Alyth AGM 2017: Chairs’ Report

Chairs’ Report

“How are things going being the Chair?” An obvious, sometimes surprising, genuine and occasionally ‘agenda’d’ question.  One that a couple of people in the room may have been asked before.  One that is easy to answer with a simple “it’s great” or “it’s stressful” or “I’m loving it” – all of which are partly true.  None of which tell the whole story. Mostly because, it’s not about me, or anyone in particular. It’s about all of us. About community.  This community.

The AGM is an opportunity to reflect on the past year, and to look at what is planned for the coming year and beyond.  Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is the building project that we are embarking upon.  We’ve been working towards it for a long time, and now with planning permission firmly in hand, we need to raise the money and continue to talk together about the building – what it will look and feel like when we come in, where we will pray and learn and eat together and even where we will hang our coats. These are important considerations that embody the physical and communal space in which we come together in so many different ways.

Alyth is a thriving, innovative and vibrant community in need of a building that is fit for purpose, for today and for future generations.  One in which we will continue to deliver exciting progammes and be the place where so many of our members (over 700 each week) come and pray, learn, sing, and socialise together.

I am sure that you will all agree with me – it’s been another busy year at Alyth, filled with wonderful tefillah, a memorably excellent High Holy Days, inspirational learning (for adults and children) and travels – to Israel, Budapest, Glasgow, Birmingham and Bramfield!

42 young people celebrated their b’nei mitzvah this past year.   There were 13 weddings and a number of babies too.  We welcomed new members and said farewell to dear friends and family.  Our Youth and Education Hub, and our choirs and drama are all thriving.

We have a full kindergarten and Shofar, the daycare centre of which Alyth is a founding member, is also full, and children of all ages and stages are going on summer camps and on Israel tour.

Sadly we are saying goodbye to Cindy Summer, our Kindergarten Head who has done an outstanding job these past 3½ years. She is moving on to a new challenge at the kindergarten that is being built on the site of the new Nightingale House in South London. We wish Cindy all the best in her new endeavour and say a huge thank you for all she has done.

‘Another year’ in the life of our vibrant, thriving community.  And in saying “another year”, I don’t mean to play it down at all.  Infact it is an indicator of the incredible strength and stability that our Rabbis and professional team bring to the community in what has certainly been one of the most turbulent years in modern time.

In a year when Britain voted to leave the EU, America voted Donald Trump into power and France is on the cusp of an historical vote, community is what sustains us.  And Alyth is no different.

Today we have the benefit of our Rabbis posting their sermons on the website, for us to read and re-read long after they’ve delivered them.  I thought that as a way of reflecting on the events of the past year, I would look back at what the rabbis spoke about in their sermons and writings.  Rabbis Mark and Josh, and Colin speak passionately about looking at the world as it is, and working together to make it the world that we want it to be in the context of our Jewish lives, and the work that they do.  We can measure our success in many different ways, but we can also find the measure of our success in how we go about achieving it, and this was beautifully chronicled in a year of sermons and divrei torah.  I can highly recommend dipping into the “sermons and writing” tab on the website.

We are truly blessed to have Rabbis Josh and Mark as Rabbinic Partners who are at the very heart of leading this community, with support from the Core Leadership Team of Lynette, Adam and Sam; and all the incredible members of the staff team who ensure that we continue to be innovative, bold and inclusive in all that we do.  I know that you all join me in saying a huge ‘thank you” to each and everyone of them.

The coming year will be as exciting, busy and no doubt at times as challenging as the last one.  We are as we all know, not obligated to complete the work but we are not free to desist from it.

As 2017 continues we will be:

  • Focusing on raising the funds needed to enable us to start building by the beginning of 2019.
  • Volunteer engagement and the development of our lay leadership are a priority. In 2017 we plan to update and review the Synagogue governance and propose a path into leadership that is aligned with the demands of the full work and family lives of our members, balanced with a desire to lead and volunteer. We are delighted today to be welcoming 4 new members of Council.
  • Our excellent Rabbinic Partners and committed professional team deliver high quality programmes and services to the community. We need to ensure that we continue to work in a collaborative, appropriately structured leadership model that supports their work.
  • We will focus on maximizing organisational efficiency across all areas of work, controlling expenditure and monitoring membership trends.
  • We are looking forward to welcoming Hannah Kingston to the Rabbinic Team in September, ahead of the High Holy Days. Rabbis Colin and Maurice have been invaluable support for a number of years and we are hugely grateful to both of them for all that they do for the community. Rabbi Maurice will be with us from time to time as he is taking on more as the Rabbi in Bournemouth.  Rabbi Colin will continue to support the Rabbinic Team and will be with us over the High Holy Days.
  • Having a third full-time member of the Rabbinic Team will enable us to expand the reach and range of Jewish experiences that we offer and provide Rabbis Mark and Josh with capacity to balance the work that they do with their own learning, their roles in the wider community and their family lives.

It is our vision for Alyth to be home to generations of members, new and old, who love being part of a welcoming Jewish community that meets their spiritual, communal and educational needs and where we build strong Jewish identifies and encourage engagement in our own community and in the wider world.

So, back to how things are being the Chair. It is without a doubt a responsible-privilege that is only possible with the support of my honorary officers and the members of Executive and Council.

A few thank you’s before I finish.

To Colette Levy who is has completed three years as Vice President.  Colette, thank you for your support and your candor and contribution to the many discussions we’ve had.

To David Brown who steps down after 9 years on Council, 5 of them on Exec. Thank you for your commitment and all that you have done to make us think strategically about our work.  David your work is not done. We look forward to your ongoing support in the development of our leadership structure.

Sue Haskel is stepping down from Executive as member for Communications, but will remain on Council.  Sue, thank you for making us think big and boldly about how we communicate with the wide range of members that we have, and potential new members as well.

Lanny has done 3 years as Honorary Secretary. We are hugely grateful to you for the enormous amount of time that you have given to the role – for all the rotas and minutes, and for being the custodian of the right processes and procedures in all that we do. Thank you Lanny.

Lanny will be staying on Executive, continuing his role as the Exec member for HR and advising on constitutional matters.

And to my Vice Chair Russell who is a voice of reason and calm – always. Thank you for your support, for sharing the load and doing all that you do, and for being such a passionate champion of the building project from day one.

Thank you to all the members of Exec and Council, old and new.  Lay leadership is rewarding and challenging and vital to the way we work at Alyth.  All of you contribute in different ways to the discussions and debates, to the welcome and the support that is needed, bringing a range of skills and insights to our work. Together we need to make sure that we are able to attract leaders from across the community who have the desire, the time and the skills to build on the strong base that we have and navigate the road ahead with lots of straight runs, and the inevitable twists and turns.

And thank you to all of you for coming to the AGM to support, to ask questions and to join us as new members of Council. Together we can build both a physical space, and a communal space that has the right models of leadership and volunteering, that is a physical and emotional space for prayer and learning; and for coming together in the many ways that we do.  When all is said and done, the real core of strength of any community is in the hearts and minds and desires of all those who dwell there.