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Shedding New Light on Jewish Traditions

Janet Karp Story

My Time as President

Janet Karp

 

Originally, we intended to go schul shopping. I had read Mordecai Kaplan’s Judaism as a Civilization many years prior to joining a synagogue. It resonated with me, but I fell back on the familiar. We joined a local conservative synagogue that felt much like the one in which I grew up. A year or so later, I saw an ad for a Purim shpiel at Curtis Arboretum, across from the RRC, Or Hadash’s original home. I had never before seen rabbis and congregants acting so crazy and free! It was such a natural experience, that we joined the congregation.

 

I immediately became active. I was excited that lay members could lead services. I became a teacher in the religious school and joined the Ritual Committee (now Spiritual Life), and eventually became its chairperson. For a time, I sang in the choir. I was an at-large member of the board of directors and served on ad-hoc committees, such as long range planning and rabbinic search. Later, I learned to chant Torah.

 

There has never been a period since joining Or Hadash in the early ‘90s that I have not been volunteering. So when I was approached to become Executive Vice President and, therefore, the next President, my gut response was ‘yes.’ I discussed it with my family and with the current (Rick Dzubow) and former (Shelley Rosenberg) presidents to get a first hand accounting of what I was about to do. And, I served as president from 2010-2012. 

 

When I became president, the rabbi and the congregation were about to embark on a year with a different twist, since Rabbi Josh was leaving that summer for a sabbatical in Israel. We were very fortunate to have a positive experience under the spiritual guidance of Roni Handler, our sabbatical rabbi. The following year, we warmly welcomed Rabbi Josh back to Or Hadash as he resumed the spiritual leadership of our congregation.

 

As it is the charge of the board to hold fiduciary responsibility for the congregation, the board was looking at significant changes in our finances during this time. How could we best move forward while maintaining a balanced budget for the congregation, a value that the board had always strongly held?  Personally, I am good at saving money. Although, at home I’m not responsible for paying salaries! Spending within my family’s means and holding the reins of congregational spending are far different.

 

When you join the lay leadership of Or Hadash, you soon realize that this is a congregation with a difference. Board meetings often involve the presentation of ideas and plans, and the discussion and decision making cover both the fit within our congregational mission/vision and within our fiscal parameters. And through it all, never an unkind word or a raised voice is heard. This is remarkable! The structure and culture of our lay leadership at Or Hadash supports each committee chair and each officer. Fellow board members are willing to lend an ear and a bit of wisdom. The president decides what the board will discuss, and yet I never felt alone in my role. The support of the executive committee and the board of directors were always evident.