My Jewish Values at Work

I came to Temple Sinai as both the Executive Director and a member in 2008. The hardest part of the transition was eased thanks to Cantor Laura Croen and her gracious family as they invited us to share a bar mitzvah date for my 11-year-old son. After leading the service together, our sons were celebrated at a joyous kiddush luncheon supported by the TSWRJ. What a warm, welcoming embrace by my new Jewish community!

The search committee wondered why, after 20 years administering and developing health services for seniors, I was interested in working at Temple Sinai. The answer was simple. First, my skills in providing excellent “homes” for individuals and families and in managing budgets, buildings and people were completely transferable. I was also ready for a change. Most importantly, I was excited that Temple Sinai’s mission and values really resonated for me. The icing on the cake was that my father, a long-time member, raved about Temple Sinai and encouraged me to apply for the position. Not that I don’t always listen to my father, but I’m especially glad that I heeded his counsel this time!

I feel honored by the opportunity to celebrate joyous occasions with our members as well as by the chance to lead and support them as they grapple with personal struggles and as they mourn losses. It has also been incredible to be the recipient of clergy and community support in meaningful ways. Shortly after joining the temple, my husband and I moved my in-laws from Florida to live near us. When my mother-in-law died not only did our friends and family come, but my colleagues and so many from our new Sinai community filled our house to the brim for Shiva. We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support; we had never experienced Jewish community like this before. It was a great comfort. That’s what we do at Temple Sinai.

Temple Sinai’s approach of “meeting every member where they are” makes it a great place to be. I love being able to say “yes” most of the time, when members or the clergy want to try something new. From fulfilling a simple request to provide arm chairs for members who otherwise would have difficulty participating in High Holy Day services, to adapting our administrative systems to support creative member engagement opportunities such as off-site trips to museums, theaters and protests with the clergy, I am empowered to do the right thing. I sleep well at night knowing that our Sinai members are well cared for.

One of the most rewarding parts of my Sinai experience is being encouraged to step out of my everyday role to learn and grow both personally and professionally. Most temple executive directors focus on day-to-day operations and solving problems. As a community that values lifelong learning and making the world a better place, it is no surprise that I was encouraged to learn about how temples, churches and mosques can purchase utilities and services collectively in a socially responsible and economically beneficial way. Not only does the temple get better pricing and contracts by participating with the Community Purchasing Alliance (CPA) where I currently serve as board president, but I get to be a social justice leader alongside our dozens of activist temple members.

Thank you, Temple Sinai, for allowing me to beautifully meld my professional and personal lives under one roof.


-Ellen Agler