May- June 2020

Update on Bat Yam Activities  during June

 As we have done for the last month, we will continue our use of Facebook and Zoom.

Virtual Coffee with Rabbi

Wednesday s 11.00a.m June 10, 24.  July15, August 12th


Shabbat commentaries by Rabbi Fuchs every Friday night at 7.00p.m.on and 


If you would like to join any of the Zoom conversations, please email us at for an invitation.




     Bat Yam was founded 29 years ago as a place for resident and visiting Jews to come together as an extended Jewish family, to participate in Shabbat and holiday prayer, to observe the rituals of our shared faith, and to study and derive meaning from our tradition and texts. While Bat Yam is a Reform congregation, our members come from all Jewish denominations and backgrounds.


    Over this quarter century, Bat Yam has become a unique adult congregation, whose membership is blessed with the leisure and good fortune to choose participation in renewed Jewish life.  We have raised our families; have watched children (and grandchildren . . . and, even, some great grandchildren!) become Bar or Bat Mitzvah; and have participated as leaders and active members in our prior synagogues.


    Now, at Bat Yam, we together participate in Judaism through this lens of a life’s worth of experience and insight. For some of us, this means reconnecting to our Judaism in deeper ways.  For others, this means coming to Judaism anew.  For all of us, Bat Yam provides an opportunity to explore Judaism with new eyes and hearts and with the enthusiasm of experience.


   We are an egalitarian Reform synagogue, that is fully welcoming of all.  Our programs are religiously engaging, intellectually stimulating, and filled with philosophical and moral introspection.  Our members are involved in Jewish, interfaith and non-Jewish issues and activities in the immediate and larger communities. 


  If you can’t be physically present, join our Jewish community through this website. You will see and experience some of our services, celebrations and educational workshops. We hope you can join us in prayer, learning and community.

Noteworthy this Month!

See what Bat Yam committees are doing right now!  Click here.

Learn about Bat Yam's Holocaust Torah history.  Click here

View the 1991 Bat Yam dedication of our Holocaust Torah.  Click here

Rabbi Fuchs' Shabbat Torah Commentary,

July  3, 2020 at 7:00 P.M.


Rabbi Fuchs Reflects


In the Face of Injustice


The day before he was indicted I tweeted that Derek Chauvin should be charged with murder in the death of George Floyd.


A friend of 56 years tweeted angrily in reaction: “It is unbecoming for a religious leader to interfere in a matter in the temporal world …you are not the prosecutor, and you don’t know all of the facts…Judaism has absolutely nothing to do with what happened in Minneapolis.”


I responded:

“Judaism has EVERYTHING to do with what happened in Minneapolis … and as for the facts: Three cops looked on while one of their number pressed his knee into the neck of a handcuffed man until he died. If Mr. Floyd did anything to mandate his arrest, the manpower was clearly there to do it without killing him. This is murder.”


In the days following Mr. Floyd’s murder, Jews around the world celebrated the Festival of Shavuot, which marks the anniversary of when God transmitted the Torah to our people on Mt. Sinai.


Our tradition teaches that all Jews everywhere and all future generations miraculously were there to take part in that singly important moment in our religious journey.


To stand at Sinai does not mean simply to worship, give charity and to study.


To stand at Sinai means to pledge our utmost to fill the world, as God charged Abraham,   “with righteousness and justice.” (Genesis 18:19)


To stand at Sinai means among many other things:


To worship no other gods, not to swear falsely, not to bear false witness, to treat the stranger with dignity and respect, to care for the widowed and the orphaned and not to follow the crowd to do what is wrong.


To stand at Sinai means to have special consideration for the minorities and the disadvantaged.


On Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement, one of the sins we ask forgiveness for is “abuse of power.” There is no more intimidating symbol of power than a uniformed officer of the law. And there is no group of people abused by that power more frequently in our country than those who are Black .


Unless we protest injustice especially when perpetrated against minorities and the disadvantaged, then we Jews today deserve the indictment hurled by the prophet Amos at the Jews of Samaria in the name of God almost 3000 years ago:


“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies.” (Amos 5:21)


Unless we raise our voices to protest the murders of people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arberry, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin and countless other Black men and women murdered for the “crime of being black” then all of our Sabbath, Holy Day and Festival observances are abominations in the sight of God.


Make no mistake. I do not condone violent protests that burn buildings, damage property and inflict bodily harm.  But I am violently opposed to the callousness of a system that allows the abuse of minorities to continue unchecked until anger and frustration boil over.


Though none of us can bring this scourge to an end singlehandedly, each of us can raise our voices in protest. Each of us can reach out to those we know in the African American community to acknowledge the pain they feel and express our support.


No, none of us can end oppression by ourselves, but with understanding and compassion we can move the world just a bit closer to another time of which the prophet Amos dreamed: “When justice will well up as waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24)

Michael  Hochschild, President

Dear Congregants,

I am privileged to bring you a largely positive report of our first month in operation as the new board.  I say “largely positive”
because I also need to acknowledge the discord which existed in our congregation. 


Congregants and former congregants alike have concentrated on their own perceptions of what happened, some on governance and management, others on philosophy or personality.  Our new board believes in moving forward in harmony.


I personally am making every effort to reach out to all of you, and I expect the other trustees and committee leaders to do the same.  We are all living under the strain of COVID-19, but we do know that this virus will pass and the world will eventually heal.  I am personally committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that Bat Yam will heal too!

Since the formation of our new leadership team, we have:

    -- extended our season in order to find ways to bring our community together virtually during this time of isolation;already enjoyed five weeks of Friday night virtual Shabbat Welcomes, compliments of our Rabbi and Cantor (going forward these sessions will be available via Zoom, the Bat Yam Temple of the Islands Facebook homepage, and the website)

    --  continued seamlessly with upwards of 40 people attending the Rabbi’s Saturday morning Shabbat classes via Zoom

  -- enjoyed a first for all of us, a virtual seder, attended “live” by 94 congregants from as far away as Hawaii and Germany, and later viewed by 156, to date, on YouTube;had 43 people gather at our Rabbi’s first Wednesday morning “Coffee with the Rabbi”

   -- introduced our brand-new Technology Committee of six, which has not only made all of the above possible, but also has enabled many congregants to become comfortable with modern technology, allowing us to enjoy the resulting benefits

   -- and published this edition of Bat Yam Matters, with only two weeks’ notice, which reflects the dedication of everyone involved and our new “let’s get it done” ethic.


The aim of our new lay leadership team is to be open, transparent, diverse and inclusive.  We invite calls from any congregant who may have feedback, suggestions, complaints, compliments, questions or new ideas. 

Telephone lines to myself (917-561-7888), 1st VP Janice Block Chaddock (312-520-0603), or 2nd VP Bob Schoen (630-561-7976) are always open! 


Board trustees and Bat Yam committee leaders meet regularly via phone or Zoom to plan new programs, solve problems, and share innovations which we may want to introduce. 


As we move on, we fully expect this menu of tasks to contain many fewer problems and much more innovation.


In real life, however, there is uncertainty and complications, and we are going to count on you for your support and ideas until we once more live in an unfettered world.


Amongst our friends and families, we have unfortunately had word of some cases of coronavirus. Those afflicted are recovering or have recovered, but tragically we know of some who have passed.  Dr. Bachman, at our first virtual Coffee with the Rabbi, pleaded with all of us not to take chances and to remain safe, after reporting several cases in his own family.  That is wise advice and not to be taken lightly.


May all of you and your families stay safe and healthy,



                                                                              Michael Hochschild

From the Cantor,  Murray Simon



Shavuot – the Festival of Weeks

“The Time of the Giving of the Torah”


 The Festival of Shavuot is the festival holiday occurring 50 days after  Passover begins (Pentacost), on which we traditionally celebrate the giving of the Torah to the Jewish People standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai.


It is unlike other Jewish holidays in that it has no prescribed mitzvoth (Torah commandments) other than traditional festival observances of meals (especially dairy foods) and merriment and the traditional holiday observances of special prayer services and the required abstention from work.


However, it is also characterized by many minhagim (customs). One of these customs is the recitation of Yizkor (Prayers of Remembrance) – which is recited only four times a year.


My dear friend and colleague, Rabbi/Cantor Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life synagogue of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (yes, that Tree of Life congregation) wrote this beautiful and timely Prayer for Yizkor that I would like to share with you.


    Avinu Shebashamayim, Our God in Heaven, COVID-19 reminds us that we are all created equally in Your image.


    You implanted in each of us a Divine Spark, and with it, the capacity to achieve greatness, if we would only use these gifts wisely.

    We mourn the immense toll that this virus has taken, and continues to take. Help us to recognize that each death represents not a statistic, but a human being who contributed to Your world, who leaves behind family and friends, and work yet unfinished.

    May this pandemic remind us of the sacred value of every human life, and that our answer to your question of Cain is a firm rejection of his values.

    We are our brother’s and sister’s keepers, no matter their color, faith or sexual orientation. May the bravery of all in the medical field continue to demonstrate godliness in the world, and may Your Divine Inspiration direct researchers to find treatments to restrain this virus.


    May Your Divine Wisdom stimulate leaders to create appropriate strategies to lead us through these days fraught with fear. May Your Divine Love comfort all those who mourn the loss of their loved ones.


    May all the departed rest in peace. And let us say: Amen.

Please be well and stay healthy through these next few months until we see each other again in the fall. Zei Gezunt!



                                                                          Cantor Murray E. Simon.





On June 10 Bat Yam Temple of the Islands had its first ever Virtual Annual Meeting. More than sixty people attended from as far afield as Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York and Ohio. 

Also attending were many congregants still in SW Florida.  A new Board was elected, and is responsible for the direction Bat Yam, Temple of the Islands will take.


Like many congregations we are looking forward to the upcoming High Holidays, hoping Covid-19 will allow for meeting in our sanctuary where we can celebrate at a safe social distance.


If we cannot meet physically our technical team will provide us with a virtual venue, as they did, so successfully, at Passover.

Under the leadership of our knowledgeable and inspirational Rabbi Stephen Fuchs, and our Cantor Murray Simon, we can look forward to a continued spiritual future.


Every Friday, at 7p.m., throughout the summer,  Rabbi Fuchs will be giving Torah Commentaries, which can be found here on Bat Yam Temple of the Islands' homepage, 


Virtual Coffee with the Rabbi will be on Wednesdays at 11.00 on June 24, July 15 and August 12.


Many educational webinar programs are being planned through the summer by Alan Fisher, who is on the committee of the Membership Committee.


On July 8 “Surviving the Pandemic Mentally and Spiritually” , Matthew and Katherine Zilboorg, psychologists will meet with Dr Howard Wetsman, a psychiatrist and Rabbi Stephen Fuchs. Time to be announced.   


On July 15 at 3pm Ken Ross, the son of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross will talk on “Living and Dying.” He is a friend of Alan’s and the Director of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation. He will be speaking on his mother’s life and work.


On July 22 “Tales from our RV Journeys” will be told by Eddie and Nancy Greenberg, Carl and Nancy Greenbaum and Cory Rosen. Time to be announced.


Our active Social Action Committee headed by Garry Weiss and Annette Pacyga is playing its part in Southwest Florida to support those working against racial injustice. We will be marching as peaceful protesters, or driving in our cars, at all times being aware of socially distancing.


The Social Action Committee will be networking with other racial justice advocacy organizations to determine what further actions can be taken.

Honey from the Hearts program is underway.


Bat Yam sends jars of honey from congregants to their fellow congregants at Rosh Hashanah together with a message for a sweet New Year. Details will be forthcoming.

At the end of the Virtual Annual Meeting our President Michael Hochschild assured us “We are at a point today to deal efficiently with all the unknown challenges.”

If yu would like more information about any of the above events, please contact us at


More than Israel has kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept Israel – Ahad ha-Am.


In these days of coronavirus, when we really cannot distinguish the days of the week from each other, the Sabbath stands as a beacon. It is a constant in an inconstant world, a signpost to hold onto.


A leader from the URJ spoke on a webinar about how we are living, “in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world,” a VUCA world…an acronym coined by the American military, when the USSR collapsed in the early 1990’s.  In such a world, questions and strategies do not always result in answers. In such a world, our religion is as relevant as it has ever been.


The Fourth Commandment clearly states the Sabbath was to be a day of rest for the Children of Israel, for their servants and for their beasts.  This holiday begins at sunset, yet waking up on a Friday morning feels different from the other mornings of the week.


The day is filled with precious hours, an island of special, spacious time. We are meant to stop shopping, driving, working - separating from our familiar activities. This observance reminds us of life under Covid19.


Many of us are using this new found time to learn, to call friends we have not spoken to in years, to spend time with family, to catch up on reading, to isolate, create a firewall from the rest of the world. We have much time on our hands, we have  questions to which we do not have answers. This pandemic is our first such experience; the questions it provokes are infinitely complicated and largely unanswerable, as yet. 


Shabbat at the end of every week is possibly the most important holiday of the entire Jewish year. Especially now we need its sacred ritual, its constancy, its comfort; we embrace its certainty. Its beacon shines a light throughout the six weekdays, becoming brighter as we approach Wednesday, then Thursday and finally Friday.  


Shabbat is ushered into the home by lighting and blessing candles, reciting the kiddish over wine and the motzi over the braided challah.  These traditions can still be celebrated in our own homes, but added now is the Zoom screen, or Facebook or YouTube, where the congregation gather to share the service provided by Rabbi Fuchs and his wife, Vickie and by Cantor Simon and his wife, Toby.


We are reassured to see familiar faces in the small square boxes as more and more congregants join the Shabbat service. Nobody is limited by geography, many faces fill the boxes, including “snow birds” in their northern homes for the summer. This time of rest and worship is its own tranquil reward and each week as we bid farewell to the Sabbath bride we look forward to next Friday and the Friday after that. The ritual anchors us, even as we experience shifting and disruption from the Covid19 storm.


In an imperfect world this “palace in time” as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel calls it, offers a respite, an attempt to be part of a perfect world for a short while, to keep at bay the virus and all its frightening connotations.