Your Jewish Journey Starts Here.

Erev Yom Kippur Speech



“Shabbat shalom. I am Stephan Rubin, and I am still your President.

I appear before you tonight to share with you my thoughts and feelings about our shul and its future; and, at the conclusion of my talk, to present the announcements that will help guide you as we join together to pray this weekend and hereafter.

I am guided by the immortal words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, our nation’s 32nd President, who gave the following advice to his son James on giving a speech: “Be sincere; be brief; be seated.”

So, here goes...

I was honored to be elected your President at the last Annual Congregational Meeting. Everything about my volunteer history at the shul made it obvious that my agreeing to serve in this capacity was the right decision, not only for Brith Shalom, but, more importantly, for me, my wife, Lori, and our family. Being President would simply be a natural extension of everything I have ever done here and would allow me to continue to share my talents and love for the shul.

The confidence I had in my decision to serve as President was reinforced by the preparation and training I received:

Thanks to Jeffrey Actor, our Immediate Past President, I was afforded the opportunity before beginning my two year term to “shadow” Jeff for over a year and observe Jeff as he fulfilled the role and duties of President.  I attended not just the monthly meetings of the Board of Trustees and the Executive

Committee, but sat in on meetings being held by many of the standing committees.  I saw how Jeff interacted with Congregants, as well as guests to our synagogue, during weekly Shabbat services and other programs and events held at the shul, warmly welcoming everyone with a hand shake or hug.  Jeff has been an excellent role model; frankly, he is a mentsch, something I continue to strive to accomplish.

I also had the opportunity and immense pleasure during that year before my presidency of regularly meeting with Rabbi Teller, Cantor Levine and Larry Estes, Executive Director, which gave me the opportunity to develop strong, productive relationships with our Senior Professional Staff. I am and will be eternally grateful to them for the time they spent with me...

I also was privileged to attend and participate at a four day retreat outside Baltimore, Maryland, called “Sulam for Presidents” a leadership training seminar presented by the USCJ, where I was introduced to over 25 current and incoming shul Presidents from around the country, including Arlene Stollar, the current President of Congregation Beth Yesherun.

I learned from all of this that the President is the number one volunteer performing work that often borders on being a full-time, albeit unpaid, job. The President is charged with vast governance, management, and financial powers. Partnering with our Senior Professional Staff; overseeing the business operations of the synagogue; and, presiding over the governance of the Congregation, is just the tip of the iceberg of the President’s responsibilities here at CBS.

People asked me what are my personal goals for Brith Shalom; what did I want to accomplish during my two years as President that would help me make my mark, my legacy... My answer, very simple... My first goal is to build a sound and stable financial future for the shul.  What does that mean?

No more deficits in our annual budget! Finish building the Endowment Fund; Create a rainy day fund, etc...

The second goal?  We need to do a better job of communicating with our Brith Shalom family and the community so that we all feel truly connected with and supported by the synagogue.

And, we need to promote and tell everyone about all of the good that is happening at our shul, thereby building goodwill and strengthening our relationships with the Jewish Community, the greater Houston community, including our interfaith partnerships.

Summer months at CBS are typically NOT a busy time for the shul.  There are no major events or programs, such as a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, on the shul calendar as many of our Congregants are enjoying their summer vacations.  Our clergy also scheduled their vacations to they can mend and recover from the demands of their hard work from the past year.  We use the summer months to get organized and prepare for the High Holidays.

Accordingly, as soon as my term of office commenced, I immediately began organizing an Orientation program for our new Board so that we could get a great start at the regular Board meetings just before the High Holidays.

Together with our Executive Committee, Elliot Gershenson, acting in a consultant role, and ably assisted by Andy Hoffman, we participated in a strategic thinking activity, referred to as a SOAP, or Strategy on a Page.  I can’t over emphasize how important this activity is for the shul.  There is an old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!”

The Executive Committee worked diligently through this process and developed a well thought out SOAP and presented it to the Board of Trustees at their Orientation.  Intense high level discussion ensued as the Board began the important task of finalizing our Strategic Plan for the shul.  The Board would complete the strategic planning process at the Board meeting set for this month, September.

Or, at least that was the plan...

Despite all of that confidence, all that preparation and training, all of that strategic planning, around August 25th, South Texas was introduced to Hurricane Harvey and all of its devastating force and power. I don’t need to take up our time describing the loss, hardship and devastation experienced by our community... We all know...

Instead of the shul spending being focused on getting ready for the High Holidays and organizing for the remainder of the year, our time, energy and attention was hijacked by the need for immediate relief and recovery efforts...

I am reminded of this quote, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."—Martin Luther King, Jr.

And, where has your Synagogue stood in response to the challenge and controversy presented by post-Harvey?  I will tell you....

If we had just sent out “muck and gut” teams to the flood ravaged homes of our Congregants and friends, it would have been enough, dayenu;

If we had just helped to find temporary living arrangements for our Congregants who lost their homes, dayenu.

If we had just matched victims of flooding with those who could open their own homes to share holiday meals, dayenu;

If we had just made available our clergy and a professional therapist to assist Congregants address the emotional impact of the flooding and its disastrous effects, dayenu.

If we had just opened our doors and given CBY the use of our chapel for their daily morning and evening Chapel minyan services, dayenu;

If we had just given CBY the use of our sanctuary and social hall for their Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations, dayenu;

If we had just merged our weekly Shabbat services with CBY, collaborating on sermons, honors, prayer leaders and sharing our Kiddush luncheon with them, dayenu;

If we had just opened up our social hall so that CBY’s Gathering Place Program, a special group dealing with memory loss issues, can meet and enjoy their programs, dayenu;

If we had just opened up our shul so that CBY’s YES (Young Energetic Seniors) Group Program can meet and enjoy their programs, dayenu;

If we had just given office space to CBY for their clergy and administration to meet and work, dayenu;

If we had just opened up our social hall to Israel Bonds this past week so that they could have a special dinner and program honoring their donors when they could not use CBY, dayenu.

If we had just given the ERJCC the use of our social hall and multipurpose room for after school children’s theater classes, dayenu;

If we had just given the ERJCC the use of our sanctuary to present the music program, David Krohn. Bernstein: A Life of Music, dayenu;

If we had just opened up our sanctuary to the ERJCC so that they could present the Flood Resource Community Information Night to the community, dayenu; and, we have done all of this, and more, with open arms and a loving heart, dayenu.

Friends, I am confident and steadfast in my belief and trust that CBS, with your continuing help and support will get through this catastrophe and we will measure up.  And, at the risk of sounding like a politician, I promise that we will, in due time, address those important goals that I spoke of earlier...

We should all be confident and assured:

CBS has the right clergy, Rabbi Teller and Cantor Levine, who, with love for all of us in their hearts, help us reach new heights in our understanding and appreciation of prayer and our special relationship with G-d., who will be there for our life-cycle events, and all that it means to be Jewish at Brith Shalom. 

We have the right Executive Director, Larry Estes, and office staff: Cherye-Ann DeLong, Membership Engagement; Erin Lepselter, Programming; Sean Bogle, Reception and Administrative Assistant; and Blake McNamee, Facilities Manager, to help us reach our goals.

We have the right Chazzan in Residence, David Krohn, who together with this excellent Choir, directed by Adam Hightower, and accompanied by Charlie Tauber, pianist extraordinaire, inspire us to make a deeper and more meaningful connection with G-d.

We have Anna Blum, the incredibly talented and dedicated Assistant Director of Education, together with the finest faculty in our Religious School, to teach our children the values and principals set forth in the Torah and help prepare them for life as Jews.

This year’s High Holiday cadre of volunteers, from Rhoda Goldberg, who organized the Honors and Haftorah readers; Al Feiveson, who organized the Torah Readers; Men’s Club, Michael Zlotnick and his troop of highly paid Ushers; and, all others who participated in the services, deserve our high praise and admiration for a job well done.

They have all participated in these High Holiday services to make them meaningful for all of us and are worthy of our appreciation. On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the Congregation, thank you!!

And, finally, we have each of you, whether you consider yourself a Shabbat Regular, or attend just a few days out of the year; YOU are a vital part of the Brith Shalom family.

In conclusion, I love all of you and together we will all get through this difficult time and see a brighter future for everyone!

And, now for the Announcements...


L’Shannah Tovah!

Gmar Chatimah Tova, may you be inscribed in the book of life!”