A Message from the President
Janice Block Chaddock
Dear Bat Yam Members and Friends,
Our official Bat Yam 2022-23 season is over, and what a season it has been! The season may have started with Hurricane Ian paying us a most unwelcome visit -- just two days after Bat Yam's tradition of Tashlich on the Sanibel beach for Rosh Hashanah, and just six days before the start of Yom Kippur. But our season ended with the realization that our Bat Yam community is resilient and resourceful, respected and respectful, responsible and righteous.
The examples of our "r-qualities" and actions abound, and in reflecting on them, I cherish those I will mention here and I apologize in advance for those I may leave out and remember or mention at another time.
We rescued our treasured Torahs, including our pre-Holocaust Czech Torah which the Memorial Scrolls Trust in England has entrusted us to protect responsibly on a barrier island. This rescue was successful because of the hurricane-preparedness plan of Garry Weiss and Rabbi Fuchs, and the quick-thinking, brave action of Howard Lorsch, and Melissa and Scot Congress, coupled with the help of the Lee County Sheriff's office.
We swiftly redesigned our observance of Yom Kippur, post-hurricane, with exceptionally meaningful services which were led by Rabbi Fuchs and our retiring Cantor Murray Simon, accompanied on piano by Toby Simon, and were broadcast and recorded live from the Simons' home in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.
We found a new residence for our gatherings at The Jewish Federation of Lee & Charlotte Counties -- thanks to the immediate efforts of Sheila Sklar and the generous support of The Federation led by executive director Debbie Sanford, facilities manager Bryan Eisner, Jewish Family Services coordinator Jodi Cohen, and executive assistant Lori Ramos.
We got a healthy boost to our recovery efforts and our financial reserves through the generous post-hurricane financial support of so many donors -- especially The Jewish Federation whose board is chaired by Marsha Kistler, and The Rosner Foundation on whose board serves our longtime and cherished Bat Yam member June Rosner.
We retrieved our Bat Yam, prayerbooks, arks, spiritual leader robes, supplies and more, from the hurricane-damaged Sanibel Congregational UCC thanks to the unsolicited help of a stranger (now a friend) from New York City named Andrew Barney Kavesh, who flew to Fort Myers at his own expense and spent five days, helping Alan and Edina Lessack, Wendy Harriman, my husband Ron and me, pack up all of Bat Yam's assets and move them into secure storage in Estero.
We reunited and hugged one another a lot at our first in-person, post-hurricane Shabbat Service at The Jewish Federation, on November 18, 2022, where we welcomed our new cantor, Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer and his wife Yaffah.
We religiously gathered at The Federation for every Shabbat through April 21, 2023. Thanks to the technology skills of Braden Hendricks and Stephen Cecere, and our members Dave Waks, Sandy Teger, Ron Chaddock, and Michael Samet, we were able to gather in person with good sound quality, and also on Zoom.
We rejoiced at the resourcefulness of Rabbi and Vickie Fuchs and Rabbi Sunny and Yaffah Schnitzer in finding post-hurricane housing in the area, and their resolve to be with us and lead us, no matter what.
We researched each week the answers to Rabbi Fuchs' Quiz Questions about the Torah, and we reveled over his chocolate candy rewards. In the process, we gratefully learned new information or facts we had long ago forgotten.
We relished the tasty Oneg Shabbats after our services, which were organized by Nancy Greenberg, and thoughtfully hosted by various of our Bat Yam members each week.
We could feel reassured and relieved each week by the presence at our Shabbat Services of security from the Lee County Sheriff's office -- arranged thanks to the work of our Venue/Security committee co-chairs Howard Lorsch and Eddie Greenberg.
We read Bat Yam Matters with great interest thanks to the work of our newsletter's co-editors Tanya Hochschild and Sally Sacks. We reviewed stories about our congregation which were broadcast on national television, and we read articles about Bat Yam published weekly in local media and monthly in the L'Chayim newspaper and the Times of the Island magazine -thanks to the writings of Tanya Hochschild, Edina Lessack, and Francesca Block, and the TOTI Media publishing work of our members Daniela and Friedrich Jaeger.
We reacted with excitement when our beloved Vickie Fuchs rang the bell at the conclusion of her cancer treatments on January 4, 2023, and again when she rejoined us at Shabbat Services beginning in February.
We re-installed our lay leaders at our Bat Yam Annual Meeting on 3-23-23. A warm welcome extended to Tanya Hochschild as she rejoined our Board and a big applause went to longtime Board member Annette Pacyga as she stepped into the role of 2nd vice president. A deeply respectful thanks also extends to our outgoing past president Michael Hochschild, our outgoing 2nd vice president Bob Schoen, and our current board member / founder / first president Mel Bleiberg for their wisdom, leadership and dedication to Bat Yam and its mission.
We reflected deeply on March 30, at Bat Yam's exclusive showing at The Federation of the film "God on Trial" about Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz -- a showing that was arranged through the perseverance of Sheila Sklar.
We recognized the 75th Anniversary of Israel at a festival sponsored on April 2 by The Jewish Federation at the Alliance for the Arts, where we resourcefully put together a booth showcasing Bat Yam Temple of the Islands and our outstanding rabbis.
We reached a new milestone on April 5, with our first community Passover Seder since pre-pandemic 2019, at the Chaddock home on Sanibel -- with a service exquisitely led by Rabbi Fuchs and sung by Rabbi Schnitzer, a beautiful Haggadah given to us by Rabbi Schnitzer, a memorable set of remarks by SCUCC Pastor Mark Boyea, and a lovely recitation of the Four Questions by Whitney Congress.
We raised the bar with a Seder meal so delicious we might remember it always, prepared with some of their favorite recipes by the members of our Seder Committee led by my Mom Judy Adler and by Sheila Sklar, along with members Sue Danford, Nancy Greenberg, Tanya Hochschild, Elissa Karasin Samet, Annette Pacyga, Jayl Solomon, Sandy Teger, and Cathy Vogel.
We reaffirmed our love and gratitude for our retiring Rabbi Stephen Fuchs and his wife Vickie -- and for our retired Cantor Murray Simon and his wife Toby -- at a highly attended, especially moving and meaningful Shabbat Service and retirement celebration on April 28, at the Peace Lutheran Church in Fort Myers.
Thank you, Rabbi Stephen, Vickie, Cantor Murray and Toby -- we have been beyond fortunate these past six years to have had the gift of your spiritual leadership and presence!
And thank you Alan Lessack, for your six-plus years as Bat Yam's president and your incredible lay leadership and friendship! April 28 was a celebration of community, togetherness and love! As Rabbi Sunny pointed out that night, we have many significant shoes to fill!
With this recap of an amazing season, I wish you a summer of relaxation and good health. I wish those of you with homes on Sanibel, Captiva, Iona and Fort Myers Beach continued progress with your rebuilds, renovations, repairs and restorations.
If you are able, please join our three lay-led Summer Shabbat gatherings.
Please support our 2023 Rosh Hashanah "Honey from the Heart" fundraiser which I will launch in June with my honey program partner of the past several years, Elissa Karasin Samet, and our new honey helper, Sheila Sklar.
And as you meet new members of our Jewish community, please invite them to join our warm and welcoming Bat Yam community!