This summer I attended a Shiray Shabbat service at our congregation. I am a traditionalist; I want to hear services that pretty closely resemble the ones I remember from the dawn of the LJCC. I didn’t want to hear a musical ensemble. But I was surprised; I was delighted; I was moved. Four women and two men led the service, sang, and played various instruments. The music and the singing at the Shiray Shabbat inspired me, not just that evening but long afterwards. And I reflected on how important women’s voices are to our community.
Women were largely excluded from conducting Jewish services until the 19th Century, and even today, in more conservative Jewish congregations, women are excluded from the bimah. It was perhaps in the mid-1970’s when the Lawrence Jewish Community began to welcome women as leaders of our services, well ahead of many other congregations in the area. It is difficult now to imagine our congregation without its female voices; voices that don’t just join in with the men’s, but elevate and amplify the male vocal expression.
It was a woman who taught me my first Hebrew prayers. Our cantorial soloist is a woman. And many of our readers and leaders are women. On Rosh Hashanah, when I was honored with an aliyah, I was struck by this irony: traditionally, only men might read from the Torah. If it had been left to me to read a Torah portion, I would have stumbled through the text slowly and badly. But I was fortunate that a woman was present to read my portion for me, chanting the words in a beautiful melody.
We have many voices in our community, from bass to soprano and possibly beyond. The lovely feminine voices join with the deeper men’s voices and create a chorus that lifts our prayers and our visions heavenward. And an occasional toddler’s squeal provides the exclamation point.
Roman statesman Cato the Elder (not to be con- fused with his obnoxious nephew Cato the Young Punk) concluded every oration with the exhortation Carthago delenda est. Because it is a matter of considerable importance to us, I am going to begin concluding my presidential columns with a similar exhortation: Bob reponendus est. We must find a successor to Bob.
Bob Buddemeier has done an outstanding job as our treasurer and go-to volunteer for the past year. Part of his outstanding job has been to organize the job of treasurer so that it is now much more manageable. We have contracted with an accountant who is helping with maintaining the books, and our office manager can now carry out some of the more routine financial duties. We have updated forms and letters and reorganized the databases and files for easier use.
It is reported that the good times must eventually end. Because of his great work, we are forced to consider giving Bob good-time credit toward his release. But when he leaves office, it will be imperative that we have a treasurer to replace him. The choices are: (1) operate without a treasurer and in violation of corporate and by-law requirements; (2) find a replacement at the last minute who will be plunged into an unfamiliar job; or (3) enlist an early volunteer who can work with Bob for a number of months, learn the job, and feel comfortable with the responsibilities when Bob finally re- tires. (1) is not an option. (2) is a bad option. (3) is a wonderful and quite doable option. I favor (3). Thanks to Bob, serving as treasurer should be a much more manageable undertaking. It does not require accounting expertise. It does not require many backbreaking hours each week. It does not require expertise in Latin.
I will continue to raise this issue until we have a successor in place or until we fold up as an organization because no one steps forward to take on this task.
~ Jonathan Paretsky
Listen to a recording of Shiray Shabbat during Hanukkah, 2011.
(And special thanks to one of our beautiful voices, Rachel Cunning, for her assistance with this column.)