Dear Rabbi & Donna,
31 years are a lot of years to remember the very many special events that have been shared with you and the Brays and Schaarai Zedek in general. All have enriched our lives in one way or another.
I do believe “ things happen for a reason” and both of you being here have helped us cope with the bad, the hardp and enjoy the good.
My wishes for enjoying your retirement.
Dear Rabbi and Donna: we are so grateful for you both and look forward to hearing about your adventures in retirement. Rabbi thank you for being there for us for good times and not so good times. You always know exactly what to say! We really appreciate all your encouragement as each of us journey through life. You were a great supporter when I was Sisterhood President and through all my temple activities. Your bond with Rachel is so special and will continue as the Rabbi emeritus. You have always made Tony feel a part of the CSZ family. Donna you are a wonderful part of the temple always there and working quietly behind the scenes but know that you are always appreciated and loved by us! Much love, Cindy, Tony and Rachel
Thank you both for your many years of dedication to the CSZ community as well as the Tampa community. Your sermons, friendly smiles and understanding have been very meaningful and you will be missed. Enjoy retirement! We hope your days are filled with love and laughter!
Rabbi and Donna,
I don't know how we would have gotten through all these years without both of you. Rabbi, for your guidance and care and Donna for showing us that there is always someone ready with a hug and a positive note.
We are going to miss you being there all the time, but will be happy to see you at services.
Best wishes, Valerie Grady
Rabbi and Donna, It's hard to believe that you are moving on to new adventures and experiences. When we first joined the Temple, you both made us feel welcomed. We have always enjoyed your sermons and the way you explain the simple to make it interesting. During the years that have followed you have been a guiding source and comfort to us. It's not hard to understand why you are both so loved by our community. We wish you all the best in whatever comes knocking on your door. Thank you for all you have done for us and our family. We are all better for knowing you.
We have enjoyed going to services and hearing your sermons, as wells your lectures at the Senior Luncheons.
We really didn't get a chance to know you, but I hope we due in the future.
Both of you, enjoy retirement and your travels!
All the best,
Sharon & Bruce
As a somewhat new member of the Schaarai Zedek I can’t say I know you very well and I have no stories to share. However, I can say that from what I’ve seen I believe you to to be one of the finest rabbis I have ever met. I feel honored to have had the experience of your leadership, sincerity, humility, wisdom and positive attitude at the Temple these past four years.
All the best.
Dear Rabbi and Donna:
I am very sorry that I was not able to join you for your Weekend Celebration but here is my wish to you both for a perfect and certainly well-deserved retirement. I know you will still be a very important part of the Schaarai Zedek community so I do not have to tell you how much I would miss you...a very good thing because there are no words! A good Rabbi and Rebbitsin are hard to find. And don't forget to have fun!
Richard and Donna for more than 25 years our family and yours have shared a special bond. We have had the great pleasure of spending many enjoyable evenings, holidays and family occasions with you both. Our very sincere wishes for a happy and healthy next 35 years as you begin your lives in retirement. We came to Schaarai Zedek and have never left. The caring and inclusive environment as congregants that we felt is a testimony to your leadership. The team that you built has enabled Schaarai Zedek to grow and become the area's leading congregation, pre-school and religious school. Our children have grown up in Schaarai Zedek and now their children Steven and Sydney are members of the congregation. Todah Rabbah. Harriett, Larry Steven, David, Ami, Sydney Cyment and Samantha Cyment Oliver.
G_D bless you both.
Thank you Rabbi and Donna for your all you have contributed to our family and community. Our children have had the luxury of growing up up at Schaarai Zedek under your guidance, Rabbi. You have been a source of strength, and the Temple, a place of refuge. Wishing you peace and happiness as your journey continues.
Lots of love and gratitude,
Dean, Mary Frances, Hudson and Parker
As you retire it is important for you to know that you have truly made a difference at Congregation Schaarai Zedek. You have truly made a difference in my life! No one can take your place!
For the years ahead, here is wishing you not only exciting challenges but also laughter and deep contentment.
You will be missed! I will miss you!
CSZ- a place where everybody knows your name. Well, maybe not everybody, but you Rabbi, certainly remembered my name and profession from when I first met you on a canoe trip to years later when I finally made the decision to join CSZ. That remembrance, the friendliness of the people I've met, and the varied choices of activities helped make my decision to be part of CSZ a good one.
I hope your next move from active rabbi to Rabbi Emeritus also includes a stint on America's Got Talent for stand-up comedy. Thanks for the memories, thanks for the laughs. Mazel Tov on your retirement from Elaine and Geoff Gross.
There is nothing new that can be said bout Donna and Rabbi Birnholz that hasn't already been said, but I want to share a memory of Rabbi when I was in his 1997 conversion class. My conversion timeline was rather nontraditional, as I decided to convert after I was married, rather than before. I never had any intention of converting, and my husband and in-laws never requested or pressured, or really even mentioned it at all. Since Howard and I knew from day one that our children would be raised Jewish, I chose to convert once we decided to start our family. I wanted to be the same religion as my future kids and be able to provide them with a Jewish home. I grew up Presbyterian and had long ago rejected the dogmatic acceptance of religious beliefs, so faith was not something that I felt I had or needed. I came to the classes not as a condition precedent to marriage, nor as a spiritual journey, but as a choice for the children I hoped to have. Luckily for me, CSZ and Rabbi Birnholz were highly recommended for this process. During one of the very first classes, Rabbi Birnholz said something to me about being Jewish that resonates to this day: "It isn't what you believe, but how you live your life that matters." Essentially, "If you live your life as a good person, it doesn't matter what your religious beliefs are." That statement made total sense to my highly cynical mind at that time, and it allowed me to accept all the beauty that Judaism has to offer, without feeling guilty about not believing the stories of the Bible or having a traditional religious faith. I am eternally grateful for this precious gift that Rabbi Birnholz gave me, and although my faith has evolved since 1997, those words are still a touchstone that I return to time and again.
I am also thankful for all the life cycle events that Rabbi has participated in for our family: the bris, bar mitzvah and confirmation of my sons, and being there for our family over the last 21 years.
We have also been so fortunate to have a "twofer" in Donna Birnholz, because not only do we have the honor and privilege of Rabbi Birnholz as our rabbi, we are blessed with Donna being the constant, smiling, warm and generous pillar who has always greeted us with kindness and genuine concern. Seeing Donna at services, or any temple event was and always is a welcome relief, because I always knew I could say hello, spend a moment or two with her, and leave feeling better than before.
Thank you Donna and Rabbi for all that you have done for me, my family and CSZ. I wish you the absolute best in your next chapter, and I am deeply comforted by the knowledge that you will still have a continuous presence at CSZ.
Much love and thanks,
Thank you for not only your spiritual guidance, but also your friendship. Enjoy your retirement years!
The Gellens and Harden Families
Doug and I wish you and Donna great health and every happiness as you enter into the next phase of your lives. It was wonderful to see you last week! Much love, The Schockens
May your retirement years be as meaningful, successful and wonderful as your rabbinate. With every good wish and a todah rabbah,
Dearest Donna and Richard, There are no words to express to you both what you have meant to me and my family over almost 30 years! You have been dear friends for our happy celebrations of life cycle events and the sad times, as well. Professionally, you both helped me grow and made the temple a place for me to thrive, both as an Educator and B'nai Mitzvah tutor. Todah rabah and my deep love to you both, Ann
Retirement is great
Thanks for the memories
Rabbi and Donna, I know I speak for Mark, Jennifer and Jason too when I express how important you are to our family. We love you dearly. Rabbi, here is the message I read to you at the Past Presidents Dinner on Thursday night...An excerpt from the book, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen..."Only a Novel"...in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humor are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language...Rabbi, your 31 years here...is your novel. You have touched every life with your generous nature, your wondrous wisdom, your breadth of humor, and your genius for imparting YOUR perfect most meaningful words for any given situation. You genuinely love and care about each and every human being and God is smiling, all knowing, of your bountiful work, deeds and accomplishments. And so, I say...your novel...your greatest powers of mind, your most thorough knowledge of human nature, your happiest delineation of its varieties, your liveliest effusions of wit and humor are conveyed to OUR world in the best chosen language...through you, Rabbi Richard Birnholz. It is my honor and privilege to have served with you in a chapter of your life.
Dearest Rabbi Birnholz and Donna, although I am not an official member of your congregation, over the years you have been a wonderful support to my Tannenbaum family with your kindness and good counsel during our times of grief and sadness, with your warmth and caring as we celebrated simchas at temple and of course with your friendship and leadership throughout the decades. May you both go from strength to strength as you embark on your next chapter! Congratulations! Fondly, Tina