The Village Temple 2013-2014 Report to the Congregation
A year ago, after a series of Town Hall meetings, Rabbi Koster and The Village Temple leadership embarked on a year of kesher, or connection, with the goal of reinvigorating our 65 year old congregation. Thanks to the commitment and hard work of numerous volunteers, Rabbi Koster, and the participation of our wonderful community, we’ve accomplished more than we would have dared to dream was possible. Weekly attendance at regular Shabbat services has steadily increased, while Synaplex and other special events pack the house. Our regular musicians—Gerard Edery and Anita Hollander, together with Lisa Loren on flute—have treated us to marvelous interpretations of familiar prayers, frequently joined by fabulous musical guests. Our communications have improved greatly, with our new website and the reintroduction of our synagogue newsletter, Kesher. Our religious school continues to be a vibrant center for education and connection, building on Village Temple tradition while creating new forms of learning. And week in and week out, Rabbi Koster provides comfort to the bereaved, blesses our newborns, presides over our B’nei Mitzvahs, marries us, and provides a safe space to look inward, to discover our place within Judaism’s history, present and future.
Here is a survey of what’s been happening at The Village Temple with thanks to the Rabbi, Alex Tansky, our musicians, our office staff, custodians and board of directors as well as the many, many volunteers who brought it all together. Like Judaism itself, The Village Temple remains a work-in-progress, and what it becomes depends on all of us. So much of the special programming is carried out by volunteers. We welcome your suggestions and your help, either through joining a committee, or occasional volunteering for a specific project. Every bit is appreciated!!
Shabbat Services and Special Events
Every month Rabbi Koster has selected a prayer from the service for closer study by the Rabbi and our musicians. On the last Shabbat of the month, one or two congregants have provided intriguing, personal interpretations of the prayer—and Sandi Knell Tamny donated her contribution, a beautiful interpretation of V’ahavta, now hanging in our social hall. You can read all of these on our website, in the Prayer Project section of the Worship category. The Prayer Project will continue next year. Let us know if you’d like to participate. Thanks to this year’s participants: Paul Hamilton, Ann Temkin, Julie Salamon, David Smith, Esther Siegel, Stephanie Kanarek, Lisa Feitel, Sandi Knell Tamny, Bill Abrams, Barbara Leopold, Mickey Rindler, and Deborah Wolf. On May 30, we will have our final Prayer Project presentation for this year, from Andrew Wilkinson and Fred Basch.
Synaplex and Special Shabbats
Our Synaplex committee has produced a remarkable series of speakers and programs. We’ve learned about the Jews of Cape Verde, Bolshevism and the Jews, and Jewish Renewal in Poland. Music was central to our Jazz Shabbat and Andalusian Shabbat. As always, the Purimschpiel (“Jewsies”) was standing room only. Our Friday night speakers have included a member of the Knesset, an editor of the Washington Post during Watergate,),a survivor of Auschwitz, and on May 16 the senior minister of Judson Memorial Church will discuss her experience raising children in an interfaith family. Congregant Joseph Siegel graced our social hall walls with an art exhibition, and Alice Chernik moved us with her personal story on our Disabilities Awareness Shabbat. Special thanks to the Synaplex committee: Joel Roskind, Judy Schiff, Sandy Knell Tamny, Sheila Renert, Sharon Weinstein and Joy Kestenbaum.
The Village Temple Children’s Choir
Throughout the year, our children’s choir and their fabulous leader Anita Hollander add immeasurable joy and energy to holiday and other special services. On Martin Luther King Shabbat the choir joined Broadway star Andre de Shields for a memorable tribute to the civil rights leader. The choir helped lead the congregation in celebration of the High Holidays, Chanukah, Sukkot, Thanksgiving, Purim and Passover, and will be there again on Yom Ha Atzma’ut on May 9.
The Film Series
Throughout the year we have presented films with Jewish themes, accompanied by a Q&A with the director or producer. Our films this year: 50 Children; Koch; and one more film, to be announced shortly.. Thanks to Ellen Goosenberg for helping procure the films, and to Ellen and Emily Hacker for being ace interviewers.
Under the leadership of Alex Tansky and oversight of board member Jill Wilkinson,, enrollment was strong. The Village Temple continues to provide our children grounding in Jewish tradition and liturgy, celebration of holidays, and a respect for the importance of Tikkun Olam. In addition, several new initiatives were put into place. These include:
--Increased communication with parents via curriculum night at the beginning of the year and regular faculty reports informing parents what the children are learning, as well as how each individual student is doing.
-- Electives that include student newsletter, drumming circle, Biblical drama.
--Flexible schedule for our Monday/Wednesday students.
--Participation in social action projects.
B’nei Mitzvah Program
Cantor Jenny Izenstark conducted our training of B’nei Mitzvah students. When Cantor Jenny had to be absent because of a serious illness, Rabbi Koster and Liotte Greenbaum stepped in to make sure our B’nei Mitzvah students had continuity in their training. For next year, we will be offering more days of training to provide more flexibility for our B’nei Mitzvah families, and an additional trainer, Geoffrey Brown, who brings a warm soul and years of experience.The Social Action Committee worked with B’nei Mitzvah families to help match each B’nei Mitzvah student find a community service project in conjunction with their religious training.
Hartman Institute “Engaging Israel” course
Twenty-two adults enrolled in this monthly course, led by Rabbi Koster, organized by Israel’s Hartman Institute. This was the third year the course was offered. This year’s topic has been the “Tribes of Israel,” an examination of all the people who lay claim to Israel. Thanks to Jerry Arbittier for handling administration.
The Village Temple Soup Kitchen continues to be a source of pride to our community, under the excellent supervision of Dean Chavooshian. Building on this historic center of mitzvah, our social action committee organized several powerful events this year. The second annual Village Temple blood drive drew 40 people who volunteered to give blood; 24 pints were collected. And this year the blood drive was supplemented by bone marrow donor registry. The committee sponsored the speaker from Bend the Arc, who discussed two federal campaings to protect voting rights and advocate for immigration reform. In April, The Village Temple held its first “Mitzvah Day,” a clean-up of Washington Square Park, attended by about 70 Village Temple members, half adult, half kids. Mitzvah projects for B’nei Mitzvah students became part of the B’nei Mitzvah process. In May, The Village Temple will once again put on its “Kites for a Cure” event, which was such a success last year, both as a fundraiser for lung cancer research and a community builder. Many thanks to committee chair Harvey Epstein and Fred Sachs, Nelly Szlachter, David Levit, and Arthur Schwartz.
Through a grant from the UJA, The Village Temple offered several programs aimed at engaging our interfaith families. In November, we co-hosted the annual Greenwich Village Thanksgiving service, together with Judson Memorial church. The result was a rousing evening of poetry, song and dance, with participation from numerous denominations and faiths. In addition, interfaith congregants were welcomed to a brunch last autumn, hosted by a Village Temple family, and to a Havdalah service and dinner at another family’s home this spring. In May, Donna Schaper, senior minister of Judson Church, will be speaking at the VT about her experiences raising children in her interfaith home. Also in May, a UJA representative will provide training to our religious school faculty and board of directors on how to improve connections with our interfaith families. Thanks to Emily Hacker, Barbara Gerolimatos and Jill Wilkinson.
Our newly designed website has provided information about Village Temple events in a much more attractive, user-friendly format. Rabbi Koster and the co-presidents have maintained updates on blogs posted on the website, and Alex Tansky has taken over weekly management of news posted on the site from its superb designer, Emily Hacker.
Janet Falk, Elyse Grusky and Jill Boltin have done a wonderful job of reviving the temple newsletter, now called Kesher. This bi-monthly newsletter provides news, an easy-to-post-on-the-fridge calendar, and insights into our community.
E-blasts and flyers
We’ve redesigned all our materials to provide a cohesive look to all Village Temple materials.
We now number approximately 250 family units, representing about 700 adults and children. Thank s to Betsy Krebs for heading up membership. And thanks to Alexandra Pomerantz for overseeing our Shabbat Amabassador Program, and all the volunteers who participated in this program to greet people at services and events, and provide information about The Village Temple.
Our Fundraising Committee organized our annual Phonathon; thank you to everyone who contributed. Major supporters of The Village Temple attended a private tour at MoMA, conducted by Ann Temkin, chief curator of painting and sculpture—and a Village Temple member.
Sandy Albert and Sandy Gonzalez-Wilson, our office administrators, have worked diligently to make our office run more effectively. Please thank them when you can!
501 c 3 filing with IRS. Some organizations with matching programs require this. The Village Temple filed several months ago; we are now subject to the IRS timetable.
Conflicts of interest policy was adopted and our Certificate of Incorporation was amended.
By-laws revision. Special thanks to Carole Sadler for overseeing this important task.
Accounting and building oversight: Special thanks to Fred Eichler and Fred Basch.