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The guts of our congregation

In the run-up to the upcoming General Assembly and so that we can all better understand the processes, necessities and opportunities in our Jewish Community, I would like to shed some light on the innards of our congregation here. The actual congregational life consists of you and me, the people, their preferences, interests and abilities. It also consists of those who are guests as well as those who have found their home here. We all contribute on different levels and benefit from different offers and services. Seeing the totality of all members we could metaphorically speak of the soul of our congregation, which feels and senses everything that moves us and makes the whole communal body come alive. Today, however, I would like to look specifically at the partly hidden things in the background - the innards of the community, so to speak.

Our diversity, tolerance and democracy should also be reflected in our community. To ensure that everyone has the opportunity to help shape our destiny, there is a supreme body in our congregation where everything can be discussed and decided. Everyone - board, rabbi, advisory board, members etc. - must abide by the decisions of this group. It consists of all congregation members and is called the Assembly. The Assembly is, in a sense, the brain of the congregation. It makes decisions and lets reason, reality, wishes, feelings, the community and the individual members flow into its decisions. All this happens during the year through discussions and participation in events, but especially at the annual General Assembly of all members.

Unfortunately, this Assembly is not always ready to take decisions or can meet at short notice for every decision that needs to be taken. During the year, many small tasks, decisions and work have to be done, which such a large group could only do much too slowly and laboriously - if at all. We would virtually paralyse ourselves. That is why the Assembly elects a small group - the Executive Board (or short: the board). This is at least three of us who agree to implement the will of the Assembly throughout the year. The board is also allowed to make smaller decisions without asking the assembly. What these are, where the limits of the board's freedom are and whether certain things can also be distributed among individuals within the board is of course very complicated.

That's why we have a statute that describe exactly what task is assigned to whom and who is responsible for what. This applies to finances, resolutions, representation, but also to less formal things like events, initiatives, cooperation with other communities and associations. One could say that the board is the heart of the congregation, working ceaselessly and guaranteeing its good continuation. For example, the board has to decide on applications for admission to the congregation. But such admissions are also linked to halachic (religious law) questions - and knowledge about them.

In order to avoid discord and to ensure that halacha is observed, the board calls in the rabbi and asks him to console on the halachic topics. As in this example, the rabbi and the board work together on many issues and are, in the best case, a reliable team in the day-to-day work for the community. The rabbi can also contribute his thoughts at any time (both to the board and to the assembly). Our congregation is proud of its rabbi and so he is like the lungs of the congregation, giving free breath. That is why the Rabbi is also elected by the Assembly and his decisions should be accepted by all. This is also the reason why wise rabbis in general rarely make decisions with a loud roar ;-)

Sometimes our congregation also needs experience to find good ways to make wise decisions or to separate the essential from the non-essential. No one should claim to be always good, clever or wise. But more eyes see more and some things can be judged more calmly with the experience gained through years of life or education. The board makes use of this phenomenon by appointing people to the advisory board of the community. The members of the advisory board have no decision-making power themselves and therefore do not have to be formal members of the congregation. With their experience, they cover those areas in which the board would like advice and support, and they help through their network and their trustworthiness. In a way, the advisory board is a kind of family doctor who lovingly accompanies and advises the congregation without dictating from the outside where things should go.

In addition to these "central organs", there are many other things that make the congregation the place of joy and life that we want it to be. This includes the synagogue choir and other musical cooperations and offers, as well as language courses when they are needed. Other artistic offerings also bring life into the community. Good Jewish food is good for all organs in our common body, and singing, praying and celebrating brings everything together. So we could call our traditions and customs the skin that holds everything together, makes us visible and also protects us from danger. Only through them are we a cohesive body.

In the past years since our founding, we have also proven in many different ways that "being one body" does not have to mean giving up one's individuality. Rather, it is the case with us that each 'being different' is a new jewel in the crown and each leaving and coming back means life in our community. What is perceived as a threat in far too many groupings - namely being different and individual - is our source of strength, enrichening us with a constant stream of ideas, qualities, possibilities, teachings and connections.

This also is a reason why it seems worthwhile for me to be involved in our community, to sit through boring meetings and endure seemingly formal discussions about paragraphs. I very much hope to see many of our members at the next Assembly.

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