Michael  Hochschild, President



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