violators.

If the Hagaddah reminds us of the tragedy of involuntary enslavement, the Rabbis of the Midrash chose to point out the sin of voluntary enslavement in this story.  They argued that the book of Exodus tells about two enslaved peoples and concludes with the liberation of one of them and the destruction of the other.  The only difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians was that the Egyptians chose to become enslaved to Pharaoh.  “Why were the Egyptians compared to maror?  To teach you that just as the maror, the beginning of which is soft while its end is hard, so were the Egyptians…” (Pesachim 39a).  In other words, the Sages of the Midrash claimed that the Egyptians started out neutral but became complicit with their leader as the Exodus unfolds.  Pharaoh’s xenophobia directed at the Israelites leads him to deploy his own people to do the dirty work of murdering and enslaving them.  The Egyptians, say the rabbis, are guilty of self-enslavement because they followed their despotic leader.  Any moral Egyptian had a choice to walk away from his fellow countrymen and from his leader and be on the right side of history.  According to the Rabbis, some of them realized the error of their ways and did join the Israelites in exile.  The ones who remained, however, even when they saw they were on the verge of ruin, became Pharaoh’s instruments once again in his last ditch effort to salvage his rule, giving chase to the Israelites and meeting their end in the angry sea.

We’d do well to consider the importance of the moral standard the rabbis establish in their Midrashic reading of the Exodus.  It is always hard to stand up against the tide, to speak out when we see our people, our nation going astray.  But the rabbis say the difficulty of the task does not dismiss us from undertaking it.  We are not wholly responsible for everything that happens.  But in those matters in which we can be voices and actors on the right side of history, we are challenged not to enslave ourselves to the Pharaohs out there and be followers of our better angels, a greater Leader, and a truer Truth.

Religious School News – April 2019

Thanking Our Teachers

When I think back, I can still remember the names of most of my elementary school teachers and some of my junior and senior high school teachers.  They made an impression.  They impacted my educational experience and taught me some important values by who they were and how they acted.

This month on Sunday, April 28th we will be honoring our religious school teachers.  If you look up the definition of teaching, it is basic: to impart knowledge or skill.  On a survey defining teaching, people responded:

  • great enthusiasm and interest
  • teaches you how to teach yourself
  • inspires students
  • learns as much as they teach

In Wikipedia, a teacher is defined as someone who helps others to acquire knowledge, competencies or values.   In Pirke Avot, the sayings of the fathers, it says, “Find yourself a teacher and get yourself a fellow student.”

Think back to your best teachers.  Would you like to thank them?  The teachers and madrichim here have made a difference in the lives of their students.  We look forward to the opportunity to thank them

I am proud to say that all of these definitions hold true for the teaching staff at CBHT.  In addition to being wonderful teachers, they are also dedicated teachers, many of whom have been here for many years.

Alcalay has said “Happy the teacher whose pupil thanks him” (her).  This doesn’t always happen, but I urge all parents and students to be here on Sunday, April 28th for Teacher Appreciation.  While it can and should happen at any time, this will be our formal opportunity to thank the teachers and madrichim for helping their students to acquire knowledge, competencies, and values.  Please help us show our teachers and madrichim our appreciation for their efforts and the wonderful results.  See you there!

Toby Koritsky, RJE

Education Director