PAS President Natalie Barth Addresses the Congregation on Yom Kippur

Gut Yontif!  Standing in the footsteps of my father, aunt, uncle, and both grandfathers, who all led their congregations, I am humbled to be standing before you as president of this sacred community. My husband Brett and I joined Park Avenue Synagogue fourteen years ago, just before our twin sons Brian and Benjamin were born. Through the ECC, Congregational School, travel, and worship services, PAS has become our second home. It was an honor to serve this congregation as an officer the past five years with a wonderful team under the leadership of Art Penn and Paul Corwin. Our new team of amazing officers is already hard at work and has made the transition seamless.

I want to begin by wishing you all a very happy new year and by thanking the clergy and staff of PAS for all that they have done and will do to make these holidays meaningful. To all those you see and to those behind the scenes, thank you!

I stand before you today with two objectives that are exceptionally important to my family:

First, to reiterate Marc Becker’s remarks last night that PAS is your vibrant synagogue with many portals of entry that we hope you will continue to engage with and support. As the Officers wrote in their High Holiday message just before Rosh Hashanah, we hope that you will try something new at PAS in the year ahead. Whether you choose services, programs, classes, or travel, we believe that our community is strengthened by the participation of every one of us.

Second, to remind us all that in our High Holiday liturgy, we are told that tefillah, teshuvah and tzedakah are the only ways to moderate the severity of God’s decree.
Tefillah – we are all here doing just that.
Teshuvah – as we learned in Rabbi Witkovsky’s sermon this past Shabbat, this is direct apology and forgiveness between two people or between a person and God. While we each will have our own private forgiveness conversations with our family and friends, on behalf of PAS leadership, I want to offer an apology should PAS have done anything to upset you in the past year. Despite good intentions, sometimes mistakes happen.
Tzedakah – this is the act of generously taking care of those in our community as well as those in the broader Jewish community and the world.

One way that we do tzedakah is through our partnership with UJA-Federation of New York. For more than 100 years, UJA has been supporting Jews and New Yorkers of all backgrounds. UJA works to care for people in need, shape our Jewish future, and respond to crises. UJA funds a network of hundreds of nonprofits, including more than 75 core agency partners. Every year, UJA’s work touches 4.5 million people in over 70 countries around the world. No matter your philanthropic interest, UJA probably accomplishes it in some way: fighting poverty, supporting aging Holocaust survivors, engaging children at Jewish summer camps and day schools, strengthening teen summer experiences in Israel, providing social services for vulnerable populations, advocating for religious acceptance of all Jews in Israel, enriching Jewish life in Poland, the Former Soviet Union, and so much more.

In addition, UJA always steps up during emergencies. Just one year ago, UJA distributed more than $1.4 million in disaster-relief funds and delivered $4 million of physical goods to hurricane-stricken areas such as Houston, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean; the wheels are already in motion to help the Carolinas. Several PAS members participated in UJA volunteer trips to Houston and Puerto Rico. As a born-and-bred Texan, I want to personally thank the many members of this congregation who brought gift cards to the High Holidays last year in response to our Tikkun Olam Committee’s gift card drive. The cards were distributed to synagogues and Federation-funded institutions in cities across the Gulf Coast impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Knowing many people affected and having seen the devastation firsthand to shuls, schools and homes, I thank you.

Through our UJA@PAS effort led by Nancy Hirschtritt and Francine Asher Holtzman and their dedicated committee, we benefit right here at Park Avenue Synagogue. This past year, we hosted our ninth annual UJA Shabbat with UJA-Federation of New York’s CEO Eric Goldstein, who told us about the incredible pluralistic work UJA is doing in Israel. As part of this effort, UJA and Jewish Federations of North America organized a mission for Israeli Knesset members to visit New York. PAS was proud to host them at a minyan and a briefing to share what contemporary Jewish life looks like at Park Avenue Synagogue. UJA and the Jewish Agency have helped to fund an Upper East Side sh’lichah to bring meaningful Israel engagement to our community. Karin Lagziel arrived in August and is already planning Israel-focused programs. Our UJA@PAS Committee hosts a toy drive as part of Vicki K. Wimpfheimer Mitzvah Day. PAS teens are active participants in UJA’s Center for Youth Philanthropy programs and many of our youth, including my two sons, have been part of the Give-A-Mitzvah, Do-A-Mitzvah program during their bnei mitzvah years. PAS was part of UJA’s initial inclusion cohort, where we learned how to make our synagogue more open and inclusive for all. And every week, we have UJA-funded DOROT and Jewish Board social workers onsite helping our congregants.

This amazing work does not happen without the support of all of us. I ask that you please join my family in donating to both the PAS Kol Nidrei Campaign and UJA’s Annual Appeal. You can do so by returning the pledge card at your seat via mail or by going online after the holiday. Tefillah, teshuvah, tzedakah. I hope that by completing all three, we are all inscribed for a happy, healthy and sweet new year. Thank you and Gmar Hatimah Tovah!