If You Missed It… Ronald Levitt’s (Outgoing President) Remarks at the TBE Annual Meeting

Today has been a banner day for TBE.  We are at the beginning of Rabbi Henkin’s TBE Rabbinate and we have celebrated a Siyyum with him.  We have, as we are like to do, enjoyed time with each other over a meal and we kicked off the Beth-El Civil Rights Experience with the Historic Marker dedication.  In usual days we would all be happy and just say Dayenu.  But today is not a usual day.

My friends, after being led by 55 men and women who served as Board President of our Congregation, during which time our Congregation has learned, prayed and worship with 19 Rabbis and 7 Cantors, and after the week we have enjoyed through the celebration of the Israeli World Games Team, our hosting of the Deputy Consul General of Israel to the Southeast and many dignitaries, including the Jewish representative of the Kingdom of Bahrain to a Shabbat Dinner here at TBE, the celebration of Isaac Rutsky’s Bar Mitzvah and all of today’s events, this sunny summer day feels like the end of a wonderful year of renewal, healing, growth and happiness for TBE.

This week Mayor Woodfin, in a ceremony, in which representatives from UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Israel planted a tree in honor of the Abraham Accords, declared that this past Thursday in Birmingham was to be known as Abraham Accords Day. It was an inspiring event that makes me hopeful for the future for Israel and World Jewry and the World itself.

In that program, one of the Mayor’s talented colleagues talked about how, when people try to do good in the world (I’m paraphrasing here), people often use the word “Me” in that context.   But she suggested that if we take the “M” in me and turn it upside down, it changes Me to We.  While I know she was not referring to what WE have going on here at TBE, it spoke volumes about what has gone on this past year at TBE and how WE should try to address the future of TBE and the Birmingham Jewish Community.

Today’s Congregational Meeting is about how WE have tried to do the following with respect to our congregation:

  1. We want everything we do make our Congregants and friends enjoy meaningful Jewish experiences and enjoy and taking meaning thought participation in our religious services and observances here at TBE and in their homes.
  2. We want our Congregants and their families to feel taken care of and heard as they experience life’s ups and downs, and to believe that TBE is their home where they are loved, honored, and taken care of.
  3. We want our Congregation and the community to enjoy meaningful learning experiences and to be part of a rich and loving community that addresses our Jewish values, and how our community interacts with and relates to the rest of the world in ways that are meaningful, rewarding and helps us with Tikkun Olam.  The Beth-El Civil Rights Experience is part of that and something of which we are extremely proud.

That all said, I also want TBE to continue to lead our community towards deeper collaborations with our sister congregation at TEE and with Chabad and KI, as well as to collaborate with all the other Jewish organizations and institutions in our fair city.  This collaborative approach is bearing fruit already, as evidence by the successful first year of Kesher and by the continuing jointly run programs we have participated in with other organizations throughout the year.

Leading the community towards deeper collaborations means supporting the Federation’s strategic plan and encouraging the constituent Federation Organizations to sign on to the Strategic Plan as it will clearly help make Birmingham’s Jewish Community better and hopefully will result in the community finding ways to make participation by our young families more affordable and approachable.  You will hear more from me in the future about this important topic.

As we listen and discuss today about what we have done this year and will do in the future, I hope you will recognize the power of WE and how all that WE have and will accomplish will happen because of what our Staff, our volunteers, our leadership and our membership do together.  It has been and will be a group effort.

Today is the story of WE.  It is the story of a rich history of which we are very proud, and it is the story of what we can and will do to make our future brighter.

Yasher koach to our lay leaders Dani + Asher Kahn Krell and Naomi + Josh Ivker, who were able to honor at this year’s annual meeting.