This will be my last eKI (June 23) and tomorrow, June 24, will be my final Friday night Shabbat service at KI. Most of my efforts at this point are directed at moving into my new office across the hall in the former Gift Shop. I am glad I will still have rabbinic space at the synagogue and plan to remain part of the congregation which has been the centerpiece of my life for the last 21 years. Following the custom of the Reform movement and by arrangement with synagogue leadership, I will be “sparse” until January 1, 2023 to give Rabbi David the time and space he needs to settle in and connect with the congregation. On July 1, Liz and I will be going away for the entire month for some seriously needed R&R.
I ask that you find your own way to meeting Rabbi David and help him and his family become part of the KI community. KI is a big community and it will take him time to get to know you and you to get to know him and his own unique style as a rabbi. Rabbi David is about the same age I was when I first came to KI. He is a mid-career congregational rabbi and therefore has all the tools he needs to be your new Senior Rabbi. He also has his own unique gifts and talents as well as his own set of priorities. We have been meeting and talking. He will be there for you. Please, do your best to be there for him. Great things are in store for KI under his leadership.
Before I take my leave, I want to thank everyone at KI who has worked with me over the years. A special thanks to all of the congregational Presidents (always the Number 1 Volunteer) who put in tremendous hours and a special thanks to Janice Schwartz-Donahue with whom I have worked with for the last three tough years and faced the challenges of Covid and my own health issues together. Janice, like her predecessors, is indefatigable in her efforts to make KI all it can be. A special thank you to Brian Rissinger, our Executive Director, and his team, with a huge shout out to Sarah Morrison and Anita Madnick in the clergy office who have provided unfailing support to my work. Also, thank you to Jamie Shmelzer (Membership and Development) and Deb Rosen (JQuest and Quest Noar) for their work in programming and helping maintain and deepen a sense of community at KI.
No words can adequately express my thanks to Cantor Amy Levy, my dear friend and colleague, who has been my spiritual partner at KI for 18 years. Her voice, her music, her smile, her soul has enriched my life beyond words. Shabbat and holidays without Amy is unimaginable. Rabbi David is so lucky to have such a gifted, energetic and generous colleague. Together, they will continue to make Judaism a living experience for all of you. Also, a special thank you to Hazzan David Tilman both for his magnificent musical leadership at KI and his dedicated pastoral work. In Hebrew there is a saying, Mah Tov helkeinu, “how good is our portion.”
I have been blessed to be part of the best clergy team I could ever image. Thank you, Amy and David. Also, thank you to Rita Rosen Poley, the Director of the Temple Judea Museum for being my friend and art mentor for the last 21 years, Mah Tov helkeinu!
Of course, the biggest thank you belongs to Liz and my family. As Director of the KI Preschool and Shir Joy, our children’s choir, as well as the JQuest music teacher, Liz has contributed immeasurably to the culture and success of KI. More than that, she has been my partner in life and primary caregiver through the darkest days of my life. My children, now grown, and my grandchildren did not choose to have a congregational rabbi as their dad and grandfather. They, too, have made endless sacrifices and have supported my work to the fullest without hesitation. Nothing I have done or accomplished at KI would have been possible without them and without me knowing that at the end of the day when I came home, they would be there for me.
Lastly, I want to thank you, the congregation for making a covenant with me 21 years ago and giving me the privilege of being part of your lives. There are so many people to thank; I don’t know where to begin. Joan Myerson Shrager and I have created innumerable PowerPoint programs during the last 18 years and are still working together on a new series on the Jewish Ukrainian legacy. Marlene D’Orazio Adler and I have worked together on so many art projects, all of which were meaningful and impactful, especially this year’s creation of a KI Megillah. I have never met anyone who works harder for a synagogue than Caryl Levin whose Adult Education program is the envy of every synagogue in the land. The list goes on and on, Women of KI, HaMotzi, the Mitzvah Garden; Sharing is Caring, the Inclusion Committee, Music Arts and more. KI is an incredible place, rich in content, deep in caring, committed in spirit to make our synagogue a living house of Judaism.
Last but not least, I want to thank Pam Saltzburg and everyone involved in the Spring Celebration and my many farewell tributes for all their efforts.
And so, I take my leave. A reset if you will. Some time to rejuvenate and then back again in new ways after the New Year 2023. My journey and the journey of KI will continue to be linked, now and forever.
Todah! Thank you!
Rabbi Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D.