Who in his or her right mind would sign up for a job that pays zero, offers no union benefits and runs a 24/7 schedule? As far as I know, only synagogue presidents would allow themselves to stray so far from the path of reason. Who else imagines that the congregations they serve are seeking the ideal community for the celebration of Jewish traditions? Who else envisions committees staffed by synagogue volunteers who keep the heat on in winter, the air cool in summer, the floors swept, the kitchen spotless, literature and the arts in tune with Judaism, the bills paid, and the bank accounts in the black? Who else fabricates the many reasons for the doubting donors of their congregations to believe in the flourishing future of their synagogues?
So go ahead. Tell synagogue presidents they’re a bunch of Looney Tunes dreamers. But be prepared to learn that they don’t dream alone. A whole congregation dreams right alongside them. Sure, there are moments when congregations come up with images of community that clash with each other; when visions of dedicated service fall short of reality; and when fabrications of the future, far from inspiring, damage our faith in each other’s integrity.
But in the minds of synagogue presidents, these moments are brief aberrations, limited detours in a congregation’s search for the community they dream of becoming.
As this synagogue president prepares to make room for the next dreamer-in-charge at Tifereth Israel, she is happy to observe that she will be resuming life in a congregation that hallucinates just as wildly about its future as she has for the past two years. It will be a pleasure to continue dreaming with the congregation she has been privileged to serve.