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May- June 2020

Update on Bat Yam Activities during April and May

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bat Yam Board voted last week to extend the winter Bat Yam season, which typically ends April 30, through May 31, and will consider further extensions as the Corona virus situation warrants. We are grateful to our Rabbi and our Cantor for their services to us during this time.

 As we have done for the last month, we will continue our use of Facebook and Zoom. Our Friday night Shabbat Welcome program will continue on Facebook Live, and our Saturday morning virtual Shabbat classes and Wednesday morning virtual “Coffee With Your Rabbi” will both continue via ZOOM.


You can find the Bat Yam Shabbat Welcome Program, which airs at 7p.m., on Friday evening on Facebook, at  You will need a Facebook account to view this broadcast.  Rabbi Fuchs includes prayers, songs and a commentary on the Torah portion of the week.

See immediately below for a video "replay" of the most recent Shabbat Welcome service

On Saturday mornings throughout May the Rabbi will lead classes on Zoom at 9:45. 


On Wednesday mornings at 11a.m. enjoy “Coffee with the Rabbi” an hour of open discussion, again on Zoom. 


If you would like to join any of the Zoom conversations, please email us at for an invitation.>




     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.

Join us to view Rabbi Fuchs' Shabbat Welcome,

May  22, 2020 at 7:00 P.M.


Whats New this Month!

See what Bat Yam committees are doing right now!  Click here.

Learn about Bat Yam's Holocaust Torah history.  Click here

View the 1991 Bat Yam dedication of our Holocaust Torah.  Click here


Please join Rabbi Fuchs and Cantor Simon for SHABBAT WELCOME with prayers, songs, and a comment on the Torah portion of the week, every Friday at 7:00 p.m., on Zoom, or as simulcast on the Bat Yam Temple of the Islands Facebook homepage and on our website


Every Wednesday morning at 11:00 a.m. on Zoom through at least May 27. Invites via email.



May 2 – Our Glorious Holiness Code (Leviticus ch.19) and an important message from the Prophet Amos (Amos ch. 9)

May 9 – What You Learn from Our First Listing of Holy Days and Festivals (Leviticus ch. 23)

May 16 – A Wonderful Vision of Hope (Jeremiah 25:1 -26:2)

May 23 – A Troubling Passage, but God’s Love for Israel Triumphs over Anger (Hosea 2:1-22)

May 30 – SHAVUOT – A Wonderful Example of Reform Jewish Thinking

Email Garry Weiss at or Ron Chaddock at


Rabbi Fuchs Reflects

The coronavirus crisis has confronted us with circumstances few of us could have imagined only a few months ago. Our lives have changed – radically, but one look at the news, with people standing outside in frigid weather on long lines, waiting for food, or a test, spaced at least six feet apart, should let us know how blessed we are to be here in Southwest Florida.

The numbers of lives lost and afflicted stagger us. And the thousands on the front lines fighting the virus and caring for the sick inspire us.

Numbers? No, they are real people who could easily be our loved ones or ourselves. They are the embodiment of God’s image, a sacred act of creation.

Poet Hannah Senesh  (, who parachuted behind enemy lines and was tortured and executed at age 23 for aiding the Partisans who resisted Hitler, wrote, (Ashrei ha-Gafrur in the original Hebrew) “Blessed is the Match.”

Blessed is the moth consumed in kindling flame.
Blessed is the flame that burns in the heart’s secret places.
Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor’s sake.
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.

We offer our profound gratitude to all who have risked or given their lives so that the flames in others will continue to burn. Victor Frankl, the famous neurologist and psychiatrist, who survived Theresienstadt and Auschwitz and later wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, taught, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of purpose and meaning.”


Yes, our lives have changed, and we all feel frustrated and powerless to make a difference. But not being able to do all we wish to do should never stop us from acting as Frankl urged, with purpose and meaning to do whatever we can.

Let us do all we can to remain healthy.  Hand washing, sanitizing and physical distancing, cannot be optional. Drink plenty of water, eat healthy foods and try to get sufficient sleep.  Seek new ways – in our enforced leisure – to keep our minds occupied.  Reach out with phone calls, emails and letters to those who are alone  .Donate what you can to organizations that make a difference.

As a congregation, Bat Yam was the first on the Island to announce a switch from in-person events to digital activities to remain connected and offer comfort to our members and the wider community.


We all owe a debt of gratitude to our technological wizards, Michael Samet, Ron and Janice Block Chaddock,  Don Breiter,  Garry Weiss and Dave Waks for making possible our Shabbat Welcome,  Shabbat Morning classes and our Wednesday Coffee Hour. I shudder to think where we would be without them.

A special shoutout goes to Dave Waks, who worked tirelessly for hours with Cantor Simon and myself to ensure our Passover seder would go well.

The effort paid off. Our seder reached homes from Hawaii to Germany. Our other offerings reach far more people in more places than those who were able to attend in person before the current crisis.

Recently, many of us learned that the famous song “Over the Rainbow” was not just written toexpress a little girl’s hope to escape Kansas in the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz.  Rather, the song’s Jewish composers, Harold Arlen (nee Hyman Arluck) and Yip Harburg (nee Isidore Hochberg) had something greater in mind.


Seeing the storm clouds gathering over Europe after Kristallnacht they were dreaming of land over “the rainbow” of their people’s suffering: Israel.


As we confront the changes in our lives the coronavirus has wrought, I am so proud that Bat Yam is looking “over the rainbow.” With people stepping forward to meet the current challenge with courage and creativity, we shall soon “wake up with the clouds far behind” to embrace a bright and sunny future.

~ Rabbi Stephen Fuchs


Please join Rabbi Fuchs at the top of this page, as we welcome the Shabbat a Friday evenings at 7:00 P.M. each Friday until further notice.

From the Cantor,  Murray Simon
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Shavuot – the Festival of Weeks

“The Time of the Giving of the Torah”


 The Festival of Shavuot is the festival holiday occurring 50 days after  Passover begins (Pentacost), on which we traditionally celebrate the giving of the Torah to the Jewish People standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai.


It is unlike other Jewish holidays in that it has no prescribed mitzvoth (Torah commandments) other than traditional festival observances of meals (especially dairy foods) and merriment and the traditional holiday observances of special prayer services and the required abstention from work.


However, it is also characterized by many minhagim (customs). One of these customs is the recitation of Yizkor (Prayers of Remembrance) – which is recited only four times a year.


My dear friend and colleague, Rabbi/Cantor Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life synagogue of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (yes, that Tree of Life congregation) wrote this beautiful and timely Prayer for Yizkor that I would like to share with you.


    Avinu Shebashamayim, Our God in Heaven, COVID-19 reminds us that we are all created equally in Your image.


    You implanted in each of us a Divine Spark, and with it, the capacity to achieve greatness, if we would only use these gifts wisely.

    We mourn the immense toll that this virus has taken, and continues to take. Help us to recognize that each death represents not a statistic, but a human being who contributed to Your world, who leaves behind family and friends, and work yet unfinished.

    May this pandemic remind us of the sacred value of every human life, and that our answer to your question of Cain is a firm rejection of his values.

    We are our brother’s and sister’s keepers, no matter their color, faith or sexual orientation. May the bravery of all in the medical field continue to demonstrate godliness in the world, and may Your Divine Inspiration direct researchers to find treatments to restrain this virus.


    May Your Divine Wisdom stimulate leaders to create appropriate strategies to lead us through these days fraught with fear. May Your Divine Love comfort all those who mourn the loss of their loved ones.


    May all the departed rest in peace. And let us say: Amen.

Please be well and stay healthy through these next few months until we see each other again in the fall. Zei Gezunt!



                                                                          Cantor Murray E. Simon.



Michael  Hochschild, President
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Dear Congregants,

I am privileged to bring you a largely positive report of our first month in operation as the new board.  I say “largely positive”
because I also need to acknowledge the discord which existed in our congregation. 


Congregants and former congregants alike have concentrated on their own perceptions of what happened, some on governance and management, others on philosophy or personality.  Our new board believes in moving forward in harmony.


I personally am making every effort to reach out to all of you, and I expect the other trustees and committee leaders to do the same.  We are all living under the strain of COVID-19, but we do know that this virus will pass and the world will eventually heal.  I am personally committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that Bat Yam will heal too!

Since the formation of our new leadership team, we have:

    -- extended our season in order to find ways to bring our community together virtually during this time of isolation;already enjoyed five weeks of Friday night virtual Shabbat Welcomes, compliments of our Rabbi and Cantor (going forward these sessions will be available via Zoom, the Bat Yam Temple of the Islands Facebook homepage, and the website)

    --  continued seamlessly with upwards of 40 people attending the Rabbi’s Saturday morning Shabbat classes via Zoom

  -- enjoyed a first for all of us, a virtual seder, attended “live” by 94 congregants from as far away as Hawaii and Germany, and later viewed by 156, to date, on YouTube;had 43 people gather at our Rabbi’s first Wednesday morning “Coffee with the Rabbi”

   -- introduced our brand-new Technology Committee of six, which has not only made all of the above possible, but also has enabled many congregants to become comfortable with modern technology, allowing us to enjoy the resulting benefits

   -- and published this edition of Bat Yam Matters, with only two weeks’ notice, which reflects the dedication of everyone involved and our new “let’s get it done” ethic.


The aim of our new lay leadership team is to be open, transparent, diverse and inclusive.  We invite calls from any congregant who may have feedback, suggestions, complaints, compliments, questions or new ideas. 

Telephone lines to myself (917-561-7888), 1st VP Janice Block Chaddock (312-520-0603), or 2nd VP Bob Schoen (630-561-7976) are always open! 


Board trustees and Bat Yam committee leaders meet regularly via phone or Zoom to plan new programs, solve problems, and share innovations which we may want to introduce. 


As we move on, we fully expect this menu of tasks to contain many fewer problems and much more innovation.


In real life, however, there is uncertainty and complications, and we are going to count on you for your support and ideas until we once more live in an unfettered world.


Amongst our friends and families, we have unfortunately had word of some cases of coronavirus. Those afflicted are recovering or have recovered, but tragically we know of some who have passed.  Dr. Bachman, at our first virtual Coffee with the Rabbi, pleaded with all of us not to take chances and to remain safe, after reporting several cases in his own family.  That is wise advice and not to be taken lightly.


May all of you and your families stay safe and healthy,



                                                                              Michael Hochschild

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