MEMORIES OF MY OR HADASH PRESIDENCY (1996-1998)
What I remember most about the two years of my presidency was the incredibly strong sense of community that coalesced around our new home. As vice president for two years before I became president, I was responsible for organizing the move to our new home and outfitting the building as best we could afford, including installation of a new sound system (that is still in place!), security system (more about that below), chairs for the sanctuary, etc.
As president, this all came together as we moved into the building and settled into our new home. Virtually every congregant volunteered some time to help make the building “the home of Or Hadash.” We developed a structure for maintaining and improving the building that, to this day, is still in place in many respects. We established an Aesthetics Committee to vet changes to the building and, in particular, the sanctuary and lobby. The committee took on the task of working with an artisan to design and construct the Aron Kodesh and the Torah reading table. A family donated a Ner Tamid.
We formed a House Committee that had the responsibility to make improvements as best we could to the building, including the classrooms in the basement and on the second floor, the sanctuary, office, and the rabbi’s study. We established a committee to maintain the interior and exterior of the building and grounds that included painting, cleaning, window replacement, leaf removal in the fall, plantings in the spring and other improvements to the exterior of the building. To this day, I recall for the first time opening a “door” at the rear of the bimah, peering in and seeing what looked like a bathtub, only to discover that it was the baptismal font built by the first religious congregation that occupied the building.
I can never forget the many congregants who regularly turned out to help maintain the grounds of the building – or schlepping my leaf blower, rakes, and tarps to the building to remove the fall debris! Signs needed to be designed, built, and erected so people could find the building because it was hidden from Camp Hill Road. Parking configurations needed to be decided upon, snow and trash removal contracts let, and phone systems and office equipment purchased. Often, equipment was donated.
We also needed to become more sophisticated and professional in our financial record keeping. I persuaded Steve Burns to serve as treasurer and together Steve and I learned the then revolutionary QuickBooks program so we could keep better financial records that, until that time, were kept on rudimentary spreadsheets.
As we began to use the building in those years, there were the far too frequent calls just before Shabbat services that the heat was not working (we had decided to lock the thermostats), that toilets didn’t work, or that the security alarm had been triggered in spite of our efforts to educate congregants how to turn off the alarm system. We finally decided to disarm the alarm system rather than suffering from repeated calls from the alarm company. Similarly all hands were on deck when the basement flooded as a result of downpours in the spring and fall. Renting wet vacs and dehumidifiers was a very common event.
It was a great time of community involvement and cooperation that I will never forget. Each time I come to the building I look around and see so much of what we then did still in place and providing the foundation for the wonderful improvements that have made our now old home so beautiful, warm, and welcoming.