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From Our President - Welcome Back

I hope everyone had a terrific summer. I am always tempted to say “Welcome Back” as we transition to the fall when religious school commences and we begin to prepare for the High Holy Days. I need to remind myself that the congregation is active all year and our special-themed summer Shabbatot were well attended, as were our other summer events, services, and gatherings. I will say it anyhow — “Welcome Back.”

I often get the question from people about what exactly the Board of Directors works on. I would like to share with you some of the priorities that we are focusing on right now. This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but it will give you some insight.

Membership: Membership has been steady at around 450 families for a few years. The majority of members who leave us do so for life events like job relocations or retiring elsewhere. We see some attrition post-B’nai Mitzvah as well. We lose very few families because they are unhappy, but we pay close attention when that happens. We are putting considerable focus on both recruiting new members and retaining current members. We want to make sure that there are a variety of events for prospective members as guests of CBS and that we are following up with them. Engagement with our newer members and our busy families is an area where we will invest a lot of resources. “New members” and “busy families” have a lot of overlap, as many of our newest members are in fact very busy families with jobs, sports, kids, travel etc. When Stacey and I joined B’nai Shalom about ten years ago, we joined with several other families who also had children at the JCC. Because of those relationships, we were immediately engaged in the B’nai Shalom community. We are observing that many of our new families are not coming to the congregation with relationships in place. It is a priority for us to make sure that we find ways for these new families to engage, build relationships, and enjoy CBS. We have always put effort into this through our membership committee, through the religious school, and the terrific work of Rabbi Gurevitz and Rabbi Joe. However, we are going to dedicate more resources this year, ask for more volunteers and try out some new events and programs that we think will bring people together. I am incredibly excited that Cheryl Kasof is taking on the role of VP of Membership. I would like to get her as many resources as possible, so if you can volunteer to help please let us know!

Security: As many of you have noticed, we have adopted some new security procedures in the wake of the Tree of Life Synagogue tragedy in Pittsburgh. The most noticeable is locked doors. Our procedures have been reviewed and we are doing a great job. Much of what we had in place prior to the Pittsburgh tragedy met the majority of recommendations that we received. However, these are on a few different systems at this time. We have emergency buttons for teachers, ushers, rabbis, staff, and volunteers; cameras; entry card keys, etc. Ideally we would like to move to a more tightly integrated system to reduce potential points of failure and make the management easier.

Fundraising: Our annual fundraising comes from a few sources: the High Holy Days campaign, annual gala events like the Fabulous At 40rty event last year, the Chocolate Ball the prior two years; Scrip and funds that are donated for restricted funds such as art, education etc. We have been steady for several years with our fundraising. Through some of our own observations and feedback from the congregation we will revisit some parts of our fundraising plans and programs to modernize them and drive more enthusiasm. A great example of this is the Scrip program that raises about $6000 a year simply through our congregation buying gift cards from us, for which we get a small percentage of proceeds. Scrip was implemented well before the revolution. We definitely intend to keep some parts of Scrip in place, but the program is labor intensive with upfront costs for the gift cards. One of our board members, Matt Wein, is working on developing a program for the Congregation with Amazon where we can raise significantly more money if our members buy Amazon gift cards through B’nai Shalom and shop through our CBS link. None of this changes the price of goods though Amazon, but it gives B’nai Shalom a small percentage of every transaction as a non-profit. How easy is that? I am not sure what our Congregation spends on Amazon every year, but my guess is that if we received 1.5% of the proceeds, it would be a lot.

Once again, the details I provided are not by any means exhaustive but definitely top of mind as the Board returns for our next meeting in August.

Should you have questions, feedback, ideas, or a desire to volunteer please email me at
…and Welcome Back!

With appreciation,
Rob Blumberg

Fri, September 20 2019 20 Elul 5779