Catherine and I first met over coffee at the Starbucks at 16th & Arch in January 2008. She was the newly hired Membership Director, and I was Membership Chair. We discussed the broader points of synagogue membership and our visions for membership at Rodeph Shalom. It was the start of a beautiful partnership.
For the next eight or so years, I learned about relational Judaism and about Catherine Fischer, for they were one in the same. I learned of her deep love for Judaism and Jewish values, and how she applied them to all of her work; of her expectation of excellence in herself and inspiring it in others; of her insistence on intentionality, visionary thinking and meaning in her work and ensuring that all who participated found meaning as well. She sweated the details of every initiative and regretted every imperfection that no one else noticed. Her unwavering integrity always leaned us toward being transparent and candid in all that we do. Working with Catherine made us better people. And one day, I plan get something started before she’s already finished.
There is a generation of members who will tell you that they are here today because their first contact with Rodeph Shalom was through Catherine Fischer. Her warmth, her humor and her ability to connect with people is a rare gift that RS has had full benefit of. There have been times when I’ve been in her office while she was on a call with a prospective member and listening to her end of the conversation was like auditing a seminar in 21st century Jewish thought about transformational community building. In fact, Catherine has become one of the Reform Movement’s star leaders of relational Judaism and has helped put Rodeph Shalom on the map of synagogues who are making a difference.
I won’t be going over a list of Catherine’s accomplishments over the past 12 years because you know them all, and we just don’t have enough time. We live and breathe the results of them every day, and it is obvious to me that we wouldn’t be who we are without her contributions and her consistent and extraordinary vision.
So, as you begin a new life chapter as Oliver’s grandma, may all your nodal moments be joyful, may all your connections be profound, and may you always know that your community that you worked so successfully in making as vibrant, warm and welcoming as you are yourself, will always be here for you.
Yosher Koach, Catherine, Yosher Koach.