Letters from the President - 2024

Last Updated 5/21/2024In Current

For upcoming and past board meeting agenda items click here!

To attend an upcoming JCA Board Meeting email President Mara Hahn directly for the zoom link at: [email protected].

May 19th Gala Remarks

Good evening everyone. 

I’m so glad to see all of you here. It is wonderful to be celebrating the future of the JCA with you this evening.  

I’d like to start by thanking those who made this evening possible: Rabbi Weiner; our Executive Director, Keren Rhodes; Aliza Persing; Lauren Begin; Melissa Maiorella and our kitchen staff; Karen Loeb; Theo Periels; and Susan and Steve Marcus.  Thank you for your hard work. And of course gratitude to all of you, for your continued presence and support. 

Last year, I stood before you a bit nervous and very excited as I had just embarked on my journey as JCA president.  I spoke about building a nest together and offered the invitation to find a way to weave your “twig” into our collective home.  

And now, a year later. . . where are we?

As a community, we made two significant decisions.  The first was to implement a new membership model called the Sustaining Partnership Model.  We chose this new approach because we expect it will lead to greater financial stability and fiscal sustainability and also will allow us to grow our building fund more effectively.  The second decision was to negotiate and sign a new contract with Rabbi Weiner.  

Our current membership numbers are strong and we look forward to sharing our proposed FY 25 budget with you in a few weeks at the semi-annual meeting. 

At the board level, much of our attention has continued to focus on smoothing out our operations, as a greater community. We have collaborated with Keren Rhodes to identify what works and what doesn’t and have looked for more efficient and effective ways of doing “the work” of the community.  Keren Rhodes has been a wonderful partner in this process. If it feels like things at the JCA are running more smoothly,  it is because they are, largely in part because of her work.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a community member asking about the status of the vision of the JCA.  I realized that when we launched our new website last year, we failed to call attention to the new vision/mission statement the board wrote in collaboration with our professional staff.  I thought I would share it with you now.

As it reads on our website: 

Our vision is to foster a vibrant, inclusive, and diverse community that supports individuals in their pursuit of Jewish spirituality, social justice, and lifelong learning. We strive to create a warm and welcoming environment that embraces individuals and families of all backgrounds and orientations, and fosters a sense of belonging and connectedness.

We envision a community that engages in meaningful prayer and ritual, drawing on Jewish tradition and contemporary creativity to inspire and uplift. We seek to promote social justice and pursue tikkun olam (repair of the world) through advocacy, education, and direct action.

We aspire to be a community that encourages curiosity and intellectual growth, and provides opportunities for individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities, to deepen their knowledge of Judaism and their connection to its rich cultural heritage.

I think this is a wonderful place from which to develop a greater vision for our future. 

In some ways, the future is now.  We have embarked on the Energy Transition project! Thanks to the hard work of Andrew Webster and Sam Gladstone. We are moving forward with this very compelling plan.  In case you haven’t read about the details, here’s a quick summary.  There are two parts to our plan.   The initial phase is the electrification of our building.  This means replacing our current heating and cooling units which are nearing the end of their lifespan and our kitchen appliances which rely on natural gas with new units and appliances that use electricity.  The second part of the project had us looking to bring electricity to our building in a more environmentally conscious way.  There will be a solar array installed in our parking lot (in partnership with PVsquared and PEAR).  We also intend to advocate for policies which will result in the overall increase in “greening” the grid.  One major advantage of our agreement with PEAR is that we have been able to stabilize our utility costs.  We anticipate a saving of over $180,000 over the next 20 years.

We are grateful to all of you for your generous contributions to our capital campaign.  This project represents our looking towards the future and our desire to do what we can to ensure the brightest future possible.

And what else is on the horizon?

It is now time to turn this same focus (thinking “nesting”) on our governance and board culture.  Last year, I was lucky enough to participate in the 7th cohort of the Board Member Initiative. There, I learned alot about current best practices of Jewish non-profit boards.  There are many things I hope to implement in the coming year that will support the continued creation and development of effective and efficient collaborative processes.  These include the creation of a Conflict of Interest Policy, board self-assessment, succession planning and education of board members regarding fiduciary responsibility  to ensure continued strong lay leadership. I look forward to sharing  our progress as we begin to work on these projects.  It is my hope that we will bring a final draft of our revised by-laws to the community in December.  We will also work to revise the rest of the board book during this year.

It has been a year since our community survey.  Much has changed since then, and we feel it is time to get your feedback once again.  Please keep an eye out in the coming months as we reach out to you for community feedback.  From there, we will assess the responses and bring them to the community with the intention of creating an even more cohesive vision for our future, thinking about our priorities with regards to our building and grounds as well as our staffing needs and programming.  I am not sure if this means the return of the “focus group” idea or attempting other ways to connect us and engage each other to learn more about how this community can be a resource and place of spiritual sustenance for you and your family.

Now that we have a better sense of where we are, we can truly begin to envision our future.

I hope you will join me as we continue on this journey forward.

May 2024

Dear Community-

I hope everyone had a meaningful Passover holiday.  We hosted friends the first night and were lucky enough to attend the community seder the second night. It was wonderful to share the holiday with the greater community.  The food was yummy and Rabbi Weiner led a lovely seder!

The primary focus of our May board meeting was to finalize the FY2025 budget proposal and to present and discuss the next round of proposed changes to the by-laws.  I am pleased to say that we were able to accomplish both objectives.   We will share the budget materials soon and have scheduled a community forum on May 30, 2024 at 7 pm via Zoom to allow for a deeper discussion and processing of the proposed budget.

As a part of the budget discussion, the board voted to authorize the creation of a B’nai Mitzvah Coordinator position.  The proposal for this position was submitted by Rabbi Weiner and Keren Rhodes to strengthen, support, and enhance our B’nai Mitzvah program.  

There are two primary changes to the by-laws that were proposed by the By-Law workgroup.  The board reviewed these proposals and voted to bring them to the community at our Semi-Annual meeting on Sunday June 9th.  We will share the details of those recommendations shortly, in preparation for the meeting.

I am honored to share that our Capital Campaign is well underway and we have over $115,000 pledged, by roughly 50 member units. In the next two weeks, we hope to close the $85,000 gap.  In addition to decreasing our carbon footprint, this plan offers the JCA an estimated savings of $180,000 in the cost of our utilities over the next 20 years. I hope you will join me in contributing to the Capital Campaign to fund the electrification of our building and to power ourselves into the future.   Let’s celebrate this transition together at our Gala on May 19th.  

As a reminder, the agenda for the past board meetings and all approved minutes can be accessed at the top of this page.

I send prayers for the return of the hostages and peace in the Middle East and everywhere.  

B’shalom,
Mara

April 2024

Dear Friends-

It sure looks like spring has sprung.  The snowdrops have been blossoming in my yard for a few days now and the daffodils are poking through the earth.  And Passover is only a few weeks away.

Thank you to all who attended our Committee Evening last month.  My heart was warmed by the sight of the social hall so full and lively.  It was great to have representatives from all of our permanent committees present and sharing about the work their committee performs. Much appreciation to Madeleine Charney, our VP committee point person.  She made the evening happen!

Last week, the board met and had our first look at the proposed budget for FY25.  The finance committee will continue to be involved as we dive deeper into the numbers and begin to prioritize our needs for the coming year.  In particular, we are considering Rabbinic coverage while Rabbi Weiner is on Sabbatical, November 2024-May 2025.  

The governance group has re-assembled and has begun to tackle the continued revision and restructuring of our by-laws.  We plan to present them to the board sometime in May in order to to bring them to the community for ratification at our Semi-Annual Meeting.   This meeting will be held on Sunday June 9th, 2024. The time and format are still being considered.  We will keep you posted as these details fall into place.

Our capital campaign for the Energy Transition Project will be initiated in the next week or so.  Please look for information about how you can support this initiative.  We hope to be able to celebrate the achievement of our goal in mid-May at our Gala.  

And lastly, we have begun the annual review process for Rabbi Weiner.  We invite your input and comments.  Please use this email: [email protected]

I send blessings for a “gut yontif” and prayers for the return of the hostages and peace in the Middle East and everywhere.  

B’shalom,
Mara Hahn
JCA President on behalf of the Board of Directors of the JCA

March 2024

Shalom Friends,

February was a very full month for me.  It started off with the passing of my mom.  We were scheduled to have a board meeting that evening and it felt so good to trust that the meeting would be run by others and all would be well taken care of.

Soon after I returned to Massachusetts,  we jumped into the Energy Transition project community forum.  Thank you to all who attended or watched the replay and for all of the feedback and questions.  We received over 50 responses and the board considered this information as we deliberated last Thursday evening.

The board decided to have separate votes on each component of the plan.  The first piece was the proposal to electrify the building.  This includes replacing the current heating and cooling units that run on natural gas as well as the kitchen appliances.  There was overwhelmingly strong support for this from the community.  After thorough discussion, the board voted in favor of electrifying our building. This decision is based on our values– our caring for our home, in all senses of the word.  This is the piece for which we will run our capital campaign.  The projected cost to electrify the building is $200,000.  This is the amount we hope to raise.

The second part of the project addressed how we will source the electricity needed to run the now, all-electric building.  The goal is to use electricity from sources that are as renewable as possible, decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels.  Based on the extensive work of the JCA Green Team, and the community feedback, the board voted to move forward with the  installation of a solar canopy in the JCA parking lot in partnership with PEAR.  This is the best currently available option to achieve our secondary goal.  While some of our electricity will continue to come from the grid (and thus from fossil fuels), we will reduce the overall amount of fossil fuels used to power the JCA, and the JCA will continue the work to advocate for the grid to become greener and for more extensive electrification of our homes and buildings.

In addition, thanks to the structure of the PPA (power purchase agreement) with PEAR, and the generosity of an anonymous donor, who has pledged $160,000 towards the solar portion of this project, the ongoing cost to run our new electrical equipment will not increase our utility costs in the coming years, and in fact, are expected to save us over $250,000 in the next 20 years, as compared to the predicted costs of traditional grid sourced electricity.  The JCA will not incur any cost for the solar canopy portion of this project.

This is an exciting time at the JCA as we look to our future and do what we can to be a positive contribution to the world around us.

This Friday night, 3/15, following the beautiful Shabbat Ne’imah service and wonderful community meal, the board has invited members of all of our permanent committees to share about the work they do.  We can read about the missions of our committees in our by-laws, but to really know what is involved and how a given committee works, we thought it would be helpful to create an opportunity for that kind of community dialogue and exchange.  I am delighted to invite you all to come and join the conversation (and the evening too).

I have spoken about collecting ourselves and “nest building” in previous remarks. . . in my mind, this is part of the process.  Reconnecting with each other and learning about the roles we each play in creating and sustaining our community.  I hope that is what will happen on Friday evening. 

I am happy to inform the community that we have come to an agreement with Rabbi Weiner regarding his next contract.  We will finalize the document by the end of the week.  It is comforting to know that Rabbi Weiner will continue to lead us.

March has arrived and Shloshim is over.  Both of my parents found comfort in my family’s strong connection to a Jewish community and now, in the depths of my grieving process, I feel the comfort of our connection to the JCA community.  Thank you for the supportive and loving emails and cards.  I truly feel held.

I hope to see you on Friday night,

Mara Hahn
JCA President



January 2024

Dear Community - Happy Secular New Year!

I hope you were able to gather with family and friends during the holiday festivities.
The new Board of Directors held our first meeting last Thursday. I am excited to work with this creative and engaged group of people over the course of the next 12 months. We will undertake the project of revising our policy manual, by-laws and board book in the coming months, as well as the “normal” work of the board. We plan to bring sections of this new document before the community as they are ready for discussion, please be on the lookout in the spring for information regarding this project.
As I mentioned in my December letter, we are looking at ways to be more transparent. Going forward, we will share the agenda for the board meeting prior to the meeting and the Zoom link will be available by request. Once the minutes are accepted, we will post them so that community members will be able to access them. We have added the dates for the board meetings to our calendar posted on the website.
Here is a link to the agenda from our January meeting.

January Board Agenda:

1. Open meeting/ blessing/ check in (15 minutes)
2. D’var Torah (5 minutes)
3. Accept minutes from last meeting (2-3 minutes)
4. Review Group agreements (2-3 minutes)
5. Torah reader request- VOTE (3-5 minutes)
6. Proposal to join Board Source -VOTE (3-5 minutes)
7. Proposal from building committee to change policy- VOTE (3-5 minutes)
8. President’s update- questions (5-10 minutes)
9. Keren’s update (10 minutes)
10. Budget update (5-10 minutes)
11. Board member “job description” (20 minutes) - This item was not discussed
12. Picture for website (5 minutes) - Keren took a photo of us on Zoom

We have nearly completed our contract negotiations with Rabbi Weiner. We have committed to finalizing the details by the end of January. I am pleased to share that this process has been smooth and agreeable.

Many of you may not know that Rabbi Weiner was entitled to take a 6 month Sabbatical during the final year of his present contract. When Keren Rhodes and I realized this last year, we asked Rabbi Weiner if would be willing to delay this by a year since we were early in the process of transitioning to our current organizational structure. He agreed and both Keren and I have been grateful for his presence, guidance, and support these past few months. As a part of our contract negotiations, we have agreed that Rabbi Weiner will take the Sabbatical due to him beginning November 2024 and that he will return in May 2025. He will have another Sabbatical period at the end of the newly contracted period.

Sending you blessings of peace,
B’shalom,
Mara Hahn
JCA President, on behalf of the Board of Directors of the JCA

Energy Transition Fundraising CampaignUpdates on the JCA Energy Transition Fundraising Campaign
Letters from the President - 2024Board updates, new programs, community announcements
Tikkun OlamAnnouncements and Opportunities
Lunch & Learn MaterialsUpdated with reading materials for the coming week and an archive of past readings.