Celebrating Leslie Sporn
Leslie Sporn has been at the center of life at TSTI for 18 years, serving the community with commitment, grace, a steady hand and a warm heart. June 30thwill mark Leslie’s last day working at TSTI, though she will remain an active member of the congregation, she was celebrated in typical TSTI style at a special Havdalah service and party on May 18th.
“For 18 years, Leslie has been my partner, counsel, conscience and at times, my critic, and I am a better rabbi because of her,” said Rabbi Cohen. “More importantly, though, Leslie has been and will continue to be a cherished friend. I will be forever grateful to her for all she has done for me personally and for the synagogue we love.”
There have been many changes at TSTI since Leslie started here in April 2001. In particular, more families are joining at a younger age than in the past and people are more eager to take on leadership positions.
“We’ve successfully reached out to younger families to engage them and they are enjoying a deeper, richer involvement here, and leadership is now an attractive role to play.” She noted that because TSTI draws from many towns, our diversity has also broadened in terms of different religious and ethnic backgrounds, family structures and more families with special needs children.
“TSTI is enriched by its diversity and we delight in that. Making a comfortable spiritual home for so many different people really speaks to the skills, talents and sensitivities of our clergy and staff.”
The staff credit Leslie with leading TSTI through the changing seas of 21st-century Jewish communal life. Religious school director Mindy Schreff said that, “Leading a large synagogue like TSTI requires someone who can see the big picture as well as the smaller details; someone who runs a tight ship but also has the biggest heart. That’s Leslie Sporn. She has always put the needs of our congregants first, and has been a friend, mentor and confidante to so many over the years.”
Preschool director Carol Paster agrees. “Leslie has been a very strong leader with high expectations for our staff and for herself. She is passionate about the future of the Jewish people and was never afraid of arguing her side of an issue, while also showing tremendous compassion for members in need of assistance in any way.”
For Leslie, meeting new members and helping them integrate into the community has been a favorite part of her job. She always made sure people felt comfortable in all ways, including asking for financial consideration when the need arose, or ensuring that interfaith families felt welcome at TSTI.
“My mission has been to further Judaism in the world in my own small way. It’s holy work and I’m honored I’ve been able to do that here, making Judaism more accessible to more people in whatever way is meaningful to them on an individual level.” She explained that people come through many doors and the challenge is to help them find the connections that keep them engaged at any age. “Part of my job has been to make sure people find those other touchpoints so they see the value of long-time membership and community at TSTI.”
Cantor Moses pointed to Leslie’s commitment to helping others find their congregational home as a compass for TSTI leadership. “I have rarely met anyone quite so passionate about what it means to be a member of the Jewish community than Leslie. She has always made sure TSTI is a happy place to the do the real work of our synagogue, and her influence is felt in every corner of our buildings and among everyone here.”
Leslie acknowledged that as executive director, she had to balance the needs of the congregation as a whole with the needs of individual members. She said that the deeply egalitarian nature of TSTI as a community helped her foster a culture of contribution among members, whether those contributions are time, talent or treasure. “It’s all about helping people to see that no matter their circumstances, everyone enriches our synagogue,” she said.
“Leslie is fierce in her love of Judaism and bold in her advocacy of TSTI’s well-being,” said Rabbi Klein. “All of us have been the lucky beneficiaries of her love and care of our sacred community. She has helped me become more comfortable in my rabbinic role and I’ve learned from her example of showing strength of convictions while also sharing a softer side with our members.”
TSTI has also benefited over the past 18 years from Leslie’s incredible administrative strengths. “When Leslie began here, she quickly set out to help the congregation strike the right balance between efficient administration of the synagogue’s needs with guiding it in a way that upholds our Jewish values. Her contributions to TSTI are immeasurable,” said Rabbi Cohen.
Temple president, Max Weisenfeld, agrees. “Leslie’s legacy is in how well so many of our processes work to keep our community open and transparent, including our members’ participation in all facets of synagogue life. She developed a team that is caring and efficient, and created a feeling of family within the office, with a culture that prioritizes our congregants’ needs.
Look for Leslie around TSTI at services and special events. Just don’t ask her to do anything more than enjoy herself!