President Andy Cheng's June 2019 Column: Finding the Sacred in What We Do
Despite saying farewell to past President, Bruce Ives, and welcoming three new Board members, the normal work of our congregational leaders continues. At this time of year we typically begin to set our strategic priorities so we can define next year’s primary tasks and projects.
Harry Kraemer, professor at the Kellogg School of Management and a consultant to the Union of Reform Judaism, reminds us that “Leadership in a congregation is different from leadership in any other organization — even other nonprofit organizations. The responsibilities incumbent upon us are sacred and holy tasks, which is why it is not surprising that there should be a set of core values assisting us with making decisions and completing assignments.”
What this tells me is that how we choose to engage in and accomplish our work for this holy community is of crucial importance. Even when we’re looking at our finances and budget for the upcoming fiscal year, we can ground this work in the sacred by making sure to focus on what’s most important to us, ensuring that our financial decisions reflect our values. As the Mishnah recommends, we should, “Do less business and do more Torah” (Pirkei Avot 4:10). Our sages also acknowledge that Jewish values cannot be served without a solid financial foundation, and that we cannot fulfill our sacred responsibilities unless we pay attention to practical necessities, commenting, “Without bread, there is no Torah. Without Torah, there is no bread” (Pirkei Avot 3:17).
Ultimately, Jewish tradition seeks to strike a balance between accomplishing our congregation’s “business” and remembering what matters most to us. What are the values that guide us as congregants? How do we stay true to our values? As the Board gathers for our annual retreat this month, I’m looking forward to all of us exploring these questions for ourselves.