I hope this finds all of you and your dear ones well, ready for Pesach and spring which beckons. I have missed you! During this, my first Sabbatical period since I began serving synagogues in 1973, I have been able to attend extended family events, and activities related to friends and colleagues in their communities. This has included being able to compare and learn from worship styles unique to their kehillah.
I saw in some places that we shared the usual concerns of many schules like cash flow/income, retention and vision; that we at CISA are an intimate size to feel welcoming, with lovely music and Torah discussions and thought. Selfishly, I like our style! Did you know that over 80% of congregations in traditional and non- traditional settings are 150-200 families or less? (Source: URJ; United Synagogue)
Many of you have communicated with me in recent months. Many have asked if CISA will once again be scheduling services, at least for the High holy Days 5775. Perhaps for Shabbat and Festivals afterward? My answer has been a simple “if there is interest and budget, why not?” But there is more than a monetary consideration to making this decision, of course.
I have described previously how our 2010 move to Patriot Heights was initially a good idea. Then we all saw a downtrend in attendance and committment for a host of reasons. Some left us due to distance, general philosophical interest and ambiance of our host building. The additional 8 miles driving as measured from St. Andrew, the secluded location were also negative factors. No rental fee was certainly appealing, but storage, access and scheduling often impacted our program negatively.
Some people were hands-on and very involved—carting books, Torahs, wine and challah, sound equipment, music stands handouts, and then this became a solo task, too—for me. Many worshippers attended PH e only once per month, or only on the High Holy Days. Some requested that though they don’t attend more than this, they wanted to be sure we met every week. This sparse attendance or lack of critical mass sometimes meant that Barbara and I were joined by Rev. Miron and one or two others. Often, even the residents at PH bypassed the Chapel to go home after dinner or attend other events. At bottom, while at Patriot Heights, our momentum was stalled.
Back again at St. Andrew for Rosh Hashanah 2012, 5773 was welcomed and enjoyed by the 70 persons who attended our services. Many more found out “too late” that we had returned (despite added press coverage, new signage –even a listing in the San Antonio Journal. For comparison, in 2006-9, we welcomed 275 on average at high use. After we assessed and expected meaningful contributions from all who attended, our real numbers dropped from 150 members (contributing the appropriate donation) to 70, having nothing to do with where we met. Our Holy Day Budget in 2012 was $7900 in round numbers included rentals, all musicians, printing, advertising and signage. I took no fee for my services. Renewals for membership even with reduced numbers afforded us the opportunity to continue on a reduced schedule until June 2013. This was accomplished by some large contributions of folks who wish to remain without public recognition. Yet, even with the natural attrition and changes, many still felt CISA a warm and artistic alternative to the more established congregations in the community!
So let me ask you: Would you support a CISA High Holy Day experience this year? Shall we pledge an interest and treasure to move forward once again for the High Holy Days and then see what interest we inspire?
There is a lot of good transpiring in the Jewish community this year. A new Rabbi for Temple Beth El and one for Agudas Achim are to be welcomed this summer. Our Federation has engaged new CEO; the EKAH Language Charter School, and Torah Academy all beckon differing levels of interest and support. A fresh reboot for CISA for us and unknown others, can be another of these enrichments to be sure.
Please let me know what commitment you will make toward a High Holy Day season for 5775. We need to fund a Budget of at least $8500, that’s cash on hand, not pledges alone, for the Holy Days. I will inform everyone where we are at each “phase.” If each regular member of CISA contributes the “community High Holy Day donation” of $300 per person (what Barbara and I contributed at Chabad) 30 people will have funded the High Holy Days. For scheduled services after the holy days, we will need larger commitments, of course. I will look into possible venues later. Patriot Heights is not under consideration.
Your reply by e-mail [see www.congregationisraelsatx.org for contact information], or by using the “card” [attached], a phone call, over lunch or dinner is welcomed by the end of Pesach. I will hold a parlor meeting after Pesach if there is a good level of interest sufficient to move forward.
A zisn and Kosher Pesach to everyone!