Temple Sinai’s Kol Nidre Appeal – 2016

img_3848Good morning (good afternoon) – Shana Tova and Happy New Year! Hello, I’m Jonathan Cheris, President of Temple Sinai.

As president, I like to wander the halls and speak to random people whenever I’m in the building. During Shabbat services, I always sit in the back of the room to take it all in. I’m always searching for a greater meaning to all we do here at Temple Sinai. Recently, I had a lot of time to think about this topic as I drove my son home from work. You see, he was working for a baseball team in Colorado Springs and the drive home took five days.

As I searched for a deeper meaning to it all, I kept landing on the Confirmation class pictures that line the hallway near the library. These pictures line hallways in every reform temple. I thought a lot about these pictures. They explain a lot about why we do what we do here everyday. More about them in a few minutes.

Fortunately for everyone, I’m known for giving short speeches. My brevity aligns to my love of Twitter, through which I’ve been fortunate to create thousands of connections with interesting people around the globe. For those not familiar with Twitter, it operates as a global platform for public self-expression and conversation in real time. Posts are limited to just 140 characters. Hashtags prior to words or phrases help to connect people with similar interests. My profile begins with the (hashtag) #ThinkDifferent.

Think Different was a slogan used by Apple during the late 1990’s through a series of print and television ads that focused on global innovators and how they thought different about their approach to problems and challenges. I’ll now share the ad copy, which Richard Dreyfus read during their tv commercials:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

These are powerful and actionable words that I’m sure we can all relate to.

Now, here at Temple Sinai, I’m not going to stand up and say that (hand motion) we are all the crazy ones, the misfits or the rebels. However, I am going to say that your clergy, professional staff and volunteer leaders all possess some of the qualities I shared. This ultimately drives the organization’s collective tendency for innovation, which is needed to stay relevant in a changing world.

Too many synagogues are stuck in the past, the same as they were 50 years ago. The same lesson plans, same religious school model and similar adult education programs. The others are status quo. We blend homage to tradition and to the past, with innovation and a determination to connect with this generation of Jews, AND the next.

We think different about our programs and services here at Temple Sinai.

Some examples include:

  • Torah Explorers is a program begun last year, which offers innovative learning opportunities for K-2 children but with a lower cost to encourage continuity from nursery school to formal religious school education that begins in third grade. Participation has quadrupled from two years ago, and I can proudly share that all second grade students from last year have continued into third grade. This is truly remarkable.


  • The third annual benefit auction, Fire & Ice – “a hot night for a cool cause” will be held in December. This is a spectacular evening for all adults, driven by energy, emotion and fun! A strong committee of dedicated volunteers helps this event to be successful and meaningful.


  • In continuing a long tradition of bringing the most topical and distinguished speakers into our building, next April we’ll feature former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband former astronaut Mark Kelly. Giffords and Kelly bring audiences inside their journey, inspiring courage through tough times, motivating individuals to overcome any challenge they face, and to be passionate, be courageous and to be their best.  This will be a memorable evening at Temple Sinai.

Speaking of thinking differently…. I’d like to re-introduce the concept of “Personal Philanthropy.” I’d like to ask everyone here to also think different about fund raising.

Each year the budget is constructed to best support programs, Friday evening services, and teaching. You might not know that Temple dues and fees don’t cover the entire budget – that’s what this Kol Nidre Appeal is all about (hold up card) – to make sure that we can make Temple Sinai a place “where every heart has a home.”

I want everyone to think different about this ask. Maybe you’ve given to the Kol Nidre Appeal in the past. Maybe you’ve never thought about it. However, I would like to ask that you think different about it this year. Think of your pledge as a personal investment in your Jewish home, an expression of your personal philanthropy, rather than a response to a fundraising appeal.

Depending on your life stage or situation, I know that this request can be challenging.  But please shift the view to being about philanthropy and engagement and the intention of your support becomes clearer and stronger. Maybe even rebellious!

Now, back to those Confirmation class pictures. I’m going to borrow some words from my confirmation speech earlier this year. My goal…, the goal of every past president, every board member, professional and likely all of you is to think proudly of those pictures.

Collectively, as a community, we must must ensure that those pictures never become a relic of a lost past but rather that they form the seeds of innovation and the future of the reform movement. Somewhere within them are kids crazy enough to think they can change the world and likely many of them will. Think about it.

Thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement.  Remember, every heart has a home at Temple Sinai.

Shana Tova!