Category Archives: President

Co-President’s Column: Join Our Journey For Continuous Improvement

September/October 2018 – Elul/Tishrei/Cheshvan
Volume 5778-5779

Karen Koenig

By Karen Koenig

My full-time job revolves around the woodworking industry, where companies often incorporate the concepts of lean production and continuous improvement in their operation, not only to survive, but to thrive in today’s economic landscape.

Those familiar with MCJC know that we are already a lean operation, working without “waste.” Along with Rabbi Tom, and a dedicated staff of teachers and volunteers too numerous to mention, we strive hard to ensure the work and projects at MCJC get done in an efficient and timely manner.

But we can always use more hands to help. I encourage every one of you to join one of the many committees, assist on a fundraiser, or volunteer to help out around the synagogue or during services. We also need your help to ensure continuous improvement at MCJC. Without this ongoing effort, we run the risk of stagnation or worse.

Already, many products and processes are in place to streamline and improve the member services provided by our synagogue. Most notable is the revamped MCJCOnline.org website, with new and improved features to entice and assist current and prospective members. These include: sections on worship and lifecycle events, Torah study, MCJC happenings, musical, inspirational and educational videos. In addition, we now offer online payment options for donations, dues, or other fees, a section with express announcements/late-breaking news, an easy-to-use calendar of events and submission forms for membership, and volunteering or events. If you haven’t had an opportunity to visit the site recently, I urge you to check it out.

Also revamped is the religious education program, with a school-wide curriculum that connects with an online component, and B’nai Mitzvah teachings. Changes have also been made to the classroom structure for teaching Judaica and Hebrew. This is an exciting development at MCJC, and will enhance your child’s religious education experience.

Another recent change was converting the kitchen to veggie/dairy. This now eliminates the continual problems that arose from the mixing of dishes and utensils, despite having marked doors and drawers. (Accommodations will be made for hosting the Passover second night Seder, traditionally held at MCJC.)

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to reexamine and improve our products and processes at MCJC. As we begin a new Jewish year, I encourage you to get involved and provide input– a journey like this is successful if we have everyone’s participation.

I would also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a good New Year 5779. May it be one of health, happiness, peace, and prosperity for all.

President’s Report: “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” “All Good Things…”

MCJC Connections
May/June 2018 ~ Iyar/Sivan/Tamuz ~ Vol. 5778

Jack Fishman

By Jack Fishman

For those television fans reading this column, you may recognize the two titles of this article as the names of the final episodes of “M*A*S*H” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” two of my all-time favorite shows. I thought they were two very aptly named final series episodes.

I thought it was appropriate to use those episodes’ names as the titles of this column – my last newsletter column, after nine years of Board involvement, from Board member-at-large to Executive Vice President, and four years as your President.

In so many of my columns over the years I have reflected on the transitions that I’ve gone through personally and professionally, and those that MCJC has gone through in that same time. Indulge me as I take this approach one last time. These last four years have been nothing short of “revolutionary” for me personally, and so, I dare say, for MCJC.

I have experienced my only child, Rebecca, compete for the last time in the sport she dominated for so long (karate), get her driver’s license and her first car, graduate from high school, get accepted into the college of her choice, transition to college life, make Dean’s List,
and, at age eighteen, already be in a two and half year committed relationship. My twenty five year marriage ended, and while Liz and I remain close friends, my relationship with my partner, Ella, is now almost two years old and still developing. I struggle with some health issues, some ascertainable and others not. Those situations continue to progress.

Over that same time frame, MCJC has transitioned to a non affiliated congregation and has recently entered into what we hope will be a long-term commitment with Rabbi Tom. Sadly, some long-term members departed and are missed. Other young families with young children have joined us. We have new members – and many new faces – on the Board and Executive Board, and we have new committees and new committee members, along with a new approach to our overall religious practice. We have a new look to our school, new office staff, and so much more. Each of our personal revolutions continue, as does the evolution of MCJC.

Where are we as a congregation today? Each of you has to assess that based on your own criteria. I’ve said from the beginning of my Executive Board service that my goal was to leave MCJC in a “better
position” than when I began, and I reiterated that aspiration throughout my two terms as President. We are certainly a very different organization than we were eight years ago, four years ago, and two years ago. Better? I certainly think so. But I am very biased on this point, and “better” is a subjective term.

We’ve weathered some significant storms: the loss of members, and the wind-down of the long-term involvement of others that had become almost second nature to us; ritual and philosophic differences of opinion and practice. And yet here we are.

As I look toward my future as a congregant, I know that my connection with MCJC will change. I will be here less, I will be less involved in what’s going on, I will have less reason to worry about all the minutiae that for the last four years have been part of my daily
routine. But I will love this place no less, and I will feel no less of an affinity for this institution. This building and our sanctuary is where I first spent any real time with Ella. This building and this sanctuary is
where my daughter became a bat mitzvah, with an overflowing crowd of family and friends. It’s where I experienced one of my favorite, never to be forgotten life’s experiences, when Rebecca broke down on the bima as she was thanking Liz and me for helping her get to that moment, leaving not a dry eye in the sanctuary. Thanks to Gene Lindow, we have that moment captured forever on DVD. And that moment happened, at least in part, because of so many of you and our community here at MCJC.

No one knows what the future holds. We don’t know where we will end up in life, where we will be living, what synagogue we may be attending, where our children may live and whether we will move to be close to them. We don’t know what our health will be and what we will be able to accomplish as the years pass.

We can’t necessarily quantify what motivates us to take on the commitments many of us have over the years, some over and over again, both at MCJC and elsewhere. The Board and Executive Board have worked very hard these last few months to make sure that the transition to the incoming Board and Executive Board is as seamless and as easy as possible for all involved.

While we struggled at times with some decisions that needed to be made, I believe that Rob Perbohner, Jen Finger, and Karen Koenig, as well as the entire Board, collectively believe that we are moving in the right direction, moving forward, on the path to stability — financial, religious, and substantive. But we all readily acknowledge we have a long way to go. We have to grow membership, grow our school, find more commonalities, and continue to understand our differences. None of that will come easy, but all of it can come.

We have made quantum leaps in the nine years I’ve been on the Board, not necessarily because of me, or your Board, but because of the sense of community, caring, and belonging that each of us has for this institution. I would be lying if I said I didn’t kvetch about the presidency at times over the years. I wondered if I wanted to take on a second term, and during some of the more tumultuous times, both for me personally and at MCJC, I wondered if it was worth the effort. In hindsight, of course it was, and since it isn’t my nature to quit something I commit to doing, I feel that I succeeded on a number of levels by persevering through those difficult times. Each of you will, of course, have your own opinion of the impact on MCJC.

It has been a privilege, honor, and – most of the time – pleasure, serving as your President. In the long history of MCJC, there have only been a select few individuals who have had that distinction, and to be considered in the same breath as many of those who have come before me, makes me quite proud. I have no doubt that those who will follow me will feelthe same as they reflect on their Presidencies and Board involvement.

This is a melancholy article. I leave with regrets, but “then again too few to mention.” And so I’ll say goodbye for my last official time in this newsletter but hope that I will see you all soon, and fairly often, at the place we call our Jewish home, MCJC.

May you all be blessed with good health, prosperity, happiness, and success, family and enduring friendships. Thank you for the opportunity to have served on your behalf on the Board and as your President.

Vice President’s Report: Building Our Future

MCJC Connections
March/April 2018 * Adar/Nissan/Iyar * Volume 5778

By Rob Perbohner

Thank you to Jack Fishman for the opportunity to fill in for the President’s Column in this issue. It is a busy time at MCJC as we continue to transition and evolve in the various areas we serve. I have analogized our congregation as resting on a three-legged stool. Each leg represents a crucial piece of our synagogue and community.

As announced by email to members, Rabbi Tom Samuels has been retained for continued Rabbinic leadership at MCJC. Rabbi Tom and MCJC agreed to a fixed two-year term with an additional two option years. This provides our community with continuity in spiritual leadership, and gives Rabbi Tom the ability to further shape our ritual experience.

Our Ritual Chair, Gene Lindow, has worked closely with Rabbi Tom and the full committee to continue to evolve our service structure and guide our religious experience. A number of new faces have joined the committee, and have contributed regularly to our services.

Our Hebrew School also has been evolving, as we have seen fewer students in the school. With retirements from some of our long-standing teachers, we operate with a leaner staff. Our teachers, working with the Rabbi, continue to fine tune our curriculum, and further refinements for next year are being considered after input from our parents. Our goal is to combine a challenging and rewarding experience along with assuring a strong Judaic knowledge in preparation for both their B’nai Mitzvah and adulthood.

We face the same challenges as other synagogues with secular commitments and activities conflicting with traditional Hebrew school requirements. Nevertheless, MCJC remains committed to educating our children in Jewish life and experience. One recent development is that Rabbi Tom is beginning a dedicated B’nai Mitzvah class for students in the 4th grade and above. This will both strengthen the bonds between the kids and their readiness to become Jewish adults.

Obviously, a key factor in the health of our synagogue is attracting and retaining members. As synagogues throughout our area vie for a smaller pool of Jewish families, our hope is that our unique approach to Jewish life and learning will continue to attract new members, while keeping our current members active.

Rabbi Tom has focused on enhancing the meaning and love of Judaism. His approach has caused us to stretch our learning, and also accept new perspectives and practices. Our hope is that this experience can be shared by more in our community.

We will soon introduce our new website, which will re-introduce MCJC to the world. This website, created by Leslie Cook with assistance from many, provides an avenue to better share who we are and what we offer. We will also focus on rejuvenating a formal membership committee to reach out and recruit potential members.

Finally, we are preparing for a major fundraiser in April which all members will be asked to support. We need your assistance to maintain our operations!

As this will be my last chance to speak to you in the newsletter before my term ends as Vice-President, I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve MCJC. Thanks to Jack for his strong and reasoned leadership over the last four years and also to the rest of our officers and Board Members. Our Board has faced some difficult issues, but each member has contributed to find solutions and keep MCJC strong.

In the coming months, we will need more of our members to volunteer for committee and leadership roles. We need you to take an active role in MCJC activities and programs. We have seen newer members step up and fill roles that others retired from after many years.

Our Operations Committee has done a spectacular job in handling events and day to day functions. Special thanks to Jill Purvin and Dara Turnball for taking leadership, along with Lea Grover. Further thanks to George Sachs, who has spent countless hours nursing our new boiler through a bumpy road. He has been our David with a Goliath of issues.

I look forward to seeing great achievements for our little synagogue. It has been the strength of our members and their continued support that has maintained our relevance for our members and our greater Jewish community. Let’s all resolve to support MCJC as a dynamic center for Jewish life, learning, and love in the greater McHenry County area.

President’s Report: We Look Ahead as Another Year Passes

MCJC Connections
January/February 2018 ~ Tevet/Shevat/Adar ~ Vol. 5778

By Jack Fishman

While the weather has been remarkably temperate, we know that the dark, cold days of winter loom ahead. Yet along with that come the holidays, and regardless of your religious, cultural, spiritual persuasions and your own level of “holiday involvement,” December was meant to be filled with family, friends, and enjoyable experiences.

As the secular New Year approaches, we typically take stock of the year that’s about to pass, and look forward to the new year with hope and aspirations. We hope for a healthy and happy year, a year of time with our family and friends, a year of prosperity, success in our businesses and in our personal lives.

The transitions that we each undergo as the year – and years – pass, become less burdensome as we become more accepting of our current station in life.

Some things linger and are harder to accept than others, but time goes on. There are many things we can change, but many more that we can’t, both in our lives and in our surroundings, and we have to be accepting – and grateful – for what we have and where we are.

As we each take stock of our own lives, we here at MCJC have to gauge where we were and where we are. 2018 will certainly be a year of transition, and yet some things will be static.

We are entering into contract negotiations with Rabbi Samuels, and hope to have a contract with him finalized in the next several
weeks. While we don’t yet have a new slate of candidates to propose for the Board in May, we are working on addressing that issue, and we are trying to identify candidates who may be interested in stepping up to fill the openings that will be available on the Board come May.

It would be fair to say that the last few years have been a bit challenging for many of us at MCJC. But as Winston Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, keep on going.” And so here we are.

MCJC is poised to enter a new stage of its existence as we look towards 2018. We need everyone’s support and enthusiastic involvement. We need your candid opinions about everything – from religious and spiritual matters, to building and ground concerns, to operations, and the performance of your Board. Take this opportunity, brought on by a new year and the changes that lie ahead, to help make a difference in MCJC’s growth and viability.

My wish for us as we enter the New Year is that we all make the most of the good times we can have with family, friends, and those dear to us; that the new year brings health, happiness, and prosperity to all of us; that the issues that have divided us become less divisive; and that we all are able to be thankful for the good things we have, never forgetting the challenges we may have faced.

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.