Congregational Update from Natalie Shatzman

December 21, 2021

Dear CRC Community,

There has been a lot happening behind the scenes that has kept many of us very busy, and I would love to bring you up to date.  

Security – Our Security committee, led by board member Gawain Jameson, is working proactively with the Jewish Federation, Maxine Weil and Kimberly Tolbert at The Nest (our on-site early childhood education center), and the rest of our staff to evaluate and perform continuous improvements to our physical security and policies, including new methods to communicate quickly and broadly when situations arise. The committee is evaluating the needs for security presence beyond services and events, as well as landscape and building improvements to be fully prepared with the rise of antisemitism our society faces today. 

Furthermore, physical defenses are not enough to combat this rise in antisemitism. I’m proud that CRC was invited by the President of the Union for Reform Judaism and the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League to be one of 30 synagogues to join their pilot program, Act Against Antisemitism Project. The project will further our journey as a congregation, to dig deeply into the conversation about antisemitism and hate, and engage our Rabbis, staff, congregants and community members in activities to fight antisemitism and hate more broadly. There will be more to come on this by February.

Our COVID-19 policy remains in place, and the COVID task force, chaired by Annie Bridwell, continues to advise our staff and Rabbinic team on emerging issues to keep our spaces safe. That includes masks and vaccinations, including boosters, per CDC guidelines. Our full policy can be found on the CRC website.

Staffing – The pandemic has caused turmoil in every industry and line of work, and CRC is no exception. We’ve seen departures from our staff in areas including Development; Finance and Operations, Facilities, and The Nest. Each left for their own particular reasons, unrelated to the others. The decision to part ways with our short-tenured Executive Director was process-driven and arrived at unanimously by all members of the Executive Committee, the Search Committee and the Rabbinic team. We examined our hiring processes which led to a list of improvements to inform our next search process, which has already started.

I’m very pleased to tell you that we have almost hired an excellent interim Executive Director. I look forward to sharing more news about that with you as soon as it’s final in early January.

Carlotta Vaughn has joined us as our Business Manager. Talented and conscientious, she also has a generational tie to Ron and Sharalyn Saks, a beloved and long-standing CRC family. In addition, Kimberly Tolbert has joined us with passion for education and a depth of experience as the new Director of The Nest. Her presence, experience, and collaboration with Maxine Weil will help us grow our early childhood education center, now three years old, into its next phase. Lastly, Ezra Lueck joins us this month on the Administrative Staff. Ezra has been assisting Autumn Dennis with our livestream production since June, and we feel so lucky they want to apply their talent, recently earned B.A. degrees, and passion for Tikkun Olam here at CRC. 

Financial and Operational Stability – While we address the needs for physical security improvements and staff growth in the near term, we also expect budget and operational impacts from Rabbi Susan’s transition as she launches the Ashrei Foundation (a not for profit to deepen our social justice work) and a corresponding shift in everyday roles for Rabbis Randy, Karen and Daniel. Rabbi Jim continues to lead services and programs with Rabbi Susan including my personal favorite this past year, the daily Psalms to heal the body and soul of our nation. 

Meanwhile, of course, we have to be cognizant of our long-term financial sustainability. Nancy Weigley is hard at work as our Development Officer, where her relationships are a great asset. But Nancy and the Development function need more help administratively, and we are working with our Development committee and Campaign leaders, Amy Gage, Scott Levine and Jay Baumohl, to find cost-effective and creative solutions to grow this area. Finally, our CRM (customer relationship management) database is in transition to the Salesforce platform, which will be an operational WIN for nearly everyone on staff. Thank you to Autumn Dennis for keeping this strategic project on track and assuming the new Director of Communications and Online Hospitality role starting in January. 

Creating Connected Spaces – This of course has become a much bigger challenge in the era of COVID.  Many of those who have joined our congregation in the last two years have never even stepped foot in our building. To foster a greater sense of community, the board is calling every household to check in. In addition, Angela Hochman, our Director of Membership and Engagement, has some excellent ideas for fostering closeness and connection as we continue hybrid programming.

Strategic Planning & Oversight – During the pandemic we gathered virtually to create a three-year strategic plan that guides the Board, Rabbis and Staff, even when we experience disruptions inside our community and in the world at large. I’m grateful for the dedication and input provided by our Executive Committee, Rabbis and key staff, and especially Dick Goldberg, for leading this planning process.

If you’d like to receive a copy of the 17-page strategic plan, please let us know by clicking here and you’ll be emailed a pdf. 

In the meantime, I’ll summarize it in four goals, on which we track progress and measure:

  1. Achieve long-term financial health, sustainability and transparency to support CRC’s spiritual programs, services, and activities.  
  2. Document and implement clear board and administrative systems, processes, and policies to enhance efficiency, effectiveness and transparency while maintaining our heart and core values.
  3. Be a unique and intentional community serving our membership and larger community in holy ways. We will inculcate social responsibility into all CRC programs and activities, grow personal connections, and create meaningful and spiritual experiences through a Jewish lens. 
  4. Commit to deepening and widening our programs for every stage of life from early childhood through adulthood. 

I look forward to giving you updates on the strategic plan and other developments on a regular basis. I also look forward to hearing from you. If you have reactions to this letter, ideas, or want to start something that heals and hugs our community closer, I welcome you to reply or call the main office and share them. Until then, I wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthy secular new year. And thanks to all of you for the support you have given me. 

With love and gratitude, 

Natalie Shatzman
CRC Board President