Welcome to our AGM
I am proud to be standing here to report on Shul activities and efforts that have occurred during 2019, and our plans for next year. The Board and Executive terms of service are two years in length, and as every president who has stood here before me knows the weeks fly by. Members of the Executive and Board work tirelessly to try and make Adath Israel the best it can be. While there is much we do well, there is always room for improvements.
As many of you know, I really do appreciate your input, both positive and critical, and we do listen, even if we do not always agree.
Tonight, I will try to share some of the highlights of what has been happening at Adath Israel, as well as what we are working on for the next year of the term.
Firstly, I want to wish a Mazal Tov to Anna Gindin, our Program Director, on the birth of her baby daughter. I know that the entire family is very excited, especially the big brothers.
I also want to welcome Amit Rosenblum our acting Director of Programming, while Anna is on maternity leave. Amit arrived in Canada 2.5 years ago from Haifa and most recently he was working at JIAS managing programs and events for recent newcomers. Amit has a 6-year-old son, who has already learned his way around Adath Israel and like so many other Adath kids has figured out how to get lost from his ‘abah.’
Our Executive Director, Phil David has just completed his first year here, and I am sure he will agree he has learned a lot about running a large synagogue. We know his camp experience and working with kids and parents has come in very handy. Today he is enjoying the graduation of his son David from Grade 8. Mazal Tov Phil.
Phil and Linda Reisman, our Lifecycle Event Co-ordinator, have done a great job, not just taking care of our members and their simchas and events, but they have also culled new revenue opportunities to bring in funds. Currently we are renting out our school wing to Magnificent Minds, and rooms to organizations such as Reena and Alpha Omega. We also rented our parking lot to Pedalheads, an innovative children’s bike program, and film companies. You may have noticed a lot of cars and trucks in our parking lot. The vehicles are from production companies who need to park during their production shoots. This week we have a Netflix production company using our sanctuary and parts of Adath Israel. No, they do not need extras, we did ask.
This brings in much required revenue. Kol Hakavod to Phil and Linda and the entire maintenance team for helping to pull this off.
Last fall the Board approved a proposal from First Foundations Children’s Academy to open a pre-nursery and nursery school as of September 2019. This deal included renovations to some of our nursery school classrooms, the hallways, and an upgraded playground. The project is being funded in part by First Foundations. We anticipate that the work will be completed in early July and we look forward to having all of you tour the new facility. Hopefully many of your children and grand children will be able to attend.
Under the auspices of our Ad Hoc Archival Committee, endless hours have been spent sorting and cataloguing many items of significant historical meaning. We will finally have a permanent display area in our library for these items. This display is in tribute to Rabbi Erwin and Laura Schild z”l and was partly funded by the money raised in honour of their 70th wedding anniversary and Rabbi Schild’s 95th birthday. This new display should be ready in a couple of weeks.
Speaking of Rabbi Schild, I spoke to him last week and I can tell you that he is on top of everything going on at Adath Israel. He is a remarkable resource and is available to all of us for his knowledge and history of the shul. We look forward to celebrating his 100th birthday in March of 2020.
Our Congregational Hebrew School has seen some challenges, including reduced enrollment. Under the leadership of Dr. Jack Lipinsky and with a great deal of input from Phil David and the School Committee, chaired by David Malach, we have rebranded the School as Adath Hebrew Academy. We are still offering a two day a week Hebrew School for Grades 3 and up and for the coming year we are working on a program that will provide transportation on the Tuesday from your child’s public school. We hope you will spread the word about our new offerings and encourage your friends and family to attached Adath Hebrew Academy. It is open to both members and non-members children.
In terms of programs, I am extremely proud of the wide variety of events that have taken place in the past 12 months.
Many of these events came together under our chair of Adult Programming Joe Trager and his dedicated committee. Beyond our traditional evening events, we explored program over the lunch hours and this effort will continue to grow next year.
In the past year we have been privileged to have such speakers as Neil Lazarus and Renan Levine, excellent speakers on Middle East Politics, Sue-Ann Levy a popular Toronto journalist, James Snyder from the Israel Museum, an informative session on Medical Marijuana, movie and dinner nights, as well as ongoing lecture series from our clergy.
We are very appreciative of donations and endowment funds that help us bring first class programs to Adath Israel. In the fall we hosted Mr. Jonathan Tobin thanks to the generosity of the Gottesman family, in memory of their parents Herman and Carole Gottesman. This spring we were very fortunate to host an evening with Pulitzer prize winner Bret Stephens. Over 500 people heard Bret speak on many topics including the rise of anti-Semitism. The evening was generously sponsored by Richard Bogoroch and his family in memory of his parents Joe and Anne Bogoroch.
In late March we hosted our first unit of POM Soldiers. This effort was orchestrated by our Israel Affairs Committee chaired by Belinda Schneeweiss, Peace of Mind works tirelessly providing Israeli Veterans with much needed therapy and support. Ten Adath Families had the honour of hosting soldiers and therapists and getting to know them. The Oneg Shabbat Dinner was full of “ruach” and emotion. Those who attended will never forget the singing and dancing and the soldiers hoisting Cantor Stein up on their shoulders, as we all danced the hora. We were able to participate this year thanks to the generosity of the Ben and Sylvia Marks Endowment fund. (Ben was a past president and Sylvia very involved with Sisterhood).
Donations and specifically endowment funds are essential in helping Adath Israel provide the great programs and activities that we are known for. I urge you and your families to consider Adath Israel in your ongoing charitable giving and specifically your legacy planning.
Speaking of fundraising I want to report that our major fundraiser with Henry Winkler last November was a huge success. Mr. Winkler was amazing, and the evening was followed by a fabulous dessert reception by our newest caterer two13. We raised over $50,000; and the reviews were tremendous.
Please mark your calendars for Thursday November 21st for our 2019 major fundraiser. This special evening is in the early planning stages, but I can hint that we will be honouring Cantor Alex Stein on his 10th Anniversary at Adath Israel and it will be a special musical evening.
The wonderful programs and ongoing activity are successful, in part, due to the wonderful work of our Publicity Committee, led by Susan Rubin. Susan works tirelessly to ensure we are publicizing everything going on, in all formats. from our shofar and weekly emails to social media. Susan was very responsible for getting our website up to date and we are so appreciative of her efforts.
We are now working on integrating all our information into a software system known as Shul Cloud. This is a lot of upfront work for Perry and the office staff. but will be well worth it once it is done. Many other shuls are already using this program to make it easier for us all to register for programs and pay our membership, make donations etc.
I want to let you know that there has also been a lot of time spent in meetings about security. Joey Sadofsky has built a wonderful team of volunteers who help usher each shabbat and yomim tovim; and are attending many of the community security meetings. CIJA and UJA and the community have ensured we, along with all the other shuls are as informed and ready as possible for security threats. We have received grants from the Federal Government, which were used to install additional cameras (both inside and outside the shul); special film on all doors to the shul; improved lighting in the parking lot and replacement gates in the parking lot. Additional security items we are hoping to complete in 2019 include: a PA system throughout the building (so that where ever you are in the building you can hear if there is an emergency situation); screens and panic button on the bimah and special door enclosures to the sanctuary. Your Board also recently approved the addition of police officers any time there is a simcha or when there are more than 200 people in attendance for an event. Now there is no guarantee we will always get an officer, but we are going to make every effort. Later this evening at our June Board Meeting we will be discussing additional security issues including training and funding.
Our Treasurer, Paul Faibish, will be presenting our financials. The Budget and Finance Committee and your Board spent many hours ensuring that we are using all the dollars wisely. Both our past Treasurer Steve Goldberg and our new Treasurer have assured me that we are in good shape financially.
We have an incredibly dedicated staff who truly serve this congregation every day and work to see every aspect of our shul life run smoothly from 6:30 a.m. (people arriving for first minyan) until 11:00 p.m. (and some meetings run that late).
We must thank our Clergy and Staff for everything that they do to make Adath Israel so special and successful. I want to mention the office staff by name to Phil, Nancy, Linda, Perry Randi, Miriam and Florence, Todah Rabah!!
And of course, to our maintenance team, led by Frank and the girls in the kitchen, thank you.
But they don’t and can’t do it alone. An army of volunteers fill in the gaps that money can’t buy. Literally hundreds of volunteers sit on committees, help in the office at peak periods, staff events, make phone calls, research, act as contractors, and donate of their time and money to support the myriad of activities that take place here literally every day.
To our clergy team Rabbi Cutler, Rabbi Seed, Cantor Stein and Cantor Sharpe, thank you for servicing our congregants and providing us the leadership to keep Adath Israel going with its multitude of activities and programs. I know it was announced last Shabbat, but I want to offer a mazal tov to Rabbi Seed as he takes on the role of President of Toronto Board of Rabbi’s and to Rabbi Cutler, Yasher Koach as you become immediate past president.
Personally, I also want to thank the entire staff for your friendship. As President of Adath Israel I spend a lot of time here and sometimes it feels like I see and speak to my Adath Family more than to my own, so thanks to all of you!