Introducing the New Loughton Synagogue Administrator – Sheryl Weintraub – 5775
Having grown up as a member of Loughton Synagogue, when I first heard that the role of Administrator was advertised my first reaction was… “Merle is retiring…. WHAT???”
As a child there were three people I saw as not being members of Loughton Synagogue but part of Loughton Synagogue. Of course, the first person was Rev Johnny Lorraine. He was my religious leader who I had a great respect for. However, being a close friend of my parents I knew him as “Johnny” and kept forgetting to call him Reverend Lorraine in public, as he always had to tell me what to do! The second person, Ruth Leigh, I saw as Loughton Synagogue’s mummy running the house and we were all her guests. The other person was Merle. I was always in awe of the number of people who knew her and ensured they greeted her at Shabbos, any function or Jewish holy day.
I spent my first two weeks working with Merle, who showed me the ropes. Since then, Merle has come to every beck and call. I joked with her, and still do, about having a painted portrait of her in my office as she has been this Synagogue’s ONLY administrator before me, making this quite a difficult role to fill. Merle actually started the job in her own home, even converting a room into the Shul office. There is nothing that lady would not do for this Shul. Her love for this Shul is commendable. A great part of my reasoning to apply for the role is because like Merle, I have a huge love for Loughton Synagogue.
The other reason I decided to apply for the job of Loughton Synagogue Administrator is because it gave me a way to come back to the Shul I love. It feels like a big part of my identity. Now that I am the administrator here, I have gladly re-joined as a member in my own right. It feels fantastic being back here amongst the community again. And what’s more, I am back in this community, with my 2 year old daughter Hope.
Being a part-time job, I get to spend most of my time looking after Hope. I am fortunate to have two fantastic sets of grandparents to look after Hope. However, on the odd occasion I do not have childcare, I am privileged to be allowed to bring Hope with me to work. Our caretaker, Gerry, helped set up a safe playpen for Hope when she is here and he is wonderful with her. A huge part of why I enjoy my work so much is my great working relationship with Gerry. I try to make him a cup of tea in the mornings as he makes me quite a few during the rest of the working day. Being as busy as I am, Gerry now ensures I remember to have a bite to eat as I do not often take a lunch break. We joke now that part of his job is looking after me! Joe too has been great to work with and I wish him well with his impending surgery.
Since starting my employment in mid-March, I have been faced with huge challenges. I have been asked to build new databases, helped with AGM arrangements in May, created the forthcoming Calendar, put together the High Holy day packs, helped with the Shalom Magazine and put together the Shabbat Zest with the Rabbi. Being new himself, Rabbi Portnoy works hard for our community and getting to know everyone. I am all too happy to help him as he is to help me. We work well together often enjoying a good conversation or joke. I have as yet to know his family but look forward to doing so.
Indeed, there is lots of work to do which has involved my talking a lot with the Synagogue’s Chairpersons and Treasurer. Our Chairperson, Barbara Cohen is friends with my mother. We have had a few conversations over the years and we have gotten along very nicely. Since working here, she and I have learnt more about each other. I have a great love for Barbara personally and it has become more and more enjoyable learning the job with her.
Mike Newman, our Vice Chairman, has been a part of my life since first moving to Loughton when I was three. His wife, Millie, is my mum’s best friend. His youngest son, Simeon, I love like my little brother. When faced with a challenge, Mike has been unbelievably helpful. My respect for Mike has grown profoundly. Before working here he was just that man who knew everything. Now, I am glad he is that man!
Ian Steinberg is our honorary Treasurer. He is the only honorary board member I did not know personally before taking on this role (the other being the Honorary Shul Secretary is my father). In fact, when being interviewed, Ian was the only one I wanted to impress as really he was the only one who could interview me without bias. Since working here I have had to have a lot of contact with Ian as finance is the most fundamental aspect of my job. I have grown a great respect for Ian and look forward to our conversations. He has a very daunting task so I like to make it a little lighter for him with my “positive attitude”. He often tells me how stunned he is that I “keep smiling”. Working with Ian, it is actually hard not to smile. He is an incredible accountant, boss, and now what I would like to call friend.
This is something that I love about the Loughton Synagogue community. How we are not just members of an organisation but a community with community spirit. You can see a face but never talk to the person for years, then you get talking and you have a new friend for life. I feel I can say this about none other than the absolutely fabulous Pauline Witzenfeld. For years, decades even, I saw her sitting near the front of the main part of the hall over the High Holy days with her twin daughters, Amy and Charlotte, but never did I speak with her. Since working here, in no time at all I now consider Pauline a friend. Pauline helps make our grounds look beautiful, even with her broken arm! Now, I look forward to her visits, and do not tell her not to come in when plans change just so I can see her!
One thing I loved about Merle was how she knew everyone and everyone knew her. I have started to know some of our members who I did not know before. This is a very friendly community. I am so glad to be back amongst you and I look forward to getting to know those of you I have yet to meet.