Board Meeting Minutes: February 4, 2021

Next Executive Committee Meeting:  Thursday, April 1, 2021; 6:30 p.m.

Next Board Meeting:  Thursday, March 25, 2021; 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.”

          Our MISSION Statement is:  To provide Greater Chattanooga with a community dedicated to the celebration of Conservative Jewish life inspired by Torah, Education, and Tikkun Olam.


Scott Israel, Bill Hillner, Roy Rosenfeld, Tal Cohen, Rachel Hanan, Jackie Rosenfeld, Owen Allen,

Rob Cowan, Irv Ginsburg, Howard Kaplan, Beth Lowe, Jordan Parker, Mark Shapiro, Joel Susman, Lynn Hochman, Joe Kodsi, Matt Kodsi, Alan Lebovitz, Kevin Moore, David Rose, Terry Wheeler

Also in attendance: Rabbi Hillel Norry and Amy Sandy-Office Manager.

Unable to attend:

Bea Lurie, Cara Weiner, Orly Berke, Reuben Dubrow, Joe Kodsi, Matt Kodsi, Alan Lebovitz, Kevin Moore.

Words or notes in brackets like this [x] represent the secretary’s additions for clarification or background information.

The Zoom link was open by 6:20, and our meeting began at 6:33 p.m.

B’nai Zion Board Meeting
Thursday, January 28, 2021, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Held via Zoom

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.

Our MISSION Statement is: To provide Greater Chattanooga with a community dedicated to the celebration of Conservative Jewish life inspired by Torah, Education, and Tikkun Olam.

  1. D’var Torah – Jordan Parker
  2. Approval of Board Meeting Minutes: December 08, 2020
  3. Rabbi Norry’s Report
  4. Financials – Rachel Hanan
  5. Education – Tal Cohen
  6. Building – Howard Kaplan
  7. Fundraising (Super Bowl) – Mark Shapiro
  8. Governance / By-Laws / Board Reorganization – Mark Shapiro
  9. Rabbinic Search – Bill Hillner
  10. Board Composition Issues – Scott Israel
  11. Engagement & Outreach Position Open (Marketing Emphasis)
  12. B’nai Zion Property Sale Opportunity
  13. Continuation of Vison Recommendations
  14. Upcoming Events
  15. Kabbalat Shabbat Services via Zoom Fridays, 6:00 p.m.
  16. Scholars of the Scroll via Zoom on Saturdays, 9:15 a.m.
  17. Shabbat Services via Zoom on Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.
  18. BSI older kids, (Randi Weiss) via Zoom on Wednesdays, 5:00-5:30 pm
  19. BSI younger kids, (Chaim Charyn) via Zoom for smaller kids is on Thursdays at 5:00 p.m.
  20. Minyan via Zoom on Wednesdays, 6:00 p.m.
  21. Wednesday Classes with Rabbi Norry, after Minyan
  22. Super Bowl Kick-off Commences via Zoom February 7 at 5:30 pm
  23. Havdalah and Idea Schmooze via Zoom Saturday, February 20 12 at 6:00 pm
  24. BZ Book Club via Zoom Tuesday, February 23 at 10:00 am
  25. Purim Celebration via Zoom Thursday, February 25 at 6:30 pm
  26. BSI’s big Fundraiser – Purim Bags
  27. Executive Committee Meeting: Thursday, March 25, 2021; 6:30 p.m., via Zoom

Next Board Meeting: Thursday, April 1, 2021; 6:30 p.m. via Zoom
**Contact Rabbi Norry (ext. 702) Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am-noon.

1.           D’var Torah – Jordan Parker talked about Parsha Yitro.  Interested about placement.  Moses’ father-law visiting.  Comments about incredible progress.  Rambam, Rashi all had different theories about why this parsha was placed before the 10 commandments.  Story of a seeker, a model of a person.  He was a priest; was he was not a Jew at that point.  That’s what makes B’nai Zion so special, all the different people we have in our BZ lives.  To receive Torah prior to revelation.  Reminds him of Howard Gropper, our only three-time president, he was a tough individual, hard-working, an exemplary person.  It was always about learning from people. 

     Scott:  Thank you to Jordan for this teaching and your comments.

2.       Approval of Board Meeting Minutes: December 08, 2020

MOTION:  To accept the meeting minutes as submitted.

1st:  Irv Ginsburg

2nd:  Lynn Hochman

Ayes:  Most

Nays:  None

          Abstentions:  None

3.       Rabbi Norry’s Report.  Since our last meeting in early December, here are a few highlights from January and December.  In December, we had a wonderful Hanukkah celebration, with the latke/sufganiyot debate.  In January, we had a Tu b’Shevat seder, a January 10th drive-in event to remember BZ building, where many attended in vehicles as well as some online.  This helped us remember what we’ve lost and what are have ahead.  We also held Havdalah twice a month.

          I worked regularly with Ritual, Education, and the Rabbinical Search Committee (RSC).  Recently I helped the RSC develop our application and help navigate interview process.

          I have Machanooga on Sundays, leading the teaching every other week with the oldest kids, alternating with Rabbi Lewis.  Upcoming is Purim, magic show, megillah reading.  Online second night seder for Pesach, a pre-dinner seder, then hang out together while we are all eating dinner. In addition to all of the programming and online things, I continue to have office hours Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9-12, but call me with your questions and ideas, etc.  Please feel free to reach out and communicate with me.  I really want to thank you with the way you honored me this past weekend when I received my PhD of Divinity Degree.

4.       Financials – Rachel Hanan.  Financials went out just before the meeting.  Once you’ve had a chance to look them over, please call or reach out to me.  We are going to stop charging credit card fees.

5.       Education – Tal Cohen.  See his report, previously submitted.  Highlight:  long-term community-wide education plan has been tabled.  We are going to continue in the two paths of short-term and long-term, seeing how can we enrich BSI and Machanooga.  Reach out to me with any questions.

6.       Building – Howard Kaplan.  See his report, previously submitted.  Specs/Drawings due the 18th.  Arks have been disassembled and wrapped for storage.  Cornerstones are within the building and are ready for storage.

7.       Fundraising (Super Bowl) – Mark Shapiro.  See his report, previously submitted. Super Bowl boards are nearly filled, just a few missing.  If you know of anybody you can call, please do so immediately.  Sheets will be put together on Friday, and they will be sent out on Sunday morning.

          Scott:  BSI is having the Purim baskets fundraiser (actual stuff, not virtual).  Please ask Amy if you have any questions about this.  Tal:It’s only $125 to send a gift bag to everyone in our congregation.

8.       Governance / By-Laws / Board Reorganization – Mark Shapiro.  Scott:  We’ve had two meetings so far.  It’s a fantastic group, and we are motivated to complete task at hand for this big-time commitment.  This coming Sunday we will have a four-hour retreat, then several more follow-up meetings.  It’s exciting!

9.       Rabbinic Search – Bill Hillner.  The committee is going well.  Our application has been posted with the appropriate sources, and people are looking at it.  We’ve received one backhand applicant.  We will be interviewing a newly graduated student, plus an established rabbi.  Rabbi Norry has been very helpful showing us how a rabbi “reads” or interprets an application.

10.      Board Composition Issues – Scott Israel.

          Engagement & Outreach Position Open (Marketing Emphasis).  Scott has been having discussions with Tal about looking for the right person to fit this position.  From my perspective, there is a lot of work being done by various committees, but it’s not totally transparent.  It’s a critical role for us to have an outreach person in the community.  It will help us as an organization.  What else can we do (social online venues, other) to find someone?  I’ve made a template to help us.  We need to show each other what our goals are, timeline and current progress, etc.  See his PowerPoint presentation to be posted on the BZ website (soon).

          Scott:  Looks like a great plan of action, it is transparent, and will help keep us on task. 

     Howard K:  Please send it out to all of us.

11.      B’nai Zion Property Sale Opportunity. 

          Scott:  January 28th we received a $450K offer for the land.  Alan Lebovitz received the initial contact.  Alan:  Hope you got the information before this meeting.  Highlights:  Offer is contingent upon rezoning, to be accomplished by the Buyer.  Value of the land only is $260K.  County Tax Appraised Value is $192K, 4.76 acres. 

12.      Continuation of Vision Recommendations.  Scott:  Jordan and I had a good conversation about two weeks ago.  Jordan asked some great questions about accountability and that we are doing what the Vision Plan suggested.  We’ve been putting our minutes and financials on the website.  I apologize for not being a great communicator.  Jordan will help us get these things accomplished. 
Jordan:  I do want to caution that we don’t want to put too much pressure on board members without a buy-in from congregation.  See Tal’s slides.  He (Lou F or Bob Leventhal) can give us guidance where we need it.  We will have a plan in place in the next 4-6 months.  Other developers were approached but said they did not have the resources to work on this property.  I think it’s a terrific offer for B’nai Zion.  It was presented to the Executive Committee, who feels it deserves some consideration.  The Executive Committee recommends that we do sell the land.

        Lynn:  When did we decide that we weren’t going to rebuild on this land?  That is a whole area of confusion to our members.

          Alan:  When we have asked members to support a new building, there is not the support there to accomplish this.  $2.3M-$3.0M.  This inability to source funding from our members precludes this.  We can take the funds, have immediate access to them, and do something else.

          Irv:  Post-demolition, right?

         Joel:  Net of demolition to add to the Building Endowment, so we are not taking monies away from our fund corpus.  This buys us time, for one thing.  We don’t have the appetite to build from the ground up.  This has been discussed in the Presidents’ Council and in the building committee.  I’m looking now at finding a structure that can be renovated, in the meantime to use space at Mizpah.

          Question:  How might this impact on our search for a new rabbi?

      Rabbi Norry:  I don’t think this is a big issue.  When we interview candidates, we will tell them that our situation is unfolding; maybe we can update our application to reflect that status as it changes.  Building a new building takes a very long time and is a complicated endeavor.  It would be much easier to find an existing property and renovate it to our needs.  I don’t think it will radically impact on our rabbinic search and should not have a negative impact.

     Alan:  It illustrates our ability to be flexible and change.

          RHN:  Say we interview 3-7 candidates.  We either find somebody or we don’t.  If we do, this can only be beneficial.  As soon as we find our new permanent home, the better.  It’s seven months from now to Rosh Hashanah.  We should be proactive.  A new applicant would most likely see these changes in a positive light.  Either way, securing a new space where we can function, say for the next 6-12 years, is very doable.

          Howard K to all:  I’m concerned about the structure of the proposal.  You see something in the paper about a new piece of land being developed,  but it has some buildings on it.  They demolish the buildings and start to rebuild.  Depending upon what those bids come in at, I’m questioning why we don’t have a proposal like, we’ll give you $X.  Could cost us $300K or could cost us $75K.  We’re only worried about how congregation will react to the fact that we are doing this in such a short timeframe.  Considering our timeliness to get things done, I’m concerned that it could take us some years to get a new place ready for us to use.  I’m not too optimistic about this timeframe.

Tal:  I thought we already had bids of about $200K for demo.

          Howard:  No, estimates only.  School wing was $100K, extrapolating from that, it could be $250K-$300K.  These are educated guesses.

          Lynn:  Would they not take it as-is if we lowered the price tag for them?

          Alan:  I haven’t asked that of the Buyer.

Terry:  $150K as-is and let the developer do the tear down — I’d be happier with it.  I do agree that we probably should not be rebuilding on it.  The risk is really on us as we don’t know the costs of demo yet.

Alan:  There was no discussion of the Buyer doing the demo and changing the price. 

Irv:  How long before we get bids for the demo?  Irv to Alan:  What is our timeline for bid viability?

          Alan:  They are hoping to hear from BZ within “a few weeks.”

          Irv to Howard:  Will we have the bids returned within a few weeks?

          Howard:  No.

          Terry:  Rezoning could take quite a while.  It would be so much easier if it would just be done and done.  Let the Buyer take the risk of the demo costing more than $300K.  I’ve been through some neighborhood battles for rezoning, and they can take years.

          Jordan:  Ethan Collier is one of the most premiere developers.  He is a great fit to buy.  The question is really in the contingency of rezoning.  He can walk away any time he feels like it.  Perhaps we should put a timeframe of 2-3 months on it.

          Roy to HK:  Are we demoing the land to the way the Buyer wants?

          Howard:  We are leveling the building but leaving the slab.  Slab is expensive to take up, and there is no reason to do that.  We are removing the building as a hazard.  It is an effort to save some money up front.

          Roy:  So the Buyer wants pure ground.

          Howard:  $300K is an educated guess.  Hire someone to do a closer estimate for us or find a demo contractor who is not interested in bidding on it.  Bids on the same project based on the same specifications can very widely.  We are paying retail [costs for raw materials], where the Buyer is paying wholesale, and it’s much more economical for him.

          Irv to Alan:  Should we back it down to $250K or $275K and sell the land as-is?  Would he be interested?

          Roy:  We will get a black eye if someone gets injured from the building as it is now.

          Bill to Roy:  We’re still associated with it as the Jews’ building.

          Rachel:  Perception, not legal liability.

          Bill to Howard:  Any idea of when bids will be returned?  Answer:  Maybe six weeks.

          Bill to Alan:  Instead of a contingent contract upon re-zoning, why not we do contingent upon getting bids?

          Alan:  We would have to go back to the Buyer and renegotiate.

          More discussion ensued.

          Beth:  It seems like it’s a good bid for a property that’s supposedly worth $192K.

          Owen:  Only one person is interested in the property.  Working it this way is not good business.

          Call for the question.

          Scott:  We need to take it to the congregation.

          The Exec Comm did recommend that we sell the land. The ultimate decision is on the congregation itself.      I would like to see if we can recommend or have a motion,

          Roy:  Demo building to what degree, land cleared, to buyer’s preference?

          Rob Cowan:  Have we negotiated with Buyer, or is this his initial offer?

          Alan:  That’s why it says $450K minimum.

          Rob:  Never accept the first offer.  Why not say, $500K?

          Alan:  Accept the $450K offer, as a first step.

          Terry:  Have to talk to congregation first, right?  There will be numerous arguments to counter this offer of purchase.

          Alan:  We have to give the congregation 10 days’ notice before holding a vote.                                                                                      

          Terry:  Do we have to go to the congregation first?  Or can we make the offer and then get congregational approval?

          Bill:  Re: bylaws, we have to inform the congregation that we want to sell the land.  Don’t get bogged down in contractual details.  What Scott is asking us is to agree to sell the land.

          Joel:  I take exception.  Terry is right.  Wrap up into a final tight little package before going to the congregation to determine fair reply back to Buyer and see what number he is willing to take.  We have enough legal and real estate people on the board to see what is possible.  We have to have the demo costs.  I’m just hearing now about the slab being left intact.  What we go to the congregation with is the final deal.

          Tal:  Take the final deal to the congregation.

          Joel:  We cannot dispose of a major asset like this without asking the congregation.  Bring final offer to congregation.

          Howard:  We won’t know final proceeds without knowing the demo costs.

          Joel:  We can’t go to congregation with half information.

          Howard:  Can we ask the congregation for “open” approval for sale of the land?  Do we have to have a final number?

          Scott:  No, we can just ask the congregation to sell the land.

          Rabbi Norry:  If the Board strongly recommends this action, will the congregation really counter our recommendation?

          Joel to Lynn:  What do you think?

          Lynn:  Have to give them all the details or they will force the meeting into all different avenues.

          Joel:  Visioning process showed that congregation feels the board is not telling us everything.

          Rabbi Norry:  Then it’s a process of educating the congregants.

          Joel:  We may need a Town Hall Meeting, informational only, and there would be a final vote in the future.

          Scott:  That’s a great idea.

          Joel:  The final details must be pinned down.  Please get the demo costs ASAP.

          Irv:  Alan, tell us whether or not the developer knows what his timeline is.  If he thinks it’s worth $450K and it’s six weeks away.

          Rabbi Norry:  If he agrees to a net price, we don’t have to wait for bids.

          Joel:  Alan, Terry, Owen, Rob – get together and agree to some net price.

          Irv:  Let buyer know our thoughts.

          Rachel:  What is our next step?

          Scott:  Call a Congregational Meeting, tell them what we’ve discussed, ask Alan, Terry, Owen, Rob to get their questions answered.  We are working towards a solution, but demo costs will not be available for six weeks.  Let the congregation consider, get numbers, then do a vote.

          Alan:  What if demo costs are much higher?  Why is demo cost driving the decision/ discussion?

          Rob:  Why not discuss this with the Buyer?

          Alan:  Go to the Buyer, say “You do demo.”  He says, “Thanks, but no thanks.”  You do the demo and get $450K.  Then if it’s a no-go, the next buyer takes land as-is.

          If demo costs are $300K-$600K, we are still only going to get $450K for the land.

          Tal:  Only option is to move that risk to him.

          Rob:  So say we will internalize the demo costs for a while, let buyer think that, then later renegotiate the deal.

          Alan:  Let’s not waste our time.

          Bill:  Read the bylaws section about obligation of the board to notify the congregation.  When a package is finally negotiated, we will have a congregational meeting to get their final input.

          Bill to Scott:  Just present to the Board that this is what we’ve decided, and we are entering negotiations for sale of the property.  Period.

MOTION:  To advise the congregation that we will enter negotiations to sell this property.

1st:  Bill Hillner

2nd:  Irv Ginsburg

Ayes:  13

Nays:  2

Abstentions:  2

The motion was passed.  See voting below.

Lynn:   Yes

Bill:  Yes

Tal:  Yes

Owen:  Yes

Beth:  Yes

David R:  Yes

Alan. Yes

Rachel:  Yes

Howard:  Abstain

Mark:  Yes

Joel:  Abstain

Jackie:  Yes

Roy:  No

Jordan:  Yes

Irv:  Yes

Terry. Yes

Rob:  No

Good & Welfare began at 8:27 p.m.

The meeting ended at 8:28 p.m.