Thoughts on Temple Life

Immediate Past President's Corner
Temple Shalom
A Reform Jewish Congregation
Chevy Chase, Maryland
Temple Shalom Immediate Past President Allison Druin
Allison Druin    I have been a member of Temple Shalom since 1999, and began my leadership experience by spending many years as the Membership Chair. Over the past decade I have served as a board member and most recently as a Vice President. Throughout my leadership experiences, I have found fascinating, passionate, Jewish leaders to learn from. This community has been my Jewish home, and one in which my husband and I are raising two Jewish children. As I was preparing to become Temple Shalom's President, I promised myself that I would spend time each week reflecting on what I had learned. The best way I know to reflect is to write down my thoughts. So each week I will do just that. Some weeks I will be sharing prepared remarks that I presented to the congregation. Other times I will be sharing some short thoughts of something that struck me in passing. From time to time, I will ask other leaders in our congregation to reflect, since it through our congregational family that I learn the most from. And should you want to privately share your comments, suggestions, or reflections with me, feel free to email me: Allison Druin.
The Circle of Leadership 2015
Over the past half century, Temple Shalom has seen devoted leaders wandering its hallways and contributing time and talents to our temple family. Some have been around for decades but may be unknown to our newer members. Others are newer congregants who jumped in our community feet first but may not be known to our long-time members.

Today, I am pleased to recognize seven of these leaders – the 2015 members of Temple Shalom’s Circle of Leadership. This year, congregants nominated twice as many people to the Circle of Leadership compared to last year, providing the selection committee a tough, but worthwhile task as it read through nominations, discussed the strengths each leader brings to Temple Shalom, and ultimately chose this year’s honorees.

Each member of the 2015 Circle of Leadership has left a lasting mark on our Temple Shalom family – from working with and mentoring our students, to serving on or leading our Board of Trustees and temple committees, to keeping our heads dry and our building warm. I'm sure you will find, as I did, inspiration in what each honoree has done and continues to do for our Temple Shalom family. They are a blessing and a true gift.

Let me now share with you a few highlights of what these extraordinary leaders have done in their time at Temple Shalom:


Maurice Axelrad

Maurice When Maurice Axelrad retired in 1996, he became involved in community service. His volunteer service took the form of many Temple Shalom leadership positions, and somehow each spanned four years: four years as Financial Secretary, four years as a Vice-president and then four years as Brotherhood President. He is particularly pleased that during his time in Brotherhood leadership, membership and participation increased. He introduced such programs as the popular Hal Bruno Memorial Brunch, and brought back the Brotherhood Lifetime Achievement Award. However, he claims that his "smartest move" in leadership was convincing Peter Wolk to succeed him as President. In between these various leadership positions, Maurice is an innovator of programs, being one of the founders of the Renaissance Group and he served for many years (beyond four) on its Steering Committee. He also served on the Financial Secretaries Committee, and today continues to be active on both the Finance and Membership Committees. Most recently he initiated News & Views, an innovative monthly current events discussion group at Temple Shalom.


Anne Feinberg

Anne Anne Feinberg has been involved in the Temple from the very first year she joined in 1985. She served on the Religious Education Committee that year, becoming Chair the following year, and has chaired two search committees for the Director of Education. She also has worked in supporting Temple Shalom's various educational programs. Anne has been a Madricha for B'nai Mitzvah students for 26 years, the Family Educator for three years, and now leads Shabbat morning Torah study once a month. Over the years, she also has facilitated three Leadership Training programs and innovated several long-running Interfaith Family programs. Thanks to her accounting background, she served on the Campaign and tracked change orders and costs for both the downstairs addition and the renovation of the Sanctuary. Anne is also well known for her many presentations to the Temple Shalom Board of Trustees on our financial statements. She served on the Board for 18 years, and was President from 1998 to 2000. During her term Anne established the Capital Projects Fund and budget, and the Fund for Torat Shalom.


Mike Gurevich

Mike Mike Gurevich and his wife Linda joined Temple Shalom a little over 20 years ago, when it was time for their oldest daughter to attend Rachel Robinson’s 3rd grade Religious School class. At some point after they joined (and Mike is not quite sure when because it was so long ago) he began helping on the House and Grounds Committee, with Carl Tretter and Steve Eisen z’l. He just never left this committee and continues to co-chair the group's work. He has been involved in projects ranging from roofs to fences, boilers to bulbs, and many things in between. Each year, on Mitzvah Day he leads many volunteer activities such as painting, weeding, cleaning up the playground, and more. Last year, he helped the Youth Group design and build a very special place behind the Temple Shalom building to play Gaga (Israeli dodge ball). Mike explains, "Helping the Temple Shalom Community has been extremely gratifying and anyone who is interested in cleaning the roof or pulling weeds should bring their gloves next Mitzvah Day!"


Lynn Kanowith

Lynn Lynn Kanowith has been a Temple Shalom member for 43 years raising two sons at Temple Shalom through Bar Mitzvah and Confirmation. Many people know Lynn's work as President of the Renaissance Group which provides members the opportunity to explore the Washington DC area. Many of our Temple Shalom families know Lynn over the last four years as Financial Secretary, welcoming new families and helping existing members with questions about and changes to their dues. In addition to his work as an officer, Lynn has been active on many committees, including the Financial Futures Taskforce, the Financial Secretaries Committee, and he continues to take an active role in Brotherhood planning and scheduling. Lynn was an integral part of the reshaping of our yearly dues pledges, and helped develop our recent Gift of Membership Program. But what many people might not know is that decades ago, Lynn was involved in the Social Action Committee (as it was known then) and helped build "Bnai MItzvah Twinning." This enabled our Temple Shalom students to share their B’nai Mitzvah with Soviet Jews who were not allowed to have ceremonies of their own.


Marilyn Ripin

Marilyn Marilyn Ripin has held no fewer than seven leadership positions and served on/or chaired no fewer than eight committees. Her endless energy for volunteer leadership includes her time as Secretary, Executive Vice President and then President of the Board of Trustees. In addition to her many years on the Temple Shalom Board, Marilyn has spent 13 years as a Madricha, helping B'nai Mitzvah students to explore and write their D'var Torah speeches. She is also a Shiva Service Leader, having performed the mitzvah of leading Shiva services in people's homes for more years than she can remember. She was also B'nai Mitzvah Coordinator years ago when coordinators had to do everything, even tape the service on an "old reel-to-reel machine in the attic!" Most recently Marilyn led the committee that proposed our congregation's dues restructuring. Today, she continues to serve on such committees as the Worship Committee, the Capital Budget Committee, and the Bylaws Taskforce.


Earl Simons

Earl Earl Simons joined Temple Shalom almost 50 years ago and has given so much to educate our children. He was a 7th Grade Teacher in the Religious School from 1968 until 1986. During this time, he developed a 7th grade retreat program that serves as a national model and is still part of the Temple’s 7th grade curriculum. For this program, Earl was honored by the Delores Kohl Education Foundation as an “Outstanding Educator” in 1982. His work with young people continued as Chair of the Youth Committee from 1974-1978. During these four years, he worked with the Temple’s Executive Committee to develop and fund a teen program for “Study in Israel.” Later, Earl served on the Board of Trustees as Financial Secretary from 2003 – 2006. And from 2011-2014, he was Chair of the Special Purpose Funds, working with the Temple's professional staff and committee chairs to fund a variety of programs and special training activities. Today Earl is the Temple Shalom Religious School liaison to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He plans and coordinates docent-led tours of the Museum’s Permanent Exhibition for 7th grade students and parents.


Pamela Wilcox

Pamela Pamela Wilcox is one of our newest members to be honored in the Circle of Leadership. Almost 3 years ago, she literally wandered in to a Shabbat summer service and as Pamela explains, "just fell in love with the diversity and love Shalom is known for." In Pamela's short time with the congregation, she has been the 1st grade Sunday school teacher since 2012. She is in her second year of youth group advising, responsible for increasing our student ruach (spirit) and participation. She is in her first year as Bet Din Chief Justice, helping our Sunday morning students understand social justice issues. And this year she started teaching Tuesday night Hebrew School. And when she is not spending increasing amounts of time with our students from 1st to 12th grade, she is active in community supported agriculture. As a Ruth Fellow for Jews United for Justice, in 2013 she developed a sliding-scale program to support the local community with healthy produce at fair prices and paid local farmers for their goods.

Let me end by thanking our entire Temple Shalom family for helping to nominate these wonderful leaders. I look forward to seeing many more nominations and honorees in the coming years!

Drafting New ByLaws
Dear Temple Shalom Family,

Over the past two years, the Board of Trustees has re-examined many important aspects of how we govern our community, with an eye toward how we can better financially and administratively support our worship, education, and program activities. We have accomplished much, through organizing Board retreats, to establishing new task forces to examine our Congregation's finances, membership dues structure, and governing documents. It is this last topic that I would like to address.

Thanks to the considerable energy of our volunteer leadership, I am happy to share with you a draft of a new set of Bylaws governing the Congregation. The Task Force leading this effort was chaired by Board of Trustees Member Richard Weitzner, and included a group of members who represented past Temple Shalom Presidents (Betsy Kingery, Marilyn Ripin), past Temple counsel (Marc Feinberg), and current URJ Board Members (Ken Kramer). To all of them we are grateful for their hard work.

As part of its process, the Bylaws Task Force went through our current governing documents (Bylaws and Constitution), consolidating and updating its provisions into one document. It then carefully examined the governing documents of many other congregations that had recently undergone a similar process, and made additional revisions based on the best practices identified from those documents. The resulting draft reflects those efforts and the extensive input of the Executive Committee (EC) of the Board of Trustees and the full Board, including the Clergy and Senior Staff.

We are now ready to present the draft Bylaws to the Congregation. We welcome any comments you have about the document.

Please see: You can also access a concise summary of the most substantive changes from the current two governing documents at:

We ask that you provide us with any comments you would like to share by emailing them, with your name, to:, by March 1, 2015. Please reference the specific paragraph and/or page number in your comments when discussing a particular aspect.

Comments received through the email address will be presented to the Board after the March 1st close date. Ideally the Board will discuss this input over March and April and have a final version of the Bylaws for the Congregation to vote on in May at the Congregation's Annual Meeting. Should you have any questions about this process, please feel free to email me at

In closing, we believe with this transparent, participatory, and rigorous Bylaws revision process, Temple Shalom will go from strength to strength. I thank all of our many leaders that started this work, and I thank all of you, our Temple Shalom Family, who will take a few minutes this month to join in our shared governance.


Allison Druin
President, Temple Shalom

In the Quiet of Winter…
Picture of Chanukah candles, santuary, retreat, bear, and singing As the nights grow longer, the need to make our own light becomes more important. Whether we are lighting just one or many candles, or leading our congregation in prayer, song, or discussion, all can brighten the long nights of Winter.

Over the past few months, my busy days and nights have been filled with the warmth of our Temple Shalom family as my husband has spent time in the hospital as a cancer survivor. Our family days have been busy and bright despite the longer nights of Winter. From meals at our door, to quiet bed-side visits, to extra pillows at a moment's notice, we have cherished the help and generosity we have received from our Temple Shalom family.

What I have missed however, is time to reflect, take a breath, and find a moment to reflect as President of this congregation with my frequent blog posts. Thankfully the quiet days of Winter have finally given me the time to post again. I am hopeful this will continue, though not bold enough to make a resolution for the coming 2015 year. I have come to realize that the world has a way of surprising us, making our best laid plans seem amusing.

So for now, let me finish this post by describing the picture above. It offers in five images the five things I am most grateful for over the past few months:

1. Our growing Temple Shalom Family
The small picture on the top left shows our very filled synagogue during one of our high holiday services. Our Gift of Membership program continues to brighten and build our temple community. This year I am so thankful that we continue to see so many new members joining our Temple Shalom family. In fact, we have just as many new members this year as last. It is a blessing that few congregations can be thankful for.

2. Our energetic, talented, and generous Temple Shalom leadership
In the picture to the right, you see a number of our Board members and Temple Shalom Emerging Leaders brainstorming at our Fall retreat in late October. I am so thankful for these leaders along with our staff and clergy, who continue to explore new ways to do the work of the congregation. They ask hard questions, take on big challenges, and explore what is possible for the future. We are so blessed.

3. My family and friends
The bear you see in the small picture to the right was given to Ben by our friend Margo, when he was in the hospital. It is a "misha-bearach" to help Ben get better! While my husband was in the hospital he had lovely visits filled with special songs, books on running, and great discussions on everything from Israel to pain management. I am happy to say Ben gets better every day.

4. Our musical celebrations
I love when our Temple Shalom family can come together through song to celebrate with joy and ruach (spirit). Recently, we were joined by Mikey Pauker as our congregation's artist in residence. Throughout the year we are blessed to have so many talented Jewish musical voices visit our congregation. With each visit, I see the talent and joy grow in our own Temple Shalom family.

5. Our monthly Shabbat dinners
This last picture, filled with the lights of Chanukah at our most recent Shabbat dinner reminds me of how thankful I am to share in the simple pleasures of a meal with my Temple Shalom family. This month our dinner included the lighting of countless menorahs which brought so much warmth and light to our evening.

In closing, I am thankful for so much. And today I am thankful for having the quiet Winter time to share my thanks with all of you.

Fearless Leadership 5775
High Holiday Services 5775 Below is the text of my President's Address that I shared with the congregation at Temple Shalom's Yom Kippur Services. It is a look at the past and a focus for the future. (photo by Adam S. Lowe, a new member of Temple Shalom)

Shana Tovah,

As President of Temple Shalom’s Board of Trustees, I have the honor to address you on this Day of Atonement, 5775, as we gather in community to reflect, confess and atone.

So I'd like to begin with a personal reflection and confession. I have been a professor for almost 20 years at the University of Maryland. Many of you know that I spend a lot of time there when I am not here with my Temple Shalom Family.

I was on the College Park campus back in the early 2000s, when confusing signs appeared. They said, Fear the Turtle! And I have to confess, I asked--Why should anyone fear turtles? Was it a public safety message? A student political party? Of course, had I been a men or women's basketball follower, I would have known that Fear the Turtle! was a rallying cry that had become a full-blown marketing campaign. Over time, Fear the Turtle! became shorthand for, “watch out world, you might not realize something as slow and steady as a turtle can be disruptive and exciting.”

I think we here at Temple Shalom are also like the turtle: we can be slow and steady, and we can be fun, and game-changing. I am not suggesting our new slogan be, "Fear the Temple!” I’m just saying we share some TERP-like qualities (my apologies to my friends from Georgetown).

You need only to look to our recent Gift of Membership program to see a game-changer! There are no congregations in this area that I know of -- and very few nationwide-- that welcome members for free in their first year to let them try us on and see if we are a good fit. We are confident that, for most, we will be a great fit!

Since we started this program last year, we have welcomed over 120 new families to Temple Shalom -- a 25% increase in membership in less than 2 years. Game-changing indeed. And, if you attended our Community Kickoff Event, with Challah-making, yoga, lectures and bagel nosh, you know we are not only game changing but, we can have Fun!

Back at University of Maryland, the marketing campaign has moved beyond its sports-centered roots. Those "Fear the Turtle" signs now say "Fearless Ideas". This new slogan means ideas should be brave and creative. As Albert Einstein once said, “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” What it comes down to is that it's not about looking for the "right answer" but rather exploring the paths forward which hold promise and possibility for positive change.

Over the past few years at Temple Shalom, your Board of Trustees, clergy, and executive staff have been actively engaged in Fearless Ideas. We restructured our membership dues so you can self-report what you plan to donate… we launched as I said the Gift of Membership program… expanded our community engagement and fundraising efforts… created a Circle of Leaders and Circle of Givers to honor our most committed members… and asked how our Religious School curriculum could move from very good to truly great. These Fearless Ideas have propelled Temple Shalom into our next future.

But we cannot stop with Fearless Ideas. We need to continuously work to transform those ideas into action. The Board, clergy and staff cannot do it alone. We still need your help to strengthen our Temple Shalom family. We need your help to grow our community, strengthen our financial foundation, support our senior staff and maintain and improve our building & grounds. If you strengthen us, we are all strengthened and can better realize our Temple values of life-long learning, developing Jewish identity, and creating a culture of community.

We need to move from Fearless Ideas to what I call Fearless Leadership. Fearless Leadership to me means encouraging people to inspire, launch, and drive new ideas. To make Fearless Leadership possible and sustainable, we need two important ingredients-- your willingness to lead and, of course, your financial support.

Deuteronomy 16: says, “You shall give as you are able according to the blessing that the Eternal, your God has bestowed upon you.” Each of us must acknowledge the many blessings of our lives, and decide how to give back in gratitude. There will be many different ways of doing this for each of the many different members of this congregational family.

Temple Shalom is blessed and thankful to have so many Fearless Leaders and workers who give their time and talents to committees and task forces working on everything from a new website (which you will soon see) to a new gaga pit for kids of all ages to play Israeli dodgeball (thank you TaSTY), to new lighting in the building, to new ways to reach out to members with our radio station Temple Shalom is also blessed and very thankful for the clergy and support staff who bring their talent and creative energy to our community, learning and worship. Toda Rabbah Rabbi Feshbach, Cantor Levine, Rabbi Ackerman, and Executive Director Susan Zemsky.

How will you acknowledge your blessings this year? Financially, our yearly dues and religious school fees cover only a portion of what we do at Temple Shalom. The rest comes from the wonderful generosity of all of you. As we explore and take on all our new possibilities, we continue to need and rely on your financial support.

Our annual High Holy Days Appeal letters went out to all of you shortly before Rosh Hashanah. This year we have given you a chance to help direct where your gift goes, nonetheless, it is unrestricted gifts that allow the Temple the flexibility to meet all our needs. I know many of you have already given generously to that appeal and many others plan to do it soon. A heartfelt thank you.

Thanks also to everyone who gave throughout the year to the operating fund, Endowment fund or to our special purpose funds. Special thanks to the Lyman Legacy Leaders who have named Temple Shalom in their estate planning. Thanks to all who have clicked on our donate buttons on the Temple website and the new donate button on No gift is too small; it is the participation that is so important. Again this year we will honor generosity with recognition in our Circle of Giving.

Money enables growth, but "Fearless Leadership" is about people. Our congregational family thrives because of its people. Over the past half century, Temple Shalom has seen energetic leaders who have contributed their time and talents to the temple family. Our Circle of Leadership, begun last year to honor these leaders who have given so much to all of us at Temple Shalom, will continue to honor people who lead -so start considering your nominations for this year’s honors!

As part of our energies for increased Fearless Leadership, we are starting a Temple Shalom Emerging Leaders Program (TSELP). Twenty people who are actively working in all capacities in the Temple have been invited to work alongside the Board of Trustees at a retreat later this month. Together we will brainstorm new ideas for Temple Shalom’s future directions as well as create new paths for leadership. My coming blog postings and Shofar articles will explain the fearless ideas our emerging leaders propose.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about our leaders is that they are all around us. There is one sitting next to you, and just as important there is one sitting in your seat right now- you. Because we all have what it takes to get more involved. And no length of membership is needed; many of our Gift of Membership members from last year immediately joined committees and have jumped into the excitement and activity of our community. All we ask is that you love this community, have a desire to make it better, and are willing to offer your Fearless Ideas, Energy, Generosity, and Ruach (spirit). You will be rewarded by getting to know this community more deeply than you might have thought possible. Speak to our Clergy and Senior Staff, talk to a Committee Chair, approach a Board member, or simply contact me at

So please, find your own way to strengthen our Temple Family in this New Year, to honor the blessings of your life.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, and my own family, Ben, Dana, and Aviva, we wish you a sweet new year, a good year, and a year of "Fearless Leadership."

Shana Tovah!

Shanah Tovah
an Apple iPhone and honey Shanah Tovah! (Happy New Year!)

It was so wonderful to see you so many of you during our Rosh Hashanah services this past week. A big yasher koach (congratulations) to Rabbi Feshbach, Cantor Lisa, and Rabbi Rachel for leading all the amazing worship experiences. As always, our thanks to Executive Director Susan Zemsky and her staff for making all the logistics seem easy! And to all of you who shared worship experiences, sang so beautifully in the choir, welcomed people as ushers or at the welcome table— a big todah rabbah! (thanks!)

As we venture into this new year of 5775, may you find sweetness in all that you do, in all the people you know, and in the life we share at Temple Shalom.

Community Kickoff Extravaganza!
See why Temple Shalom is the fastest growing congregation in the Metro DC area
Wow. Do we have something exciting for you this coming week! This Sunday, Sept. 07, from 9:00 to noon, will be Temple Shalom’ s second annual Community Kickoff. This epicenter for fun Jewish experiences is entirely free and everyone is welcome: members, non-members, young and the young at heart.

Thanks to the hard work of Rabbi Rachel Ackerman and a massive team of member volunteers, over 43 uniquely Jewish learning and action sessions are planned. Interested in the current Israeli-Palestinian crisis? Middle-east expert and State Department insider, Peter Howard will break it all down and piece it together. Have questions about God? Join Rabbi Kahn who will explore the multitude of Jewish beliefs and concepts. As for me, I will be leading a session on social media and kids geared to help parents navigate this fascinating and sometimes scary place.

For the physically active, we will have a Jewish Boot Camp training program, a running club, gaga (Israeli dodgeball), and Yoga Shalom to restore your spirit, physically and mentally. We also will have a High Holiday crash course to get you prepared, and special sessions if you want to learn how to blow the shofar or build your own sukkah.

There will also be a special session we are calling Lay Leadership: Our temple's Future, in room 9, during session 3. Many of our temple committees will be there to explain what they do and recruit new volunteer members. This will be an easy way to learn more how to get involved in temple life. I highly encourage our newest members to stop by this session. You can get to know your volunteer leaders! Joining a committee is one of the best ways I know to make friends and feel connected.

So if you are between the ages of 0 to 120, please come this Sunday morning and share in the fun! Afterwards, at noon, the Brotherhood and Sisterhood will serve up a delicious bagel nosh and ice-cream sundae bar.

Come enjoy our Temple Shalom family at this open house! You will find a creative community, building Jewish identity and learning in so many ways. Please invite your friends and neighbors. It’s going to be a great day!

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