phil neissGood evening everyone. I’m Phil Neiss. In the interest of the Maccabee Program, I wish to share a few words pertaining to the Program here at Temple Beth Orr.

Before I offer you my synopsis of the Maccabee Program, I would like to share with you how we initially came here to TBO. My fiancé, Marion Silver and I are currently living in Coral Springs for a little more than two years.

This August, we celebrate our first anniversary at TBO. So how did we end up here? Perhaps some of you can relate to or share a similar story. You see, we are a couple of semi-misplaced and relocated New Yorkers, who besides shopping for a house were also looking for a viable and friendly Jewish community to become part of. We were seeking an anchorage where we would feel comfortable and welcomed; Yes, you could say that we were “Shul Shopping”.

We had visited several other temples, many with different levels of religious practice. We had heard about Temple Beth Orr from friends of ours, Reina Anijar and Paul Guilbert who were also seeking their own Jewish community experience. Collectively, we all joined TBO.

I must confess however, that being raised “Conservadox and spending most of my adult life in a Conservative temple environment, a Reform temple was a bit of a transition for me. That is the personal decision that each of us make when it comes to our own level of religious practice. Nevertheless, as we stand before you, you can see that Marion and I opted to proceed and join TBO.

The last few months have been uplifting for us. We regularly attend services on Shabbat Eve, and have willfully engaged in many of the activities that TBO offers. More important, we feel at home here; we have a sense of belonging to the TBO family.

Now I know that every organization, including houses of worship, has its own circles and “cliques”. Oddly enough, we don’t find that the case here at TBO; actually we’re finding it to be quite the contrary. People are very welcoming here; we continue to meet new congregants all of the time; friendships are forming and growing. I recognize that in some places, if you’re not a member of that special ”clique” you might get singled out, and perhaps be castigated or criticized! Well, that’s simply not how it works at TBO; you see, if you do get singled out here, there may be another plan for you… which leads me to Maccabee Program.

When Ilayne Finkelstone called and invited us to attend Maccabee Program, there was no hesitation whatsoever. We suspected that by attending, we would have a positive experience. We figured that we would learn something, simply because we always look for a “takeaway” in everything that we do.

We also recognized that we would be in a room full of people that we hadn’t yet met. No problem there, as we are always seeking new friendships, and we viewed this as a wonderful source of introduction.

Finally, Ilayne described Maccabee as a Leadership Training program. Leadership?  Hmmm. This is where one could become introspective and begin to question why we were invited. Certainly it peaked our curiosity, and we proceeded with optimism and enthusiasm. Let’s do this!

The first meeting was held in Rabbi Loving’s office. It was more of a “getting to know you” moment. There were about a dozen candidates in the room; most appeared to be comfortable, and many of us spoke. The program was further described to be an immersion of “what really goes on here at TBO”.

At our next meeting, we were going over the budget. To be honest, I’ve never been privy to budget analysis so early in the process of becoming involved an organization. This generally takes time, often years, till you’re sitting in the room analyzing the financial engine that keeps the place running.

Curiously we were individually asked if we knew how to read and interpret the budget. For me, having been in the business community most of my adult life, it was no problem. However, I did observe that to some, it could’ve been like interpreting a foreign language. I will touch on this thought a little later.

In the subsequent session, we met many of the of the committee and group leaders. I also recognized many of them from simply being here on a regular basis.

“So what interests you guys?” we were asked. Well, based on our ages, we do qualify for Fabulous Fifties social group, however it was obvious that this entire exercise was not for the sake of merely recruiting us into one of the many social arms that the temple has to offer. “What else captures your attention?”. It was noted that we recently had the opportunity to sponsor the annual Progressive Dinner’s dessert party at our home and had about 60 of our most intimate temple friends at our house! I can tell you that you require a good sense of humor to volunteer for that project.

Yes, we are becoming more involved: Marion is now wading into the Sisterhood waters, and will soon be a familiar face at the Judaica shop in the lobby.

Stan Klein has recruited both of us into the Bingo Brigade.

Garry Pottruck has drafted me for a Brotherhood position.

And I already leaked it, that I understood the budget. So I confess I am looking at a few other committees as well. I suspect that you could call us busy people! Indeed, we are in temple immersion mode!

Still, I hadn’t quite grasped why we were invited into this program. Then, an epiphany! It was my “ah hah!” moment!   You see, while I was pondering the purpose of the program, I continued to inquire and asked lots of questions. This was very much like when we first considered joining TBO. Prior to our enrollment, Marion and I attended an open house where we informally interviewed several members and staff. Hence, my initial reaction and my intuitive curiosity directed me to ask even more questions. I maintained an impression that I was still directing that same initial interview.

Wouldn’t you know it, by the time we finished the Maccabee Program, I realized that I was not guiding that interview at all. It was me and the group of new Maccabee recruits that were being steered, and that it was actually the TBO leaders were conducting the interview; WE were the ones being evaluated. You’ve heard the idiom phrase, “turn about is fair play”? Here it was in real life.

I suspect that the temple leadership may have some plans for us. Whatever your specialty is; whether or not you can read a spreadsheet, or can understand a foreign language; or perhaps you’re an arts and crafts buff, proficient in origamy, or love to cook, or read, or whatever; TBO does have has a place for everybody. We’re encouraged to share our skills and talents and guide and assist others along the way. As I have said, we have a home here, and we are all welcome!

We look forward to forging new relationships and playing an integral part here at TBO.   To the Maccabee Class of 2016, congratulations! Hold on tight, for I suspect that it’s going to be a heck of a ride hereafter. To the leadership, staff and clergy of TBO, thank you for the opportunity to get an inside perspective of how things really work around here!

Shabbat Shalom!