April 12, 2024 -

We Have So Much To Be Proud of This Year!

At our Erev Rosh Hashanah,  September 15, 2023, Fairmount Temple Board President Michele Krantz shared some words of appreciation and updates on our exploration talks with The Temple-Tifereth Israel:

At Fairmount, as in many reform congregations, it is tradition for the President of the congregation to make a speech at Rosh Hashanah. In fact, the Union for Reform Judaism actually has webinars to give ideas to presidents who don’t know what to talk about. This year I didn’t need to attend! 

Our congregation has so much to be proud of this year.   We began last year with the first in-person High Holiday services in three years and temple continued strong all year.   We had such meaningful work by so many including our Caring Community committee, our newly formed art committee,  our Greater Cleveland Congregations core team, and our congregants organizing to protect reproductive freedom.   We had multiple educational opportunities, concerts, and meaningful worship offerings.   We hosted the American Jewish Community Interfaith Seder, attended by hundreds and led by Rabbi Mulhlbaum and Cantor Lapin.   And after the April 13 fire at Fairmount Temple. we quickly pivoted, adjusting our locations for worship and other activities but not stopping from being the vibrant congregation that we are.     

It is from this position of strength that we now together consider potential unification with The Temple-Tifereth Israel.   I want to share with you some of my own personal journey in this exploration process.  

I became president of Fairmount about a year ago, on July 1, 2022.   Right around that time I was invited to attend a small meeting of past presidents and other leaders of Fairmount and Tifereth, who were also friends and who had started talking about good reasons for the temples to explore a deeper relationship, to consider unifying.  They wanted to see if there was appetite amongst the congregations to consider this. 

I was really nervous to attend this meeting.   I had been president for about five minutes, most of the people attending I knew barely or not at all, and I just didn’t know what to expect.   I left that meeting two hours later, feeling excited and inspired.   I didn’t say much there, wanting to hear from these congregational leaders.   There was none of “my temple this” or “our congregation that”.   Instead, all of these leaders spoke about the potential for unifying as a way to achieve a vision – a vision of a strong reform Jewish congregation that meets the needs of current members but also, by sharing resources, could invest in innovative education and unique programming, and examine ways to reduce barriers to participation particularly for younger members in ways that we couldn’t do alone.   In the words of our past president Ed Weintraub, the goal is not to survive, but to thrive.   And it is this overarching vision that has guided the exploration process to date.   

This entire process exploration has been led by members, like you and me.   Both exploration teams, from Fairmount and Tifereth, were composed of dedicated members – officers, past presidents, past president award winners,  many from families who have been at their congregation for generations.   Our exploration team, led by Julie Raskind, are all members who love Fairmount Temple  – and are also motivated by a vision for the future.    

As exciting as this possibility was, I would have personally been hesitant to engage in this without the support of our clergy.  We spoke to Rabbi Nosanchuk and the rest of our clergy early on, way before any principles of alignment were written, and we asked what they thought about embarking on this process.   All of them said they wanted what was best for our congregation, they could see the potential, and asked how they could help.  From everything I have learned, the Tifereth clergy felt the same way.   I can’t think of another project I have been  involved in with this many people that had such singularity of purpose. 

And now we are at the point to expand consideration of this idea with all of you.   I hope you will attend one of the town hall meetings.   I guarantee we will NOT have the answer to every question!  But this will be a process where we get questions, feed information back to the membership,  and so on.   Some of the questions will be big picture — and some will be very specific to you or your family. All of these questions are important.  I really look forward to connecting with you over these High Holidays, as we think about the kind of people we want to be in the coming year, and also about the kind of congregation we want to be in the future.  

Also, I want to mention that we are starting a Leadership Development program.   We were going to do this anyway, independent of the Tifereth discussions.  But what an opportune time to get involved in temple and potentially help build the vision for the future.   Please let me or Rabbi Muhlbaum know if you are interested in getting involved in this leadership development program and help us build for the future.    

While I know we miss our own sanctuary, how fortunate we are to be in beautiful Severance Hall to celebrate the High Holidays and hear these ancient prayers chanted by our own Cantor Lapin.   Thank you to our wonderful staff, led by our Executive Director Julianna Senturia, for your hard work all year and for making these High Holiday services possible.   

I also want to thank our clergy, Rabbi Nosanchuk, Rabbi Caruso, Rabbi Muhlbaum, Cantor Lapin and Cantor Laureate Sager.  You lift us up spiritually, care for us, and model how to live our values every day. 

I am grateful to serve alongside a dedicated executive committee and board of directors and to follow wonderful past presidents and other leaders, all of whom have helped to sustain our congregation these more than 170 years.  

Thank you to all of you for your support of Fairmount Temple.   It is an honor to serve this congregation.  I wish you a new year of health, peace and happiness. Shanah Tovah!