DECEMBER 2020, JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021 WORSHIP
Beginning in December, Shabbat worship services will be livestreamed via Zoom from SCUCC Fellowship Hall, led by Rabbi Stephen Fuchs with singing by Cantor Murray Simon and piano accompaniment by Abbey Allison. Services begin at 7:30pm on the following Fridays:
December 4, 11, 18, 25
January 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
February 5, 12, 19, 26
The Zoom link for services will be sent to members via email. Anyone interested in joining can receive the Zoom link by writing to us at email@example.com. All are welcome
I cannot believe that it is time already for our Fall Bat Yam Matters. This is the last one for 2020, which many will describe as a “terrible” year, never to be forgotten.
In many respects this is true and as of writing this, we do not even know the results of the national election and what that will be bringing us over the next four years.
But for me this is not necessarily so! For me personally the tribulations of March have slid into the back of my memory and I have been experiencing what it must really feel like to sail in the sea of tranquility. It is normal that I have lost irreplaceable old friends in the ensuing months, but at the same time, through my position at Bat Yam, I have made many more.
At the time I took on the position of President of Bat Yam, I of course knew many of you by sight or by name, but having reached this stage of 2020, I feel so honored that I now consider so many of you to be my friends. To those of you whom I still do not know well, I am hoping that our status will change soon.
As temples go, we are small in the context of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), our parent body. I realized this last weekend when I, together with our president-elect Janice Block Chaddock, attended the annual Scheidt Seminar put on by the URJ. They honored Bat Yam by inviting the two of us, which is well out of their normal practice of inviting only one participant per temple. The majority were in the several hundreds of families and a few with three zeros after their membership numerals. Presidents of those larger synagogues can never hope to know their congregations individually as well as I do and that makes me very lucky indeed!
At this stage of this report, I want our congregation to know about and appreciate Rudi and Honey Scheidt, both of whom passed away in April of this year. Their home was in Memphis, Tennessee, where they served as leaders of Temple Israel and were pillars of philanthropy in that city and to Reform Judaism. Since its founding, and thanks to this couple, more than 1,700 congregational leaders have participated in the seminars which bear their name. I feel sure after my own experience that those leaders, who by the way include our own Alan Lessack, have invariably become more impactful leaders and agents for change.
I segued from the topic of ‘friendship’ to the subject of the Scheidt Seminar because this support and respect were the backbone of what we learned, starting the night of Thursday, October 15 and going through (with breaks for meals, sleeping and Shabbat services) until the late afternoon of the following Sunday, October 18.
Over the months since accepting my position as President, I have tried my best to get to know everyone and moving along, I want to do an even better job of this. As I have often said, my door is open to everyone in Bat Yam and if there is anything you would like to discuss about our temple or have ideas to propose, I am all ears. And if there are any of you who feel I have been deficient in this, please call or send me a mail and, above all, forgive me!
The decision to attend this somewhat taxing seminar resulted from the fact that I, at least, had very little experience of leading a religious congregation -- very different from companies and sports teams! I am firmly within the category of leaders whose previous participation in Judaic detail was minor and that I definitely needed to at least begin to learn more if I (and our temple leadership) was to be effective in my new role in our synagogue.
You will have heard much more about Scheidt and its teachings from Janice and me, but the two most important to me were that first, all of us who are leaders – all the way from committees to Trustees -- need to have a “Sacred Partner.” In all aspects of leadership, we should remember Tovim ha-sha-na-yim min ha-ehad (“two are better than one”). And the other is that all of us that support the Temple are G-d’s Partners. In his closing statement of the Scheidt Seminar, Rabbi Rick Jacobs pointed out that the winds of change are propelling us to a place where significantly old humour involving ‘condolences’ for people accepting leadership roles in Temples is shifting instead to ‘congratulations,’ and that in the future all of us would look back on our roles with great pride. Thanks to you, congregants and friends, I feel like that already!
In reviewing these past three months since the last issue of Bat Yam Matters, there have many achievements and much progress. But I think you will all agree with me that the outstanding happening of the quarter was provided by our Rebbitzin, Vickie Fuchs. And to his credit, the opportunity to publicize her offering was recognized initially by her husband, our wonderful Rabbi. Vickie was sorely troubled and wounded by the events which transpired at our synagogue early this year. So much so, that when the Days of Awe were upon us, she needed to do more than offer prayers and seek forgiveness privately, but wrote these all down, for herself. Of course, she showed her writings to Rabbi Fuchs who saw her essay for what it was. It was such an eloquent presentation of what hurt and forgiveness was about that he immediately asked her to present her writings as the centerpiece sermon for the entire High Holy Day services. Vickie’s sermon has been published throughout the Sanibel press and is available to us all, in full in this issue of Bat Yam Matters. Believe you me, this message is a meaningful, heartfelt work that can be read over and over and will go down in the history of Bat Yam.
Another highlight for me personally was being able to co-author with Janice Block Chaddock a sort of ‘state of the temple’ report on the progress of our Temple through September. Of course, I am not going to repeat all that here, but in that context I want to tell you all that at Scheidt, I realized that while yes, we have and always will have a lot to do, that Bat Yam Temple of the Islands takes second place to nobody in all the aspects of our make-up. And this is due to all of you, my friends.
Best wishes to all … please stay safe!
~ Michael Hochschild, President
WELCOME TO BAT YAM
TEMPLE OF THE ISLANDS
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.
Rabbi Fuchs Reflects
When I was a child and things troubled me, I found great comfort in the 1954 Eddie Fisher top ten hit song, “Count Your Blessings.” “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep, counting my blessings.”
How frequently that haunting refrain has played in my mind over the past seven months! The novelty, if ever there was one, of the pandemic has worn off. The “camping trip alone and isolated in the woods” mentality that some of us could adopt during the early weeks of lockdown has long since given way to the harsh realities of isolation, economic hardship, suffering and death, which
are the enduring “worries” of the time in which we are now living.
And yet … if there is a single factor that has sustained the Jewish people through the many dark nights that history has forced us to live through, it is our ability to savor and count our blessings. The resilient re-emergence of Bat Yam Temple of the Islands is a wonderful example of counting our blessings in the midst of “worry.”
Instead of allowing the events that afflicted the congregation last winter to sink us, our leadership team, headed by Michael Hochschild and Janice Block Chaddock, exhorted us not to dwell on recrimination and anger, but to pool our individual skills and dedicate them to furthering the congregation’s sacred task of providing a warm, welcoming center of meaningful Jewish worship, study, community and social justice initiatives.
Among the blessings we have discovered on our journey is the miracle of our extended reach. Passover was a prime example. Our Seder included participants not only from Sanibel but also from as far away as Hawaii and Europe and many places in between.
Likewise, our High Holy Day worship was a miracle. This year many congregations spent big money on costly show business technology and professional experts to pre-record dazzling extravaganzas to enhance their Holy Day offerings.
But Bat Yam Temple of the Islands quickly and prudently decided to maintain the boundary between soulful worship and show business. Relying on the considerable knowledge and skill thankfully possessed by our wonderful Tech Team, our Holy Days were not only spiritually fulfilling, they reached far beyond the walls of our sanctuary to homes of congregants and others from around the country and other parts of the world. Our educational and social justice programs, which traditionally had been on hiatus between May and November, stimulated hearts and minds not just in this country, but in Australia, Germany, Israel, and South Africa as well.
Vickie and I had looked forward for years to sharing the joy of our first grandchild’s Bar Mitzvah in November. The pandemic, though, forced us to forego the hugs and togetherness that would have brought our far-flung family together in great joy. We do not minimize how much our experience was diminished. But at the same time, we savor our ability to view and share the joy of Zachary’s achievement through the miracle of modern technology.
Through many difficult periods of history our people have made do as best we could and continued to find blessings in difficult circumstances. From slavery in Egypt to the Inquisition in Spain to the Shoah in Germany and many times in between, we have endured. And while it threatens to continue to plague us, the COVID-19 pandemic will not defeat us either. Lam-rot ha-Kol (in spite of everything) as we say in Hebrew, we Jews have survived and thrived because of our ability – even in the darkest of hours – to count our blessings and trust that the future will be better. This time of COVID-19 will be no different. Despite the difficulties of these days, our blessings are many, and our future will be bright.
~ Rabbi Stephen Fuchs
Hanukkah During COVID
This year, HANUKKAH coincides with the secular calendar from the evening of December 10, 2020, through sundown of December 18, 2020. So, is Hanukkah early or late this year? Well, it’s right on time because it always comes on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev on the lunar calendar.
I am pleased that Hanukkah will not be “competing” with Christmas this year as it will have concluded an entire week before the much
celebrated Christian holiday. Hanukkah will have a chance to “stand alone” as our Jewish celebration of religious freedom.
How can it be celebrated while we are still in a “lockdown” world? Well, the good news is that Hanukkah has always been a holiday primarily celebrated in the home.
The lighting of the hanukkiah (nine branched menorah), the singing of special Hanukkah songs, the playing of the dreidel and the eating of the delicious latkes and sufganiot can and should be done in the confines of your home.
Therefore, the CDC would agree that Hanukkah is a COVID-19 friendly holiday that you can celebrate without being in large social gatherings. Also, the current use of ZOOM provides us with an opportunity to connect with our children and grandchildren for candle-lighting wherever they may be in the world! Lucky for us that ZOOMing is surely a boon during these “lockdown” times that didn’t exist previously.
Speaking of COVID, the World Health Organization announced on February 11, 2020 that the official name for this virus is “CO” for “corona”, “VI” for virus, and “D” for “disease.” This acronym sometimes reminds me of the Hebrew word, KAVOD – meaning “honor” or “glory.” The use of KAVOD in our liturgy refers to the “imminence or closeness of God.” May the celebration of Hanukkah during the COVID pandemic this year bring us closer to each other AND closer (KAVOD) to God.
Hag Hanukkah Sameyach
Cantor Murray E. Simon.
BAT YAM TEMPLE OF THE ISLANDS CELEBRATES HANUKKAH
Sanibel’s first ever outdoor menorah lighting ceremony took place on the east end of the island on Thursday December 10, the first night of Hanukkah. Masked and socially-distanced celebrants gathered in the parking lot of the Seahorse Shopping Center, where Tal and Odad Yahav, the new owners of the EmOcean store had together with our trustee Alan Fisher, conceived the idea to light a giant, 9foot Hanukkiah. (Menorah.)
Other tenants of the Seahorse Shopping Center who also sponsored the Hannukiah and other Hannukah decorations included Dan Bilheimer of The Lighthouse Café, Bob and Pauline Tuttle from Tuttle’s Sea Horse Shell Shop and Laurie and Alice Verme of Sanibel’s Finest Ice Cream (formerly Pinocchio’s.)
City Manager, Judy Zimomra attended and spoke at the ceremony. Fifty congregants watched via Zoom and over 400 people posted “comments” that night and the next day on Facebook as well as viewing a recording of the ceremony on YouTube.
Rabbi Stephen Fuchs officiated, delivered an eloquent address and Tanya Hochschild read a Hanukkah story she had researched.
Afterwards the crowd enjoyed jellied doughnuts – known in Israel as sufganiyot, which the Yahav brothers had brought from a Floridian west coast Jewish deli. These, together with latkes (potato pancakes) are symbolic foods eaten at Hanukkah.
Both are fried in oil, which commemorates the miracle of the small jar of oil miraculously lasting for eight days. Annually Jews celebrate the miracle of the Festival of Lights. A new tradition has started on Sanibel, next year hopefully without masks and social distancing.