Shedding New Light on Jewish Traditions

Rich Malkin Story


Richard Malkin

There are 3 things that stand out for me, 15 years later:

1) I had to buy and learn to use a computer when I became the OH Vice President in 1996, something that, believe it or not, seemed totally undoable to me at that time. Remembering this really puts things in perspective – there are years, and then there are eras. Eras are moving faster than years.

2) When I was President, I essentially did almost everything. By this, I mean there were only 12 hours of professional administrative time per week. Therefore, I did the scheduling of Oneg caterings; every family was obligated to provide the food for Oneg on a rotating basis. Not only did I have to do the scheduling, I had to confirm that people would do it, and often buy the supplies on Friday if they fell through. I kept the master calendar and had to schedule B’nai Mitzvot, including the rental of our building and the provision of custodial help. Speaking of custodial help, I came once or twice every week and changed all the dead light bulbs, fixed all the leaky faucets and toilets, set all the timers for outdoor lights, and contracted all work that needed to be done by professionals. Anyone who chooses to become President now should feel grateful that we have entered a new era.

3) As my two years were finishing, I was criticized by several congregants as having over-scheduled activities at Or Hadash, which resulted in people having to choose what they could attend, and missing other things. As a student of Modern Chinese History, I chose to follow Chairman Mao’s program to “Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom.” Only after my Presidency did I realize that he had really said a hundred, not a thousand, which had become the popular quotation. My concept was to create a “Community of Communities,” where people of diverse interests could relate to Judaism in the many ways Reconstructionism has illuminated.

We developed a vigorous Adult Ed program, considered by many to be “too much education!” We developed a Performing Arts series, with classical, jazz, and popular professional musicians. And, we reveled in the awesome indigenous Klezmaniac and Junior Klezmaniac mania that supplemented our choir. We started regular OH Work Days, where we did such jobs as installation of doors, bathroom fixtures, construction of closets for storage, wiring and plumbing, all in addition to cleaning. We finally were able to launch what is now the most regularly attended adult program at Or Hadash – Saturday morning Torah Study and services. Prior to this, we were not a “praying congregation,” except for lively Friday nights with Rabbi Vivian and the High Holidays. There was opposition to the hiring of rabbinic students to help formalize a Saturday morning program for those who wanted one, at a time when we lacked a sufficient core of members who could do this without help. I convinced the Board to fund a monthly session with an RRC student, which has resulted in a vibrant community on Shabbat morning.