If you have ever held a lifecycle event at Beth Jacob – a bar or bat mitzvah, a wedding, a baby-naming – you have undoubtedly encountered some questions you wanted someone to help answer:

  • How do we arrange for tutoring for our child’s bar/bat mitzvah?
  • When is the best time to contact the rabbi about planning for a ceremony to welcome our newborn?
  • What are the synagogue’s policies on kashrut and how can we arrange to do baking in the synagogue’s kitchen for our event?
  • What items do we need to supply for our wedding ceremony?
  • How do we arrange for outside vendors to deliver things to the synagogue for our event?

The very moments when we are filled with excitement and anticipation can also be times of confusion and uncertainty, as we try to find the guidance we need to make our special events happen, and then to make them meaningful. The answers to these and dozens of other key questions have been assembled into a single on-line guide, which will be the resource for all lifecycle rituals and event-planning at the synagogue. Accurate and clearly organized, complete with explanations of relevant synagogue policies and procedures, this guide will help direct all of us at those moments in our lives when we need the synagogue most, but (until now) haven’t known what to expect or where to turn.

This tremendous resource is the result of more than a year of work by a committee consisting of Riv-Ellen Prell, Olivia Herstein, Vicki Itzkowitz, Paul Maccabee, and Bill Rubin. Together with our professional staff, they invested literally hundreds of hours gathering information, talking with congregants about their lifecycle events and what sorts of guidance would be most useful, organizing this information, vetting it, revising and finally putting it into an electronic format where it will be available to all and easily updated.  April Silver contributed her skills in web design to ensure that the final product would be both easy to navigate and visually beautiful.

We are grateful to all the members of this committee for their work, which will benefit all of us for years to come. Special thanks go to Riv-Ellen Prell, who took the initiative to launch this project after her daughter Lilah’s wedding and then shepherded it through many stages of development and refinement.

The story of this guide is, in many ways, the story of what makes Beth Jacob such a wonderful congregation. One congregant, frustrated that there was no single repository of information to help plan a wedding, decides not to kvetch, but rather sees a solution and works to make it happen. Others with special expertise in communications and marketing and web design give generously of their time to make sure that the final product is accessible. Others who are expert photographers provide the photos that make this visually beautiful. This guide is a wonderful example of what can happen when a congregation pools its resources and talents to help others within the community.

And the creative process will not end when the guide is published. Included on the website is a space for congregants to make suggestions of other resources that would be useful, to offer advice to one another, and so to make sure that this guide is a living document.

So, when you refer to this lifecycle guide, we hope you will find there not only answers to your questions. We hope it will also prompt you to ask other questions. What needs do I see at Beth Jacob that aren’t being addressed? What could I do to help make this an even stronger, more supportive community? What would happen if, to paraphrase President Kennedy, I asked not what the shul can do for me, but rather, what can I do for my shul?

We are grateful for this lifecycle guide, then, not only because of what it is, but because of what it represents. I hope it will be not only informative, but inspirational. And I trust that each time we turn to it we will see there not only the words that are helpful but the dedication of those among us who give so generously of themselves to sustain this extraordinary shul.

Louis Newman — Past President
Eric Pasternack and Jeff Skochil — Past Co-Presidents