Entering 5784: Rosh Hashanah Morning 1

On the first day of Rosh Hashanah (Saturday, September 16, 2023), a speech was offered by Natalie Matus, President of CBI. Natalie’s speech has been reproduced below for those who were unable to join us for this service, as well as those who wish to “return” to the words they heard that morning.

Dear Congregants, Families, and Friends,

As I come before you in this sacred space, I am so very grateful to be able to worship with you and to be part of this supportive community. After years of being apart, community has never been more important to me and I hope to all of you.

It’s been a very busy year at CBI, one of expansion and growth. We resumed regular on-site services, expanded our religious school, which doubled its enrollment last year. We celebrated 4 b-mitzvahs, and resumed kiddushes and the second night seder.

Bringing together congregants and friends from near and far, we continued our First Friday Virtual Shabbat gatherings and our virtual monthly Book Club. This June, we hosted “Shabbat Across the Berkshires,” welcoming people from all over the Berkshires to a lovely Kabbalat Shabbat service and kiddush in our beautiful space.

There is so much that is new and exciting happening here. We began both a choir and a band, who enrich our Kabbalat Shabbat and holiday worship services. We’ve expanded programming for young families. We re-imagined our school offerings, now renamed Jewish Journeys, to make them more relevant and compelling for this new generation. We applied for and received increased funding for our school and family programs from both the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation for this coming year.

Rabbi Jarah Greenfield, our new Director of Youth & Family Learning, and CBI member Shira Kol, have worked closely with the Board and me over the past year to put together an extensive selection of programs, events, and services for young Jewish families — open to CBI members and unaffiliated families — to offer joyful Jewish experiences and develop sense of community among these families. This is an exciting collaboration with NEFESH, a committed group of unaffiliated Jewish families in southern Vermont and the northern Berkshires. We’re also launching new adult education programs in the new year, beginning with Meaning & Mishnah taught by Emily Rogal – please pick up a flier in the entry to learn more.

I am also delighted to talk about our new interfaith collaboration with New Hope United Methodist Church. They are now using space at CBI at times when we were not using it for Sunday morning services, pastoral counseling, and occasional Bible classes.

We look forward to collaborating with members of the New Hope congregation on various tikkun olam projects. We are in the early stages of determining if, working together, we can bring back the Take & Eat Program, which provides a meal once a month for seniors in our community. If you are interested in participating in any way, please let Rabbi Rachel or me know.

We are planning a special congregational members’ meeting in mid October, after High Holy Days, to hold a vote seeking congregational approval to continue this agreement with New Hope Church through June 30, 2024.

This is a snapshot of the many wonderful things happening at CBI. We need you, too. Whether you are a regular attendee or see us as your Jewish connection, I hope you will get more involved in the coming year — strengthening our community as you give of yourself. If you are not yet a member, I hope you will consider joining. Please feel free to reach out to me or to Robin Brickman, membership chair, to discuss possibilities.

I want to thank Rabbi Rachel for her inspiring spiritual guidance, as well as our other service leaders — Rabbi Pamela Wax, Rabbi Jarah Greenfield, and cantorial soloist Ziva Larson. We are grateful to Adam Green, our choir director, and to all the members of the choir and band, who enrich our worship during High Holidays and ongoing Shabbat services. Thanks too, to Oliver Jones, office administrator — the glue behind much of what happens, who lends his awesome organizational skills to the smooth operation of our synagogue. I would also like to thank the Board, who spend countless hours on synagogue-related work. And finally, a heartfelt thank you to all the volunteers who step up and help on a wide variety of tasks during the High Holy Days and all year long — ushering, helping with kiddushes, gardening, setting up and taking down chairs, leading programs, making music, and so much more.

And finally, I invite you to invest in CBI with a gift to our High Holy Day Appeal. All that we do would not be possible without additional support from our members and friends, beyond what we receive from dues. Your support allows us to provide regular worship services for Shabbat and holidays; pastoral counseling; engaging programs for people of all ages — from our youngest children to our seniors; educate the coming generation of children in Jewish values, culture, history, and traditions; provide scholarships to our school; cover salaries for our dedicated rabbis, teachers, and staff; and so much more. We make it happen TOGETHER. Thank you in advance for your generosity and to those who have already made a gift.

L’shanah Tovah umetukah — Wishing you and your loved ones a good and sweet new year.