The 2020 Yom Kippur Appeal
By Branden A. Greenberg
I want to start by thanking Rich for entrusting me with the honor of speaking on Yom Kippur and delivering this year’s appeal. I want to also touch on the giant elephant in the room. This Yom Kippur is different. It is different than any Yom Kippur before and most likely any that will follow.
I do not attend services regularly. I would consider myself an avid High Holiday goer. I am not ashamed to admit that. If you sprinkle in the occasional Minyan, that is undoubtedly accompanied by Jewish guilt from my grandfather, I guess I attend synagogue more regularly than most people my age.
But, my relationship with G-d is my relationship. And isn’t that the beauty of Judaism? Isn’t that the beauty of today? What I’m trying to get at is that even for the most devout or casual followers today is important.
So, thank you to all who have meticulously planned and executed this virtual High Holidays.
Thank you to Rabbi Kramer and Cantor Baron for adapting and rolling with the punches 2020 has to offer. Most importantly, thank you to all who are watching and sharing in this as one. We have kept the faith.
As I was preparing to write my appeal I began to brainstorm what this synagogue means to me. As a boy who grew up here listening to presidents give this speech over and over again all I could remember were long lists of updates being performed to enhance the building followed by an ask for money. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on who you ask, I have no updates in that department. The air seems to work and the water is running just fine. But what I do have is a different kind of list:
This is a place where I was taught and formulated my Jewish identity.
This is a place where many of you watched as I grew physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
This is a place where I received opportunities to help others and learn the definition of mitzvah.
This is a place where my family and I have formed lifelong relationships with amazing people.
This is a place where I have celebrated and mourned friends and family.
Most importantly, this is a place where I, better yet, my family felt comfortable and has called home.
To all the above, I ask are these things not worth preserving? I believe synagogues are and will continue to be the epicenter of Jewish life in America. Synagogues, in my eyes, don’t have to be strictly brick and mortar structures but rather the living, breathing symbol of that area's Jewish community.
There is a rise of anti-Semitism in our ever challenging world. We of all communities should know this. It is important that we don’t cower in fear but build in the face of adversity.
I have to admit I have never truly understood this idea of asking for money on the holiest day of the year. It has always seemed misplaced and in a sense wrong to me. I struggled with this while writing this appeal … until it dawned on me. As Jews we don’t pray alone. We do not atone by ourselves. Rather, we come together, generation to generation. We stand and sit in unison. Hoping that for our next year we are granted favor in the eyes of the lord.
And while we have the attention of our majority on the holiest day of the year we acknowledge, more importantly we agree, that this synagogue and its community is important. That praying together as one is important. And so too is supporting Agudath Israel financially.
I will leave you with something personal. In May of 2019, I graduated Law School set to embark on a career few could dream of, an NFL Agent. I had worked tirelessly to accomplish this feat. During the same time I have been fighting with a progressive degenerative disc disease in my back. I knew all of this combined would be tough to conquer alone and so I decided I would stay in Montgomery to save money rather than live life paycheck to paycheck. As 2019 came to an end and I had a very promising 1st draft class of young men, 2020 reared its ugly head and the bottom fell out. Uncertainty was and continues to be at an all-time high. I do not know what is to come or what the future will hold, but there is one thing for certain. Never will I ever regret the time I have spent here with my family.
The Talmud says, “As my parents planted for me before I was born, so do I plant for those who will come after me.”
So, I ask you, will you regret the donation, better yet, the investment into your community? The investment into your family? The investment into Agudath Israel? The investment into our HOME?
May we all merit being written in the book of life for a good, for a happy, for a healthy and for a sweet new year!