Dwindling member participation, sabbatical plans worrisome
I had intended to write this letter a couple of months ago as a request/invitation to our congregation to make it a habit to attend Friday night Shabbat services. I was concerned because I had attended many services by Rabbi Lynn when only five to 10 people showed up. This is such a shame, as Rabbi Lynn prepares something special for every service. I have also attended services when Rabbi Lynn isn't present and attendance is equally bad or nonexistent. The letter didn't get written due to the war intervening and my involvement in trying to stop it.
Now I feel compelled to write of my concern for the path our congregation is apparently taking.
In the last issue of the Desert Sage, the editor announces she is resigning with much frustration. Under this there is a sentence “Rabbi Lynn's Sabbatical year begins immediately after the High Holy Days 2003” in a box titled: “TRAINING COMMUNITY MEMBERS IN RABBINIC TASKS.”
For such a momentous decision, this is very poor notification, as I have mentioned seeing this in the newsletter and most other readers haven't noticed it.
In the last year we have gone from having an administrator to an interim executive director without any formal written discussion of how this decision was made. At one point I thought the interim executive director had been named executive director, but maybe not, as Miria is listed now as interim executive director. I have no knowledge of how this position is working out in comparison with the previous position. To learn now, in such an off-hand way, of the decision to grant the rabbi a full year of paid time off troubles me again regarding the process how decisions are made and information is shared.
I do not doubt that Rabbi Lynn is tired and deserves a year's sabbatical. I doubt that the congregation will be viable after a year's sabbatical. When people are not showing up now when Rabbi Lynn isn't present, and when people are burned out for many reasons, I do not expect a miraculous return. I fear people will completely get out of the habit of attending services, since the habit hasn't been engrained yet. The reasons for people's burnout and busy lives should be studied more. Do these rabbinical tasks workshops draw enough support to sustain a year's activities?
My own suggestion would be to support a six-month sabbatical and look into paying or getting volunteer rabbis to lead services during this time -- at least once a month. We have several outstanding rabbis in New Mexico without local congregations: Rabbi Shefa Gold and Rabbi Gershon Winkler, and I have heard there are rabbinical students who are quite good.
I would like to see this addressed in the Desert Sage, if it continues to exist and, if not, in written correspondence to the congregation.
I am asking how these big decisions have been made? Where is the grassroots involvement and is the Va'ad prepared to step in much more than they have so far? I am uncomfortable paying dues for a year's sabbatical that could destroy our congregation.
A letter from the va’ad of Nahalat Shalom
We write this letter as “ holders of the community” who take our role seriously. We would like to respond to recent community concerns.
The importance of Nahalat Shalom as a community, as a place of solace, safety, Jewish spirituality and renewal in an embattled world is essential right now. We need each other more than ever .We need to work together, pray together, play together and build a community that holds a place for peace and a new world vision. We must hold each other’s hearts when we are sad and scared and overwhelmed. And we must create joy for ourselves and for our children over and over again.
The va’ad is taking stock of the practical ways this community is sustained through money, labor, etc. We are assessing our resources and how we manage them, creating infrastructure where none existed, and trying to open avenues of communication about it all. So here is our attempt at a State of the Community Address (media and flashbulbs implied):
One of our assets as a community right now includes our big, beautiful building. Having a building has created structure, support, consistency and permanence. It has also created confusion and an uprooting of our grassroots, community-based wanderings. It has given us a great deal to manage and called us to a new level of organizational structure. As a community you should know that your rabbi, your va’ad, and the administrative
staff are heeding this call. We have in place skilled individuals like Miria Kano, our interim director (first ever!) and dedicated volunteers (we need more of you).
We are experiencing what we hope is a temporary cash flow problem and we need your help and support as we create short- and long-term solutions through fundraising, building infrastructure and communicating to the community. Send in your pledges if you haven’t already (we’re working on getting invoicing happening regularly), call us with ideas, volunteer your time and come to va’ad meetings.
Rabbi Lynn has come to us as a community and asked for a year’s sabbatical. Our rabbi has nurtured and sustained this community for more than 20 years, and we want to honor and support her request. We are having a meeting on May 4 at 9 a.m. at shul to vision, shape and create the “Year Without the Rabbi.” Please come; we would like many voices and ideas to come out of this morning gathering.
We are a strong community -- evolving and growing. Three years into our space, we have incredible programming and tremendous spirit. Let’s all breathe deeply into ourselves and continue to create this amazing community! Let us be the change we want to see in the world.
-- Susan Drucker and
Hershel Weiss, co-Presidents,
Project Share update
Greetings Nahalaters: Here is information about our participation in Project Share.
Project Share is a nonprofit organization that provides free meals to the many homeless people in Albuquerque. They serve Thursday through Monday every week. For many years now, Nahalat Shalom has served meals four times a year. It is lots of fun and many volunteers are needed, both to work and to provide food or funds for the meal. A typical meal includes a main course, salad, side dish, bread, drinks (lemonade or punch and milk) and a dessert.
The dates for this year are:
Sunday May 18, 2003
Saturday June 7, 2003
Thursday July 24, 2003
Sunday November 2, 2003
Please call Loey Cohen Kirk at 344-5894 or Carla Reed at 345-3566 to volunteer to help with our next meals. Thank you so much.