Category Archives: President

President’s Message



Over the past two years, when I have spoken to people about my role as president of our temple, I would get that “Oh, I am so sorry” look.  They most always say something about how tedious it must be to deal with the complainers, the naysayers.  I can honestly say that has not been my experience.

My experience has been that nearly all my interactions are with kind and compassionate congregants who only want the best for our temple.  My experience has been with trustees who are engaged and when we have tough decisions before us they make valuable contributions.  My experience has been that executive committee members do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to deal with all kinds of complex issues.  I have had the pleasure of collaborating with our dedicated staff, executive director and rabbi.  I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of so many volunteers.

We have faced some challenges during my tenure as president.  We’ve had to navigate some serious issues, including a financial deficit and the need to improve security.  Sometimes there were heated debates and there were often differing opinions.  But in every situation, my respect, admiration and love for the people I got to work with only grew.  And, I had the added benefit of getting to work closely with the Rabbi.  This has enriched my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

As I wrap up my time in this leadership role, and also wrap up my time at CBHT, I can’t help but reflect on the many wonderful moments that have shaped my and my family’s lives here.  But it is truly the people I’ve come to know and the friends I have made, whom I will miss.  I continue to be amazed by the efforts of so many to make this a special place.

I recently had the chance to dip my toe into temple life at a synagogue in Nashville.  Someone there asked if I was ‘synagogue shopping’, and I guess the answer is “yes.”  The transition for me won’t be easy, as I believe our temple has set the bar incredibly high.  But I will know when I’ve found my new temple home because it will be filled with kind and generous people who work hard to make their faith community thrive.  I am so grateful to have learned the value of that here at CBHT.

All My Best,

Karen

 

President’s Message – May 2019



As I wrote to you back in March, at the recommendation of the Executive Committee, the Board of Trustees authorized the sale of the property that CBHT owns on Washington Road, behind the playground.  Since then, we had measurements taken to assure that we had enough green space on temple property to meet city requirements, surveyed the parcel of land we were interested in selling, and divided it into three small lots suitable for residential construction.  I am delighted to report that we closed on the sale of that property on April 11th.  All three lots were sold to one private buyer for the price of $425,000.  After commissions, the cost of the survey, and other costs related to the closing, CBHT will net approximately $370,000 from this sale.

Please join me in thanking Tikkun Gottschalk and Larry Weiss for the tremendous amount of work they both put into this process.  They are very dedicated leaders, working on behalf of our temple.

About $280,000 (75%) of this $370,000 must be used to pay down our First Citizens’ mortgage, according to the terms of our mortgage loan.  We have the opportunity to further reduce the balance of our mortgage by using some or all of the remaining 25% of the proceeds.  This will save us money by reducing the amount of interest we pay on the mortgage.  The final amount will be decided at the April meeting of the Board of Trustees, after this article is due.  But, if we use the proceeds from the sale to pay down, for example, $300,000 on the mortgage, we will save more than $44,000 in interest over the next three years (at our current interest rate of 4.8%).

We are so fortunate to be able to make this significant payment toward the balance we owe on the mortgage.  And, after subtracting outstanding pledges and this payment from the sale of the property, we will still owe First Citizens Bank approximately $450,000 (before considering interest) for the construction of our social hall, gallery, and school, as well as renovations.  Selling this piece of property certainly puts us in a better place, but we continue to have a significant amount of money to raise to retire the rest of the debt.  This seems like the perfect time to reflect on how much our new and renovated space adds to our experience at CBHT

Dave Social Hall and the gallery have allowed us to hold so many memorable events in a light-filled, beautiful space.  We host life cycle events, temple community-building events, events for the greater Jewish community, and even pick up a little revenue from renting the space to other organizations.  As someone whose family celebrated one bar mitzvah in the old Unger Hall and one bar mitzvah in the new Dave Hall, I can attest that the new space is a world apart!

The same holds true for our school, including the final build-out that happened only a short time ago.  Those bright classrooms and the communal space and kitchen are such an improvement over our old school.  It’s easy to take it for granted, but it gave us the opportunity to grow and every week to present a welcoming space for our children and teachers.

Our sanctuary got a much-needed face lift, our rabbi and staff got new offices, and we got a library, new restrooms, and a new kitchen.  And an amphitheater! How lucky are we to enjoy Shabbat services outside on a beautiful summer evening, while watching the sun set over the mountains?!

The next time you walk into our temple, I hope that you’ll stop for a second to appreciate how beautiful our space is.  I hope that you’ll reflect on the important role the space plays in making your temple experience meaningful.  On behalf of the Board of Trustees, my thanks go out to everyone who has contributed to the capital campaign to make this space a reality.  If you haven’t contributed to the efforts that made all of this possible, or if you’re inspired to contribute more, I hope you’ll consider doing so.  We still need everyone’s help to retire the remaining debt.  Please reach out to our executive director, Craig, to discuss your contribution.

My Best,

Karen Hyman

President, CBHT

May, 2019

 

President’s Message



How fortunate we are to have such a ‘deep bench’ at CBHT.  We have a considerable number of very talented ‘players’ who can step up during a transition or help fill a knowledge gap when we’re sailing in uncharted territory.  Some of this is by design.  By the time someone moves into the president role, they have typically already served four years (two as second vice president and two as first vice president) on the executive committee, and usually more years on the board.  After a two-year term as president, the immediate past-president stays engaged, attending executive committee meetings for another two years.  Phew…that’s eight years!  Our committee operates as a very collaborative group, so everyone is engaged in working out the challenges that face our temple.  We gain knowledge, experience and institutional memory along the way, making us well prepared to lead the board of trustees.  Because of this experience, I think that most presidents will agree that they were able to hit the ground running when it was their turn in the leadership position.

The ‘deep bench’ concept runs deeper than the executive committee, though.  Our trustees bring so many talents to the table and, because they’re willing to share those talents, we all greatly benefit.  In the middle of February, we held a special meeting of the board of trustees at which we discussed the sale of the property on Washington Road.  The up-front work by Tikkun Gottschalk and Larry Weiss to consider the financial and legal issues and to prepare that parcel of land for sale was considerable, and the expertise that they, along with Gaia Goldman and Shannon Tuch, contributed to the discussion was incredibly valuable.  Whenever we’ve had issues to address, someone with expertise steps up or someone takes it upon themselves to develop their understanding and become a ‘content expert’.  I’m thinking about Eric Naimark and Raymond Capelouto immersing themselves in temple safety, and Steve Shulruff and Chuck Rosenblum digging deeper to understand and make recommendations around our financial planning.  I also remember the tremendous amount of work that Nelson Sobel and Bob Davis put in to help us develop a strategic plan a few years ago.

Our bench of talented players doesn’t even stop there.  Everyone around the table at the special board meeting engaged in meaningful discussion that will lead to a really positive outcome.  I’ve seen it over and over, this group of trustees earnestly engaging in meaningful discussion, with humor, good will, and with their egos checked at the door.  We have dealt with difficult issues and we don’t always agree, but we never doubt the intentions of our fellow board members.  This temple really is very fortunate to have a dedicated group of leaders.

By the time this is published, everyone will have undoubtedly heard that James McMahon is stepping down as our choir director as he and Lauren are moving to Raleigh.  We can’t quite imagine our Sacred Music Team (SMT) without James; we will all feel the loss.  But, here comes Sarah Kim Wilde, who has been ‘warming up’ (to continue the ‘deep bench’ theme!) for a while now, to step in to the choir director role.  How great is that?!  It’s possible not only due to Rabbi creating and nurturing our incredible SMT, but also Sarah Kim’s commitment to the success of our music program.  Similarly, while we are saddened to have Toby Koritsky, our Education Director, leave, I am confident in the talent and dedication of our teachers, who will ensure that our school and our children continue to thrive.

This summer, when my term is over, I won’t just be leaving my role as president, I will also be leaving CBHT and Asheville, as Ed has accepted a new opportunity in Nashville.  It will be really hard to leave my congregational family, plus I’m kind of bummed that I won’t be able to enjoy the immediate past president role!  But, the ‘deep bench’ of both lay leaders and professional staff at CBHT, along with our MVP, Rabbi Meiri, will continue to ensure that this temple remains a very special community in which to engage with each other and worship.

My Best,

Karen

Karen Hyman, President

 

President’s Message – February 2019



I’ve been thinking a lot about Jewish food lately. My daughter is planning her wedding and is designing the menu around ‘Jew-ish’ food — pastrami and rye, falafel in pita, black and white cookies, Israeli salads — a little of this and a little of that, mixing what we think of as culturally Jewish food and food from Israel. I have two new Israeli cookbooks filled with amazing pictures and recipes, and I want to try them all. Before we know it, I’ll be thinking about our Seder for Passover. And, The Souper Bowl is just around the corner!

I laugh when Rabbi reminds us that ‘oneg’ doesn’t mean cookies, but ‘joy’. But that actually sums up all of my thoughts around Jewish food — joy. For me, whether I’m learning a new recipe or having cookies at an oneg, it really comes down to the joy of sharing. We might be sharing recipes — I will never forget how privileged I felt when a special bubbe shared her famous and delicious brisket recipe, only to find that she used Lipton Onion Soup Mix! Or, we might be sharing the cooking experience — I love having the whole family in the kitchen helping to get a holiday meal on the table. I also love the shared food preparation for Hard Lox! Or, we might be sharing stories — small and insignificant or hugely important, when we’re having a little nosh at an oneg. And, we share lots of meals – I can distinctly recall every Shabbat at Home we have hosted or attended. Every one of those meals has given me the opportunity to get to know someone from our congregational family a little better. The Souper Bowl gives us another reason to share our recipes and a meal, all the while getting to know each other.

My new Israeli cookbooks, especially “Jerusalem – A Cookbook,” authored by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, make a point of explaining that it’s futile to try to attribute really any of the food of Israel to one ethnic or religious group. They have fused together in so many ways, over so many generations, that it’s impossible to unravel who invented a particular food or who brought it with them to Israel. They also ask, “Why does it matter?” The true beauty of food is its immediacy. The pleasure we take in eating great food is what matters. That thinking is what makes us not hesitate to serve both Israeli food and New York Jewish food at our upcoming celebration. It all tastes great and it all evokes, and creates, wonderful memories.

I have another book I love, called “Matzoh Ball Gumbo – Culinary Tales of the Jewish South”. In it, Marcie Cohen Ferris explains how African American women who cooked for affluent and middle-class Jewish families influenced their recipes. Jewish and African American women created dishes that blended Southern and Jewish cooking, like lox and grits and sweet potato kugel and Pesach Fried Green Tomatoes. (No surprise there, matzoh meal makes the best “bread crumbs”!) She also explains why Crisco was the answer to the prayers of Jewish cooks in the South. They finally had something to make their biscuits and pie crusts almost as flaky as those made with lard, by their Gentile neighbors.

I can’t write about Jewish food without considering the role of kashrut laws in our private lives and in the temple. As Reform Jews, particularly in the South, we may not be invested in keeping Kosher, but I believe it’s important to follow our Kashrut policy both in and outside the temple walls if an event is sponsored by CBHT.

Jewish food plays many roles in our lives. It enriches our relationships and is wrapped up in our memories. I wish you the best in all your Jewish food experiences!

My Best,
Karen

President’s Message – January 2019



CBHT Heroes

For a while now, we have been thinking about honoring congregants who’ve made important contributions to CBHT by instituting a ‘Volunteer of the Year’ award. It certainly makes sense, as there are many people who have given so much of their time and talent. In fact, it’s a huge challenge to think about where we would start and how we could possibly narrow it down to just one person. So, I thought I would just start by telling you about some people who have stood out to me lately because of their amazing volunteer efforts.

Unsung Heroes

These are the people who are the invisible engines that keep the wheels of CBHT turning. This certainly includes the presidents of Brotherhood and Sisterhood, the people who chair and sit on our committees, and our office volunteers (thank you Marty Mann, Toby Arbeiter and Stephanie Cooper!), but there are also those who take on the behind-the-scenes tasks that are essential to our smooth functioning, the ones we can count on to just keep showing up and doing their jobs.

Dottie Davis is one of those people. She has been tracking contributions to our capital campaign since its inception. Dottie acknowledges every contribution and produces statements and a campaign status report every month. Her work isn’t at all glamorous but it has been essential to the success of our campaign management, as it gives leadership an accurate and timely picture of where things stand and lets donors know that we appreciate their contributions. And that’s not all! She and her husband, Bob, also produce our directory. They take pictures, update information, and solicit ads–everything it takes to turn out a new directory every year. We are so grateful to Dottie for performing these jobs, month after month and year after year.

And, speaking of Bob Davis, I don’t think I could possibly list all of the things Bob does for CBHT. House Committee Chair doesn’t begin to describe what Bob does. Whether he is cleaning the HVAC vents or setting up a computer or editing our website or managing the audio-visual equipment all over the building, Bob is constantly ensuring that our systems are running smoothly.

There is no job too small or project too complicated for Bob to jump in. He is the backbone of our temple operations in many ways and he does it without any interest in the spotlight. We really can’t thank him enough.

Barbara Jaslow is another one of our unsung heroes. Barbara single-handedly puts out the Menorah every month. She solicits articles (patiently reminding contributors about deadlines!) and designs the layout of the entire newsletter. Every month! On time! It’s a huge project that is easy to take for granted and for which Barbara seeks no particular recognition. We all thank you for this amazing effort, Barbara.

Dionne Kempenich, for so many years, and now Channah VanRegenmorter, are the women who organize and carry much of the important work of the Caring Community Circle. We can count on the committee to support our members during illness or the death of a loved one, no matter when it happens. We are so fortunate to have them fulfill this role on behalf of all of us.

Identifying a Need and Filling It

Then there are the people who see a gap and take it upon themselves to fill it. They aren’t complaining about something, but instead, they are taking action to improve it. Over just the last couple of months, three groups who have embraced this role come to mind:

A group of people put their heads together to consider how they can help address our financial situation and have already pulled off two “Close the Gap” fundraising events. Cindy and Alan Feiler, Gaia and Damon Goldman, Josh and Elizabeth Bernstein, Alyse and Gerry Wolfson, Sabrina and Isaac Rockoff and Channah and Jessica VanRegenmorter contributed all of the food, wine, culinary expertise and kitchen labor to create the spectacular “Tradition! The Food of Our People” dinner event that attendees can’t stop talking about. It was a beautiful evening that raised significant funds for the temple. And, Cindy, Gaia and Channah came back together, with the help of vegetarian Chef Dava and Rabbi (prep chef extraordinaire) to stage a family Hanukkah dinner and dance party to raise additional funds. They all just stepped up and spent their time and money making these events happen, and we thank them for their amazing efforts.

Also stepping up to address a need, without fanfare, have been the members of the Security Committee. As Eric Naimark, Tom Hickey, David Seligman, Bob Davis, Raymond Capelouto, Stacy Cohen, Gaia Goldman, Larry Weiss and Tikkun Gottschalk are working to improve our culture of safety, many are also showing up for services and religious school to help provide additional security. They have been standing out in the rain and the cold to help ensure everyone’s safety. For this we are so grateful.

I’m also thinking about the board members who have recently stepped up to help out at onegs. Every week since Edward’s departure, two or three trustees have stuck around to clear dishes, pack up leftovers, and clean the tables and floor. All we had to do was ask, and we had plenty of willing volunteers who helped out our staff. Instead of complaining about the gap, they helped fill it. They also deserve our thanks.

I have no doubt that every one of these volunteers, and many more I haven’t mentioned, would tell you that they don’t need special thanks or recognition. They would say that they do what they do because they want to, that they get back even more than they give, and that they love our temple community. But I also have no doubt that I speak for all of us when I say we are so grateful and thankful for their support. Thank you volunteers!

My Best,
Karen

Karen Hyman, President,
Email: president@bethhatephila.org