presidential address

By renee bravo
November 30, 2010

One of the unexpected consequences of growing old is that you are asked to become President. In my case, the title is Honorary Life President, which means that the only way I can get out of it is to die. But I will try to defer that as long as possible, in order to avoid giving Darren the problem of changing the websight.
When the Chairman first approached me with the request, I was a little taken aback, "I am appreciative of the great honour, but I am not suitable. I am a maverick, a dissenter, a questioner. If I am required to toe the line, I don't want it. Also, my Jewish knowledge is minimal, and my Hebrew even less." But he assured me that everyone knew my views, and all agreed that they wanted me to accept. So I stand here fully conscious of the great honour you have given me, and of the shoes I step into, those of the late, beloved Avrom Pearl.
In the Ethics of the Fathers, Rabbi Ben Zoma asks, "Who is deserving of honour", and the reply given is "He who honours his fellows". So, friends, any honour which is has been given to me is because of you, the strength and work and commitment of the members of our little community, who have enabled me to reach this milestone. When I first started on my personal spiritual journey, as a member of an orthodox congregation, I was told, "You are wasting your time. You are banging your head against a brick wall. You won't be able to change anything". Well, they were wrong, weren't they. Little changes, seemingly insignificant, are occurring all the time. When you throw a pebble in the water, you never know where the ripples will end.
The complaint has often been made that people who have been rejected by the orthodox authorities come to us as an easy alternative. They avail themselves of our care and our facilities, and once they are married or converted we never see them again. I have the opposite view. I would like all those who have been rejected by other authorities to come to us. Life is not a theatre; there is no final curtain. We don't know how those people will feel in five or ten year's time, or what their children will want. The analogy of the pebble in the water comes to mind again. Let me assure you that a conversion conducted by us is exactly the same as required by the orthodox authorities. The difference is not what we do, but how we think. There is only one question I would ask of a potential convert. "When they come for the Jews, will you go with them".
So I thank the Board for the confidence they have shown in me; I thank the congregation for giving me the space and time in which to grow into this situation, and I pray that I may be given health and strength to fulfil all your expectations, in a manner fitting the very honoured position you have given me.


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