Dear Fellow Congregants,
I am honored and humbled to serve as the president of Beth Sholom Congregation. I am preceded by dedicated, hardworking, and selfless individuals. Many of them continue to be active on the Board and on committees. I appreciate their advice and counsel. Though my family has been members of the congregation for over 30 years, I know there are many members who do not know me personally. I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you something about myself. I would also ask that you take a moment and introduce yourselves to me as I would like to know as many of you as possible.
I grew up in Overbrook Park. My parents purchased a 16-foot row house just around the time that my sister was born in 1948. I came along 4 years later. I attended Overbrook Park Congregation Hebrew School which was only 2 blocks from my house. The synagogue was later to be renamed Beth T'fillah. In 5th grade, I was King Ahasuerus in the Purim cantata. I still remember the song I sang. My father owned a business on Jewelers' Row for many years. My mother had classical training in piano. After my sister and I were born she applied her talent teaching piano and accompanying the synagogue choir. My formal Jewish education ended shortly after my Bar Mitzvah.
I had quite a few frozen dinners from 1963 through 1969 while my mother went to St. Joseph's College evening school. She received her BA the same year that I graduated from Central High School (Class of 228.). I then matriculated at Villanova University where I received my BS in General Science. Why did I go to a good Catholic school for college? When I was in high school I fell in love with Big Five college basketball. My choice came between the Jesuits (St. Joe's) or the Augustinians (Nova.). The Augustinians won and it was a good thing. During my sophomore year, Villanova played in the national championship game.
1978 was a magical, transformative year. On the first day of Temple Medical School orientation I met Leslie Berman, the woman who would become my wife. She didn't know it at the time, only I did. Eleven hundred and fifty-two days later we were married. After completing our residencies we were both fortunate to find positions at the same hospital. Leslie became the first female OB-GYN on the staff at Abington Memorial Hospital in 1982 and one year later, I joined a practice of General Surgeons.
1982 was also the year that Marissa was born followed three years later by Robert. They both went to Solomon Schechter Day School (currently the Perelman Jewish Day School) and Akiba Hebrew Academy (currently Barrack Hebrew Academy.). During that time, I began getting more involved in the Jewish Community. My colleagues and I organized the Jewish physicians at our hospital. Each year there were brunches with speakers (one year Bibi Netanyahu spoke) and there was also fundraising for Jewish Federation. Subsequently and simultaneously, I was on the Board of the Perelman Jewish Day School (serving as its president from 1999-2001 and currently a trustee of the school), a co-chair of the Maimonides Society (the doctors division of Federation), and an officer and board member of Beth Sholom Congregation. Realizing that my children were quickly eclipsing my Jewish knowledge with their studies, I enrolled in the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning when it was first offered at Gratz College. Finally, with the help of Hazzan Tilman, I developed the skills to once again read Torah and Haftarah. A few months ago, I read Torah on the 50th anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah.
My personal history has led me to the following beliefs and conclusions. 1) I am an ardent supporter of the State of Israel especially her right and necessity to exist. 2) I believe in Jewish day schools and synagogue Hebrew schools. 3) I believe in strengthening the State of Israel through the purchase of Israel Bonds. 4) I believe in supporting the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. 5) I love the tradition of Conservative Judaism. 6) I believe in the importance of the home and the synagogue for all ages to connect with and strengthen their ties to Judaism.
The importance of our synagogue as a center for Jewish life and Jewish continuity cannot be overstated. I hope each of us this coming year will seek out another reason to come to Beth Sholom. Attend Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat or Saturday morning services when you have not planned other activities. Help weekday evening minyanim by coming before or after your dinner. Attend a function of the Men's Club or Sisterhood. Find an opportunity to volunteer. Come to one of the many educational programs that run throughout the year. I look forward to seeing each of you here this coming year.
On behalf of my wife Leslie, my son Robert, my daughter Marissa and son-in-law Noah, and my granddaughter Eden, I wish you a Healthy and Happy New Year.