My name is Barbara Miller and I have the honor to serve as the president of Temple Jeremiah. Last year I spoke to you about the power of saying yes. I told you the story of how I got involved in temple life. Someone asked me to help with the Feed the Hungry program and I said YES. That answer took me on a 24-year journey that has brought me to this day.
Last year I wished all of you a year of good health, happiness, and a year filled with answering Yes. And you did answer yes. You answered yes to helping with the Eat and Be Well medical food pantry, to the Israel Action Committee, to participating on the board, to developing adult and youth programing. Most of the programing at our temple is run by volunteers. And because that committed group of volunteers answered yes, Temple Jeremiah continues to be a vibrant community dedicated to living Jewish Values. It is a place where congregants of all ages can connect.
At services last year I asked you to say Yes when the temple’s newly formed Positioning Taskforce came to you and asked you to participate in a focus group. You said Yes. We held multiple focus groups with congregants ranging from those with young children, to empty nesters, to those that would be considered our older and wiser group. The Positioning Taskforce has worked throughout the year to identify our core values and what our temple stands for.
As you know, I am a big fan of asking questions. This year we have been asking the question Why. Why did you choose Temple Jeremiah? Why do you belong to Temple Jeremiah? Why do you stay?
Here’s what you said:
You want to feel a sense of belonging. You want to be connected and part of a vibrant community. You want a physical space where you can worship. You want to educate your children and instill values in them. You want to participate in Tikkun Olam and welcome everyone to our doors. You want to feel joy in your Jewish experience. You want to belong to a synagogue where Jewish values come alive.
We heard you, and we know what you value most about your temple. You want to belong — We now have 900 families who belong to our community. You want to be connected — We have over 20 committees and hundreds of programs for you to explore. You want a physical space — Just look around at our beautiful building, lovingly cared for by our staff and Building Committee. You want your children to experience the joy of Jewish learning and Jewish values — We have an accredited Center for Learning led by our beloved Director of Religious Education and our Education Committee. You want to participate in Tikkun Olam — We have dozens of social justice and advocacy programs. You want to feel joy — For 60 years Temple Jeremiah has been providing this experience to congregants and we will most definitely embrace the Joy of Belonging as we celebrate our 60th Birthday this year. You want to belong to a synagogue where Jewish values come alive — Our belief in inclusion, our five advocacy platforms (which include immigration, hunger, inclusion, gun safety, and criminal justice), our Israel Action Committee and our Social Justice Committee, just to name a few efforts that demonstrate the vibrancy of Jewish values at Temple Jeremiah.
Today I am proud to announce the results of the Positioning Taskforce. I would like to thank the Positioning Taskforce, the Launch Taskforce and the Communications Committee for the incredible work they have done on the new brand. The logo you see below and in the temple foyer is the visual representation of the key values of our temple. This seemingly simple graphic actually tells quite a lot about who we are. It demonstrates that We are joyous, We are a community, We live Jewish values.
What do you see in our new brand? Here is what some of our clergy and congregants had to say:
“I see a happy family inside the temple doors.”
“I see the Ten Commandment tablets.”
“I see open doors welcoming everyone.”
And personally, I see “Joy within our Jewish space.”
We want to know what you feel and see when you look at our new brand. Your responses are important, and every comment, every observation adds new information and interesting layers to this new brand of ours. Please share your thoughts at https://templejeremiah.org/newlook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
But even though we have a new brand, the temple has not changed. We still have wonderful programs, inspiring services, dedicated clergy and staff. Our new brand just gives us the ability to communicate in a more effective way, with you – our congregation – and also with the outside world.
Now that we have a new brand, we have a visual theme and common language that unites us all in the Joy of Belonging. We all share in our brand, and it is the work of all of us, the board, the clergy, the staff, and you to keep our congregation strong for another 60 years– from keeping the roof in one piece to hiring the best clergy and staff, to volunteering to run the programs that keep the temple vibrant.
So how do we take on the task of keeping Temple Jeremiah a place where you want to belong and brings joy to all who are touched by it? How do we do that? I say we can do it through the power of making personal connections. Last year I asked you to say Yes. This year I am asking you to personally connect with someone within the temple that you have never met, or maybe someone you already know but would like to know better.
So where do we start? It all starts with Saying Hello.
Today, I make you this promise. I will slow down and make a personal connection at every social justice project I do. Let’s say I’m helping with the Backpack Blessings program. There is a task at hand. Make 70 backpacks in 30 minutes. My initial reaction is “let’s get to it.” All who know me, know that I like to get stuff done. It would be easy to forget the importance of personal connection and get right to work. I am counting on all of you who volunteer to keep me on the right track. A smile, a hello, even a handshake will be my goal.
Taking that step to personally connect with someone new might feel a little awkward at first, but I am up to the challenge. And I hope you are too? When you drop your child off at Religious School, when you attend an Adult Learning program or a Brotherhood event, say hello, introduce yourself.
And in that spirit, let’s start off the New Year right. Tonight, on this very first day of making connections, please join me, right now, and turn to someone sitting near you. Say hello. Introduce yourself. Wish them a Happy New Year.
I look forward to getting to know many more of you this year, and I hope you will feel inspired to meet new people too, or maybe reconnect with someone you already know.
Last year my vision for the temple was to Say Yes. This year my vision is for everyone to continue what we have started here today. Say Hello, introduce yourself, because, just like last year, you never know where Hello will lead you.
In this year of 5779, Stephen, Erin, Sam, and I wish you another year of good health, another year of peace, and a year filled with new personal connections.
Rosh HaShanah Speech, 2018/5779
Barbara Miller, Board President
- D’var Torah for Passover - April 17, 2019
- Talking to Children about Events in Pittsburgh and Anti-Semitism - October 31, 2018
- Say Hello - September 12, 2018
- 2018 CEL Art Fair - July 5, 2018
- 2018-2019 Membership Renewal - June 21, 2018
- Meet the Candidates for the 2018-2019 JeTY Board! - May 2, 2018
- Announcing ShulCloud - May 2, 2018
- Jacob Smith’s Tikkun Olam Project - April 5, 2018
- Rabbi Rachel Heaps’ Installation - March 14, 2018
- An Update on the Refugee Sisters You Helped Sponsor - December 21, 2017