Words from CBE President, Rob Raich

On Yom Kippur 2018/5779, CBE President Rob Raich offered an inspiring reflection on the CBE community…


On three separate occasions, between 1980 and 1983, Principal Eckstein of Temple Beth David in Commack NY . . . suspended me from Hebrew School.
And, yet, here I stand.
So . . . that’s enough about me, let’s talk about YOU.

You. The Congregation of Beth Elohim – who have congregated for 156 Kol Nidre services before this one. 156…
You – the CBE community.

You are volunteers who strive to make a difference.
You are journalists who spread the truth,
You are parents who raise mensches,
Public leaders who fight a righteous fight.

You work for organizations that strive for a better world.
You show up because you care.
You are doers, and you are givers.

You – as a community – help house the needy
And work to free the unjustly imprisoned,

You join groups that are not daunted by impossible tasks like dismantling racism,
or protecting refugees.

You are a community who can learn – and debate – really difficult topics. Respectfully. Together.
You are people – at times – struggling with your own personal health, financial difficulties or other challenges,
but yet you still belong, are supported by – and give back – to our community.

You are the current and past leaders of this congregation, who give thankless hours to make it better for all of us.
You are the clergy who lead us in joyous celebration, mournful prayer and intellectual thought.
You are the educators who teach us and our children.
You are the staff who help us be a source of comfort and purpose for Park Slope, Brooklyn and beyond.
WE are a Congregation that is relevant, when relevance is needed.
WE are a congregation who comes together on our Holiest night to pray . . .

Now, FOR 157 YEARS
This congregation began in 1862 with 41 German Speaking families from Central Europe –
– many were tradespeople, some merchants, a few professionals . . . .

Today, nearly One Thousand families strong, I believe that not one of you . . . is a Bavarian Button Maker, or a Shopkeeper from Bohemia.
Now I can only imagine that change happened gradually here, as change should – but change, is inevitable.
Progress, by definition, is change.
This is a congregation that has always embraced change.
Every year we welcome new members . . . and sadly some depart.

Some years – this year – we welcome new clergy to our community.
And sadly some years – this past year – we say farewell.
Our leaders rotate, and our practices evolve.
But – through it all, the strength and the comfort of our community remains.

How special it is to have a community?
How special is it to have THIS community?

Sure, we have our collective imperfections and challenges. – But how wonderful is it to have a place to call upon? To have a place to contribute our time and efforts. A place to share our love, fear, and doubt?

Outside of this sacred space we live our separate lives.
We have our families, our jobs, our friends.
We may belong to other organizations or clubs.

We may even be in competition with one another – –
in our careers, on the ballfields . . . .
or, ya know – on the condo or coop board.

BUT here at CBE we show our support and love for one another..
Here we Belong and here we are Welcome.

Now traditionally, at this point in the president’s remarks, it would be time for what’s known as the “Yom Kippur appeal”.

We – the leadership and clergy – have debated. What am I really “supposed” to be doing here?

Is this a perfunctory call for money for an institution whose needs are clear . .. and profound?

Do we guilt you into making a donation? Cajole? Plead?
Do we hand out cards and wait until each of you completes one?
Do we invade your worship with calls for stewardship?
Or, do we just say thank you?

Thank you. For making this past year such a meaningful one for our community

Thank you – so many of you – for giving your time, efforts and funds

Thank you, for going on-line and giving, even without another reminder or call.

Thank you for knowing that the funds are needed, and how much CBE means to all of us, our families, and our community.

And thank you in advance for doing even more this year than last year. – –

I’m Sorry, I couldn’t help myself . . . OK, Enough . . .

Now for those sweet words . . . In Closing . . .

I am sure principal Eckstein would be shocked to see me standing here
– heck, I’m shocked.

My parents over there are even more shocked . . . But, Principal Eckstein would be amazed . . . and awed . . . to see the congregation before whom I stand . . .

I wish you and all of your families a year filled with health, love and community.

And . . . watch this from a Hebrew School delinquent . . .

Thank you, Shana tovah.