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by Rabbi Laurence Elis Milder, Ph.D.
Congregations need times for self-reflection. No congregation should coast, go on auto-pilot, or think of its mission as the doing of business-as-usual.
At least once a year, we need to take stock. What have we accomplished? What are the challenges we face? What are the possibilities? Perhaps most important of all, what are our dreams?
For individuals, this kind of reflection takes place during the High Holidays. But congregations have a different cycle. We look at ourselves at our annual meeting.
People have a tendency to disparage meetings, but I don’t take that path. Meetings bring us together for a shared purpose. They are a tribute to our spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. They appeal to our “better angels.”
Annual meetings are also the time when we honestly say thank you. We are indebted to those who have volunteered their personal time to lead and make decisions on behalf of the congregation. Particularly deserving of our in-person gratitude are members of the Board of Directors who are completing their term of service.
Those coming on to the Board as new directors also deserve your vote of affirmation for the commitment that they are making. And, appropriately, without your vote, no one can be elected to lead this congregation. A quorum is an expression of the democratic character of the congregation, and the best democracies are those in which the members actually participate.
This is the season of annual meetings. Perhaps yours will begin with the requisite bagels, coffee and conversation. The meeting probably includes the election of the new Board of Directors, and a vote on the budget for the coming year. This is the way leadership and priorities are embodied.
Just as important, though, are the reflections on the past year, the vision of the future, and the thoughts and feedback that you share.
Here’s to annual meetings. They enable us to recognize the significant milestones we have passed as a community. They afford us moments to see the big picture. They are an accounting of our resources, our potential, and what it will take to achieve our collective vision.
Let’s make our annual meeting a priority. It’s the moment that reminds us that we are all in this together.
Rabbi Laurence Elis Milder, Ph.D. is the rabbi of Congregation Beth Emek in Pleasanton, CA.