Michael Hochschild, President
I cannot believe that I am sitting here writing my last President’s report for Bat Yam Matters. A year ago today, I had no idea that one year later I would not only have had the honor of serving as President, but also seeing over the next hill to my transition at Bat Yam Temple of the Islands, to the title of “Immediate Past President.”
Like most years, they all go by in a flash, but this latest 12 months has been the fastest for me in all of my now almost 84 years of inhabiting this planet. Thinking back, it must be nearly a year ago now that, firstly, it became apparent that things at Bat Yam were going to change dramatically and also that we were starting to hear too often
about the world pandemic.
All of you reading this know enough about the pandemic and do not need to hear more about it from me. But Michael Hochschild suffice to say, the hours spent on Bat Yam affairs certainly made the days go by extremely quickly.
Now, having taken up the reins of President of our Temple, I would like to use this platform to explain to you, my readers, what it has meant to me personally and how my attitude toward “things synagogue” have changed dramatically.
Our Jewish life, a year ago, was somewhat casual. Up to that time, and ever since Tanya and I were married in 1971, we were a couple who never denied our religion. Each of us had “best friends” who were not Jewish. Coincidently, both of us had been boarders at Church schools. Mine was a Methodist institution where I spent ten years of my life from the age of eight. Tanya’s school was Anglican and she attended there for her last five years of high school. When I first arrived in 1947, there were about three Jewish boys (it was a boys-only school) and ten years later, when I left, there were about 40. Tanya’s school, also, only had two or three Jewish students. Resulting from this, while growing up, most of our friends were not Jewish.
Of my parents, my father grew up in a secular German Jewish household in Cape Town. The family was not at all religious and my mother had a similar childhood and education to Tanya’s and mine. My parents joined a Johannesburg Reform shul, Temple Israel, only when they met Rabbi Moses Cyrus Weiler, a famous American rabbi who had moved to South Africa to start the Reform movement in that country. They also joined because they were starting a family. My two brothers and I all became B'nai Mitzvah without having a Jewish education. Tanya’s parents belonged to the main Orthodox synagogue in Johannesburg but went to temple only on the important holidays. Their two boys, her brothers, became Bar Mitzvah but Tanya had to wait for her Bat Mitzvah until after we emigrated to America and joined the Rye Community Synagogue in Rye, New York.
I give you this background so that I can explain to you why, when we moved to Sanibel, we joined Bat Yam. We have been members now for around 20 years and gradually started to attend more often because of the good friends we had made in the congregation. The two of us observed over these years that although our Temple is well-established, its existence is nevertheless fragile and cannot be a viable entity without volunteer lay leaders. It was for this reason, and realizing that every member needed to be active in one capacity or the other, that we gradually became more involved. continued on next page
President's Report . . . Continued
As most of you know, it was never my intention to step up as President! It was the job that it seemed nobody wanted, but I realized that someone needed to do it and that there were a lot of members who were willing to take on equally daunting tasks in our hour of need. Today we run 16 committees, each with its own Chair and working Committee Members. We have 15 Officers and Trustees who, if they are not committee members, always are prepared to help out on extraneous tasks when asked. From my point of view, I would not have been able to function as President without the continuous support and encouragement of all of our members. I was very much aware at the time that I was going to require help to perform certain corporate skills, which made me nervous because of some inexperience, but everyone I consulted promised help where needed and that help definitely was forthcoming all through my tenure.
Now, I need to reserve this entire paragraph to Janice Block Chaddock, our First Vice President! She is slated to become President of Bat Yam Temple of the Islands at our annual meeting on March 25. As we all know, Janice is incredibly talented with the greatest appetite for work that I have ever encountered. Before I even had thoughts of doing the job, I received a call from her, stating essentially that she wanted to get to know me. We arranged a lunch which I later realized was really an interview, and I must have passed muster, because when she encouraged me to become President, for just one year so that she could get to know the ropes and take care of a myriad of other duties, I immediately accepted. I became the luckiest temple president in the country and the two of us have morphed into what Rabbi Rick Jacobs (president of the Union for Reform Judaism) called "Sacred Partners" who work together openly and with absolute trust. I just know that the next years, with Janice as President, are going to be fruitful for Bat Yam, its members and also for the Sanibel community.
I am thrilled that I am able in this report to be able to announce Bat Yam's 30th anniversary. Not only is our Temple still alive and thriving well, but believe it or not, a founder, Mel Bleiberg still serves as one of our trustees and I am proud to consider him a good friend. I wonder how many other temples are able to boast a story such as this. On the front page of this publication, you will be able to spot the original article covering that historical opening back in 1991. What strikes me about that headline was that it announces an "Outpouring of support for new Jewish congregation on island," and I am happy to say that the selfsame outpouring from the Sanibel community is still there -- strong as ever!
Finally, I have now firmly come to believe what Rabbi Jacobs told us at the closing of the URJ Scheidt Seminar this past October. He said that if there was only one concluding item to build on, it was that the winds of change are fueling and propelling we temple presidents -- who are in the eye of the hurricane -- to the point that the old humor no longer applies. What is this? The old joke is that when a new temple President announces their position to a friend, they are immediately offered “condolences” instead of “congratulations.” I now know that Rabbi Jacobs was quite right when he said that all of us would in the future look back on our temple leadership roles with great pride, and in addition, a sense of having done something worthwhile. You, the Congregation know whether I have achieved this, and I hope that I can indeed look back on having been of service to all of you.