I resolved to write personal notes of appreciation to everyone who contributed time or material gifts to my twentieth anniversary celebrations. The number of thank-you notes totals about 700 (I am making headway...), including almost every household in the congregation.* One of the great joys of this happy burden is taking a moment to reflect on the generosity of so many individuals beyond the specific contributions to the occasion.
In the process, I have had my consciousness raised about other gifts that too often go unmentioned. They range from the efforts of our volunteers to the families of major donors to the congregation. And while I do not believe that we should repeat names constantly as if they were sponsors of a television program, the dear souls who have directed their generosity to our congregation deserve appropriate recognition, and most especially when the individuals for whom the gifts were dedicated are no longer alive.
The major gathering areas in our building are named for people important to the history of our congregation and the people who are its members. Dora and Jacob Cohen, grandparents of Iver Kasenetz, (sanctuary), Harry Schonberger, scion of his family, (library), Robert and Kate Lainof (auditorium), Helen Merzbach (administration wing), and the Flax Family, still among our most active members, (chapel) are all remembered in prominent fashion on the thresholds to the rooms that bear their names. Even when in shorthand or oversight those names are not mentioned, we as a congregation should be aware of the tribute inherent in each gift.
In similar fashion we should remember that every accomplishment large or small in the congregation (or even beyond) is the result of someone's generosity. By maintaining an awareness of our gratitude to others for those efforts that enable us to meet, greet and eat as a community, we encourage a posture of gratitude in general for the beneficence of God and our individual duty to emulate it.
I had a friend who was famous for reciting lists of names at every public event, including anyone who licked an envelope or held open a door. It got to a point where I encouraged her to name only the people she was not thanking, which would take less time. But I appreciated, then and now, her point: the crown of a good name is the best of all, and we hold the power to polish that crown.
*As for the thank-you notes: I also resolved to thank the congregation first, and not to mail any notes to congregants until all were complete. I am sorry it is taking so long, but I offer an investment tip by way of apology: buy stock in ink companies — I am using an ocean.