We Care for One Another
Linda Rubin & Marla Shwarts, Co-Presidents
When history repeats itself, human nature suggests we turn our attention to ourselves, to our families, and to our community. We stop, we think, we listen, and we act. We respond with the intention of doing the right thing and understanding that as a diverse group of people we remember that we are united in the notion that we must take good care of one another. And so it is, that when the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018 was attacked we, along with synagogues across the country, began to take a more dedicated look at how we were taking care of ourselves and what changes might be in order here at TBE. Our first thoughts were that we must take care and take precautions to protect ourselves from being attacked by the rampant gunning down of congregants as we worship in our sacred space. We listened to one another as opinions, concerns, and ideas emanated. We took action.
We established a Safety and Security Committee. Donations were lovingly made and accepted and we made structural changes to our spiritual home: shatter proof glass was installed, additional cameras and a live monitor were installed, bollards were put in place in the west parking lot, additional greeters with specific tasks were assigned to temple events, and an iron gate at the northeast corner of the building was installed. Very significantly our Temple Beth El Family at the June 2019 Annual Meeting requested that a Safety & Security Maintenance Fund be established to be funded by assessing our congregants with an annual fee that would be devoted to the safety and security of our spiritual home. We wanted to hear from everyone and so your Board of Directors under the leadership of Co- Presidents Gale Swartz and Eric Imley sent out a survey in May 2020 asking what all of our congregants would prefer and if they would be willing to pay for guards (armed or unarmed) on our site.
With immense gratitude to George Zimmerman, our TBE Past President, who compiled the survey results and its raw data for us, the information was brought to your Board of Directors and our congregation in July 2020. The results of the survey indicated that our community was extremely pleased with the efforts to provide safety and security by the decisions made by the temple lay leadership. However, the results have become a unique challenge for us as our community was split right down the middle, regarding the ideas of hiring armed or unarmed guards. In addition our community was not of a mind to pay for the necessary costs to hire armed guards as some had requested; in other words some people wanted the more expensive proposition, but they were not willing to pay for this high cost expense. As you can see, the Board of Directors has a big task before them – how to satisfy the desires of our community without a clear majority of opinion and still provide the safety and security that everyone desires. Some people would be happy with decisions that would be made and others would be displeased, and to top it off, the financial expense was a major factor in making these decisions. We have what Rabbi Cassi describes as a sacred compromise in front of us, one which is going to please some, displease others, and a quandary about our financial responsibility and capability. As we write this, your Board of Directors is still actively weighing the choices, so expect to hear more in the coming months. What a conundrum, but worth it as we forge ahead to do what is good for Temple Beth El.