March 4, 2019
Attending: Alexis (Chair), Beth, Brian, Dovy, Rachel and Gadi
Absent: Jeff and Rabbi Kleiner
Alexis opened the meeting with thanks to Beth for bringing great food for the evening.
Alexis then opened the first item of business: appointing a “nominating committee chairperson”. The chair will be entrusted to add two additional members to create a three-person nominating committee. The committee will present a slate of new board members to be voted on at the upcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM), to be held around June 3, 2019. Alexis will approach Sarah, Philip, Diane, Natalie and Karen Wolberger – after receiving a negative reply from Ezra.
At present, it is not clear how many board members appointed to a first term at the last AGM, are willing to continue. Once the new board is elected, there should be a period of “hafifa” – חפיפה – with the two boards – the outgoing and the incoming.
Alexis noted that at the last AGM it was not stated explicitly that the new members – or new officers — would serve for two years. It was generally felt that those board members/officers wishing to continue for a second year term would not stand for re-election but would be simply noted at the AGM as continuing members, moving into the second year of two year term. The slate to be voted on would therefore include only new members – whose term of office shall be made clear to them, stated at the AGM, and included in the protocol of the AGM.
Alexis then moved on to the next topic – mapping of board member tasks. She thanked Beth for preparing two excel tables: one of Bella’s tasks and the other of the board member’s tasks. Alexis plans to present a draft of professional needs at the next board meeting.
Alexis updated us about her conversation with Bella, who said that her plans for retirement are not imminent – perhaps a year from now – and she also said that she would most likely continue to assist in the office after retirement on a part time basis.
Alexis next informed the board that the Rabbi’s contract will end on August 30, 2020, and that the contract will automatically renew for another three years in the absence of a non-renewal notice given by KMA at least two months before that date.
The final item on the agenda was the future of KMA. Prior to the board meeting, Alexis sent out an email to the board setting out her feelings on the subject and possible paths forward. Below is the relevant text of the email.
KMA has a closed knit, great group of people, spanning 4 generations. We have many neighborhood people using the building for lifecycle events and community events (social, political) in partnership with the neighborhood creating a connection to the community at large, not necessarily as members of KMA. KMA members are diverse in interests and needs – social, educational, religious, philosophical, financial, time. One thing is clear and desired by all – a vibrant, close community.
As an evolving community, how does KMA continue? What does KMA look like in 5 years. Who will be in and run prayer? Who will be our leadership? What happens when current core of people in heichal are no longer there? What will happen to our building? How will we support the kehila financially? How will we manage our professional needs and resources as our personnel changes?
- Status quo. Ride it out and see what happens
- Status quo with focus/resources on children/youth programs and tefillot.
If we can find a way to bring children in to the building – tefillot, chugim, programs – often their parents will follow.
- Open KMA building to matnas/matnas type activities ensuring the building is used and foot traffic may lead to participation in KMA.
- Approach other kehilot to explore a relationship/merging/cooperation.
My goal for this meeting is to choose and/or prioritize which of these options we as a board feel is worth pursuing. Following that, to assign each option (if we choose more than one) to individuals to do some research that we can discuss at our next meeting.
A vibrant discussion ensued exploring all of the above options. Alexis emphasized the urgency of the situation by noting the dramatic decrease in membership – down to around 85 member-units from 150 several years ago. In addition, the core of members is ageing without a strong continuing generation. In a number of years, there will no longer be a enough people to constitute a congregation. Thus, the first option – riding it out and seeing what will happen – would seem to have an imminent end some years down the line.
Concern was expressed that should our congregation dwindle further, we could lose the building to a larger group (in particular a growing ultra-religious group next door) not fitting with our identity as Conservative Jews. Gadi noted that at present the legal status of our rights to the land and the building are in limbo and requires continued effort to complete. The goal is a long-term lease for the land – but he said that another but more difficult to achieve goal would be ownership. Some members of the board felt that losing the building by a “hostile takeover” was unlikely, due to KMA’s connection with the community, though death by attrition seemed a more likely scenario.
A brief discussion about developing programs for children and youth – in the hope that parents would follow – did not take traction.
One aspect of the discussion concentrated on finances. A dwindling membership means dwindling income from dues. It is possible that making the building more available to the community – based on a usage fee – could make up for this loss. Continual use of the building by others could also bolster a claim by KMA to maintain possession and usage of the building even in light of loss of membership. Such usage might also bring in, as a side benefit, a new member now and then. In the above context, Brian expressed belief that opening the building for community cultural activities (including working jointly with the Talpaz Matnas) is permissible under KMA’s articles of association.
Alexis spoke about the many requests to use the building that she herself handles. This is a burden she feels she shouldn’t have to bear – and if we choose to increase the usage, this will have to be handled by professional staff. She also said that it is difficult to know when to charge and when not to charge. In one instance, when a very modest cleaning fee was mentioned to a group asking to use the building, they bolted and ran elsewhere. On the other hand, Schechter was charged for the ordination ceremony it held at KMA, because it was a large event. Alexis noted that in general, KMA cooperates with sister institutions and programs that are part of the Masorti Movement, usually just asking a cleaning fee. In a third example, the matnas held a meeting at KMA without being charged. It was suggested that the current policy and fee scheduled be prepared in an abbreviated form to present to those wishing to use the building.
Some board members felt that we should be focusing on strengthening our kehila and that the above idea of opening the building to more use was not the solution (or the only solution). Discussion ensued about approaching other kehilot to explore a relationship, merging or cooperation. Mayanot has no interest in having a building of their own. Not all board members were happy about the potential results of this type of initiative, which could lead to the transformation of KMA to a non-Conservative institution, even if it is one close in ideology and practice to our own. The rebuttal to that was that, down the line, the current congregation will be unsustainable, so we should already be exploring options to keep it alive, even if that requires flexibility in identity. Dovy was tasked with preparing a position paper presenting strategic options for reaching out to other kehilot.
Alexis requested that we convene in three weeks, as a new board will come in after the AGM and she doesn’t want the work we’ve been doing to be lost. A date was set for Tuesday night, March 26, 8pm. Alexis hopes to have the mapping of duties and responsibilities finished by then. To continue with the momentum regarding future options for KMA, additional meetings may be held outside of the board’s regular “first Tuesday of the month” schedule.
In an email from March 6, Alexis updated the board about her meeting with the Leor family to discuss the future of Bayit Cham. Below is a description of that meeting that she requested be added to this board meeting summary.
I wanted to let you know that I met with the Leor family to discuss the current status of Bayit Cham and its future.
At the moment, Rachel's daughter, Dalit is running the program and it is running like it always has under Rachel.
The Leors, together with the Ladau's have taken it upon themselves, financially, that this year's program will continue through the end of the year and include camp.
As for the future, the family is deciding if and how the program can continue. I let them know that unfortunately, KMA on its own could not promise them funds to continue the program. The family is considering setting up a separate amuta for bayit cham. The program would still maintain a relationship with KMA but the amuta would be responsible for the overall running and financial aspects of the program.
Prepared by Brian