President’s Message

Posted on December 16, 2020

Dear Friends,

We are all shocked by the passing of our Debbie Schonfeld. Debbie was hired shortly after I returned to town from law school, and has been the face of Temple Israel for 19 years. Over the past few years on the Board, and then during my presidency, I have spent a lot of time meeting with, talking to, and getting to know Debbie even better. She had planned to retire several years ago, but stayed on until we could find her replacement. When we hired Jane Messinger, Debbie agreed to stay even longer to help with the transition. When Jane had to leave the position, Debbie un-retired again because we needed her. When our prospective new hire fell through this past summer, Debbie again agreed to stay on even longer. Upon my taking over the presidency, she told me that I better find her replacement already so that she could finally retire, but in the same breath, said she would stay on as long as we needed to find someone. (Which she said better be before the end of my presidency!!) Even when she got sick, and she was very sick from right from the start of getting Covid-19, she continued to work from home and make sure the mail, and bills and all the other work was done. She was always there for us. She always put us first.

I am sure we all have our own stories about Debbie. Anyone involved in any way in Temple Israel over the last 19 years must have gone through our gatekeeper. Anyone who was on the Board knows that she was a wealth of knowledge and history about our Temple, and if there was ever a question anyone had, someone would always say “Ask Debbie.” And when asked, she could always answer that question: “what is that endowment meant for”, “what year was that roof repair done”, “what is the history of that member or their family” or whatever question we threw her way.

We will miss her. We will miss her dedication. We will miss her knowledge. We will also miss hearing her opinion, which she was never shy to give, because we always knew she had the best interest of Temple Israel in her heart. As we move forward, we will fill Debbie’s position, but we will never “replace” her.

I do ask for everyone’s patience as we move forward. We need to first catch up, and then get our office running again. Jane Messinger has agreed to step in and take on that task until we hire someone new, and I personally want to thank her because I know how much work that actually entails. It will mean a slower response time during this transition.  I encourage everyone to try to use our website: as much as possible. You can also get information and updates; find links to our live and recorded videos; and make SECURE payments toward any donations, bills, or any other needed payments. 

In the meantime, we continue to try to move Temple Israel forward through this pandemic. We have done a great job advancing our technology and our content, and I thank Rabbi and Cantor in particular for taking on that task. But we realize that we are lagging behind in some of what we used to do, and not reaching all those who are not technologically inclined. This includes getting out our Chronicle or at least some replacement of it. It also includes making paper copies available to those who do not use a computer. We do want to keep everyone updated. We do want to acknowledge all those who donate. Be assured we are doing our best to address these and other issues. We hope that when we hire our new staff, this will be corrected. In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to contact the Temple or me directly. ( – 570-825-2768) And if anyone cannot access technology and needs to have printed copies mailed to them of any information or our weekly updates, please let us know and we will arrange for it.

I thank you all for your continued support of the Temple. I know our shrinking congregation continues to answer the call when we need you. On behalf of the Board, I want to wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah and a Happy Holiday season. We all continue to hope that we will see the end of this pandemic soon, and we can return to getting together as a congregation and a community.


Jeffrey Yelen