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From the President
President's Message - January 2020 PDF Print E-mail

Dear Friends,

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the URJ Biennial in Chicago.  It was a truly memorable, uplifting experience!  For those of you who may not be familiar with Biennial, every two years our Reform movement hosts a convention that is attended by thousands of Jews from all across North America.  There were study sessions, song sessions, plenary sessions, and a trade show.  Plus Shabbat.  Oh, my!  I have to say that attending Shabbat services surrounded by 5,000 fellow Jews is an experience that is not to be missed.  It’s like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket of love and spirituality.  I learned a lot, and I met so many wonderful people.  I met new friends from Atlanta and Tacoma and Toronto, said hello to friends from all over Texas and reconnected with friends from my old temple in Florida.  My main takeaway from Biennial is this:  We are all facing the same issues and having the same conversations.  Regardless of size or location, everyone in the Reform movement is worried about three things.  We are worried about security, finances, and declining involvement in Temple life.  On one hand, it is comforting to know that we are not alone in our challenges, but on the other hand, it is disappointing to hear that so many congregations are facing the same challenges.  Solutions to these challenges are elusive.  Over the years, we have been taught approaches like “Relational Judaism” and “Big Tent” and “Audacious Hospitality.” These have all helped, but our challenges remain.  In particular, given today’s climate we are challenged by having to balance “audacious hospitality” with the reality of security concerns.  We are addressing our security concerns, and we all want our congregation and the Jewish community in Corpus Christi to thrive.  I believe that the best way to make this happen is for all of us to get more involved.  So, as we enter a new year and a new decade, I have a new year’s resolution that I would like each of you to add to your list.  I challenge each of you to add one new and different Jewish activity to your calendar each month.  Keep doing what you already do, but add something new.  We have lots to offer:  Torah study, movies, special events, social action events, events at Greene Family Camp, Sisterhood gatherings, and services on Friday night and Saturday morning just to name a few.  There’s lots of fun stuff to do, and it’s so much more fun if we do it together.  I hope to see you soon!

Gregory Marks
President, Congregation Beth Israel

President's Message - December 2019 PDF Print E-mail
Dear Friends,

Can you believe it is December already???  This year has flown by in the blink of an eye!  From Thanksgiving to Chanukah to New Year, each year ends in a blur of celebrations and parties.  We reflect on what we are grateful for, and we make resolutions to do better in the year ahead.  I am grateful for my family and my friends - both my immediate family and my extended family of Congregation Beth Israel.

I would like to recognize and thank Dean Snyder for stepping up and accepting the position of Treasurer of CBI.  Dean brings a wealth of experience to the job plus a passion for fundraising.  Most importantly, Dean brings a love for the temple and for this community.  Thank you, Dean.  We are all happy to have you on board!

Food Fest was a smashing success!  I would like to thank everyone for helping out.  It takes a village to make an event like Food Fest successful.  Well, every village has its leaders, and ours is no exception.  I would like to recognize three leaders of our village whose tireless help and dedication make Food Fest possible.  Chris Adler.  Phyllis Roseman.  Rikki Schmitzel.  Thank you!!!  Thank you!!!  Thank you!!!

There is one last person that I would like to publicly thank for her service to our congregation, and that is Debbie Bustillo.  Debbie is the first point of contact that most people have with CBI, and she is involved in just about everything that we do from keeping our books to scheduling to preparing the newsletters to keeping an eye on maintenance issues.  Debbie shows up to work every day with a smile, and I am grateful that she is part of our CBI family.

I wish you all a very Happy Chanukah and a Happy New Year!  May 2020 bring us peace, happiness and a renewed commitment to our family and friends.

Gregory Marks
President, Congregation Beth Israel

President's Message - November 2019 PDF Print E-mail
Dear Friends,

By the time you read this article, our 34th annual Food Fest will be only a few days away.  The excitement is building. The smells coming out of the kitchen are divine.  The silent auction is on-line, and people are begging to get into the vintage shop early!  It takes tremendous effort from all of us to make Food Fest the successful event that it is, and I would like to thank each and every one of you for helping out this year.  Food Fest is such a wonderful event, and it is important to us in so many ways beyond the money it brings in to help support our congregation.  It is, of course, a major source of revenue, but it also introduces us to the broader community.  It gives the people of Corpus Christi a peek into our Jewish life and culture.  More than that, it helps create and reinforce relationships between us and our non-Jewish neighbors.  As important as all of that is, I submit to you that the best thing about Food Fest is the bond it creates among us.  It is hard work, but it is also fun, and it reminds us that we are all part of this wonderful community called Congregation Beth Israel.  

I leave you with a story from this past weekend that involves both Jewish geography and relationships formed at CBI.  I spent the weekend with my son Ryan at Indiana University in Bloomington (Go Hoosiers!).  It was Dad’s weekend at his fraternity, and about 50 dads gathered for a weekend of fun and football, with a little beer thrown in for good measure.  I was talking with a father who was in from Chicago.  He seemed like a nice guy, and his son is Ryan’s little brother in the fraternity.  When we got to talking about Corpus, the dad’s eyes lit up and he looked at me with a big grin and said, “Oh, we used to live in Corpus.  We loved it there, and my son had his Bar Mitzvah with Rabbi Roseman!” It turns out that I was talking to Ed McKinley!  They have fond memories of their time here in Corpus and at CBI.  Ed says hello, and Ryan and Alec have uncovered a mutual connection to CBI that will strengthen their friendship as the years go by.  Our congregation is strong and proud.  The relationships we create and nurture here at CBI are important, and those relationships reach far beyond our walls.   

Gregory Marks
President, Congregation Beth Israel

President's Message - October 2020 PDF Print E-mail
Dear Friends,

Happy New Year!  Although it seems trite, I will say that this year has flown by, and we are certainly kicking it into high gear for next few months.  Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchas Torah, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, oh, and that little event called Food Fest are all taking place over the next few months.  Throw in everything else that we inevitably deal with during this time of year, and we are all going to be overworked and highly stressed individuals.  My question is, what can we do about it?  I have two thoughts.  First, although the primary purpose of Yom Kippur is to pray for forgiveness of our sins, it is also a full day when nothing else is on our plates.  So while you are at Temple listening to the familiar prayers and the beautiful music, or when you are at home during the afternoon, take a few minutes for yourself.  Let the hectic pace of life wash away for a few minutes, and think about what is truly important.  Think about your family, your friends, and our community.  And remember that part of the reason why we are so busy is that we are trying to make our lives and the lives of our friends and family and community better. 

My second thought has to do with forgiveness. We are in the middle of the 10 days of repentance.  This is when we are supposed to ask each other for forgiveness.  It is something I have tended to do haphazardly over the years – sometimes more, sometimes less.  However, each time I have talked to someone about forgiveness, I have felt better, calmer and more centered.  It didn’t matter if there was a specific incident I was talking about, or if it was just a general conversation.  I felt better, and so did the person I was talking with.  I encourage each of you to give it a try.  Talk to someone (Jewish or not), and have a meaningful conversation about something you did or didn’t do.  Ask that person for forgiveness and I promise that you will both feel better.  

I leave you with a traditional Yom Kippur prayer:

To those I may have wronged, I ask forgiveness.
To those I may have helped, I wish I had done more.
To those I neglected to help, I ask for understanding.
To those who helped me, I thank you with all my heart.

G’mar Hatimah Tovah,
May you be sealed in the book of life.

Gregory Marks
President, Congregation Beth Israel

President's Message - September 2019 PDF Print E-mail

Dear friends,

Keeping it  cool  at the Temple…

The new condenser units arrived yesterday, and the new air handler is scheduled to ship from the factory on September 10th.  What this really means (I hope this doesn’t jinx it) is that we are going to have a COOL auditorium for High Holy Days!  Many thanks to the hardworking people at ProTech for working with us to provide a good, cost effective solution for our air conditioning needs. 

Speaking of cool places, I spent Labor Day weekend at Greene Family Camp working with a dedicated crew of staff and fellow youth group advisors to create an amazing weekend experience for 120 high school teens from across Texas and Oklahoma, including two of our own.    The weekend included all the usual camp activities like sports, art, music, swimming, campfire, and just hanging out, but because this was a NFTY-TOR youth group event, there was so much more.   The teens participated in programs and discussions that focused on Yiddish, our Eastern European Jewish roots, and the contributions of Jews to American society.  We played the “game of life” which focused on how factors like income and access to health insurance impact outcomes when families are faced with challenges like illness, loss of a job or unexpected major expenses.  In connection with Saturday morning prayer, the teens incorporated art, original music, and debate into the service.  The group I participated in debated the topic, “Which is more important in Judaism, prayer or actions.”  The success of this weekend is due, in no small part, to the efforts of Ethan Lane-Miller who is the new regional advisor of NFTY-TOR.  Ethan brings a youthful exuberance and playfulness to his role of advising our region.  The teens are drawn to him, and if this event is any indication, we are in store for a really fun and exciting year.  The next opportunity to participate in an event at GFC is the weekend of November 1st.  I hope all of our parents consider giving their children the opportunity to participate! 

The High Holy Days are right around the corner.  It is a time of reflection, renewal, and rejuvenation.   We take time to reflect on the past year, make amends for our sins, and look forward to a new year with a clean slate.  We must also keep in our hearts the people in the Bahamas who are suffering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Dorian.  In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we are all too familiar with the hardship facing people caught in the path of a hurricane.  We are grateful that Dorian spared Florida, and pray that she spares the rest of the coastal United States.  Unfortunately, we must also be cognizant of the times in which we live.  This past weekend we experienced another senseless mass shooting.  As the High Holy Days approach, our safety and security is foremost in my thoughts.  With this in mind, I want you all to know that an off duty Corpus Christ Police Officer will be present at every service throughout the High Holy Days. 

I wish you all a healthy, happy and sweet new year.  Most especially, I wish us all a year of peace.

Gregory Marks
President, Congregation Beth Israel

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