A Bright Future at Tree of Life * Or L'Simcha

The potential for a bright future at Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha is becoming more of a possibility as we move through 2017. Most of you have now read the recent article in The Jewish Chronicle about our efforts to form a “metropolitan” synagogue model under our roof, the dialogue now underway with Chatham University, and lastly, our rabbinical search process.


Leadership is doing its best to communicate the latest information on these three topics through letters and emails to congregants. To help improve our email distribution and make it easier for congregants to access information, I have been working with our Program Director Alex Speck and the chair of our Membership Committee, Sarah Pfeffer, to convert our email system over to MailChimp. This conversion will allow for a more pleasing email to arrive in your inboxes with the information immediately available, sparing you the additional steps of clicking on attachments, which many of you had difficulty doing or were suspicious of opening. It also offers leadership the ability to see how many of the “sent” emails are opened and “clicked through,” so we can gauge the level of communication we are achieving with you. The Jewish Chronicle article was the first of many emails you’ll be receiving using MailChimp, and we hope you’ll see them as one of the many improvements you’ll be enjoying at TOL*OLS.


So here are the latest updates on the three key areas on which leadership is currently focusing:


Rabbinical Search

As of this writing we have three rabbinical candidates who will be visiting Pittsburgh to lead services

and meet with our congregants on April 28-30, May 5-7 and May 19-21. The Rabbinical Steering committee chaired by past president Suzanne Schreiber has interviewed the candidates via Skype and vetted them thoroughly, and now it’s your opportunity to do your own evaluation. We will be

soliciting your feedback during and after all three weekends, but it is incumbent upon you as decision-making congregants to attend as many services and events as possible on these

weekends so you can offer the committee an informed opinion. You have already received emails with information about the candidates and the schedule of events for each weekend but we will be resending as each weekend nears. 


Community Collaboration

Through unprecedented UJF-sponsored meetings of seven East End synagogues, the prospect of a Metropolitan synagogue model are beginning to take shape under our roof. New Light congregation has expressed interest in moving into our building alongside Congregation Dor Hadash. Our common intention is to move beyond a landlord-tenant relationship and as such we are studying ways in which to integrate the cultures of these three shuls so that the Jewish experience of the each congregation’s members will be enhanced by the synergy created by having the three prayer communities in one building.


Chatham University/JAA

Signing the Letter of Intent with the JAA last August got the synagogue collaboration ball

rolling, but surprisingly we still have yet to receive an offer from the JAA. We have had positive meetings with Chatham University, however, which is seeking to expand its campus to accommodate rapid growth in the student population since going coed. Chatham is interested in a relationship which will allow it to update our building’s infrastructure so they can use it for programming during the week, when our space is largely empty, and for large events such as convocation, for which our main sanctuary would provide enough room. The attraction of the Chatham offer is that our building would be unchanged, except for internal improvements, so that its

character and the memories therein would remain.


There’s your update. We are moving forward quickly and deliberately and I am sure that the items I just wrote about have already changed by the time you are reading this. Every day I wake up to something new: lately the news has been predominantly good, but there are certainly set-backs and

complications. I am sure you can imagine the enormity of an undertaking which seeks to find consensus among numerous institutions, each accustomed to doing things their own

way and only now considering new approaches which are both exciting and sometimes unnerving. I am used to it by now. Nothing is set in stone and I cannot promise or predict the eventual outcome, but I can assure you that your leadership is working with their peers from other shuls in an honest, straightforward and well-intentioned manner. To increase our chances of success, there is no reason to be anything but optimistic in considering the future.


When Toby Tabachnick approached me to write the most recent Jewish Chronicle article about TOL*OLS she said, “Hey Michael,I hear things are looking up at Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha, what do you say?” and my response was, “You are so right Toby, it’s time for an upbeat Chronicle article, let’s do it!”

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