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Executive Director Ellen Botwin

Executive Director - February 2019

I speak to the women reading this article.  I want to share my frustration with women’s sizing.  So, what’s with this One Size Fits All?  Are we supposed to be happy that now the clothing industry has become politically correct and have it as One Size Fits Most?  Really?  So what’s most?  If you’re a size 2 will it fit you?  If you’re a 16 will it fit?  Give us a break! Then there’s vanity sizing and real sizing.  Did you even know there was something called vanity sizing? 

Apparently years ago, the industry determined that women couldn’t handle the actual size we were, so they created “vanity sizing”.  Did you know that Lucille Ball was a size 12?  That’s the size she was while filming I Love Lucy.  That meant that Ethel was a size 14.  In vanity size, Lucy would have been a 6 and Ethel an 8…maybe even smaller. So I guess the industry decided that as we got larger, we couldn’t handle being a size 20 (which would be a 12) or size 24 (which would be a 16).  But here’s the kicker…vanity sizing only comes into play for regular clothing.  Try shopping for a formal gown!  For some reason, vanity sizing doesn’t come into play here.  So if you wear a size 12, be prepared to try on an 18 or even a 20! OMG! The stress alone would make you want to storm out of the store!  I suggest putting on blinders and threatening the store dressers with death if they even attempt to tell you the sizes they are getting for you! I do think, however that this may be slowly changing.

Men don’t have this issue.  Their size is actually listed on the clothing…slacks have waist and length. Shirts have neck and arm length and although it isn’t perfect, it is certainly easier.  Yes there are different fits such as an athletic fit or “husky” but the sizing is what it’s always been.

Can you imagine if women’s clothing was sized by waist, hips and length?  That’s right…women have hips and a tush.  Men, for the most part don’t.  What women would go into the store and say… give me those cute jeans in a 33” waist, 45” hip and 30” length?  Not too many.  When I was much younger, my first job was with Avis Car Leasing in Manhattan and I remember the man I worked for, Thomas Powell, going crazy He just couldn’t understand it.  He dreaded having to buy his wife clothing.  Jewelry usually won out!

That brings me back to synagogues.  One size does not fit all or most.  Let’s look at East Brunswick township… we have a reform synagogue, a conservative synagogue, an orthodox synagogue, a Torah Links and a Chabad.  Wow, talk about your choices!  We’re always on the search for the perfect synagogue.  I don’t know if that exists.  Synagogues have to work hard to make all of their members happy. Leadership and Clergy have to compromise and accommodate while keeping within the framework of their religious beliefs. It is not easy. It’s a fine line trying to keep your current membership happy while trying to attract new families. One is not more important than the other…like the song goes… make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.  Same goes for members.

Choosing a synagogue is a big decision.  It has to feel comfortable. It has to feel like home.  You have to connect with the Rabbi and leadership.  The bottom line is that when a new family calls or comes to services, we don’t pounce on them to join.  We welcome them. We invite them to events and Kiddush. We make room for them at our table.  I always tell new families that choosing a synagogue is a personal decision.  I would like to think they appreciate not being “pushed” to join.

Synagogues are created and made by people.  People are flawed and imperfect.  We may share the same goals and desire for the success of the synagogue, but perhaps perceive differently how this should be accomplished.  It’s human to have a difference of opinion. So the next time you don’t agree with something or you feel slighted by a member or leadership, say something, but say it with kindness.  I can share with you that although there are those that disagree with me and have done so quite verbally, I do not believe there is a vicious or malicious person in this synagogue. It’s because we care so deeply…and ultimately that really isn’t a bad thing.

Thank you all for caring,

Ellen

Executive Director - January 2019

Perception is everything.  The way we perceive things may dictate the way we react to a situation or a comment or even an environment.  It may not be correct and it may be a complete misunderstanding of the situation, comment or environment, but it is what it is.
So let’s take New Jersey.  How do outsiders perceive New Jersey?  Well, if you go by the TV show, The Jersey Shore, we’re all a bunch of drunken, loud, losers.  If you go by driving down the turnpike passing through Elizabeth, we’re an overcrowded, fume filled community.  But what is the truth?  There’s a modicum of truth to both statements above, but let me tell you what I see…

 

When I drive to work, I pass by a farm of cows.  That’s right, cows.  I live 5 minutes away from Lee’s Turkey Farm where there are acres of peach, nectarine and apple trees, fields of strawberries, peas, corn, carrots ripe for the picking (when in season) and live turkey’s gobbling away.  I also pass by a sheep farm on the way to work.  Yup, sheep.  On occasion, a sheep or two will escape and I will see them meandering down the road.  Last week, the traffic stopped as a police officer and two civilians were “herding” the sheep back into their pen or corral or whatever you call a place where sheep live. Often on my drive home and certainly where I live, there are deer on the road.  Heck, I live across the street from Mercer County Park… the deer live on my lawn, and eat my plants and shrubs.  I won’t go out barefoot to let my toes twinkle in the grass because I’m not fond of deer poop.

 

So, that’s a large part of New Jersey too.  The part that many people, especially not of New Jersey, aren’t aware of.

 

In speaking of perception, what is your perception of EBJC?  Is it based upon a deep involvement and knowledge of the leadership and clergy?  Is it based upon coming to services every week and davening at Minyan?  Is it based on coming only to High Holy Day services and nothing else?  Is it based upon coming to social events? Or, if you’re not a member, is it based on hearsay and rumor? Or is it based upon things that happened 10 years ago? I would imagine if you poll 50 people, you’ll get quite a few different responses as to what EBJC is and/or isn’t. And they all would not be wrong completely because depending upon your level of involvement, you perceive things differently.

 

First, I understand that I am a newcomer to EBJC.  I’m here only a bit over 3 years.  That makes me a neophyte, an infant, and in the beginning… an interloper. Yes, it’s a strong word, but not everyone wanted me here or saw the need for an Executive Director.  I really hope that has changed and I’m guessing since you are all fairly nice to me, that it has changed.  But the job that I have is difficult because everyone perceives it differently. Am I an executive secretary (sort of)?  An office manager (yup)? What are my responsibilities? Does the buck stop with me (sometimes)? Am I the chief operating officer (you betcha)? Am I responsible for financials (gulp, yes)? Am I human resources (often, yes)? I guess I could go on, but you get the picture.  The truth is, I’m sort of the equivalent of the chief operating officer of a large company.  I oversee almost everything but cannot possibly physically do it all. So I understand it when members come to me to ask me to do things that realistically, is not really my job, but they figure I’ll know who to give it to. I hope that if I ask you to please give it to Cheryl, Stefani or someone else to do, you won’t get annoyed and think I’m shirking my responsibilities.  I’m not. It’s just that the amount of responsibilities I have can sometimes be overwhelming and I absolutely must delegate.  It’s either that or I take one of the rooms in the rug wing and turn it into a bedroom!

 

So…perception…the good thing is that perceptions can change.  The bad thing is that until they’re changed, it can be damaging or hurtful or painful.  I’m trying to do some introspective work on my perceptions.  Never hurts to be open minded.  Try this with your EBJC perceptions…especially those negative ones.  You may be quite pleasantly surprised.

 

May you all be well,

Ellen

 

Executive Director - December 2018

Recently, I was accidentally locked out of my house.  The automatic garage door wasn’t working (I assume it was a dead battery in my remote) and I didn’t have the key to the front door because… well, I never go in through the front door! So here I am in my car, with a trunk full of groceries wondering how the heck will I get into my house. No one was home, so calling my husband would serve no purpose other than to have him chastise me for not carrying a key to the house.  Been there, done that. Oh well.

Then I thought that many of our members and congregants might soon be feeling “out in the cold” due to all of the security changes we are making to the building.  Yes, it is for everyone’s safety, but the conundrum is how do we make the synagogue warm and welcoming while ensuring the safety of everyone?  I have no doubt that some of you will have feelings of anger and frustration as we navigate the various biometrics and codes to enter the building and wings.  Not everyone will have access to every entrance and every wing door.  It’s a sophisticated process and entry system and although it is our goal to make it as easy as possible, I know there will be bumps in the road.  There will be times when a congregant is “locked out” due to a glitch or due to the fact that we haven’t obtained their biometrics (fingerprint).

Our goal is to make sure every congregant has access into the building for services.  Entry into the rug wing for individuals attending regular meetings will also be granted a special code or access.  I believe there will be different codes for different needs as well.  Our Mah Jong ladies will be provided access Monday nights from 7 – 11pm, but the code they are given will not work any other time of the week.  That’s how sophisticated this system is! Again, there will be glitches as there are with any new installation and system.  However armed with the knowledge that this is being provided for and paid by a government security grant meant to help institutions secure themselves from evil intent, I think we can muster up some patience.

Another new-fangled thing EBJC has is a data base called ShulCloud.  This replaces Chaverware which was proving to be quite problematic.  The really good thing about ShulCloud is that (when launched completely), each and every member will have access into the system to update their personal information, pay bills, sign up for events, etc.  We will ask you to please make sure your address, email, cell numbers are correct.  Adding your date of birth will provide us with the ability to know when to offer you Senior Membership rates. Updating or entering the date you joined EBJC will enable us to recognize you at our Anniversary Shabbat. We’d love to recognize your birthdays (without acknowledging the year), and anniversaries if we actually have them.

So, a lot is going on at EBJC.  This is our 60th year celebration.  EBJC was incorporated February 1959 by families that wanted a Jewish presence in East Brunswick.  They worked hard, raised money and built the first wing (the original sanctuary that is now the Beit Midrash) in 1962. 

But let’s get back to how I got into the house.  I used the “jiggle” method.  I took the batteries in the remote control thingy and just rotated them, and then I sort of “jiggled” them in the remote.  I closed it up, pressed it and voila!  The garage door opened! I guess I forced the last bit of “juice” out of those batteries!  I carried the groceries into the house, put them away, got two new AA batteries, put them into the remote and no one was the wiser!  By the way… if you’re reading this…don’t tell my husband I don’t carry a key to the house.  I’ll eventually remember to put it on my key chain.

Happy and Healthy Chanukah to all, filled with latke’s, gelt (real and chocolate) joy, and family,

Ellen

 

Wed, October 21 2020 3 Cheshvan 5781