Words from CBE President, Rob Raich

On Kol Nidre 2019/5780, CBE President Rob Raich offered an inspiring reflection on the CBE community…

“Spirit in the Sky” – Norman Greenbaum.
“Sugar Sugar” – the Archies.
“Ice Ice Baby” – Vanilla Ice.

These are amongst the world’s greatest one hit wonders. Whether for lack of talent, creativity, or inspiration, these artists were unable to succeed a second time.

As this is my second time addressing you on Kol Nidre, I apologize in advance.

So . . . let’s talk about you. All of you. All of us. The congregation, the clergy, the staff, the community of CBE.

To stand here and survey what we do is no easy task – the list of programs, events and activities is long and impressive. Maybe you participate in some of them, maybe in most, maybe some years none at all.

Sometimes we are at CBE regularly, and sometimes we need CBE unexpectedly, or suddenly.
But what is the point of listing what we do if we don’t embrace why we do it?

Contemporary research shows that the human model for success and happiness is not, as we were sometimes taught, the lone warrior fighting a survival of the fittest contest. But rather, the model for happiness is a community of people whose biological need for meaningful interaction is as strong as their need for food and water.

We truly – scientifically, emotionally – need each other.

Community provides a sense of belonging, and a sense of greater purpose, a connection to our past, and a hope for our future. We are a community that is rooted in Jewish values and Torah, in Jewish history, and in pride of the Jewish people.

We are also a community that is open, respectful, and accepting of all, and that makes us large, and that makes us strong, and that makes us better.

This past year, in our country, other congregants were killed for doing nothing more than praying as we are today.

As a Jew, this has weighed on me. As a president of a synagogue this has terrified me.

Shabbat morning on October 27th of last year, I was sitting right there in the pews when I heard news of the attack at Tree of Life. Immediately, I left to find our security staff who were already aware and were already taking precautions.

Over the next hours and days our lay leaders, professional staff, and our clergy focused on the safety of our community and the emotional healing of our people.
I can say to all of you, to my community, in a moment of full candor and hesitant vulnerability, it made me question: why?

Why do it? Why make ourselves so conspicuous and so easy to identify. Why?

Not just Jews, but other communities who are vulnerable – black churches, sikh temples, mosques – sadly, at this point, any community gathering can be vulnerable to a mass shooting or attack.
So why do it?

In the days, weeks, and months following the attacks in Pittsburgh – and then in San Diego – we came together more often, in greater numbers, and with a greater sense of communal strength, love, and compassion.

We sang, cried, and mourned together in this sanctuary the very day after the Pittsburgh attack.

The week after, we came together on shabbat to install Rabbi Green and our sanctuary was filled with our members, and with strangers and friends, all “Showing up for Shabbat.”

We showed up as a community, in defiance and solidarity, stronger and more determined.

Because of the Why, not because of the What.

Because here we weep deeply, here we celebrate boldly, here we worship proudly and because here we feel what it is to be human.

That is the Why. I believe in the Why.

Here’s a fun fact. This year marks – on average – the 100th anniversary of our two buildings (1909 and 1929).

The buildings are all about the What, but they are essential to the Why. Our home, our communal commons, our beautiful but worn sanctuary, and our historic but outdated temple house are in need of our love. And we are constantly spending that “love” trying to keep them safe, clean, accessible – and cool.

At the same time our programs and services need your generosity and your support. So here is my urgent and heartfelt plea.

Please give meaningfully to our Annual Campaign. It matters. It really does. I believe that you know why.

In closing, (I know . . . so soon?) thank you for showing up. Thank you for caring. Thank you for your support.

Thank you for that subtle nod or hello on the street, even when you were unsure if I was that bald guy.

Thank you for being my community and thank you for allowing Cara, me, and our girls to be part of yours.

G’mar Chatimah Tovah. May it be a good year for all of us.

Shanah Tovah.