Excerpts from Jerry Arbittier’s June 30 reflection on his four years as Village Temple co-president, delivered at Shabbat services
When I took this job, I thought it would be easy. I figured that it had to be easier than running a company with 100 employees. I was wrong.
Being Co-President of the Village Temple (and I think any Temple because I have heard this from others) was just as emotionally challenging for me as worrying about the 100 people.
So why is that? I think the reason is that no one person is really ultimately responsible for a Temple. The first time that I came to this realization was 5 years ago, when we were having issues with our previous Rabbi and we had engaged a Temple Consultant for advice. I asked him who is responsible for the Temple:
Is it the Rabbi/Office Staff that are here every day who are responsible? Is it the Co-Presidents who were elected to be volunteers in charge but for whom it is really a second job? Is it the Board who votes on issues? Is it the Congregation who pay the money and have the ultimate vote? When I asked the Temple Consultant the question. He responded in one word – “Yes”. In other words, we all are ultimately responsible and somehow this collective shared responsibility is supposed to make concrete decisions.
This is a very emotional place. People get born here, Bar/Bat Mitzvah here, married here, parents allow us to teach their children here and people die here. It does not get more emotional than that.
The combination of the shared responsibility in making the ultimate of emotional decisions, makes this job harder than managing 100 people at work.
However, these same two factors is what makes this job so wonderful.
Every time the smallest kidl in the choir stands up on the bench each year and perfectly sings his or her solo, every time a Bar/Bat Mitzvah speech is made, the times I looked in on the soup kitchen, every sermon, seeing 600 people at a High Holiday service – When any of this happened, I realized that I played a part in making that happen. You know something – that feels really good.
But it is even more than this, maybe more for me then for others, because I am a geek. I mean when I was a kid, while kids were playing outside with others, I was adding up the price of every item that was in those old Sears catalogs of 1,000 pages. I spent days doing this alone and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Here; as Village Temple president I am in what I feel is the ultimate job of sharing opinions, emotions and ideas. And I realized about myself that I like to Give but I do not like to Share. And yet here I was. I found that while this process is personally really difficult for someone like me, sharing also led me to making many close friends. This would never have happened if I GAVE from the side lines. Being part of a community requires investing yourself into the community but the relationships you form are worth it.