View from the President

Another opportunity to give back to the Temple and community
A message from Daniela Zanzuri-Beiner
President, Temple Beth Am

The first time I came to Temple Beth Am, I never imagined that one day I would have the honor to serve as President. It has been an interesting journey that started when my husband, Edward Beiner, and I decided to enroll our sons in pre-school. Twenty-five years later, we are still involved with a community that introduced us to some of our closest friends, has taught us to be better Jews, and been there for spiritual comfort.  

My son David, who now lives in New York, is camping at Joshua Tree with three of his closest friends — young men who were little boys together at Temple Beth Am’s pre-school many years ago. Steven was a madrich on the recent March of the Living, working with Rabbi Jaime Aklepi, our Director of Lifelong Learning Tamara Donnenfeld and Robyn Fisher. His closest friends also date back to preschool days. Whenever we host out-of-town guests, and he tours Miami with them, he stops at Temple Beth Am as if it were a normal sight for a tourist to visit.

Temple Beth Am forges amazing bonds between people. So, when our Immediate Past President Bill Grossman invited me for coffee over two years ago, and asked me to serve as his Executive Vice President, I not only thanked him for the confidence he and the nominating committee demonstrated, but also realized it was another opportunity to give back to a temple and a community that has given my family and me so much.

When Edward and I moved to Miami, we didn’t know anyone. It was only when we started our family that temple and community life became important. Everything changes when you have children, and certain aspects of your core that you took for granted rise to the surface. As the mother of two boys, instilling in them a sense of Jewish identity became important to me. Then librarian Margot Berman (z’l) encouraged Edward to visit Temple Beth Am. It is so big, we thought. Mrs. Berman, in her infinite wisdom, advised him that somewhere within the 1,200 member families, we would find people whose interests and values resonated with ours, and that our sons would gravitate to children from likeminded homes. Mrs. Berman’s photo is on the library wall. I say thank you every time I pass by.

Last year I went to the Scheidt Seminar in Atlanta, that convenes congregational presidents to learn and network. One of our studies consisted of some of the pillars required for a strong congregation. I would like to share some of them with you.

• A sacred purpose, a vision and a path to get there.

Senior Rabbi Jeremy Barras recently reminded me that when he first interviewed here he was asked to present a 20-year vision. At the last board meeting, he announced that we are now only 18 years away from completing his vision. For the next two years we plan to achieve new short-term, yet ambitious, goals as each of our clergy members heads up a particular goal that we will endeavor with them to achieve. They will embark on developing exciting and out-of-the-box models for youth engagement, focusing and optimizing our social justice and action efforts, creating a powerful sense of community by reaching out to our members as individuals, and reimagining our sense of spirituality and worship at Temple Beth Am. You will hear much more about the details of these goals during the High Holy Days and beyond. But needless to say, after speaking with Rabbi Barras and his clergy team, I am confident that each of these goals will continue our community along a path of cutting-edge ideas that will speak most relevantly to our congregation.

We have also started a needs assessment, led by our Vice President of Administration Dan Koffksy, to determine the validity of expanding and restructuring our school, as well as our physical plant.

While it is true that you cannot please everyone all the time, our Temple should be a place for everyone at least most of the time.

• Financial Resources

Our financial position remains strong as our congregation and its schools continue to grow. Temple Beth Am is blessed with many members who participate on our Committee of 100 levels whose commitments make it possible for us to never turn away a family for financial reasons. In addition, over the last several years, we have developed a number of revenue streams that help to “pay the bills.” Programs including our basketball league, bridge, campus rentals, summer camp and our After School University all create dollars that help to offset our increasing operating costs as does the increasing income from our growing endowment fund. Rich Siegel, our new Vice President of Development, continues the work on our Create a Jewish Legacy Program, which will help ensure our financial future. As we look forward to the next two years, we will examine more ways to strategically diversity our revenue streams.

• A Pipeline of Strong Leaders, Lay and Professional, who collaborate together.

No one should work alone on an island. We have an amazing, committed group of vice presidents, a vibrant general board and professionals who are deeply dedicated to Temple Beth Am. However, we do need to readdress our leadership development process. This past year we started a series of trainings that covered topics as broad as the History of Temple Beth Am, understanding temple finances, biblical models of leadership, as well as understanding the lay-professional relationship. We are currently planning a board retreat for the Fall and one of my goals is to create a system that creates a pipeline for leadership which in turn will help solidify the systems and processes that supports movement toward Rabbi Barras vision for our future. How best to collaborate with our professionals and understanding the value of our volunteers’ time will be an integral part of our work.

• Access to Strong Content, Education, Worship and Social Action.

There is no doubt that Beth Am offers many paths to education, worship and social action, and we are well on our way toward traveling down the URJ’s path of audacious hospitality. As we move down these important paths of temple life, each one has not only a trained professional or clergy member whose job it is to keep those aspects fresh, but also a vice president who works with a committee to help keep them relevant. As more American Jews feels less engaged in organized religion, it is important that we continue to strive to create avenues of relevancy. We are committed to remaining a strong and vibrant Temple and to welcome our Jews-by-choice, intermarried and LGBTQ members.

It is my honor and privilege to serve as your President for the next two years. I thank Bill Grossman for inviting me for coffee two years ago and am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have worked with him. His number is on my speed dial. I would also like to acknowledge Susan Henkin and Adrian Dubow, who invited me to serve on their Executive Boards. I also thank all the past presidents who have reached out to me with words of advice and who have shared their institutional knowledge. I look forward to working with our new Executive Vice President, Stuart Ratzan.

It is my desire that our work will encourage our younger members to find channels of involvement and to continue to acknowledge our members who have been volunteering and donating their time for so many years. We embrace all of you and together we will continue to evolve Temple Beth Am — the house of the people.

Daniela Zanzuri

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