TBC Connections

March/April 2021

Visioning Out of the Wilderness
by Cantor Dunkerley
When I first met my husband on a beautiful July afternoon many years ago, we were discussing plans for an upcoming weekend date, and I remember him going off on a tangent about where we might perform on New Year’s Eve. “New Year’s Eve?!” I exclaimed, “It’s July!” To which he responded by asking me if I knew what ants did in the summer. “What?” I asked. “Plan for the winter!” was his response.

You may wonder what on earth my reminiscence has to do with TBC and this issue of our new Connections newsletter … Well, honestly, this is what it is all about! We may still be in the middle of March, and it may feel like we have been wandering in a Covid-19 wilderness forever with no end in sight, but I assure you, our redemption is near, and you should know that your Temple B’nai Chaim leadership and I are very much focused on visioning, strategizing, and planning for our community’s bright future!

TBC Milestones
TBC Financial News
Our Treasurer, Debra Case - along with our Finance Committee, Rudy Escalante, Richard Bloom, and David Marceau - have been working tirelessly to secure TBC's financial future. We successfully applied for and received a PPP loan of $58,700 in November 2020. We also applied for loan forgiveness and we just learned that the SBA has fully forgiven that loan. In addition, we applied for a second PPP loan and we recently received $46,702. A huge thank you to Deb for all her hard work and dedication to TBC.

The Executive Committee has also been working very closely with our Finance Committee on all spending and fundraising initiatives, including applying for the CT security grant to help ensure that we are as safe as possible when we return to our building. In addition, Deb and the Finance Committee are getting ready to start working on our budget for the next fiscal year.
TBC's Religious School
Our TBC Religious School has also been very busy. Marilyn Van Raalte helped plan a Purim CAR-nival in the TBC parking lot and almost all Religious School families participated. Part of the event included bringing paper goods and personal care items for families in need. Our students and families did an amazing job of collecting donations and received this thank you from Lauren Hughes from the Wilton Department of Social Services.
Religious School Model Seder
The Religious School had a virtual model seder this past Sunday, which was a great success. Thank you to all of our teachers for preparing our students so beautifully, our students for excellent Hebrew reading and chanting, Michele Rudniki, Stacy Barenberg, Dara Marceau and Rachel Langberg for efficient delivery of our Pesach Bags to every Religious School Student, Marilyn Van Raalte for her tireless preparation of the Pesach bags and general coordination of our Model Seder, and a special congratulations to Georgia Marceau for finding the afikomen! A grand time was had by all!
Shabbat Services
If you attend Shabbat services, you may have also noticed greater participation by our school children and their families. Members of the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th grade have chanted prayers at services and done an incredible job. Join us to experience and support the commitment of our younger members.
Purim Shabbat - Thank You Cantor and Susan Farber
The children weren't the only ones who had a special Purim celebration. The Cantor and Susan arranged a fun and participatory Purim Shabbat service for adults, which included an abbreviated Shabbat Service, and Megillah readings interspersed with trivia and wine tasting. We had close to 50 participants - some from outside of the TBC community. Thanks Cantor and Susan for a memorable and fun evening.
Social Action/Social Justice
TBC's Social Action Committee co-chairs, Peggy Zamore and Jane Alexander, continue to seek ways to safely help members of our greater community who are in need. Here are some ways you can help.
  • Donations to our local food pantries are greatly needed to help feed those who are food insecure. It may surprise you to learn that even in our seemingly affluent communities, hundreds of families rely on the food pantry to keep from going hungry. You can send a donation to TBC and indicate where you would like your donation to be used (e.g., Danbury Food Pantry).
  • In this vein, our TBC Religious School is sponsoring a Passover Food Drive. As we read in our Haggadah, “Let all who are hungry come and eat!” Please bring your non perishable food items to the synagogue and place them in the bin outside the front entrance. If you are ridding your home of Hametz for the Pesach Festival, why not bring any unopened items for donation? Donations will be accepted throughout the eight days of Passover.
  • Federation has launched a campaign to provide first year expenses for kosher food pantries; one is already open at Congregation B'nai Israel in Bridgeport and a mobile food pantry will begin operating in the fall. Federation has committed to make a $1 for $1 match for every contribution or pledge made by March 26, 2021 - up to a maximum of $15,000. To make a donation, click here.
  • The URJ has several initiatives you can access to help support unaccompanied migrant children. Visit their website to learn more.
  • HIAS is an organization that draws on Jewish values and history to provide vital services to refugees and asylum seekers around the world and advocates for their fundamental rights so they can rebuild their lives. They provide informational sessions, webinars and training, which you can access from home by clicking here. There are also a number of ways to get more actively involved. Learn more here.
  • IRIS (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services - serving our local Fairfield County area) has many ways you can get involved - either from home or safely in-person. Click here to find volunteer opportunities.
  • American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is providing the AJWS Haggadah: Next Year in a Just World to help you bring social justice to your Seder table, spark thought and action, and acknowledge our collective traumas from COVID while looking ahead with a sense of possibility with two new readings from Karpas and the Splitting of the Sea. To download a copy, click here.

What's in the Works
TBC clergy, the leadership team, various committees and Sisterhood are working on many amazing initiatives. Here are just a few. If you are interested in participating, please email Denise and let her know where your interest lies.
Plans are currently underway for in-person school beginning in the fall. Cantor Dunkerley has started working on an exciting curriculum for the next school year.
TBC's reopening task force has met several times and is continuing to work on recommendations for TBC's eventual reopening. We have a number of exciting in person events planned for the spring to be held outside for now, and we anticipate being back in the building by the High Holy Days.
We submitted our application for the Connecticut Non-Profit Security Grant. Our application included installation of enhanced WIFI, security cameras in the building and parking lot, window film for the classroom windows, and the development of a security plan and security training. We will know sometime in June if we have secured grant funding. We decided not to apply for the federal grant when Connecticut announced we could not receive an award from both the state and federal grants. We believe our chance of success is better at the state level.
We have started a strategy development initiative to move TBC forward as a more vibrant, engaged and expanded synagogue community. We are working with Whitman Insight Strategies (a strategic brand and market research company founded and run by Bernard Whitman, Cantor Dunkerley's brother). They are providing their services pro bono. Over the course of the next few months, we will be conducting research to learn how TBC can evolve to better serve the needs of a changing Jewish community. Once the research phase is complete, we will develop an action plan reflecting the recommendations on the path forward.
TBC's virtual art sale is now scheduled for May 8 - 15. We have received exquisite donations, including works by Saul Chase (Dara Marceau's father), and work created by some of our extremely talented congregants - including Babette Bloch, Jon Gordon, Joni Johns Lerner, and Richard Lerner. All of the pieces (there are about 100) will be photographed and posted to a website during April. Watch Chailites for additional information.
In addition to the social action/social justice opportunities identified earlier, Jane Alexander and Peggy Zamore are organizing a diaper drive. Watch Chailites for the date and specifics on how and when to donate.
A May 1st Jazz Concert and Havdalah Under the Stars in TBC's parking lot is in the planning stages. If you are or know a musician who would like to participate, please contact John Dunkerley.