Rabbi Fuchs’ High Holy Day Sermon Titles
Rosh Hashanah Eve - The Year That Was
Rosh Hashanah Morning - Why We Read the Binding of Isaac
Yom Kippur Eve - Stripping Away All Pretense
Yom Kippur Morning - To Worship in a Time of Pandemic
Yizkor Memorial Service - The Hole in Our Hearts
Congregants' Hour Monday, September 29
A Rabbi Stephen Fuchs tradition following the Yom Kippur Morning Service, featuring reflections by Fransceca Block, Michael Samet and Garry Weiss
Adult Education Classed this Fall
Despite COVID-19, our congregants are, as always, ready to step up to the plate! As I write, baseball players are stepping up to the plate with no fans in the stands. We hope that when our congregants step up, you’ll be “in the stands” on Zoom with us! ....
Michael Hochschild, President
This, my second report for Bat Yam Matters, finds me somber, yet optimistic, both personally and insofar as the well-being of Temple Bat Yam of the Islands is concerned.
My last report was full of news of the appointment of our new Board of Trustees and the new faces taking charge of the committees and indeed the formation of new committees. I was also enthusing about the quality generally of our new leadership and my expectations of the direction that our Temple would be heading. All my expectations have been met, and much more!
From the above, readers will, with reason, be thinking to themselves, “Well, this must be a happy and satisfied president.” And they are right!
But now, because of things totally out of our control, I am a somber president. I, together with all of you, have a massive task ahead to steer the ship to a destination that we know is somewhere over the horizon, but we know not just how far. We know that there are storms ahead, but we know not how dangerous. We know that there will be smooth water ahead, fun and happiness, but we know not when and where.
What we have going for us at Bat Yam, however, is a crew that knows that with skillful handling of our ship, together with diligence and good humor, we are going to get there, wherever there is!
What will lead us to our destination is a compass that has never wavered since the beginning of the Jewish religion. Despite all the unknowns, our course never changes. We have way points for our journey that are written in stone and on which we can count as certainty to be there whatever goes on around us.
I am talking about the great plague of 2020 which has changed all our lives, made us scared and worst of all has us deeply worried about our families and in particular children, grandchildren and (for the lucky ones) even great-grandchildren.
I liken this to a roundthe-world sailboat race that, to compete in, requires above all patience, in addition to all the other skills. Fortunately, the entire congregation and leadership is demonstrating large doses of these qualities.
With all this in mind, where goes the future of Bat Yam Temple of the Islands? At a recent URJ webinar attended by over 70 leaders from various Reform Temples, there were many remarks pertaining to the future of their congregations.
Looking through the extensive list, I chose a few that pertain to us: tech skills – prior to COVID-19 how many of us knew the word “Zoom”? When things normalize, this technology is going to allow us to reach a much wider portion of our congregation than previously.
I am thinking here of those who miss services and events due to travel or ill health. On this subject, Zoom fatigue often came up.
It is incumbent on us to provide only first-class, technically competent programming for our webinars, which evidenced by our successful summer programs we have mastered. I would like to hear responses, good or bad, from congregants.
Another subject the URJ webinar discussed was budget. Many Temples are concerned, as we are, about meeting budgets and whether membership renewals will come in as expected this fall.
My thoughts are this is YOUR Temple, and it is totally in your hands as to what will happen. An asset we have is a spirit of engagement. Our volunteer leaders manage their tasks with skill and fortitude.
Finally, I do want to recognize the part that Rabbi Fuchs and Vickie and our Cantor Murray Simon and Toby have all played in bringing us to this point in our voyage. Their generosity of time and dedication to your Temple goes beyond words. Because of them we effectively did not have an “off” season. We owe them a huge vote of thanks.
And for all our volunteer leaders – you know who you are!
Wishing everyone happy holidays, well over the fast and as we welcome 5781, a very happy New Year!
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 Torah Thoughts
Friday, September 11,2020
Traditionally, the last month of any Jewish year, the month of Elul, is a month devoted to profound soul searching. Why?
Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we answer to God for our actions in the year past. The Days of Awe (the entire period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) are not a time for superficial repentance and flippant confessions.
They comprise a sacred season based on an exquisite metaphor that God will call us to account for our wrongdoings. Such a trial is not one to enter into without preparation.
Any criminal defense attorney will tell you that she or he does not walk into a courtroom to represent a person accused of serious wrongdoings without intense preparation.
If we are honest – and if ever a time in the Jewish year demands honesty of us it is the season of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – we have all done many things we wish we had not.
Throughout the rest of the year, we deflect blame. We instinctively and reflexively defend ourselves and think of all the reasons why we consider ourselves innocent of wrongdoing. All through the year we present ourselves to others in the best possible light.
But during the Days of Awe we imagine – and more importantly we act – as if God sees through all artifice and pretense.
Some readers may wonder, “Why does he use the word ‘metaphor’ and the phrases ‘we imagine’ and ‘as if’’?”
The answer is: it is far beyond my ability to state with perfect faith what God does and does not do or how God may or may not act.
But it is not beyond my ability to perceive how God wants US to act or to understand that God wants us to treat one another with dignity and respect. It is not beyond my ability to know that our Torah and subsequent Jewish tradition teach that the Eternal One wants us to do all in our power to create a more just, caring and compassionate society on earth.
And so, we prepare carefully for the trial we are to undergo. But unlike an ordinary criminal trial, our guilt is clear beyond doubt to the Judge of Judges. That Judge, though, is not a stern impartial magistrate. The Eternal Judge is also a loving parent to us. Yes, God is a parent who urges us to repent and to pray for forgiveness, and God is very eager to forgive and embrace us with love.
And so as the month of Elul unfolds, we constantly review the evidence against us and regret where we have gone astray. In that way we will be ready to wholeheartedly confess what we have done wrong during the Days of Awe.
If our efforts are sincere, our tradition asserts, God’s desire to be merciful overcomes God’s desire for strict justice so that we may enter the year of 5781 with joy, feeling cleansed and renewed.
~ Rabbi Stephen Fuchs
Cantor Murray E. Simon
The Same…But Different
September brings a joyous Labor Day holiday for all Americans to enjoy, the beginning of autumn with cooler weather – and, for us Jews, the introspective and soul-searching High Holy Days.
The same as every year – but this year is different. This year, we will not likely meet as a congregation in person in one location. We will not be in close proximity witheach other as a warm and worshipping community. It will be different!
This year, I will be serving as a cantor for my 55th High Holy Days! Yet, I face these “Days of Awe” with trepidation and uncertainty. How will it be for me, and I’m sure for Rabbi Fuchs as well, to muster the “kavanah” – the inner focus and import of the moving holiday prayers in an empty sanctuary? The prayers are the same – but, the feeling will be different.
I am reminded of the stirring and climactic High Holy Day prayer, the Un’taneh Tokef,attributed to the 11th century Rabbi Amnon of Mayence, Germany, which states that on Rosh HaShanah it is written and Yom Kippur it is sealed who shall live or die and how they may die as in “…bam’geyfah” – “…by plague.” COVID-19?
This prayer is, perhaps, the most powerful prayer of the High Holy Days as we confront the reality that some of us will live and some of us will die, some of us will prosper and some of us will face challenges ahead.
We pledge ourselves to renew our souls and rediscover our faith – to renew the bonds of community so that whatever the year ahead holds, good or bad, we will be able to face it with courage, community and love. May it be so.
Toby joins with me in wishing you a healthy, fulfilling and peaceful New Year.
Cantor Murray E. Simon.
View the 2020 High Holy Days Services
High Holy Days Services
L’Shanah Tovah! To a sweet, happy, healthy and peaceful New Year! The 2020 High Holy Day services led by Rabbi Stephen Fuchs and Cantor Murray Simon, with piano accompaniment by Abigail Allison was conducted live and joined virtually by congregants and friends worldwide.
The 125 people attending Bat Yam Temple of the Island’s Rosh Hashanah virtual services were greeted by a Zoom split screen. On one side, the appropriate page of the Mishkan HaNefesh prayerbook and on the other, the clergy in the sanctuary. Rosh Hashanah could not have come at a better time. It is the holiday celebrating new beginnings, the anniversary of Creation, the wake-up call of whom we want to become in the new year.
There is not a person who does not want to put the last months of COVID-19, of lock-down, of social distancing and a summer rife with social injustice behind them and celebrate new beginnings. Physically we understand we are stalled but psychologically we embrace a new year, a clean slate, an idea of a future.
We are able to entertain the idea of a future by preserving our tradition, our heritage that is handed down from the past. Sharing the service preserves these traditions. Through our togetherness we experience the strength of our religion.
On Rosh Hashanah Eve it was wonderful to see familiar faces, beaming “hellos” from their homes. We shared the optimism that a new year could bring renewal, to be together to hear again the continuous narrative of our story. To proclaim, “Today the world is born.”
And then, at the start of the service we received the news of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a woman of valor, a great Justice. The deep sadness on the congregants’ faces was palpable. In these bizarre times we were collectively bearing another loss, one that felt personal.
It was comforting to be with our rabbi and our cantor and to absorb strength from the wisdom of the service. A highlight for all of us was to hear the cadence and strength of the shofar sound, being blown for the first time by a congregant who had volunteered her services. This was also a first for Temple Bat Yam of the Islands as this honor has traditionally been fulfilled by a male. It was no mean feat to produce melodic strong blasts from the notoriously difficult ram’s horn.
After the morning service on Rosh Hashanah, a socially-distanced group met at one of Sanibel beaches, in what has become our Temple’s traditional Tashlich service.
Our Tech team had cameras and audio, so the 10 minute service led by Rabbi Fuchs could be shared virtually. Bags of shells, “our sins” were available to be cast into the gulf. Atonement is not that easy to achieve, merely to throw your sins away and hope they are carried off by the water.
Ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, known as Days of Awe, as well as Days of Repentance are for the purpose of repenting, praying and giving charity, in the belief God will keep us in the Book of Life.
This year, 2020, the pandemic has made us anxious about the fate of ourselves and our loved ones. It has highlighted in an alarmingly vivid way, our fragile mortality, similar to the message of Yom Kippur. At the resolution of the day we find our way back to life.
This is our fervent wish with regards to the pandemic; when the virus disappears we can look forward to once again celebrating life.