Grateful Acknowledgment

by Joel Brown, April 29, 2017

In our prayer services, the central part of the service, the Amidah, includes a prayer: Hoda’ah which begins “Modim anachnu lach…” – “We gratefully acknowledge…”. In this prayer we give thanks to God for all of the good things in our lives. Hoda’ah also means “to pay tribute”.

This is my last column as President of the Board of Directors of Solel. At the end of May, I’ll be concluding my term and turning over the position to Robbin Botnick, our incoming President. I think, therefore, that it’s very appropriate for me to take some time to reflect on the many good things that have come into my life and the lives of all Solelniks over the past three years during which I’ve been President. I want to gratefully acknowledge, and pay tribute to many of the people who make Solel such a special place.

As a community, we have a lot to be thankful for, and the past three years have really brought this into crystal clear focus for me personally. We have had some challenges and we’ve come through them together. I’m certain that we’re much stronger now as a congregation than we’ve ever been, and our future together is very bright.

I’m very grateful for the many things I’ve learned over the past three years about Solel and about what we can accomplish as a community. I’m also grateful for the many friendships and working relationships I’ve made or deepened in this time. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity for service and to work together with so many other dedicated Solelniks who give generously of their time and talents for the betterment of our shared Jewish home. We are blessed with an enormous corps of volunteers who continue to impress me with their generosity of spirit.

Talking with, getting to know, and working with so many people in our community has really broadened my understanding and deepened my appreciation for the tremendous breadth of our congregation and the value that it brings to our members and to the wider community in which we live. I’m very grateful to everyone who has supported me generously and everyone who has challenged me vigorously. Your thoughtfulness and passion for Solel has been instructive and inspiring.

There truly are too many people for me to thank by name, and I apologize in advance for not personally thanking everyone who truly deserves it. Nevertheless, I’m going to say thank you by name to some people anyway.

I am grateful for the wise leadership, friendship and good counsel of our Rabbis: Rabbi Englander, without whom I would not ever have found my way back to my Jewish heritage; Rabbi Bogosian, who helped me and my Board colleagues to navigate the difficult and emotional waters of the rabbinic transition; and Rabbi Pollack, whose footsteps have raced to take on the momentous challenge of leading us to a great future, and who continues to inspire me along my Jewish journey.

I’m grateful to my Board colleagues, past and present. Every Solelnik should take great pride and comfort in knowing that there are many thoughtful, passionate, talented and generous people who give of themselves for the good of our Jewish home. In particular, I want to thank my current Executive colleagues, Robbin Botnick, Kevin Shine, Bayla Greenberg-Consitt and Marlene Tash for their exceptional leadership. As I depart the Executive committee, and they are joined in the coming year by Roz Allen, I have total confidence in the strength and ability of Solel’s leadership for the years to come. I am also grateful to my predecessor Ted Greenberg for his ongoing stalwart support and guidance.

I’m very grateful, as I know we all are, for the other members of Solel’s staff. Our wonderful Educator, Arliene Botnick is inspiring (and exhausting!) to watch. Arliene’s tireless work in Bet Sefer Solel, in adult education, in interfaith dialogue and outreach, and in bringing joyful and instructive programming to Solelniks of all ages has done so much to shape who we are as a Jewish community. I must also thank Carol Van Thyn. We all know that she’s the friendly face who greets us at the door and the friendly voice when we call the Solel office. What some people may not know is that she is also a walking encyclopedia of everything Solel and that Carol is the one who looks out for the thousand tiny details that keep the shul running smoothly.

Finally, I want to thank and pay tribute to my family and my friends, most of whom haven’t seen as much of me as they may have liked over the past few years. Their patience, understanding, support and wise counsel has been invaluable to me as I’ve concentrated on working with scores of other Solelniks to face our challenges and to set us on the path to an even better future for our shared Jewish home.

As a congregation and as a Jewish community, we have so much to be proud of and thankful for. We provide a warm, welcoming home for Jews from all around the western Greater Toronto Area (and beyond!). We proudly make a respectful, comfortable, egalitarian home for Jews from all backgrounds and every Jewish tradition. Whether your expression of Judaism is very religious, primarily cultural, or anything in between, and regardless of when in life you made your personal connection to Judaism, Solel is your welcoming Jewish home. No matter what your family looks like, your family is a welcome part of Solel’s broader family.

I hope that you’ll join me in reflecting a little bit on what Solel means to you, personally. It’s always a good time to say “Modim anachnu lach…” – “We gratefully acknowledge…”. I know that Solel and Solelniks are very special to me, and that I’m going to continue to be grateful for you all for a long time to come.

Filed under: President's Message

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