Fistfight or Celebration

I love telling this story about an annual congregational meeting.

At the first one I ever attended more than 20 years ago, my friend Lanny Katz, who was the synagogue’s president at the time, prevented a fistfight from occurring. I doubt that “Fight Referee” is found in any synagogue president’s job description that might exist.

Jonathan was the Treasurer and was presenting the budget for the next year. And Max, an older gentleman, had some questions regarding the Rabbi’s salary. It didn’t seem to bother him that the Rabbi was among the 80 or so people in attendance. The questions and answers between these two grown men became a little heated, and Lanny asked Max to leave. On his way out, Max, standing in a boxer’s pose with fists clenched, asked Jonathan if he wanted to step outside. Lanny encouraged Max to move along and go home.  And the meeting continued.

Certainly an eye-opening experience for a new congregant. Whatever happened after that would be a bit of a let down. And some people might not feel so enthusiastic about coming again next year

Most congregational Annual Meetings are held due to legal requirements. The By-Laws often state that an annual meeting must be held by a certain date – within 30 days of the start of the new fiscal year. And that a quorum of the members of the congregation be present to vote on a new budget for the coming year. The specifications for what determines a quorum are also detailed in the By-Laws.

Our synagogue’s fiscal year starts on June 1st. While May is kind of a crazy time for everyone with end of year school activities, sports, and everyone’s anticipation of summer and vacation plans, our Annual Meeting is most often held during the week before Memorial Day.

Maybe we should rethink this?

Getting a quorum is often a challenge. We have tried ice cream as an enticement. Held the meeting during Religious School.  It takes an hour and several phone calls to congregants to reach the magic number so the meeting can be held so we remain in compliance with the laws of the Garden State.

To me, celebrating accomplishments and sharing excitement for the plans for the future should be the goals for any annual meeting. Recognizing leadership for the time they have devoted to the board and other committees, projects, and programs is also right up there in importance. This is a time for special recognition of the outgoing President as well as long time serving board members. Such acknowledgement might bring out friends and perhaps some family members who might not normally attend. It is also an opportunity to have a well-known speaker who again might appeal to a segment of the congregation’s membership that wouldn’t normally make attendance at the Congregational Annual Meeting a priority.

And good food – even ice cream – always helps, too!

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