Rosh Hashanah Presentation by Stephen Schlein, Fairmount Temple President

Shana Tova! I am Stephen Schlein, your president of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple.

I want to share with you what inspired me during my first year as president.  It is you, the members of Fairmount. It has happened on many levels, both as individuals and as a community.

The first event I want to talk about was the December 2013 Biennial Convention of the Union for Reform Judaism where I attended a Shabbat morning service in San Diego. Wow! I was so inspired by what our URJ was doing. I was so overwhelmed by the religious experience. To pray with thousands of committed Jews was an experience I was so excited to share with members of my family, my temple and our clergy team.

In addition, there was also a profound learning experience at the Biennial Convention. Everyone was talking about Relational Judaism, a book by Dr. Ron Wolfson. Relational Judaism is a process that we are using at our temple at a board and committee level. It made me realize that we need to expand it to the whole Anshe Chesed community. We are not just 1200 families that have come to pray. Rather we are thousands of individual people in relationship to one another and Judaism. We are working on many levelsto repair our world and make our temple community a warm place to pursue our Jewish values.

The second inspiration was on Sunday night June 1, 2014 I attended an Endowment Event here at Fairmount Temple to Honor Jan and Will Sukenik. Oh what A night! This was very well attended. In fact is was sold out. But it wasn’t just the 400 people. It wasn’t just the two most deserving honorees in the world. What made the event so special was the warm sense of community. You could just go from table to table and everyone was so friendly. We were all meeting to honor Will and Jan Sukenik, but it just felt so right to me.

It was a great way to show that we care about our congregation, what it has meant to us and our desire to strengthen its future through building an endowment that will sustain our efforts and the fulfillment of our mission. I felt that we were a community of loving kindness, a Fairmount Temple that is an Anshe Chesed.

The third was On Friday July 11, I attended a Friday night service at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple. This, too, was a very well attended event. It was our wonderful Kabbalat Shabbat outdoor service. I was so impressed by our speaker, Dr. Chad Deal, a member of our congregation, who I learned was not born Jewish.

His talk at services honored the conversion process he undertook with the guidance of our clergy team and with the support of his family and friends in our community. I was so inspired by his speech. It seems that Chad Deal came to tell the congregation about the history of his conversion to Judaism. I was so impressed on how his journey to find himself led him to this commitment. I had never spent so much time thinking about my Judaism as he did about his. He came from a deeply religious family, and over time found more meaning to him in Judaism than Protestantism. It also surprised me that his family did not know he was going through this process until he was almost done. This was a gift for them. And what a gift for the Fairmount Temple community. For us to be the kind of place that a person can take time, grow their knowledge and commitment, and participate in the community. He chose Judaism as a convert, as a parent or grandparent of Jewish kids, or as someone who cares about our meaningful work of building a caring, active, relational community.

My next inspiration was on Friday August I, I attended a Friday night service at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple. This too was a very well attended service of more than 200 people who came together to pray and listen to Adam Yasinow the recently elected chair of the board of our Fairmount Young Professionals. Adam, who is 26 years old, gave a speech titled “If Not Now, When? A Young Clevelander’s Perspective on Living Jewishly and Exploring Israel.”

I was deeply moved by what he said. I was amazed by his personal commitment to the Jewish people and to Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple and, that he learned these values while he was a student at our religious school. I learned how he went to Israel, the people he met and how our Temple made it happen. Ultimately, I feel better about the future of the Jewish people and our congregation in the hands of leaders like Adam.

Finally, In the September Fairmount Temple Bulletin I read an article. This was an article about a program we are offering. A program that was developed by a member of our Temple. She thought she had something that would be meaningful to our members and wanted to share it. Sherry Simon whose family has been connected to the congregation for many years is doing a four session workshop to teach us how to leave a legacy to our children. She is teaching those who attend how to prepare and write a personal life history for their family. How amazing is it that Sherry is showing congregants how to leave a gift to their family for generations to come? What a gift for the families of Anshe Chesed, what an act of loving kindness!

These are just a few of the many experiences I witnessed.

At the Dan Nichols Selichot service last Saturday night, when at least 300 people participated in an awe inspiring event, a congregant said to me, “If you don’t think something special is going on here, you are missing the point!” I could not agree more.

This has been a wonderful, exciting and inspiring year for me as President of Fairmount Temple. If you participate with me, your officers, your board, your clergy and the many other leaders of our congregation, you too can get this feeling. I encourage you to grow your connections here at our temple, to participate in one of our programs, to share your ideas, your voice, your relationships, your time and your gifts to support our synagogue.

Everyone can do something – be it the creation of or strengthening of your gifts to our Friends of Fairmount, our Endowment, or other special fundraisers. Or volunteering your time to various temple committees, your presence to our community kitchen, or our Greater Cleveland Congregations social action efforts, or simply showing up to be inspired as I have done so often at Shabbat and holiday services.

I wish you all good health, peace and happiness in the New Year.