Updates and Farewells

First, an update. Remember I mentioned Thursday night that my wife had an auto accident. It appears to have been staged—not less that 1.5 hours after it happened I had a call from someone at the person-who-hit-her’s body shop wanting over $1200 in cash to fix the car. We told him to talk to our insurance. I don’t think he liked that answer. I’ll note that my wife could never get a license number or his insurance policy, even though insurance is required in this state.

What happened was that my wife was backing out of a parking space in a mall, with a line of cars headed up by a ford-o-saurus waiting for the space. A car zipped around the line and hit her. Our company has indicated to us that it wasn’t our fault, and waived our deductable. In this situation, she couldn’t have expected somone to zip around the line. The car’s in the shop, but the worse damage was psychological, as it triggered memories of the last time my wife got hit by a drunk driver. I don’t know how long that will take to clear.

Luckily, she’s talking about starting her own blog her at LJ, which I think will be good for her. I’ll announce it here when she does.


The farewell: Tonight was our Rabbi’s last regular shabbat at Temple. Big service. Lots of hardfelt thanks from congregants; lots of public statements by the Executive Vice President (I’ll note that the President, who was there, never said anything publically in the way of a farewell). I received a plaque (not a plague).

Its odd, but after experiencing the large congregation, which was actually warmer than this small one that claimed to be warm, I could see the real difference. The facade was there. The cliques were formed. We were on the outside again.

And… I didn’t care.


Recognizing Volunteers

[Note: This is a continuation, in some respects, of the discussion of my entry The Opposite of Love Is, as well as cellio‘s entry Organizational Behavior 101]

At the Congregational Meeting last night, I commented to the leadership on how they were treating volunteers. This morning, I received a mail message from the Executive VP, which said:

Thank you again and again for all that you have done. You have never been
underappreciated. In fact, hopefully your trophy wall at home shows this. The
Helping Hands acknowledgement, another plague I presented to you during
another term for all of your work, etc. These were all given with sincere
respect for your time and effort.

When you said last evening about don’t forget to appreciate your volunteers-
if you have another suggestion re: this- please let me know. Knowing what it
is to give thousands of hours of volunteering (and sometimes feeling
unappreciated), I feel that I have always tried to come up with a way to
recognize the efforts of others.

I wanted to share my response to her, and to see if other folks had additional ideas and comments. What I said in response to the above was:

For me, plaques and trophies are not the answer. I’ve gotten to the point they
go in a box, as there isn’t the wall space. So what is the answer.

First, I think is treating folks with respect for their skills and
contributions throughout the year, not just at recognition points. Consider:
The Torah teaches us to respect our parents. It doesn’t just say on Mothers
Day or Fathers Day.

As opposed to wall space on people’s home, public recognition also helps.
Consider a public wall of volunteer recognition in the office. Certainly,
photos of all officers should be up in the office (small ones) so that people
can easily recognize officers.

With my conference, we’ve had a long debate on how to recognize volunteers.
We’ve done gift certificates, specialized gifts, and special dinners. Our
recognition budget is on the order of $4K, which is high. I certainly get the
most use out of the certificates (I’m listening to some of the CDs right
now), but I think the real answer depends on the volunteers. This means you
need to take the time to get to know them, and then you can know the right way
to recognize them in the way that is most meaningful to them.


I Hate June!

Well, at least the middle of June, when all sorts of shit happens.

Last June, just before the last day of school, my daughter had a major league asthma attack (landing her in the hospital), I broke my foot (landing me at home for three months)— all on the day our kitchen remodeling started.

Today, I was dissed by our congregation, my wife had a car accident (which might have been setup—luckily, neither she nor my daughter were hurt), and my daughter spilled hot chocolate over herself. It was also the night of the congregational meeting, where the incoming leadership (many of whom were continuing in their positions) stated publically that they outgoing leadership couldn’t work together (before, from what I’m told, giving the outgoing folks awards for service).

Its not just me. ellipticcurve had a horrid day as well, as did some other friends of ours.

Just a sucky day. Hopefully, the “powers that be” have used up the vacuum.


The Opposite of Love Is…

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to remind me why I want to leave my current congregation. The primary reason, of course, is that I need a stable Jewish school for my daughter as she enters the Bat Mitzvah track. But there’s also the issue of respect and belonging.

The current leaders (and the ones continuing into next year) like to talk about the strengths of a small congregation, and this one in particular. They like to emphasize the warmth and friendliness of its people, and how they value the contributions of everyone. It’s a facade.

Last year, when I began my term as Religious Practices chair, they had a ceremony honoring the outgoing chairs. They talked on and on how the chair from 2002-2003 did so much for the congregation. They went on to list other past RP chairs, either by accident or intent, leaving out my wife, who was RP chair for 2001-2002. When I pointed this out to them, they belatedly apologized—to me in private, but not in public.

As you know, I’m finishing up my term as RP chair. It officially ends June 30; my last board meeting is tonight. They have already started not even inviting or informing me of Executive Board planning meetings. Last night, I received a message indicating they had decided to cancel the upcoming Tisha B’Av observance, after they concluded that other Reform congregations don’t observe the holy day, and that only 6/7 people would attend. They noted the original decision “was made by an outgoing
that included the Rabbi, and that she is in favor of the service”. When I pointed out for clarification that the Rabbi hadn’t been involved with the decision to have the observance, the response I received was “Whatever”.

There is such an undercurrent of animosity to those that had supported the outgoing Rabbi and tried to recover the congregation. I thought it had gone away over the past year, but it is resurfacing again. The new leaders are folks that have not demonstrated a large knowledge of Jewish practice and tradition; to them, it appears that modern Reform Judaism is too Jewish. They have a group they like; if you are not in that group, it is as if you are persona non grata. And these are the people that will be in charge next year.

What they are forgetting is that volunteers need respect, and people remember how they are treated. When you are a small congregation, you can’t afford to write people off or treat them badly, even if you know they are going to another congregation. Because you never know: they may still stay involved, they might still contribute out of fond memories, they may return if they don’t like where they are going. If you piss them off, you are burning a bridge that can never be repaired. I’ve seen that once trust is destroyed, it never comes back and the relationship is never the same. I’m not sure those in charge understand this lesson.

When I was working on the marketing plan for this congregation, one question we explored is why it wasn’t growing. We wondered if the community “buzz” was what was killing it. Those in leadership thought the buzz was wrong; we really were warm and friendly. Now, I think I’m learning why the buzz is out there, and it doesn’t bode well for its survival.

Perhaps those in leadership can learn. I hope so. In the musical Rent, there’s a wonderful line, which I’m probably misquoting, that the opposite of love isn’t hate—it’s indifference. I don’t care about this congregation anymore. I feel sad about that, but I need to be in a congregation that I care about, and that I believe cares about me.


Mumblefrotz Credit Card Snafu: Update/Commenting Meme

Mumblefrotz Credit Card Snafu Update

Well, it looks like my colleague in Israel spoke to the manager and got it worked out. They’ve written a letter to their credit card provider requesting the credit for us. Of course, to play it safe, I’ll fax a copy of that letter to my company as well.

Commenting Meme

As for the commenting meme going around: alas, the results for me right now are pretty dull:

1 cahwyguy 20 comments 41.67% of total
2 ellipticcurve 13 comments 27.08% of total
3 cellio 10 comments 20.83% of total
4 Anonymous 5 comments 10.42% of total

These statistics were generated using the LJ Stats Web Interface by mpnolan. Original idea from scrapdog‘s LJ Comment Stats Wizard.

I think this means I need more folks to “friend” me.


Mumblefrotz Credit Card Snafu


Back in February, my wife purchased some merchandise (over $300!) for our Temple gift shop, and paid for it on our credit card. When the merchandise arrived at the Temple office, they didn’t notice it had been prepaid, and paid for it again—by check, which has already cleared. Honest mistake, which we get to clean up.

Enter the complication: the company (actually, factory) in question is in Israel. They have one person who can speak English well enough to do the credit transaction. Working through a colleague in Israel, we’ve contacted the company. It appears this one person has been out sick over a month, and they don’t know when she will be back. They don’t know how to do the credit transaction, so they are sorry, but they are waiting for her to return.

I’ve just written to the credit card company, and hopefully this can be straightened out, but it is damn frustrating!



My Last RP Meeting

Well, my last meeting as Religious Practices chair is over, except for the paperwork (I know, a job’s not finished, yada yada). Watching what’s going on, they’ll have fun next year, and I wish them well. But (taking a deep breath): I’m Free! I’m Free. No more setting up events, scrounging for volunteers. No more staying late to clean up. No more being the one everyone complains too because it is too expensive, or the food isn’t right, or the menu was too vegetarian, or the menu had too much non-vegetarian, or the service was too religious, or the service wasn’t religous enough.

Much as I love volunteering, there are times when you get plain burned out. My burnout started after Chanukah this year (which was a lot of work right after a week of running a conference), and was cemented by Tu B’Shevat. I wish the stuckee incoming chairman good luck. I’ll be glad to turn over my records.

Once that’s done, I’ll only have three more hats to transition: webmaster, newsletter production, and newsletter editor (I’ll keep providing computer support, as I have the backup of the software and the report generator). My wife will transition the gift cart and scrip, and perhaps we can have a year where we actually can be members of the congregation, instead of worker bees.

I’m looking forward to it. Just stop me before I volunteer again (or at least for another 12 months)!

[In case you’re curious, here are my current volunteering hats, in addition to my webpages (cahighways.org, mljewish.org, scjfaq.org) and mailing list (mail.liberal-judaism): international conference general chair, international conference tutorial chair, secretary for the conference’s sponsoring organization, religious practices chair for temple, webmaster for temple, newsletter for temple, computer support for temple, quasi-publicity for temple (by virtue of being the past publicity chair and doing all flyers for the NL), webmaster for YMCA parent-child program, member of the Industry Advisory Board for CSUN.]