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10/02/2017 10:44:04 AM


Shari Kleiner

Kol Nidre 5778

Hi. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Shari Kleiner.

I am the Chair of this year’s High Holiday Appeal.  

So this is the appeal speech.  Every year at this time, someone gets up here and makes an appeal to help Ohev survive another budget cycle. That’s the way this shul works – it charges less in dues and fees than is budgeted to run the shul.  You may wonder why.  I don’t know the answer. It is a model with critics and advocates.  But I know I prefer it this way.  Let me tell you why.  

For those who don’t know our story, my husband Jay and I moved here from the Boston area with our three children three years ago. After 14 years of living in the same neighborhood, of owning our home and making wonderful friends, we decided to leave.  

As I explained in my letter that went out to all of you – and which I am sure you all read--we left in large part to find a better community in which to “observe” our Judaism.  

We had a place to daven and to hear megillah and to sell our chametz.  We had no problem fulfilling our obligations - But we were looking for someplace that would kick it up a level.  It may sound trite, but it is true, we were looking for a hiddur – or enhanced -- version of our observance.  To be completely honest, we also were looking to “shake things up” and blow off the dust to make sure that our choices were ones we were choosing and not just falling into.  We wanted to grow by experiencing change and challenge.  And so we came here for what might have been a one-year experiment.  I want to share with you the story of what happened…    

We moved in August.  It was exhausting and REALLY HOT. School started for our kids almost immediately – that was exhausting too.  and then BOOM it was the High Holidays.  

I remember sitting in this crowded sanctuary on my first Rosh Hashanah.  Those of you who did not grow up as a woman in a traditional Orthodox synagogue with traditional seating may not understand how I felt but please imagine– I sat right there - just a few feet from the shulchan – which I could see perfectly – I was not a full story above it looking down; I was not in the back of the room looking over everyone’s heads; I was not peering over or through an obscuring cloth or structure.  Josh Milner was leading -- his strong voice was not performing but leading his community in prayer.  He WANTED people to join in.  It was transformative.  Yes, there are many other things – some small and some bigger.  We have a Maharat.  That one is really big.

All these things mattered to me and moved me.  And I realized – this community had thought about - and had made - a place of hiddur mitzvah.  The cumulative result for me 3 years ago was huge.  But it was also small.  I davened.  I davened and thought about what I was doing in a way that all the distractions and small slights had previously prevented.  I added my prayers to those of this community’s and it felt good.  And needed.   

Rosh Hashanah was followed by Yom Kippur and then Sukkot.  And then, another thing happened -  My husband told me he had been asked to accept the honor of chatan torah.  He was surprised and confused. He said that he thought they were making a mistake – you see, although we are blessed with the ability to provide a decent and comfortable life for our family –there was LITERALLY NO WAY that we were in a position to become one of largest donors to the shul.  Surely they had been misled about our financial situation.  

But when Jay explained his reticence – he was told. “N0” We –Ohev--don’t give this honor to the biggest potential giver or to the highest bidder.  We seek out someone new to the community.  We seek out someone we know is on the outside of the inner circle and bring them in.  We proclaim with one of the biggest honors that the shul can give – that this is a value we care about.   I am not saying it makes financial sense – It does not. But it speaks louder and clearer about what Ohev strives to do than anything else I can think of.  

A few months after the holidays was my daughter, Maya’s, Bat Mitzvah.  Before we moved, we had put a lot of thought into what we wanted Maya to learn in the year prior to her Bat Mitzvah to prepare her-  but we put almost no thought into the public event.  Want to know why?  The options we had seen in our previous shul were pretty mediocre and did not require much thought.     

And so we met with Rabbi Herzfeld and Maharat Ruth to talk about what Maya’s bat mitzvah would be – and we were asked what SHE wanted to do.  Seriously.  Now I know that our timing in this respect was superb.  But the fact is – it was the first time anyone had framed it that way.  Did she WANT to leyn?  Did she WANT to lead davening?  


SHE got to choose.  We had never felt happier to throw a big party.  And honestly, nothing was as big a gift as having a daughter who had no clue what the big deal was.  The fact is that Ohev has created an environment in which our children can take for granted so many things. 

But WE should not.

So now it is 3 years later and obviously we chose to stay.  My oldest son, Ezra, is applying to college. He is writing his college essay – his one opportunity to show his target community for the next 4 years what he is made of.  We are told that because he has not discovered a new gene, reversed global warming or cured an orphan disease - he needs to demonstrate that he has character and would add something beyond the ordinary or minimally acceptable to his college community of choice.  In doing so, we got to think about how each of us would describe what WE add to the community.  

Ohev provides many opportunities for individuals to give of themselves and add hiddur to the community. If you have ever made a meal for a family with a new child, or opened your home or sukkah to someone who you do not know, you know what I mean.  

If you have had the opportunity to make matzah for your seder with your own hands or to help a team of people in the Ohev kitchen self-cater a Simcha to make it affordable, you know what hiddur mitzvah is.  

If you have participated in gardening around the shul, performing security detail or making sure the HVAC in the shul is functioning properly, you know.  

If you have helped make a mosaic to beautify our mikvah, or you serve as a mikvah attendant or on the chevra kadisha you know.  

If you have visited a shul member who is homebound or brought someone who is ill a meal you know.    

Individuals contribute to this shul in many, many ways, some of which are obvious and many of which are less so, but all of which add hiddur to our community.  We appreciate and rely on each person who gives of themselves in those ways. 

When you give more of yourself, it often helps others -- but it also helps you.  It makes us better, happier, holier people. It allows our community to flourish and we need our community.

My story continues.

If you have never been really sick and needed to lean on the kindness and help of friends and community to get through a tough time  – you may not realize how deep those values run here.  

I recently have.  

I can only tell you that this community can make you actually begin to believe that your need is not just a burden to others but also an opportunity for them to show kindness, empathy or nurture.  

That is how you know you live in a real community.  That is also how you know you must ensure that it continues to thrive.  

We all have our critiques and our pet peeves.  There is no question that Ohev can do some things better and that we need to work even harder to meet all the needs and wants of our incredibly diverse community; there are many areas for growth.  But this is the time in our calendar for teshuvah - when we double down on self reflection and aspirations of doing better and more.

I said I would try to explain why I am glad that Ohev budgets this way – charging less than it needs and asking people to step up.  By paying dues – you fulfil the requirement of supporting your house of worship.  But this process pushes us all to do more. Ohev NEEDS your financial support. Please do what you can to ensure that Ohev can continue its mission of hiddur mitzvah.    

Finally – nothing makes us happier than being a destination for guests and visitors.  If you are visiting with us.  Welcome.  We are thrilled you are here.  If you are able, please take an envelope from the table outside and help us.  You already have contributed to our community by sharing your presence and adding your tefillot – now we invite you to invest in us as well.  

As I conclude, I want to take a moment of Hakarat Hatov to thank everyone here for making us a part of this amazing community.  As we stand together this chag being judged as individuals and as a collective and praying for ourselves and each other, there is not a group with whom I would rather stand. Thank you for raising me up.  May we all be zocheh for a G’mar Chatimah Tovah.  Wishing everyone a Shanna Tova and a year of good health and bracha.     

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