“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.” 
– Gilda Radner

As I write my very last “message” for The Messenger as President of Oak Park Temple, I find myself feeling nostalgic. Such reverie is a thing that happens to us as we face certain endings: moving out of a space (homes, jobs, towns, relationships, developmental stages of life, schools, etc…) in which we’ve spent important parts of our lives. I am not leaving OPT, to be sure, but this will be a change of roles. 

For the past six years, first as Chair of the Rabbi Search, then Executive Vice President and most recently as President, I have had the privilege to connect with members of our congregation individually and collectively. I have acquired a greater understanding of Oak Park Temple’s place in the larger Jewish community in North America. I’ve begun a more serious study of Torah than at any other point in my life. And, I have worshipped with a regularity that I never imagined was possible for me. I did not expect these things.

Judaism “connects” us to God, to one another, to a rich history, and to values. During these years of intense involvement in our community, I have been nourished and energized by these connections, and I have grown.

This growth and nourishment could not have occurred if it were not for the many wonderful people who devote themselves to our community. Our clergy are nothing short of amazing. Rabbi Weiss, Cantor Green and Rabbi Emeritus Gerson have provided advice, counsel and friendship for which I am truly grateful. Our entire community benefits from their spiritual, intellectual and emotional guidance. We are truly blessed. 

Our Temple Administrator, Danielle Sandler, Temple Educator, Robin Arbetman and Glasser Preschool Director, Marci Sperling-Flynn are devoted, talented professionals who, supported by our skilled office staff members, Cindy Evans, Alene Goren-Taylor, Suzanne Dubin and Beth Butler-Del Rio reliably keep our increasingly complex community humming along. As one who has spent countless hours working with them, I know first-hand how fortunate our community is to have this team.

It has been my honor to have had Sheri Gilley as a colleague at every step along the way. She has been a terrific Executive Vice President. Oak Park Temple will benefit from her leadership and experience as she steps up to be our next President. I know that the Board of Directors, Officers and committees will be supportive to her, just as they have been to me. We have been on a journey together and what we have achieved, we have achieved as a community.  

I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that there weren’t a few moments of intense aggravation and irritation along the way. Fortunately, there really were not that many of those occasions. When my patience wore thin because my version of ‘the right way to do things’ clashed with the versions of others, I hope that I didn’t behave too badly. It has been very clear to me that when there has been conflict, it has been between people who are passionate about what is best for Oak Park Temple. It is this very passion within our community that allows me to feel excited and optimistic about the years to come.

A year from now, Oak Park Temple will begin to celebrate having been a kehillah kedoshah, a sacred community, for 150 years. It is a truly amazing thing. We are arriving at this auspicious occasion because of the many, many people who have given of their ruach (spirit), energy, resources and passion to make it so. Be one of those people who move this congregation into a bright and thriving future. The rewards for doing so are many.

In my very first “message” in the February 2011 issue of The Messenger, I said, “I am excited to be on this Jewish journey with all of you. Together, I believe that we can find a special kind of joy that none of us can find alone.” Two years ago, I said that I believe that we can find that joyNow, I know for sure.

Whether it seems a cliché, or not, I really have gotten more than I’ve given. Thank you for sharing this Jewish journey with me. 

L’shalom,

Jeff Blaine

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