Shabbat Shalom, my name is Phyllis Nalick. Evelyn Gates and I have been elected to be Co-Presidents of Sisterhood for the next two years. I am honored that Rabbi Meiri allowed me the privilege to speak on Sisterhood this Shabbat evening.
For well over a century, American Jewish women have banded together to form sisterhoods. Over the years, these sisterhoods have labored in several different fields, serving as a vehicle for the expansion of the American synagogue into new areas of activity. American Jewish leaders, inspired by the notion that women were uniquely suited to saving Judaism, the synagogue, or a particular movement from internal or external crises, have looked to Jewish women for salvation.
In response, sisterhoods have served as philanthropic organizations, pursuing a community-oriented vision of uplift of the poor; they have provided innumerable services to their own congregations, raised much-needed funds, maintained religious schools, fostered congregational unity, and sponsored educational programs for adult women and men. They have engaged in national endeavors, aided soldiers during time of war, taken sides in national political debates, and promoted better relations among Americans of all faiths and ethnicities.
Not least, sisterhoods offered Jewish women a place to gather as women and as Jews, to socialize with each other, and to strengthen the bonds that connect them. Even the word “sisterhood” indicates a certain type of relationship that members have always striven for among themselves: a closeness, a sisterliness, a feeling, a bonding.
Congregation Beth HaTephila Sisterhood began in 1902 as “The Jewish Ladies Aid Society”. Those women provided support to the congregation and provided care for the cemetery. Sisterhood has morphed and changed over the years. Today’s Mission Statement reflects “We are the Women of Congregation Beth HaTephila working together to serve our Temple, support our community and enrich our lives through personal growth and friendship”.
We stand on the shoulders of our Sisters from 118 years ago. Our mission has changed yet it has not.
We are not caring for soldiers during a world war but dealing with a pandemic that has changed our lives. At the same time, we are dealing with pent up civil strife that has not been resolved in decades and now has reached a boiling point. We cannot be together in our Temple building to pray or gather. Our lives are no longer recognizable. Yet we persevere and change to meet needs.
We are planning new ways to meet the needs of our Sisterhood women, The Temple and the community. We, are resilient we are resourceful and we are diligent. This year is dedicated to” Sisters Helping Sisters”. We have transformed our dues system so that all women no matter of their ability to pay will have access to membership. We are developing virtual programming for different age groups and interests. We are planning ways to Zoom cooking classes, book club, and Rosh Chodesh. We are working on endeavors that will speak to conscience, heart and mind.
We support our congregation by an annual gift to the Religious School Fund. Several months ago, individual Sisterhood members made an additional donation to the Religious School Fund to honor our Past President’s Henrietta Cuttler and Jo Anne Rosenblum.
Sisterhood provided the Oneg Shabbat for: Slichot, Erev Rosh Hasnanah, Break- Fast and Simchat Torah.
Each Friday Sisterhood sends a spiritual Shabbat message to our members to offer thought, support and hope during these uncertain times. We are also sending that message by mail to women who are isolated and who do not have access to a computer.
Our Social Action Committee has led the charge assisting the community by coordinating donations to support programs for Jewish Family Service, Room at the Inn and Helpmate. To help the most vulnerable of society.
And we have just begun.
When I moved from Houston Texas two years ago. I thought my leadership days were long behind me. I had previously served in multiple leadership roles including Temple President. I also served many roles for the Women of Reform Judaism and was a regional Trustee for the Southwest Council of URJ.
All that ended a decade ago. But the love of Sisterhood with my new vibrant congregation has led me to this role.
Our Sister’s in 1902 were ready for the challenges of their time and we as Sisterhood leaders today also will face our challenges and we will be prepared to do so.
May your Shabbat bring you beauty and peace,