It’s Hard to Be Jewish Alone (Larry Henin)

On October 8, 2019, I delivered my Kol Nidre appeal speech. Although a large number of members were in attendance that evening, I have decided to publish it below for the benefit of those members who were not present and to reinforce my message to those who were. Before doing so I want to set forth the inspiration for my message and to dedicate my appeal speech to my parents, Florence and Nathan Henin. My parents joined the Jewish Center of Kew Garden Hills (JCKGH) located in Queens in the mid-1950’s. Both my parents were very much involved in temple life. At one point my father was president of their temple for three years. I suppose a lot of my parent’s commitment to their synagogue rubbed off on me. My father passed away five years ago this week but I followed in his footsteps in not only being active at North Shore Synagogue but also becoming its president this past July. My mother passed away on September 21 of this year, just eight days after her 93rd birthday, while still a member of the JCKGH. Upon her passing, there was a tremendous outpouring of compassion and support to me and my family from many members of the North Shore Synagogue community – some of whom I have known for many years and some of whom I had only a brief familiarity with – which is one of the many reasons you will see below why it is so important and comforting to be a member of a synagogue – and in particular – North Shore Synagogue. Now for my appeal speech.

Good evening. It’s time for the Kol Nidre appeal from the temple president. That’s me!

Let’s get a few things straight. This will not be the typical appeal speech, putting many of you to sleep or dreaming of that dessert you gave up to be here on time. This year I will not recite all the wonderful programs we have here at North Shore Synagogue. You can learn about those programs by reading our weekly happenings or monthly Shalom or by stopping by the main office. So, I’m not going to use my one hour up here to tell you about them. Seriously, I’m just asking for a few minutes of your attention.

So how do I encourage each and every one of you to open up your pockets and make a pledge, and hopefully a very generous pledge this year? That’s a great question. Anyone out there have the answer? Okay, I think I do.

It’s very important to me and many of you sitting out there that North Shore Synagogue has a strong and viable future. Why is there some doubt about that future? Let me tell you why. It’s a fact that the number of Jewish families living in our area is on the decline and many of those Jewish families who do move in believe, unlike all of you, that they have no need for a synagogue. That thinking, of course, could potentially lead to the end of synagogue life as we know it. But, as most of you know, synagogue life, whether you attend one or two days a year or every week of the year, is vital to us to maintain our Jewish identity. It’s more important than ever that we have a place to go to – where we act as one, with a common heritage, common holidays, common rituals, common morals, common principles and common beliefs. North Shore Synagogue is that place. Our synagogue serves to bring Jews together – for worship, study and community.

Each of us has our own reasons for being a member of North Shore Synagogue. In the spirit of Jewish tradition, if I asked everyone here for your reasons I’d get many, many different answers.

To me, North Shore Synagogue is the place where our children and grandchildren are being taught to love and embrace Judaism, and enjoy the many wonderful holidays and traditions our religion boasts. 

To me, North Shore Synagogue is the place where we can celebrate together holidays, mitzvahs and other joyous occasions.

To me, North Shore Synagogue is the place to come together to support others in crisis, to rally together to help others in need, and console one another when a loss of a loved one must be confronted.

To me, North Shore Synagogue is the place where we meet new friends, experience friendship, and have a sense of belonging.

To me, North Shore Synagogue is the place where we come to address larger Jewish concerns by addressing anti-Semitism, engaging in Tikkun Olam – and worship together to improve the nature of our society and the world.

To me, North Shore Synagogue is the place where we form a new link in the chain of Jewish tradition carrying on historic values for future generations to inherit.

So, North Shore Synagogue is important to me for many reasons. North Shore Synagogue is, in essence, a community, a special community consisting of all of us – of which we are all a part of – and which plays an important role in our lives.

It’s hard to be Jewish alone. Through a congregation, one’s Jewish life experience is enhanced and expanded by partnering with a community that is lasting and offers a rich menu of experiences throughout the year. That is what a Synagogue like North Shore Synagogue is all about – a place to provide for the spiritual, communal and educational needs of every generation of Jews.

Now some of you may be thinking, all that you say is fine, but let someone else come forward to pay for the privilege of maintaining our synagogue and synagogue life – I already pay my dues. But dues barely get us by each year. It’s your Kol Nidre pledges and continuing membership that will take us into the future. If you leave it up to others, sooner or later, there will no longer be any others and Jewish life as we now experience it here at North Shore Synagogue may come to an end. Now, I don’t want to scare anyone into thinking that North Shore Synagogue is about to shut down. It’s not – and I expect it will be here for many, many more years to come. But, it’s important, that we not take that for granted

So once again I ask each of you to be generous this year when you make your Kol Nidre pledge.

Do it for yourselves. Do it for your family. Do it for your children. Do it for your grandchildren, and Do it for the generations to come.

On behalf of myself, my family, and the staff and the entire Board of Trustees of North Shore Synagogue, La Shana Tovah, a healthy and prosperous New Year to you and your families, and thank you for being a part of the North Shore Synagogue family.