Cindy Fishman becomes president of Har Shalom
by Emily Minton
It almost seems as if Cindy Fishman was destined to become president of Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac. After all, Fishman, a pediatrician and mother of two, has been a member of the Conservative synagogue since childhood, having celebrated her initial bat mitzvah when she was in her teens, her wedding in 1995 and her adult bat mitzvah in 2009 with the congregation. During her many years at Har Shalom, Fishman has also held various leadership positions, including member at large and secretary on the board of directors. Her two-year term as the 26th president of the congregation began on June 1.
“I feel that this transition to presidency came pretty naturally,” said Fishman, who was nominated for the position by a committee. “I have been involved with Har Shalom for many years, and becoming president is a great opportunity to have many of the things that I have been thinking about for the congregation come to fruition.”
Fishman added that her responsibilities and goals for her time as president include chairing the board of directors, managing the finances of the synagogue and increasing membership engagement.
“I happen to think that membership engagement is how Conservative Judaism should be moving to really make sure that the members of the congregation are more engaged with each other and with Judaism,” she said.
Adam Raskin, rabbi of Congregation Har Shalom, described Fishman as “enthusiastic and passionate,” explaining that as a president, Fishman will set the tone of the congregation.
“I think the synagogue president says a lot about the congregation that he or she serves,” said Raskin, who has known Fishman for two years. “That’s the thing about Cindy that I’m most excited about – she’s very bright and she has a very successful career as a pediatrician and is a mother and wife. I think it shows that someone who is younger and has a career and home responsibilities can also be a synagogue leader.”
Raskin acknowledged the fact that electing a young, career- and family-driven woman like Fishman goes against the trend that many synagogues follow of electing older members to serve as president.
“Oftentimes synagogues tend to pick older presidents, and I think that the fact that we have someone who is balancing a family, career and other responsibilities and making the synagogue enough of a priority that she can serve as president is a really great model,” he said. “She’s extremely welcoming, approachable and friendly, and it makes me proud that she’s the public face of the synagogue.”
For Fishman, the added workload of being the president of a 700-member family congregation is just another way to stay involved and active in the synagogue.
“I feel that you get out of things what you put into them and if you’re really committed to something you should really put effort into it, and this is my way of putting effort into Har Shalom,” she said. “I hope that I get out of it a sense that I helped move Har Shalom forward. I think we’re at a good position now and we need to move forward, and I’m really looking forward to being a part of it.”
Fishman, whose daughter will become a bat mitzvah at Har Shalom in January 2015, explained that her many years coming back to Har Shalom “speak to the longevity of the institution.”
“I think it’s exactly the kind of synagogue we want to be,” concluded Raskin. “It’s a place where you can experience the totality of your Jewish life like Cindy, and a place where there is multigenerational commitment and lifecycle experiences. That’s exactly the kind of community that we aspire to be.”