President’s Message: Assessing the Present and Looking Ahead

MCJC Connections
November/December 2017 ~ Cheshvan/Kislev/Tevet ~ Vol. 5778

By Jack Fishman

It’s hard to believe, but as I write this, the High Holidays are now be- hind us. We’ve just finished ten very emotional days, led by Rabbi Tom, Gene Lindow, and the Ritual Committee.

While we have yet to determine the results of the financial appeals,
and while we are still finalizing our membership count, dues accounting, and other economic matters, it’s an appropriate time to mention how wonderful it was seeing such a great turnout for all of our High Holiday services. It was encouraging and fulfilling to see so many members, along with new and different faces – some guests, some friends and relatives of members, others who were just “trying us out” during the holidays. We certainly hope we see many of those new faces again and again, and that many become members.

As I mentioned during my comments, the Board has two very weighty agenda items to address in the very near future: determining whether or not, and if so, under what terms, Rabbi Tom’s contract may be renewed; and working on Board and Executive Board succession planning, in anticipation of losing three of the four Executive Board members, and most likely at least one or two members at large, in May.

As you’ve heard me say over and over, your Board deserves great appreciation for the yeoman’s work they do, often unknown and behind-the-scenes.

Being a Board member is a very rewarding experience, and that has been even more so during these last few years, while we have undergone some fairly significant changes. Being at the forefront of some of those changes, which hopefully will ultimately inure to everyone’s benefit, has been a vital part of your Board’s agenda.

However, being a Board or Executive Board member is also a very time-consuming job. There aren’t many days that go by when there isn’t some MCJC issue to deal with: building and grounds, security, education, ritual, financial, programming, or something else.

Your Board has been a very hands-on Board, getting involved in a number of very different issues. While Board members do, and should, bring their own ideas and agendas to the Board, it is important that the Board as a whole operate fairly consistently and uniformly for the good of the organization which they represent, in this case, MCJC. Dissenting opinions are always welcome, and as such these differing views are the backbone of our democratic society, and they are never disregarded. But ultimately, every Board seeks unanimous, or at least majority, consensus, so that it
knows it is moving forward in the best interests of those they represent as their constituents. Sometimes the things we do as a Board or Executive Board are not agreeable to all members or not immediately understood, if at all, and some issues often remain contentious, even after we have acted. Not everything we do may ultimately prove to be successful, although we certainly believe it will be when we vote to act in a certain way. No one and no group or organization is perfect, and your Board is prone to that same human
fallibility.

I go into all this detail by way of indicating that there is no perfect or utopian recipe for a successful Executive Board, Board, or President. When my term is over, and everything is said and done, as I said in
my Yom Kippur speech, it will be up to each of you individually to assess whether or not the last four years, and especially the last few years during our period of transition, has been beneficial or not. I’d like to think that the majority of our congregation believes that what we’ve done has been in the collective majority’s best interest, and that even those dissenters understand why we’ve taken the actions we have, and that ultimately they may come to accept, if not agree
with, the path we have taken.

It soon will be time for a new set of leaders to step up and take on the weighty task of helping to maintain our fiscal and substantive growth, stability, and existence. I believe we will leave the organization in very good shape for that next generation of leaders. However, those leaders have not yet been identified. While ultimately the Executive Board, along with a nominating committee, will work to identify and ultimately put forward nominations for our future leaders, we hope to begin the process of identifying and working with members who may have an interest in advance,
to prepare them and the congregation for that transition. While we have already begun the process of trying to identify individuals who may want to join the Board, we are opening up the process for those who would like to express an interest in at least being considered for Board positions.

Requirements: ability to work long and odd hours, sometimes at a moment’s notice; a strong personality to stand up for what you believe is in the best interest of the organization; the ability to build a consensus among your fellow Board members; the ability to recognize when you are wrong or you need to back down from a position; the ability to accept criticism – from fellow Board members, the rabbi, and the congregation; but also the ability to give
criticism – hopefully constructively – when necessary. I have had the good fortune to be President of a number of organizations – both civic and professional.

I have made a point to work diligently to have my successors well-groomed before my terms were over, so those individuals could step into their positions with the appropriate tools to be successful. I’d like to follow that same mantra at MCJC and begin to work with
the potential leaders well before the May transition.

In light of the issues we will address soon – the rabbi’s contract and potential renewal, the financial impact of our appeal and how that relates to MCJC’s budget for the coming year, the always present security issues, our building and ground issues, operations, school,
programming, etc. – there’s plenty to keep prospective
Board members interested and active while “learning
the ropes,” over the next few months.

Not everyone who expresses an interest will be able to serve, or ultimately be selected by the nominating committee, but there are plenty of needs, including committee positions that need to be filled, and we look forward to working with interested members.

As with every other relationship and organization, MCJC’s success will be a combination of a number of factors and a number of individuals – our spiritual leader, our Board, our teachers, committee chairs and members, other volunteers and the congregation at
large.

As your current Board enters the last eight months of the term, we look forward to working with those of you who are ready, willing, and able, and those who are ultimately chosen and accept the challenge of serving, to serve with us as we pass the mantle of MCJC’s leadership. MCJC’s future is in all of your hands. I’m confident that’s a good thing.

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