Temple of the Islands
In January 1991, Bat Yam Temple of the Islands became the first and only Jewish congregation on Sanibel Island, serving residents and guests of Sanibel, Captiva, Fort Myers and surrounding areas. We offer a place of worship in the Reform tradition and a warm, caring, enriching and welcoming Jewish community.
In December 1991, The Holocaust Torah Foundation in London presented Bat Yam with a Holocaust Torah. Past rabbis of Bat Yam include Karen Soria, Philip Frankel, Murray Saltzman, Selwyn Geller and Myra Soifer.
In the summer of 2017, Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs, ordained in 1974 by Hebrew Union College/Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio, joined the Bat Yam family. In November 2017, Cantor Murray E. Simon joined the congregation to chant the prayers at services.
Since its founding 30 years ago, Bat Yam has been 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, shared interests and and respective life experiences. While Bat Yam is a Reform congregation, our members come from all Jewish denominations and backgrounds.
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;
Bat Yam Temple of the Islands
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 engaging, enriching, 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.
Since 2020, we have successfully introduced virtual worship, learning and community. Our programs and events have drawn participants from throughout the state of Florida, the U.S. and other countries, including Brazil, England, Germany, Israel, and South Africa. Please join our Jewish community through this website or by contacting us to join some of our services, celebrations and educational events. We hope you can join us in worship, study, and community.
Rabbi Stephen Fuchs
Cantor Murray Simon
Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs is very proud to serve as Rabbi of Bat Yam Temple of the Islands since the fall of 2017.
Interfaith understanding and cooperation has been one of Rabbi Fuchs’ highest priorities throughout his career. On Sanibel, he treasures the connection of Bat Yam and the church in which we share space, Sanibel Congregational UCC and its Pastors, Dr. John H. Danner and Reverend Deborah Kunkel.
Rabbi Fuchs is Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Beth Israel, West Hartford, Connecticut and the former President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. During his tenure with the World Union he spoke in 65 communities on five continents teaching and advocating for Progressive Jewish values and ideals.
Before coming to Congregation Beth Israel he served first as an intern and then as the first full-time Rabbi of Temple Isaiah in Columbia, Maryland and as the Senior Rabbi of The Temple, Congregation Ohabai Sholom in Nashville, Tennessee.
Since 2014 Rabbi Fuchs and his wife Victoria have spent several weeks in Germany each year raising Holocaust awareness in secondary schools and speaking in synagogues, churches and universities. He has lectured each year to Rabbinical and Cantorial students at the Abraham Geiger College in Berlin. Rabbi Fuchs is the first rabbi to deliver a sermon in most of the German churches he has visited.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Rabbi and Mrs. Fuchs to cancel their planned trip to Germany for 2020, but he will make several presentations there this year via Zoom technology and YouTube.
Rabbi Fuchs received his undergraduate degree at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. He holds both Bachelor and Master’s Degrees in Hebrew Letters, along with a Graduate Certificate in Jewish Communal Studies and rabbinic ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He also studied at Ulpan Etzion and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
In 1992 he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree (D.Min) in Biblical Interpretation from Vanderbilt University Divinity School. In 1999 the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity (DD) degree.
In 2017, Vanderbilt University Divinity School named Rabbi Fuchs as its “Outstanding Alumnus of the Year.” It is the first time Vanderbilt has accorded this recognition to a Jew.
Rabbi Fuchs has served as an adjunct professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia, University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford and the Hartford Seminary. He has also appeared frequently on radio and television to discuss currents events and issues of hunger, health care, the meaning of biblical stories and the similarities and differences between Judaism and other faith traditions.
Rabbi and Mrs. Fuchs are the proud parents of three children, three children-in-law and six grandchildren. He is the author of six books. The first of these, What’s in It for Me? Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives is available as an audio book and has been translated into German, Russian and Spanish
Murray E. Simon is a native of Philadelphia, PA where he earned the degree of Bachelor of Music in Performance from Temple University. In 1980, Cantor Simon was honored by Temple University as Alumnus of the Year of the College of Music. He then enrolled at the Hebrew Union College -‐ School of Sacred Music in New York City where he was certified and commissioned as a cantor in addition to receiving the degree of Bachelor of Sacred Music cum laude.
He has served several prominent congregations in the New York City and Boston communities. Cantor Simon served as cantor of The Jewish Center, Princeton, NJ from 1996-‐2010 and is now its Cantor Emeritus. He has been a lecturer in Jewish music and liturgy at Brandeis University and Hebrew College, Brookline, MA as well as the Academy for Jewish Religion in New York City where he served as Interim Director for Cantorial Studies. Cantor Simon was honored with the coveted Faculty Award from AJR in 2009.
A voice student of Eleanor Steber of the Metropolitan Opera, he also attended the Boston Conservatory of Music where he received his Master of Music degree in voice. In June 2005, Cantor Simon was a featured tenor soloist in a concert at Lincoln Center, New York City sponsored by AJR.
He is an Honorary Fellow of The Jewish Theological Seminary and in March 2009 received the prestigious Hazzan Putterman Cantorial Leadership Award from The Jewish Theological Seminary. He is a member of the Executive Council of the Cantors Assembly and currently serves as Chair of the New Jersey Region of the CA. He also served as national president of the American Conference of Cantors (ACC). Cantor Simon is the producer of the highly-‐acclaimed, historic DVDs, GREAT CANTORS OF THE GOLDEN AGE and GREAT CANTORS IN CINEMA in conjunction with The National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis University. He has been awarded two honorary Doctor of Music degrees, one from the Hebrew Union College -‐ Jewish Institute of Religion and one from The Jewish Theological Seminary.