Board Meeting Minutes June 18, 2020

B’nai Zion Board Meeting
Thursday, June 18th, 2020
6:15pm-8:30pm, via Zoom

Upcoming Meetings:
Congregational Meeting – June 28th at 10 a.m.
Next Board Meeting – July 16th at 6:30 p.m.

[Brackets indicate secretary’s words for clarity.]

Attendees:  Scott Israel, Roy Rosenfeld, Jordan Parker, Tal Cohen, Rachel Hanan, Jackie Rosenfeld, Bill Hillner, Cara Weiner, Beth Lowe, David Rose, Randi Weiss, Rob Cowan, Howard Kaplan, Kevin Moore, Mark Shapiro, Bea Lurie, Gary Lander, Terry Wheeler, Orly Berke, Irv Ginsburg, Lynn Hochman, Alan Lebovitz, Owen Allen, Joel Susman

Unable to attend:  Matt Kodsi, Cassie Rose, Joe Kodsi, Reuben Dubrow

Also in attendance were:  Rabbi Susan Tendler (left after D’var Torah), and Amy Sandy, Officer Manager (entire meeting).

People were asked to log on starting at about 6:10 p.m. so we could start at 6:15 p.m. 

Scott Israel, President, greeted members as they logged on, and began at 6:19 p.m. with the D’var Torah given by Rabbi Susan Tendler. 

1.         D’var Torah, Rabbi Susan Tendler.  Next Torah portion is Korach, who was a Levite.  He began a rebellion against Moses and Aaron.  Do you really think you’re holier than us?  That’s a good point.  Moses says, You’ve gone too far. Later we will be meeting with Lou Feldstein.  Like the Torah portion, there are a lot of voices and sometimes little pockets of consensus.  What voices are the congregation going to listen to?  Even with the best of intentions, sometimes the separate conversations need to stop.  Just go directly to the president and tell him your feelings.  I hope this new board of directors will take B’nai Zion to a good place in the future.  Think about the bigger picture, the bigger home, the bigger pillar, and bring BZ up to the place we should always be.  Let’s hope our passion will burn fervently just like the Ner Tamid.

Scott:  We need to pull together, use our passion, and recreate in B’nai Zion a place that we are proud of and a place to spend our time.  No side conversations, please come to me to address any problems.

2.         Approve Minutes from the May 14th Board Meeting

            MOTION:  To approve the minutes for the May 14th Board meeting as submitted.

            1st:  Bill Hillner
            2nd:  Rob Cowan
            Ayes:  All
            Nays:  None
            Abstentions:  Not asked
            The motion was passed.

3.         Professional Staff Discussion

a.         Interim Rabbi (Rabbi Neal Sandler).  Bill Hillner gave us highlights.  Thank you to members of the Search Committee.  Scott asked for the Board’s approval.

            MOTION:  To approve the hiring of Rabbi Neal Sandler, contingent upon review and Board approval of the written contract.

1st:  Bill Hillner
            2nd:  Roy Rosenfeld
            Ayes:  Yes
            Nays:  None
            Abstentions:  Not asked
            The motion was carried.

            Tal gave his personal overview of the interview:  Rabbi Sandler is from Atlanta, he seems very energetic, we will be able to connect with him, he will drive on Shabbat, he answered all my questions directly, he is very familiar with Zoom services and is will do Zoom two weekends per month.  Education is a concern from younger families, and Rabbi Sandler will have no problem diving into the education part.  We will discuss what level of involvement he will have.  He is connected with Israel, AIPAC, etc.  His is a temporary perspective, and he is not coming to make major changes [to BZ policies].

            Jordan:  What is his term of contract?  Will he do pastoral counseling, life cycle events, etc.? 
            Scott:  You will see in contract what specifics are listed as duties.
            Gary:  Do we need congregational approval?
            Scott:  No.  See Section 13a in the bylaws.  “Board will have authority to hire a temporary rabbi, education director, or cantor without congregational approval.”
            David Rose:  Will Rabbi Sandler be doing anything in terms of marketing, writing newsletters, bringing people to BZ, etc.
            Scott:  Yes, absolutely.
            Bea:  How long will he be here for?  Is he coming on Wednesdays?
            Scott:  He will work via Zoom only, plus as a BSI advisory.  When we have face to face meetings in the future, he will come to Chattanooga.
            Tal:  What might be the contract start date?
            Scott:  As soon as Rabbi Tendler is no longer our B’nai Zion rabbi.
            Tal:  So his contract may be via Zoom for the entire year if needed.
            Scott:  Yes.

b.         High Holy Days Rabbi (Ed Bernstein).  Rabbi Ed Bernstein, Boynton Beach, FL, has accepted our offer.  Has been with several large congregations in recent years.  His hiring has been approved by the Board.

            MOTION:  To approve the hiring of Rabbi Ed Bernstein as our High Holiday rabbi contingent upon approval of the written document by the Board.

            1st:  Bill Hillner
            2nd:  Roy Rosenfeld
            [See Discussion section, below, which occurred before voting.]
Ayes:  Most
            Nays:  None
            Abstentions:  No 
            The motion was passed.

Discussion.  Jordan Parker question:  What about hazzan [cantor], Hila Brod?  What services will this rabbi provide [to interact with Hila]? 
Scott:  Pre-planning will start next week with rabbi, chazzan, Joel, Jackie.  High Holidays [HHD] will be via Zoom and will be new for all of us.
Joel to Scott:  [Will] the Technology Task Force [be an active part of the planning]?  Scott:  Yes
Bea:  What’s our policy about this contract?
Scott:  There is a two-page document with salary range and a list of responsibilities that are required.
Bea:  I feel the contract should be reviewed by Board.
Tal:  We are very limited on candidates and limited on time to hire someone.  I agree we need transparency.
Bea:  One person looking over the contract really isn’t sufficient.
Scott:  Okay.  We will do as quickly as possible.  Remember that this is our only chance for a HHD rabbi. Irv:  Motion on the table.
Bill:  Let’s amend the motion to say, ‘contingent upon approval of the written document by the Board.

c.         High Holy Days Chazzan [Cantor] (Hila Brod). 

d.         Director of Education.  Bill and Scott are talking to people about this position.

            Tal:  I’m talking to different families about BSI [Beit Sefer Ivri, or BZ’s Hebrew School]/Machanooga [joint Sunday school between B’nai Zion and Mizpah] re programming, schedule, for our children.  I will get as much input as possible and keep everyone involved and informed.  This position is just as important as the rabbi’s position.
            Bill to Scott:  Can you, Tal, and I talk tomorrow?  Yes.
            Any more discussion?  [Not at this time.]

            David Rose:  HHD and Zoom.  Can it be staged at Temple Beth El in Dalton?
            Scott:  We can’t do face to face right now.
            Gary:  Rabbi Bernstein said he would not do face to face until he is comfortable with it.

4.         Shabbat Services Update.  As soon as we hire an interim rabbi, we will start Zoom services [on Saturday mornings].

5.         Building Move Update.  Still moving things out of the building.  If you want anything, contact Amy immediately.  We hope to be out of building by late July.  Any questions, please contact Scott or Amy.

6.         High Holy Days Update – see elsewhere throughout notes.

—————-

7:06 p.m.

7.         Consultant Recommendations Discussion with Lou Feldstein and Lara Dorfman.

           Scott:  Welcome to Lou Feldstein, Dynamic Change Solutions (DCS), Atlanta, GA.
            Lara Dorfman was not available to join us tonight.

Went to Zoom screen share, showed first slide (Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results).
Lou:  I have to share with you, the BZ Board put in ten hours over two Sundays which shows the great commitment to your congregation.
Implementation of these recommendations is really beyond the scope of the current project.  If we left things at this point, within a year BZ probably would be back into its same [bad habits].

Recommendations/[Observations]:

Divisiveness, lack of transparency, has become embedded into who we are.  Sometimes we don’t even realize these things are occurring.  Dysfunction is operating.  “My view is the only view, and you’re wrong!” Instead, we need to call out others’ bad behavior.  Of everyone we met, DCS never got any feeling of malfeasance.  No one ever seemed to be purposely maligning others.

Governance.  You need regular communication with congregants about what the Board is doing.  We heard too many reports of Board members not sharing their goings-on.

Radical transparency (except for salaries) should become the norm.

Board is not working at best operating efficiency.  We need to look at what is the most effective Board model for our congregation – size of Board membership, length of terms, role of past presidents, what is the type of Board that we really need for our congregation today?  Let’s start with a blank slate and figure out what do we really need as a congregation.

Mission Statement.  Three or more versions were given to DCS.  Need to clarify what we want. Then when we have a finalized version, use it to determine action going forward to see if it applies to our Mission statement.

Small Group Informational Gatherings.  Suggest a series of small group conversations, zoom groups, historic financial supporters – just engage them in conversations. Include Stakeholder talks.

Finally, suggest that we sign the agreement with Mizpah.  Need to get a place to stay temporarily and then work on the many other issues.

BZ has some really important foundational work to do (DCS is willing to partner with you), then we’ll have to work together.

Roy:  What should we start with? 
Lou:  Call out bad behavior when you see it without attacking the person. 
Later, work on the Mission Statement, [explore the] Board model (DCS doesn’t have specific recommendations here) might be updated. 
Re hiring interim rabbi, need someone who could understand our issues and help us fix them.  Lou had asked for permission to speak with Neal Sandler.  [Secretary’s note:  Later, Rabbi Sandler declined BZ’s offer of temporary employment.]

Jordan:  Two questions.  So we do MZ for two years.  Do you suggest two year interim rabbi contract as well?
Lou:  A rabbi can function without a place.  Recognizing our dysfunction will help us move forward, too.  Maybe six months in, I think a very honest conversation would be helpful.  Don’t jump into this before six months have passed.

Jordan:  Could you give us some examples of transparency, please.

Lou: 
– Post the Board minutes on website
– Congregants may attend Board meetings (where they may speak or may not address the group; to be established beforehand.)
– Post the Budget on website
– If there is a contentious issue, talk with membership first.

Beth Lowe:  I agree that MZ should be two years, but that will somewhat negate the momentum of moving forward to finding another location? 
Lou:  The topic of a future facility is very divisive.  B’nai Zion MUST work on creating a coherent community before even thinking about moving to a new facility.

Lynn:  Told us a relative’s story about having an interim rabbi, with not good results.

Bill Hillner:  We are not even considering going to Mizpah until the coronavirus is no longer a threat. 
Lou:  I would start the clock after you get in to MZ.  If we make great progress [in reformulating BZ Board], we could then renegotiate that contract. 
Lou:  It’s like being married versus living together.  If we go into it for two years, we’ll deal with it for the idea of making it work for two years. 
Tal:  [Thinking beyond Zoom], what if Covid-19 recurs at flu season, staying at MZ could be a glass half full viewpoint. 
Lou:  Don’t let the facility issue be the driving force [of making changes, moving forward]. 
Bea:  But if we have no facility, no real rabbi, why should people join our congregation? 
Lou:  I disagree with you.  Continuity with an interim rabbi is more stabilizing than not having a rabbi.  It’s not that big of a deal.  The pool of available rabbinical candidates has flattened.  Later you could look at the Rabbinical Assembly for possibilities.

Tal:  Status of contract with MZ.  The contract has been approved by both MZ and BZ Boards.  There is an understanding that both shuls will share space at the appropriate time.  This means in 12 or 18 months rather than 24, right? 
Lou:  We can find 101 reasons why MZ can work.  BZ is renting; it’s not a permanent solution.  Our [Conservative] tradition has a long tradition of getting things to work out.

Howard:  If dysfunction is part of our DNA, how do we do [change] this, how do we fix things? 
Lou:  There is a step-by-step process of how to accomplish this.  Here are the behaviors we do, here is what we can do to fix them.  The steps can be self-facilitated or DCS can help.  I suggest that you re-read the first iteration of the DCS report.  [What exactly is he referring to?] 
Jordan:  How do we communicate best to our congregants?  Until now, the office staff has done this.  How do we do this? 
Lou:  You cannot over-communicate.  Pull together those who support your capital needs people.

For example, tomorrow you might send out an email to the congregation that Rabbi Sandler has signed an interim contract, [along with other happenings.]

Scott:  Rabbi Tendler will be here at least through July 15th.
Lou:  We need more targeted communications with groups to keep everyone informed and what’s coming up.  Each Board member needs to be an ambassador for the organization.  Talk about what we do and why we do, but do not badmouth BZ.  We represent the view of the Board, not my personal bias.  Once a decision is made, it is my job to support the Board in its decisions.

Lou: 

– Post the Board minutes on website

– Congregants may attend Board meetings (where they may speak or may not address the group; to be established beforehand.)

– Post the Budget on website

– If there is a contentious issue, talk with membership first.

Beth Lowe:  I agree that MZ should be two years, but that will somewhat negate the momentum of moving forward to finding another location?

Lou:  The topic of a future facility is very divisive.  B’nai Zion MUST work on creating a coherent community before even thinking about moving to a new facility.

Lynn:  Told us a relative’s story about having an interim rabbi, with not good results.

Bill Hillner:  We are not even considering going to Mizpah until the coronavirus is no longer a threat.

Lou:  I would start the clock after you get in to MZ.  If we make great progress [in reformulating BZ Board], we could then renegotiate that contract.

Lou:  It’s like being married versus living together.  If we go into it for two years, we’ll deal with it for the idea of making it work for two years.

Tal:  [Thinking beyond Zoom], what if Covid-19 recurs at flu season, staying at MZ could be a glass half full viewpoint.

Lou:  Don’t let the facility issue be the driving force [of making changes, moving forward].

Bea:  But if we have no facility, no real rabbi, why should people join our congregation?

Lou:  I disagree with you.  Continuity with an interim rabbi is more stabilizing than not having a rabbi.  It’s not that big of a deal.  The pool of available rabbinical candidates has flattened.  Later you could look at the Rabbinical Assembly for possibilities.

Tal:  Status of contract with MZ.  The contract has been approved by both MZ and BZ Boards.  There is an understanding that both shuls will share space at the appropriate time.  This means in 12 or 18 months rather than 24, right?

Lou:  We can find 101 reasons why MZ can work.  BZ is renting; it’s not a permanent solution.  Our [Conservative] tradition has a long tradition of getting things to work out.

Howard:  If dysfunction is part of our DNA, how do we do [change] this, how do we fix things?

Lou:  There is a step-by-step process of how to accomplish this.  Here are the behaviors we do, here is what we can do to fix them.  The steps can be self-facilitated or DCS can help.  I suggest that you re-read the first iteration of the DCS report.  [What exactly is he referring to?]

Jordan:  How do we communicate best to our congregants?  Until now, the office staff has done this.  How do we do this?

Lou:  You cannot over-communicate.  Pull together those who support your capital needs people.

For example, tomorrow you might send out an email to the congregation that Rabbi Sandler has signed an interim contract, [along with other happenings.]

Scott:  Rabbi Tendler will be here at least through July 15th.
Lou:  We need more targeted communications with groups to keep everyone informed and what’s coming up.  Each Board member needs to be an ambassador for the organization.  Talk about what we do and why we do, but do not badmouth BZ.  We represent the view of the Board, not my personal bias.  Once a decision is made, it is my job to support the Board in its decisions.

7:51 p.m.

Scott thanked Lou for his help.  We recognize our need to change and learn new behaviors. Thanked the four (Rob Cowan, Tal Cohen, Beth Lowe, and one more) people who worked on the Vision statement.  They will then work on the Mission statement.  Asked Lou to help if they want his help – it’s up to the group.

Rob:  This is like the Mafia – it’s harder to get out of this than in this.  [Great line!]

8. New business: We are a Congregation of about 165 members, and we need to better communicate with our congregants about their concerns.  I am asking each Board member to take 5-8 names to check up on people.  Your list should be sent to you by Monday.  Please do this outreach and take time to personally call our congregants. 
           Roy:  Please include talking points. 
           David Rose:  We could include a few questions to collect information, too. 
           Scott:  Please make the calls when you get the list.  If you cannot do so, please call me directly.  We want every congregant to get a phone call.

9. Good and Welfare began around 7:55 p.m.

10. The meeting was adjourned at 8:00 p.m.

Congregational Meeting-June 28th at 10 a.m.
Next Board Meeting-July 16th at 6:30 p.m.

Our WHY statement is “To Celebrate and Enrich Jewish Life.

Our VISION statement is “To inspire a vibrant, uplifting, and inclusive community connected to the dynamic traditions of Conservative Judaism.