On Yom Kippur morning, I had the privilege of addressing the Congregation. During that address I went “public” with our Promise Campaign. I asked the congregation to commit to raising $1.5M to eliminate debt that remains from our Legacy Campaign.
Below is an excerpt from my address to the congregation explaining the position we are in, and how you can help us ensure that Anshe Emeth continues to be the special place that you and I have come to depend on for many things in our lives.
I hope that you understand that the fiscally responsible solution is to deal with the mortgage now. To that end, I encourage you to ask for more information and to participate generously in the solution. Please click here and someone from our committee will be happy to call you with more information.
I hope you would agree that Anshe Emeth is an extraordinary place and despite demographic and economic pressures, we continue to thrive. I am so grateful to all of our volunteers and our dedicated clergy and staff. I am grateful to all of you who understand why it is so important to support an institution that makes such a dramatic impact on so many lives.
We have understood the struggles of many of our congregants during this difficult economy and have managed to keep most of our fees to minimal or no increases while never turning anybody away simply due to the inability to pay full dues.
Just about 10 years ago our leadership recognized that Anshe Emeth was ready to be reinvigorated and reenergized and that we needed the space to do just that. Those leaders were not satisfied with what we were but had a vision of what we could become. They embarked on the Legacy Campaign. They had the lofty goal of raising $10M to remodel our existing space, add new exciting spaces for us to have room to grow, and put us on sound financial ground by growing our endowment. I want to thank all of you who committed to the Legacy Campaign. Once testamentary gifts are paid, our endowment will be in a better position to meet our needs in the future. Our beautiful building is one to be proud of. The sanctuary is a breathtaking and inspirational place to pray and share in life-cycle events. The new space has enabled us to grow. It has allowed us to engage in Jewish life in new and exciting ways. I don’t think that anybody can deny that we are reaping the rewards of the Legacy Campaign.
Once we were completed with the Legacy Campaign and the last of the commitments were paid, we found ourselves with remaining debt.
While the debt was a little higher than previously anticipated, it was not a surprise. During the course of the campaign, and understanding the financial needs to complete the project, the congregation authorized a long- term loan. We understood that at some point this loan would either need to be paid off or be converted to a long term mortgage.
We knew, though, that we really only had one option. Sure, we could go down the path that other synagogues have gone down: the “Stick your Heads in the Sand and do a lot of praying” strategy. But, when that strategy failed, and the bill came due, these institutions were forced to cut staff, which led to the slashing of programming. They had no choice but to raise dues and fees. They were so focused on their own plight that they could no longer help those in need. The results were obvious—with reduced programming and increased fees, membership dropped and new members stopped joining as the reasons to belong became less compelling.
I hope you can all see that this strategy is not worth the risk.
So just about two years ago, with loan the maturity date still 4 years away, your leadership recognized, like those before us, that our responsibility extended beyond the years that we serve in our leadership roles and that we needed to not only manage the present, but look to the future. We needed to raise funds to ensure the elimination of this debt. We understood that it was not the best economic conditions to embark on this type of endeavor. But we also understood that we had no choice. We needed to be proactive and not wait until it was too late. We understood that without the funds coming in, our operating fund would need to absorb this additional burden. A burden that would strangle us and require us to make difficult, short-sighted decisions that would ultimately prevent Anshe Emeth from being Anshe Emeth.
We needed to fulfill the Promise that the Legacy of our previous campaign would be one of growth, beautification and strength, not one of debt.
We kicked off the quiet phase of what we are calling the “Promise Campaign”. The Board enthusiastically endorsed this campaign and then “walked the walk” by being amongst the first to make financial commitments. Thanks to the tireless dedication of the Promise Campaign Committee chaired by Marvin Zektzer and Gerry Horn, through parlor meetings, phone calls, and one on one meetings with many of our temple families we were able to meet close to 50% of our goal.
We are so thankful to those who have already stepped up by making a financial commitment. This commitment has enabled us to continue to pay down the debt without having to draw a single dollar from our operating fund. We’ve certainly come a long way, and made a significant dent in our debt, but we have more work to do.
I know this information has caught many of you by surprise, and I understand that you have lots of questions. Over the next weeks, there will be more extensive communication about this initiative. We pledge to you full transparency; there is nothing to hide. I ask that you take the call from our committee and listen to what we have to say. We hope that you understand that that the fiscally responsible solution is dealing with the mortgage now and we ask that you participate generously in this solution.
And in the end, we can’t dwell on the past; we must all be part of helping to secure the future.
While I see this next goal as a challenge, one that we must meet, I know that we will be successful in this.
In our 150 year plus history we have tackled every barrier thrown in front of us with remarkable resilience. We have always proudly answered the call when it comes to supporting our wonderful home. We have a lot more history to be written, and when it is, I have no doubt that our future generations will speak in love and reverence about us, much as we speak about our past generations.
This campaign is much more than making a financial commitment, it truly is about making a promise.
So together let’s make a promise:
A promise that our future leaders will have the financial resources to be able to continue to dream;
A promise that we will be able to retain and hire dynamic and visionary staff and clergy to help us fulfill our dreams;
A promise that we will continue to be able to provide our youth with opportunities to develop and grow their Jewish identity and to make the world a better place;
A promise that we will continue to be a shining star to the Middlesex Jewish Community and the community at large;
A promise to do anything and everything to help ensure that Anshe Emeth remains a meaningful and sacred community; one that we can all be proud of;
And a promise that in the years to come people will stand in awe of our beautiful building, bustling with activity, and that we will still hear the words: “Anshe Emeth is an extraordinary place”.
Please click here and someone from our committee will be happy to call you with more information.