It’s an honor to begin my tenure as the lucky-12th president of Or Chadash, the second woman in this position (Bev Sandock was the first), and maybe the first convert, making “Jones” a good Jewish name. I bring many years of experience from my past professional life as an associate professor in Nursing at the University of Arizona, managing research teams and faculty, and as mother of four children. There are many transferable skills, but importantly, I bring a passion for Jewish life and for our synagogue. Still, it really does take a shtetl.
We have a stellar Executive Committee, a dedicated Board of Directors, and talented clergy and staff to guide our congregation into our future. And we have a congregation excited about participating in Or Chadash life, especially as we approach our 25th Anniversary in 2020!
We will be focusing on two areas for 2019-2021: Community and Finances.
Community: An important part of building a sense of connection in any family is communication. We are planning many conversations with you: more articles in the New Light, more opportunities for formal and informal conversations beginning with a Town Hall meeting on Sunday, September 22, 9:45 a.m., continuing with small
group discussions through the fall, and seeking counsel from our own past presidents.
Finance: We will develop plans for a sustainable financial future. Toward that end, we are actively exploring collaborations with Temple Emanu-El and that will be the main topic at the September 22 town hall, along with voting on revised bylaws. We are consulting with the Reform movements’ national experts about models of collaboration. How is collaboration helpful? 1) conserves resources 2) reduces expenses 3) involves a greater number of members to participate and 4) provides for discussions about joining congregations. We’ll need to decide which collaboration model will be the best fit for us and for Temple Emanu-El. But the questions remain from many of you, “What happened to expanding the Community Room?” and “What happened to voluntary dues?” Here’s the short answer (continue reading below for more details about the 2018-2019 financial roller coaster that brought us “here”)
We kept close watch on our financial situation through Spring and decided the time was not right to either incur the expense of expanding the Community Room or moving to voluntary dues. In fact, we think we need to seek a new, bold solution for the future of Or Chadash and for Reform Judaism in Tucson. Like they say” If you want to keep getting what you’ve been getting, keep doing what you’ve been doing.” Let’s not.
Elaine Jones, Ph.D.
Brief Recap of Or Chadash Finances and Plans in 2018-2019
Elaine Jones, PhD.
Summer 2018: We reluctantly raised dues by 3%. We didn’t receive the hoped-for response to the request and so we had several thousand dollars less than we expected from membership dues.
September, 2018: Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg led the most successful High Holiday Appeal we’ve ever had, with over $30,000 contributed by the congregation. ($10,000 more than we budgeted!)
November, 2018: We held a town hall about worship space, with general consensus to expand the community room at an estimated cost of $150,000.
December, 2018: We held another town hall about voluntary/sustainable dues, which computes to an average due of about $1,800/per member. Our current median annual dues are about $1,400/member. We had a generally positive response to this idea.
Also, in December, 2018: We canceled the January fundraiser, “RazzMaTazz and All That Jazz” costing us $3,000 in broken contracts and expenses, and eliminating the $20,000 we expected to receive from that fundraiser.
January, 2019: Our Budget & Finance Committee advised the Board that they projected a shortfall of at least $40,000 by the end of the fiscal year. They advised the Board to send an “ask” for $250 to each member of the congregation. We reasoned that if at least half responded, we’d net what we needed. About 1/3 responded and we received over $30,000.
February, 2019: The Budget and Finance Committee also recommended reviewing all our expenses, taking immediate action to cut costs and increase revenue streams in a number of places – which we did. They also recommended a 15% increase in dues for 2019-2020 in order to avoid a shortfall in July 2020.
June, 2019: We broke even. But we are not really out of the “financial woods” because we will have additional new expenses this year and beyond: adding armed guard for our services, recruiting new clergy when Rabbi Louchheim and Cantor Cohen retire, deferred maintenance on our property and more. It’s just not reasonable to think we can address all that by continuing to raise membership dues.
Let’s learn from our friends around the country. Let’s consider new ways to collaborate with Temple Emanu-El. To that end, Ambassadors from Or Chadash and Temple Emanu-El will continue meeting, consulting URJ experts, have joint events each month, and populate task forces to analyze various aspects of collaboration, from worship services to finances. Please participate with us over the next year to consider a relationship with Temple Emanu-El that will strengthen our congregation and invigorate the wider Reform Jewish community of Tucson, beginning with the Town Hall Sept 22, 9:45 am, in the Community Room.