From The President

Dear Congregants and Friends,

As we approach the High Holy Days, we’ve entered a period of reflection and assessment. In addition to my own personal reflections, I am also very aware of the passing of one year and the beginning of the next in the communal life of Congregation Beth Israel. With a year under my belt as president, it is a time when I reflect both on what has gone well and what more we need to or can do.

In many ways, we have emerged from the restrictions of the pandemic, opening up for in-person services, Hebrew School, and programs for youths and adults. It has been a joy to see families with children of all ages come to CBI to celebrate Shabbat, Havdalah, and other holidays together. We have come together to celebrate the b-mitzvah of several teens, and to grieve and remember those we have lost. We have learned to be more inclusive by providing a hybrid Zoom option whenever possible. Now, those who live far away for all or part of the year or are unable to attend in person for other reasons can join us. Our newly launched choir, practicing weekly, will enrich our High Holy Day services. During the late fall, winter, and spring, we held once a month Friday evening Zoom gatherings, during which we recited Shabbat blessings and had engaging discussions on various topics of interest. Our Zoom book club has launched and will continue this fall.

One of our priorities last year was reaching out to young families and providing programming to meet their family’s needs. We have made a lot of progress attracting new families. We now hold monthly Family Shabbat services geared towards children of all ages, and have a robust program of activities for families with young children throughout the year. We received an increased grant from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation to support our work with families. Our Hebrew School, open to children in kindergarten through grade 7 and supported in part by a grant from the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, will reopen in less than 2 weeks and has doubled in size from last year. And we participated in an innovative interfaith youth initiative last spring with St. John’s Church and the First Congregational Church in Williamstown.

We have implemented a number of security measures to keep our congregation safe — thank you to those of you who volunteer to usher at each service, and to all of you who heeded our request to RSVP online for all services and events. We have a new and enhanced website with a better calendar, which allows people to RSVP for all services and events. And we’ve finally been able to address a number of maintenance issues as the synagogue building ages, including much needed painting and staining.

As much as we have accomplished, there is still much more that remains to be done to strengthen our work in building a vibrant Jewish community. What we will be able to accomplish in the coming year depends on all of you — we need your support — both financially and through sharing your ideas and helping carry them out.

What would YOU like to see happen at CBI this coming year? And how can YOU help? What do you think our priorities should be? The Board (and I) are eager to hear from you.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the upcoming High Holy Day services and programs. Please RSVP so we can plan accordingly.

From my family to yours, Shanah tovah um’tukah — may you have a good and sweet new year.

— Natalie Matus