Honoring Our Volunteers

There are many deeply dedicated volunteers in this congregation, people who give many hours of their time each year to ensure that the synagogue functions smoothly. In due course, we hope to honor all of these volunteers, not only because it is proper to thank people who give you a gift, but because they model the values that our tradition elevates: caring for community, selflessness, and generosity.


Cynthia Launer


If you could design the perfect volunteer, she would be diligent, hard-working, eager to help, consistent, tireless, and unfailingly pleasant. She would do any task you asked of her, without hesitation. She would work for your organization, week in and week out, year in and year out. She would be thoughtful and painstaking in her work, treating her volunteer job as if it were her professional responsibility. She would be soft-spoken and a pleasure to work with. She would look for ways to improve the organization, above and beyond the things she has agreed to take on. And she would never, ever complain—about anything–and certainly not ask for special recognition. If you could design the perfect volunteer, she would look just like Cynthia Launer.

For the past seven years Cynthia has worked in our office, performing routine clerical functions, helping to track financial data, answering the phones, setting up the kitchen rotation schedule, helping to get mailings out—to name just a few of her many tasks. These are the routine and often tedious chores that need to be done in
order for our office to function. Indeed, it is because of Cynthia’s devotion, together with that of other office volunteers, that BJ can get by with the equivalent of just over 1 fulltime paid office staff person. I hesitate to even estimate the amount of money Cynthia has saved the shul by giving so generously of her time for so many years. Suffice it to say, she may very literally be worth her weight in gold.

But it is the quality of her dedication and her presence that make her such a joy to have as part of our community. She is always willing to go the extra mile to help when times are crazy. She offers a congregant’s perspective when decisions are being made about mailings, announcements and the like. She is consistently unflappable and level-headed, just as she has consistently worked every week for the past 7 years.

Cynthia, you are the perfect volunteer and you so fully embody the spirit of dedication that makes BJ such a wonderful community.We are honored by your dedication
and enormously grateful for your service to the shul.


Bruce Kessler


Our tradition teaches us that the highest mitzvah is that of caring for the dead, which is called hesed shel emet, true lovingkindness. To care for those who have died is the ultimate form of lovingkindness, since our act can never be reciprocated. This is the epitome of selfless devotion.

Bruce has exemplified this work of true lovingkindness for the past ten years. As chair of our cemetery association, Bruce is one of the first contacts when a family loses a loved one and needs to make arrangements for burial at the Sons of Jacob/Sons of Moses cemetery. He works with bereaved families, arranges for the purchase of burial plots, and works with the groundskeeper to ensure that the cemetery is properly maintained. If a stone needs to be repaired, Bruce takes care of it. If a family member wants a picture taken of a stone, Bruce responds to their request. When checks need to be deposited and bills paid, Bruce handles it. Our cemetery would quite simply have quite functioning long ago, but for Bruce’s dedication to this singularly unglamorous work.

But what distinguishes Bruce most in his volunteer work is the loving devotion with which he does all this. It shows in the sensitive way in which he responds to the concerns of congregants and their families. It is obvious in the deep appreciation for Jewish values (and the gentle humor) that always comes through in his annual reports to the congregation. Listen to Bruce talk about the cemetery—which I have done a number of times—and you will hear in his voice the exquisite concern and dedication that he brings to his performance of this mitzvah.

In the final parsha of Devarim, which we read today, we learn of Moshe’s death and the fact that God buries him in an unmarked grave. (If we knew where Moshe’s grave was, I dare say that Bruce would be there, seeing to its care.) The rabbis understood this as the ultimate act of hesed on God’s part, a fitting conclusion to the Torah, and a model for all of us. Bruce has been following God’s model for many years and, true to the meaning of hesed shel emet, has done so
completely without fanfare, quietly, selflessly.

Bruce, you have been a model for all of us of how to engage in holy work.We are honored by your dedication and enormously grateful for your service to the shul.


Maxine Rosenthal


Maxine began volunteering back in 1990, while she was waiting for her daughter, Petra, to finish her bat mitzvah tutoring. She began just helping out in the office with whatever needed to be done. Several years ago she began working to transfer the ledger data from the cemetery to a computer, which involved long hours on hot summer days checking information on the head stones
against the computer map. Maxine continues to volunteer regularly both for the cemetery and in the office–making copies, stuffing envelopes, making calls. For her volunteering “has been a way to meet people and get to know them on a more personal basis than just on Saturdays. It gives me a real part in the community. It is the way to make this ‘my’ community too.”


Jon Savin


Jon works professionally as a technical writer for Thompson Reuters (formerly West Publishing). More than three years ago he noticed an announcement that the synagogue needed a new editor for the newsletter, and he knew he had found the right way to put his talents to good use. The Kol Yaakov that keeps us all connected to one another and to the synagogue is possible only because of the work Jon does to collect, organize, and format the materials we send him each month. “I like producing something that is really tangible and useful to the congregation,” he notes.

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