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Minutes of the Semi-Annual Congregational Meeting December 11, 2019

The Semi Annual Congregational Meeting of Beth El Synagogue Center commenced at Beth El Synagogue Center New Rochelle, NY on December 11, 2019 at 8:25 PM. It was established that a quorum of the congregation was present.


President Mark Silver began the meeting with a request for Good and Welfare.


A motion was made by Jack Gruenberg to approve the Minutes of the Beth El Synagogue Center May 13, 2019 Semi Annual Congregational Meeting and was seconded by Nate Fisher. The minutes were unanimously approved.


Vice President Rob Patchen read the list of Chai Awards recipients and presented gifts to those who were present.


The next item on the agenda was the selection of individuals to participate on the Nominating Committee for the selection of the 2020-2021 Board of Trustees and Officers. Individuals were nominated: Stephanie Roth, Lisa Mandelker, Andy Reiss, Bruce Gold and Ellisa Glickman. Written ballots were collected and tabulated.

Selected Members for Nominating Committee:

Lisa Mandelker

Bruce Gold

Stephanie Roth

Alternate: Elissa Glickman


Four Board of Trustee members were elected last month and will round out the nominating committee: Nadine Jacobson, Howard Rosenstein, Mark Seidenfeld and Robyn Yairi.


Mark SIlver announced our Gala Honorees-Sandy and Jack Gruenberg, The President’s Ne’emanim Service Award Recipients-Jayne and Darren Peister and the Lapid Award Recipients-Zach Seiden and Julia Keltz.


Additionally, Nina Luban has been awarded the Julian Bernstein Distinguished Service Award which will be presented by the Westchester Jewish Council in March.


Mark Silver then announced the total contributions of the Kol Nidre Appeal: $254,000, which was better than budget. Also of note, there were 297 contributors, which is up by about 20 member units from last year.


Organizational Issues:


Kiddush Luncheon and the Green Team Initiative

A task force chaired by Lauren Freeman Bosworth is addressing a variety of issues concerning the kiddush luncheon.

Almost a year ago the Board of Trustees approved a Green mission for the shul. During the course of the year, the Green Team has worked very hard and we are pleased to announce the plan to become compostable in a three step program:

  1. Kiddush Lunch
  2. Rest of Shul other than the camp
  3. Implementation for the Camp


The plan is to launch a zero-waste Kiddush on the first shabbat of the new year. We will have appropriate bins and congregant volunteers to assist in placing of compostables in the bins. The Green Team will be providing congregational education and volunteers to assist in implementation. Sisterhood has graciously pledged $15,000 above and beyond their usual $10,000 contribution to the shul in order to implement this program.


Turning Vision into Action: Nina Luban

We are encouraging congregants to join the six pillar teams. Below are three initiatives:


  1. The Den@Beth El: Turned the Wiener Lounge into a prototype/experiment as a multi use space. Check out the space, use it during the day. Spread the word amongst your friends. Please provide feedback.
  2. The community of interconnected communities: new sub communities that share same

interests. This was established to meet the needs of our congregants and bring new people into our community. Examples include Chug Ivri 10-15 consisting of regulars and the Green Team. If you have an interest group you would like to create, identify four other members, to have a core group of 5. We will provide support and publicize the event and donate $50 towards your initial event.

  1. Cultural Shift: Initiative for more lay involvement - creating and executing programs. Lay volunteers - enriching people's lives and meeting people’s needs. We still need people to step forward as the more active people are, the more connected people are to the community. Volunteerism, nationally and within Beth El, is in decline. We would like to let everyone know that we are creating a more robust Directory of people's interests and skills that has been added as part of the shulcloud Database.


Treasurer’s Report: Barbara Cohen

Treasurer Barbara Cohen reported on last fiscal year, July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019.


Membership numbers:

Membership numbers have been on a gradual decline each year – Mark will take you through an analysis shortly. I’m going to focus on full members (vs sustaining). In June 30, 2018 we ended the year with 589 full members. Last fiscal year we budgeted 569 members and ended the year better than anticipated at 581 members – so only down 8 net members from the previous year. In the current year, we budgeted 563 members and we are currently at 575 members – down another 6 net members ytd from last year.


Youth and Family Engagement:

Year ending June 2018 we had 111 students in the religious school. Last year we ended the year at 98 - down 13 students from the previous year. But the good news is in the current year, we are back up to 110 students.


Nursery School:

In the year ending Jun 2018 we had 55 nursery school students. Last year we budgeted 63 and ended the year with 72 (up 17 students from previous year and 9 from budget). However this year we only have 59 students. Down 13 students from last year.


Day Camp:

The day camp is one of our biggest sources of revenue each year! In the year ending Jun 2018, we had 251 campers, last year we had 269 and this past summer we had a record number of 273!


Financial statements:

These are the year-end accounts from last fiscal year – July 1 2018 thru June 30 2019.


In summary we ended the year better than budget for various reasons- various ups and downs.


The key factors are as follows:

Starting with our departmental cost centers – (I like to look at these cost centers on a net basis – revenue minus costs.)


Youth and Family Engagement – We always budget for a loss in the religious school, - we budgeted (294) but ended up at (200k) total net savings vs budget of $94k - addl $11k in revenue and $83k in expense savings – expenses down primarily because we never hired the Director of Elementary Engagement – Bekkah fulfilled that role part-time last year.


Nursery school had an increase in net revenue of $40k – due to the 9 additional students vs budget ($80 revenue less $40k expenses).


Day camp was also up $20k in net revenue ($33k-$13k)– due to the 9 additional campers vs budget. FYI day camp brought in net revenue of approximately $600k last year and slightly more this year.


Membership dues are up $37k vs budget– primarily due to the 12 additional members vs budget.


Security is up by $111k in revenue due to the security surcharge which we added last year, which is basically a wash from the expenses to cover additional security expenses incurred.


Building and Maintenance expenses are up by $74k because we had to pay $25k in property taxes for our Old Orchard Rd property since we had rented it last year (and therefore wasn’t tax exempt). We also had more misc expenses for air conditioner repairs and boiler repairs.

Center activities and programming expenses are better by $57k primarily due to the fact that we didn’t hire a program director/coordinator which was budgeted.


We ended the year with a surplus of $112k which we moved to our reserves/General Fund – but it’s important to note that we also used approximately $150k from our various funds to balance the budget and those funds are slowly being depleted.


These are final numbers - our independent accountants (not auditors) have reviewed these financial statements and they are in conformity with GAAP – generally accepted accounting principles.


If anyone is interested in seeing the full report, it is available in the office of the Executive Director for your review.


Membership Trends: Mark Silver

President Mark Silver reported. It is time to take a long term look at membership trends and we have reported our findings to the Board of Trustees, The Executive Council, the Audit & Finance Committee and now we think it is important to share our findings with the congregation.


Over the last twenty years, we averaged a net decline of 16 families a year-from 900 to 581

Families. This year we reported a decline of only 8 families--is this an anomaly or is this a new trend? We will not know until January as membership numbers are too early to determine. Current data suggests that last year was a blip. Last year it seems that we had two blips; fewer than usual new members and also fewer than average resignations. This year we appear to be back to where we had been the prior year.


Is this decline getting worse over time? The raw numbers have gotten a little worse over the last five years and, therefore, the percentage decline has grown even more. But the key point is that even if the decline were constant at 16 to 19 families net each year, this would be a significant problem. The problem stems from the net (negative) balance of new members over resignations. Members who passed away are not included in these numbers, which further increases the overall loss in membership.


The average resignations per year is 39 families, which may seem shocking to some people but really isn’t. This is business as usual. Turnover is part of business as usual. Every year we need to replace 40-50 families. The concern is not the resignations but rather the relatively few members.


Why do we lose families? The number one reason is aging out.

Retirees: not physically able to participate.

Empty Nesters: People are more likely to leave when they become empty nesters as their youngest child leaves for college or graduates from college.

Are people running away from Beth El? No, only 3 families a year on average leave because they are unhappy.

What is driving the decline? The decrease of new members annually is what is contributing to the decline.


Demographics and social trends. If we are averaging a net decline of nearly 20 families, this leaves a $60,000-80,000 deficit to the budget. What are we doing about this?


5-part Strategic Approach:


  1. Finding and Identifying new sources of revenue: Pillar Five of Journey, chaired by Rick Barlis is working on monetizing the building. If you have an interest or a business expertise that can contribute to this pillar, please reach out.
  2. The Culture of Giving-We are looking to other sources of giving, increase fundraising campaigns
  3. Addressing Membership-we have the least leverage in this item. The officers met last week to focus on these items.
         a. Retention
         b. Recruitment
  4. Optimizing (rightsizing)-Most expenses are fixed costs associated with PPE (property, plant and equipment) and with staff. We need to reduce this. We have not yet begun this, although we are looking into possible strategies and ideas.
  5. Developing strategic alliances with other local synagogues; sharing costs over a greater membership. This too was envisioned during Journey-Pillar 6.


It is important to note that this is not a crisis. We are taking this opportunity, this point in time, when we need to step back and address these strategic issues.


Questions included demographics and fundraising.


Sam Berger stated that it is important to note that at this point we are the only conservative synagogue in the area that has dug into the numbers in this way. This is very difficult, not only the process but the findings, but we are trying to address the issues and be honest about what is happening.


Joyce Wechsler made a motion to adjourn which was seconded by Rob Weber. The meeting was adjourned at 9:26PM.


Tue, June 2 2020 10 Sivan 5780