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Annual Fund

Dear Members of the Beth El Family,

As the close of 2023 nears, I find myself reflecting on our interconnected world and the many ways in which our community has come together in recent weeks to support Israel and all who call it home. The Torah is at its heart the story of a family, and as Jews we are all linked to each other by deep familial bonds, whether we are found here or halfway around the world.

I recognize the delicate pivot involved in making an appeal for your support here at TBE when in Israel, hostages are still held, war rages on, family and friends remain displaced, and the deep well of grief seems endless. But as horrific as the past two months have been, I am tremendously grateful for the equally deep ties of love, friendship and support that have revealed themselves. It is the same ethic that has propelled Temple Beth El to stand as a beacon of Jewish life and learning in Northern Westchester over the last 74 years. In these most difficult and sensitive of times, it is particularly incumbent upon us to ensure that our commitment to Jewish community may be sustained, both in Israel and here in Westchester. These goals are not mutually exclusive – indeed, as we are all one family, they are mutually reinforcing. Thus, I’d like to speak plainly about why the temple’s Annual Fund critically needs your support.

As I mentioned in the video above, the importance of TBE's existence as a center for Jewish community, education and advocacy has never been more profound. The ADL has recorded a 316% increase in antisemitic incidents in the US since October 7 vs. the same period last year. Additionally, more than 200 of the anti-Israel rallies held around the country have featured messages of support for Hamas and/or violence against Jews. Though our local community remains largely united and strong, we have seen that even our close-knit neighborhoods are not immune to the pernicious effects of the world’s oldest hatred. A thriving and active local Jewish community constitutes a bulwark against rising antisemitism in our own backyard and around the world.

As always, but especially in response to the atrocities of October 7, Temple Beth El has provided programming and engagement opportunities to support the needs of our community. We are witnessing an explosion of Jewish pride and engagement which our clergy and staff are eager to meet.  Our Shabbat services have been more well attended than at any point in recent memory. Our adult education programs have never seen such high levels of participation. We are proud that our offerings have been so successful and grateful they have been so warmly received. After all, our primary purpose as an institution is to create and nourish community. Many of these additional programs, however, are outside what was contemplated when our operating budget was constructed and will not be sustainable without the financial security created by a healthy Annual Fund.

Additionally, significant time has been spent advocating for Israel and Jewish causes in lengthy conversations with local town and school administrators, in conjunction with partners such as the ADL, AJC, Jewish Federation of New York and neighboring congregations. We are suddenly being called upon to work with school superintendents, town board members and the local community to help advocate against antisemitism and curricula biased against Israel. We are holding zoom meetings with college students and young adults to help them respond to the wave of hate they are encountering. While we are grateful to be called upon, our advocacy demands both time and resources.     

Finally, our security expenses have grown exponentially as we brought in additional and more experienced security staff to ensure the safety of our community. Our annual planned security budget is $130,000, and we already know that costs will be over $315,000 in the current year. We expect to incur further expenses as we implement new infrastructure recommended by our security advisory committee that was not factored into the current operating budget or covered by our modest security fee. Exceeding our goals for donations to the Annual Fund will prevent us from having to dip into our modest cash reserves to cover these extra-budgetary expenses this year. As safety is of paramount importance, we know these expenses are here to stay, and it is our sincere hope that we may grow our Annual Fund enough to prevent a significant increase in membership or tuition fees in future years.  At the end of the day, we cannot do anything before first ensuring a safe and secure environment for the hundreds of children and adults who enter our campus on a daily basis. 

And so, we turn to you, our Temple Beth El family, to ask openly and honestly for your support to ensure the sustained success and safety of our beloved congregation. Please take a moment to make your gift to this year’s Annual Fund by clicking here. If you prefer to pay at a later date, you can add a pledge directly to your Shulcloud account by clicking here. Moreover, if you find that you can make a multi-year pledge and/or a gift at an upgraded level we would be exceptionally grateful. 

Wishing you a Chanukah observance that brings light forth in a time of darkness,

Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe

Thu, April 18 2024 10 Nisan 5784