Annual Meeting President’s Report (Larry Henin)

Larry HeninI hope you and your family are doing well. Here are excerpts from my President’s Report delivered at the annual congregational meeting on June 12 as well as summarize other matters discussed and resolved at the meeting. We had approximately one hundred members attend the meeting virtually, far and above the usual number of members who attend in person. I hope these excerpts and summary are informative for those who were unable to attend the meeting and continue to be of interest to those who did attend.

Annual Congregational Meeting
Excerpts from the President’s Report

We’ve had many firsts these past three months and there are likely many more to come. Tonight is another first for North Shore Synagogue, our annual meeting by Webinar. While some congregations have postponed indefinitely or cancelled their annual meetings, we felt it important to proceed with our meeting tonight and retain some normalcy.

Since my term as President began on July 1, 2019, the first eight and a half months were filled with excitement – although things were relatively normal for our congregation. During the past three months, however, we all went through something that none of us have ever experienced before, we all got caught up in the midst of a global pandemic, where we still remain today.

As I just stated, July started off with excitement as we were joined by our new cantor, Cantor Mariel Ashkenazy, straight out of Cantorial school, but you wouldn’t know that if you heard her sing from up on the Bimah. Many believed our High Holiday services, led by Rabbi Shalhevet and Cantor Ashkenazy, to be one of the best Holy Day services we’ve had in some time – which, by the way, included my short but powerful Kol Nidre appeal speech. (My attempt at some humor.) Everything from that point on went smoothly. Events like – Sukkot Under the Stars, the annual Chanukah breakfast led by Brotherhood, our Simchat Torah celebration; the formal installation of our Cantor in February, and the Purim events in early March.

At about that time, a new word started to spread around – coronavirus. We started to make preparations for something we never dealt with or even thought about before – the potential closing of our building. And then it happened – we were required to close our building starting on March 16. We then moved from our in-person congregation in the building to a virtual one outside of the building. And then a new word began to spread – Zoom.

Our Friday night services began streaming from the Sanctuary. Our Saturday morning Torah Study and Service in the Round went to Zoom. Our Nursery School, run by our Director, Elizabeth Kessler, and our Religious School, run by our Principal, Jacquelynn Golub, each moved to virtual learning. Our B’nei Mitzvah training, run by our Cantor, moved to FaceTime. Many of the B’nei Mitzvahs scheduled during the past three months were postponed to a later date while those that did go forward did so by Zoom. We started different forms of engagement with our congregation; zooming with the clergy, inspirational videos from the clergy, how to make challah; virtual Bingo and Family Feud, among others. Recently we delivered more than 400 Shabbat bags to our synagogue families which was warmly appreciated by all.

We have tried to make the best of a bad situation and I think we succeeded. The worst of it all, however, was COVID19 itself. Tragically, we lost 25 congregants and family members mostly due to this horrific virus over the past several months. Our clergy handled it extremely well, from graveside funerals, sometimes from the car, to pastoral care, and shiva and minyans by Zoom. While many of us can and will make adjustments to make our lives better going forward, we are the fortunate ones to be here tonight, as others have not been as fortunate. Many shivas were held with families alone but we will have a memorial service for those lost so we can all gather together as a community to show our respects at an appropriate time.

So where are we now and where are we heading? I formed a Reopening Committee to explore coming back into the building (discussed below). Some of the other questions we are exploring are the High Holiday services, Nursery School, and Religious School. Can they be held in the building; virtual only; or a hybrid? We are looking into various options.

Many of you have likely heard of the Paycheck Protection Program offered by the US Government. We have taken advantage of that program and have received a loan of approximately $270,000 which can be used for payroll and certain other costs. Based on our anticipated use of those loan proceeds for payroll and other approved costs over the next couple of months, we anticipate that most, if not all, of the loan will be forgiven.
And finally, I would like to thank the congregation for their support, patience and understanding during these difficult times. We are going through this together and we will get through this together. Stay healthy and safe. Thank you.

Other Matters
During the annual meeting, the slate of officers and trustees proposed by the Nominating Committee was approved by the Congregation. This year’s budget was extremely difficult to forecast due to the coronavirus and its potential impact on membership as well as on enrollment in our Nursery and Religious Schools. After a lengthy discussion covering these issues and more, the proposed budget submitted by the Board of Trustees was also approved by the Congregation.