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Dear Friends, 

When I envision our future here at BTBJ, I am inspired by this kehillah kedosha, this community imbued with sacred purpose, that has been so carefully nurtured here over the years. This legacy of community focus inspires me to imagine a future even more deeply and intentionally dedicated to relationships cultivated panim el panim – face to face, heart to heart and soul to soul. In this spirit, I envision a community where every congregant has the opportunity to feel seen and valued for our unique identities and approaches to Jewish life, and where everyone’s skills, talents, time and ideas have space to flourish. This isn’t always easy work, especially when we have competing and even conflicting ideas and priorities, and when we are working with finite resources, but it is definitely the holy work of building a vibrant and strong community. 

As your rabbi, this commitment to maintaining and cultivating kehillah kedosha can and should start with me. I want to know each of you, and know you well. I want to know your joys, your struggles, what you yearn to get from Jewish life and how you aspire to shape the future of our congregation and the wider world. In that spirit I have already begun to meet 1:1 with congregants – in my office, on zoom, over coffee, and while walking in the Wissahickon. I will continue to reach out to folks to schedule conversations so that we can get to know each other more deeply. I also want to invite you to take the first step. I am often in the BTBJ office during the week (Tuesday-Friday); feel free to stop by or call. You can also schedule a time to meet with me by calling the office or signing up for a time in my Calendly. I would welcome the opportunity to talk in-person, by phone or on zoom, to meet at BTBJ or in your home, to chat over coffee or lunch, or to take a walk in the woods. I look forward to speaking with you soon!

Please also keep your eyes open for a schedule of BTBJ Summer Events. Whether in Philly or down the shore, we are creating opportunities to get to know me and to gather with your fellow BTBJ members. I hope that these events ,and more, will continue to weave the fabric of our community—strengthening ties between congregants from different neighborhoods and generations, and among congregants, clergy and staff.

Many of you have also been wondering about the future of the BTBJ Religious School’s leadership. With my transition to Senior Rabbi, we are also thrilled to welcome a new Education Director to the BTBJ Religious School, Suzanne Caster. Many of our religious school families have come to know Suzanne quite well as she has taught in our religious school both in-person and online. Suzanne has taken on an increasing role since she arrived at BTBJ—from teacher, to online learning coordinator, to coordinator of curriculum support. Suzanne has proven herself to be a passionate and knowledgeable educator, an organized and forward thinking administrator, and a trustworthy and supportive professional (you can read more about Suzanne in the bio below). I look forward to supervising Suzanne as she takes the reigns, and I am confident that Suzanne’s leadership will offer a strong continuation of the educational advances and innovations that have been the hallmark of BTBJ’s religious school in recent years. I know that Suzanne is looking forward to deepening her relationships with current religious school families and meeting prospective students and families, as well. Please join me in wishing Suzanne (scaster@btbj.org) a huge mazel tov as she steps into this role! (See below for more information about Suzanne.)

I look forward to meeting with you panim el panim this year and to continuing to discover the strength, support and inspiration that our BTBJ community has to offer.

L’shalom,

Rabbi Roni Handler

Fri, October 7 2022 12 Tishrei 5783