10 Years of Service

            Good Shabbos!!  Thank you to Rabbi Moshe Shur and Cantor Yaakov Motzen for leading us in beautiful services this morning.  And thank you to our gabbaim and Jay Bernstein and Rabbi Motzen for leining the parsha and haftorah.  I would also like to recognize Rabbi Binyamin Marwick of Shomrei Emunah, who will be delivering some Divrei Torah following my address as well as recognize the volunteer leadership of our shul, past and present.  In your programs you may have noticed the names of our former presidents and chairs who received honors during the Torah service, but I would be remiss if I did not also equally recognize Gabby Burger, a former chair of the Board of Directors who is here today. 

I wanted to welcome you all here for a very special Shabbos in which we celebrate the Motzens on their ten year anniversary at the helm of the Ner Tamid Congregation.  Can you believe it – 10 years since we welcomed the Motzens into the Ner Tamid family.  And, while Ner Tamid is a very loving and beautiful family, it is also likely the most difficult family in Baltimore in which to serve as Rabbi and Rebbetzin.  Notwithstanding the difficulty of the gig, the Motzens chose us and we, in turn, chose them.  And, I am proud to say, what a wonderful marriage it has been.

As President of the Congregation a/k/a “the guy who sits next to the Rabbi”, I have had a front row seat to observing the challenges and responsibilities that the Motzens undertook.  Being a pulpit Rabbi is hard, but in this special place, it’s a whole different madreyga.  The Motzens have embraced the diversity of our shul and with incredible alacrity, sensitivity, dedication to inclusivity, and sheer talent, they have strengthened the bonds of our kehilla in all of its wonderful flavors. 

Early on in the Motzens’ tenure, Ner Tamid was branded as “Something for Everyone.”  We truly are.  We are made up of Jews from every walk of life.  We are a big tent.  Observant, secular, and somewhere in between.  Young and old.  Those with means and those who are struggling.  Jews from birth and those who have made the choice to become Jewish.  Liberal and conservative.  Vegetarians and meat eaters.  You get the point.  And, the Motzens, to their incredible credit, respect the vast diversity that exists within our shul and have chosen to live up to and embrace the “Something for Everyone” motto.  It’s a tall challenge, but it was successfully met by them with incredible aplomb.  They were and are the perfect captains for our ship.  It would have been far easier to stake out a clear path and build-up a membership base of homogeneous thought, practice and ideology.  But, the Motzens truly joined our unique family and have been able to successfully serve all of its members.

Orthodoxy in a modern and ever-changing world presents difficult challenges; however, the Motzens do not shy away from the challenge of making Judaism accessible and relevant to every person in this room.  Whether it is the beautiful and inspiring sermons on Shabbos and Yom Tov that captivate us all in making ancient text relatable to the circumstances of today; or, whether it is the many classes offered by the Rabbi including the Semichas Chaver Program; or, whether it is the special programming for women such as the Rebbetzin’s tehillim group, the Divrei Torah offered for women and by women on Simchas Torah, and the Rabbi’s weekly halacha classes for women; or, whether it is the excellent youth programming that provides Jewish instruction to our children that affords the opportunity for all parents to attend services; or, whether it is the social events and programs that cater to all age groups and between our various generations.  It is plainly clear to all that our Rabbi and Rebbetzin have created many unique opportunities for our members to participate in all facets of Jewish life and grow as Jews and as human beings.

The Motzens have been instrumental and phenomenal in facilitating connections; helping to bridge differences between groups of people.  The “Ner Tamid meets Ner Tamid” programs spearheaded by the Motzens were wildly successful and fun; illustrating the shared commonalities of those who make up our kehilla across the age spectrum.  It really is only in this community that I have experienced real friendships with members of the greatest generation, baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials; and, I know that we owe that in large part to the tireless efforts of the Motzens (and, now don’t tell the Rabbi, but perhaps to a lesser extent the  Kiddush Club).   

Growth is a key theme of our last ten years with the Motzens. Under their tenure we have dramatically increased our young family membership, the lifeblood and future of our shul. Walk down the hallway of the school wing and you will see that on every Shabbos and Yom Tov our youth groups are teaming with dozens of children who are excited to come to shul. Beyond numbers growth, the Motzens encourage and support the personal growth of every member.

While the Motzens have helped Ner Tamid grow, we have, in turn, watched them grow as well.  The Rabbi was just a boychick when he got here and look at him now!  The beard has really come in quite nicely.  We have watched their beautiful family grow over these years and shared in their simchas as a family.  In short, upon arrival, the Rabbi and Rebbetzin learned what our community needed and tailored their leadership to who was here already while also seeking to broaden the appeal of our wonderful shul to those who had yet to find a spiritual home.  With incredible wisdom beyond their years, the Motzens demonstrated great patience and respect for the kehilla that preceded their arrival, seeking to understand the Ner Tamid Congregation and what made it tick before suggesting changes to reinvigorate our shul and its place in the Baltimore Jewish Community, thus allowing the shul’s growth and change to be organic rather than a forced exercise.

On this Shabbos, we celebrate ourselves and our growth with the Motzens.  We deserve it and the Motzens deserve the recognition and credit for what has been achieved over the last decade.  So, following this ceremony, everybody is invited to celebrate in our Social Hall with a magnificent kiddush that has been catered by Simcha Gross and O’Fishel’s Kosher Catering Company.  And, may our excitement and celebration today carry into tomorrow for what I am confident will be a very successful campaign for the shul!!

Before I turn the program over to Rabbi Marwick, I wanted to express our collective gratitude to the Motzen family and how giving and selfless they have been for our community these last ten years.  Adam Klaff, the shul’s previous Chair of ten years, told our Congregation that he regarded his greatest accomplishment as Chair was extending the Rabbi’s contract for an additional ten years.  Here’s to the next ten years, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Motzen!!  Mazel Tov!!