KOLOT MAYIM REFORM TEMPLE – JUNE 13, 2019 AGM
In many ways we have made solid progress towards our stated goal at last year’s AGM – that is to focus on community-building – and I would like to share some of these achievements and challenges with you.
We have increased our membership by 70% over last year. Our Rabbi, Lynn Greenhough, lives here and is well known and respected and is wonderful to work with. Our Membership Survey in December yielded very strong supportive feedback on Rabbi Lynn. Further, every member of the Board and volunteer has found Rabbi Lynn to be a joy to work with and we are grateful for her guidance, enthusiasm and attention to detail. Of course, as with most couples here at Kolot Mayim, when one of us volunteers the spouse or partner pitches in too. That is certainly the case with Aaron Devor and Jack Shalinsky and we are grateful for their fulsome support. I am pleased to share with you that we have signed a two-year contract with Rabbi Lynn.
Our High Holiday services were very well attended. We old-time members believe it was the highest attendance in Kolot Mayim’s history. Thanks especially to Rabbi Lynn’s religious leadership, supported by the quiet and generous financial sponsorship of our music by a couple of our members, and the actual musicians themselves we raised the bar of what we hope to have every year.
Shabbat services are well attended on Friday evenings and with Gary and Amber’s music we sometimes “rock the house” – thereby proving Kolot Mayim is still the singing congregation, as described by many visiting religious leaders over our 20 years. While we consistently have 20 to 30 people attend Friday evening services, we still have some way to go to regularly have a minyan on Saturday morning. Our intention, with your agreement, is to continue to present this option for Shabbat morning worship for this year in the hope/expectation that those folks who supported it in our Membership Survey in December will be attending more regularly. We will review this decision next year with you. Torah study continues to be well attended every Friday noon and has brought in several new participants this year.
We are very fortunate with our recruitment of Sam Margolis as the Congregational Administrator. Indeed, he has greatly reduced our stress levels when it comes to website and Facebook postings and having a consistent newsletter. He is looking to further publicize Kolot Mayim events and activities in the coming year. His article on Maurice Yacowar’s lecture on Shtisel is a must read. Please also watch for the results of his work about Lynn’s installation as our Rabbi. Early in the year Sam also took on the role of set-up and teardown for services which has provided further consistency. We hope Sam will remain with us for many years.
Our Treasurer, Morris Bleviss, will be making a full report momentarily, but I do want to share, from my perspective as President, Kolot Mayim’s financial situation. But first, I must speak of the many key roles our Treasurer plays. Morris plans for, tracks and analyses our every dollar of income and expenditure, and deals with the URJ and government forms and reports. Beyond this, he is a voice of reason when we are considering suggestions, ideas, and events. He also tracks membership dues, donations, quietly adjudicates requests for dues relief, and ensures our employees and suppliers are all paid in a timely manner. Maybe most important, he is a key adviser to both me and Rabbi Lynn – we can’t imagine where Kolot Mayim would be today without Morris’ commitment and thoughtfulness.
Kolot Mayim’s funds are very limited and often we would like to do more than we can afford. There is no question we need to raise money if we are to continue to grow. Our financial base is not solid for the long term – we aren’t in any danger at all but nor are we building our resources for the next generation. For example, we would like to be more supportive of both children’s and adult education. We would like to perhaps invite members and guests for a Shabbaton weekend, or maybe a retreat for members, or maybe an event to thank our volunteers – all good ideas but not currently financially feasible. The President of URJ Canada, Dr. Pekka Sinervo, visited with us in the Spring and was impressed with how much we do with our limited resources. As an aside, this first ever visit by a URJ President to our congregation has resulted in a much stronger linkage and broader consultation between Kolot Mayim folks and the URJ, writ large.
While we all also wish we could afford a home of our own we are fortunate to have the JCCV be our “bricks and mortar” home. We worship here and we hold all our events and meetings here. Sometimes, we can be challenging as a tenant and sometimes the JCCV can be challenging as a landlord. But we always find ways to work together and are especially grateful to Larry Gontovnick and Edie Reckon and the entire JCCV board for their flexibility, and their support and understanding of Kolot Mayim’s objectives. I do hope everyone is or will be a member of the JCC.
We have strengthened our connection with Aleph Bet Montessori School and are bringing more children into our holiday events. Chanukah, Purim and Passover were all very successful events this year, thanks to our wonderful volunteers and to Leah Kinarthy’s Herculean efforts. As a less than gentle nudge to our members, Leah cannot continue to be the principal event organizer for all Kolot Mayim’s events – please think seriously about being the coordinator for either the Chanukah party, the Purim party, or the Passover Seder. We need coordinators to make them happen.
Our Adult Education endeavours have surpassed our expectations. Under Lynn Greenhough’s leadership and Richard Weiss’ work with the URJ and the media our “Taste of Judaism” classes and our “Introduction to Judaism” extended series have been very well attended. Indeed, there are several new members and/or donors that have resulted and maybe even a couple of conversions.
The Lecture Series, so ably coordinated by Neomi Summers, was well received, not only by Kolot Mayim members, but also by the greater Victoria Jewish community. At every lecture we had a minimum of 20 people and a few times more like 30 folks attending. We sincerely hope Neomi will continue this good work.
Charlyne Ashford has been a tremendous help to the congregation by quietly and professionally managing the Yahrzeit list, letting each of us know when we have a Yahrzeit. This coming year Sam will be working with Morris to take the next step in Yahrzeit management – linking names and donations on our website. Charlyne also has undertaken the role of Gabbai for Saturday morning services and thereby helped us work towards achieving a regular minyan – this remains a work in process as I mentioned earlier.
Deb Weiss, as our Care and Concern coordinator, continues to do an excellent job of reaching out to our congregation’s members who volunteer or may need some support. She reaches out to members of the larger Jewish community as well. This past year Deb wrote 42 thank you notes and 29 other notes recognizing such things a Simchas, condolences, tributes etc. She phones people to check in, and sometimes arranges transportation, food etc. If any of you know of someone who could do with Kolot Mayim’s support just let Lynn, me or Deb know. We continue to be grateful for Deb’s quiet, behind-the-scenes good works.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ongoing support of Kolot Mayim by the Victoria & Vancouver Island Jewish Federation. Without their help we would not be able to provide some support for members’ children attending Aleph Bet Montessori school. Nor would we be able to welcome clients of Jewish Family Services to our Seder every year. I encourage each and every member of Kolot Mayim to donate to the Combined Jewish Appeal as they are able. As an aside, it is now a requirement of Federation that every board member of a grant receiving organization, such as Kolot Mayim, be a member of Federation. To be a member requires a minimum donation of $18 to the Combined Jewish Appeal.
This year two Board members are stepping down. Katrina Greenfield has been a Kolot Mayim stalwart as President and Immediate Past President for many years and I know I speak for all members when I say we are grateful to her for all her work on our behalf. Deena Kinarthy has been Membership Chair for the past few years and has been especially instrumental in bringing our annual membership drive into the digital era. Deena is entering a new phase of her life and we wish she and Rowan many, many years of happiness – all while being active members of Kolot Mayim.
Finally, your Board members are proud of the Kolot Mayim leadership team and I personally am very grateful for the collegiality of our group and the hard work of every member. Our executive is efficient and fun, and I want to especially extend my personal thanks to Morris, Leah and Caroline for making this past year such a smooth one for me as a new president.
Your Board is a small but mighty team that needs some help to move our goal posts further down the field. We have only the one goal – to build Kolot Mayim into a vibrant, welcoming, community of Reform Jews who worship, learn, and play together. As a Board and as a congregation I believe we have the momentum for continuing success in 2019-20.