B’nai Zion Board Meeting
Wednesday, August 6, 2020
6:33 p.m. – 8:20 p.m., via Zoom

Next Board Meeting:  Thursday, September 10, 2020, 6:30pm

            Our WHY Statement is:  “To Celebrate and Enrich Jewish Life.”

            Our VISION Statement (WHAT) is “To inspire a vibrant, uplifting, and inclusive community connected to the dynamic traditions of Conservative Judaism.”

            Our MISSION Statement (HOW) 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, Roy Rosenfeld, Tal Cohen, Jackie Rosenfeld, Bill Hillner, Beth Lowe, David Rose, Rob Cowan, Joe Kodsi, Howard Kaplan, Kevin Moore, Mark Shapiro, Bea Lurie, Gary Lander, Terry Wheeler, Orly Berke, Irv Ginsburg, Lynn Hochman, Owen Allen, Joel Susman (21 people with Rabbi Norry).

Also in attendance:  Rabbi Hillel Norry joined us for his first B’nai Zion Board Meeting.

Unable to attend:
Jordan Parker, Rachel Hanan, Cara Weiner, Matt Kodsi, Reuben Dubrow, Alan Lebovitz.

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

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

1.         Introduction of Rabbi Hillel Norry.

2.         D’var Torah by Rabbi Norry, who spoke about letting go.  Beginning of the Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 8.  It’s a “pausing” moment, a moment of anticipation, crossing over into the promised land, where we’re poised at the beginning of something great after the Exodus, anxiously waiting to go into the land.  Remember the long way that you had to go through?  Couldn’t we have gone the short way?  No, without going the long way, we couldn’t have known what we were capable of doing.  Man does not live upon bread alone.  The Torah is not about just the Israelite; it is about You and Me.  We are being tested, and we are learning about what we are truly committed to.  People, continuity, little miracles in our community, our personal connection to the synagogue haven’t worn out.  God is reminding us that what is ahead is a place of abundance, full of worthy fruits, an ancient promise that God will give us a small little Land of Israel in Chattanooga.  The path might be long and difficult, but may we be worthy of the way.

Scott to Rabbi:  Please share something about you to the Board.

 Rabbi Norry: A lot to know!  I’m very excited to be working with you.  I’ve been a rabbi for a long time.  I really believe that I am going to be helpful to you and hope to learn from you.  I’m outgoing, a musician, an artist, I’m interested in all types of creativity, practice Tae Kwon Do, I’m a marksman, I’ve been a pulpit rabbi for twenty years, have spent the last five years exploring different professional avenues, and found myself back in congregational work in a different way.  We have two kids, 19, 16, daughter starts college in person at GA Tech in a few days, son is in high school and is a serious athlete, my wife is an artist and teacher, we have two dogs and a backyard garden.

3.         Introduce ourselves to Rabbi Norry.  Each attendee said what importance BZ has in his/her life.  [This section took until 7:05 p.m.]

4.         Why / Mission / Vision Statements by Tal Cohen.  “Why” is meant to be a short statement.  [All of these ideas interplay with each other.]  (5 minutes).  The Executive Committee met last week, and we recommend that we adopt these statements and present them to the congregation.

            MOTION:  The Executive Committee recommends that we adopt the Why, Mission, and Vision Statements and present them to the congregation.

            1st:  Tal Cohan
            2nd:  Roy Rosenfeld
    Ayes:  Many
            Nays:  None that I saw or heard.
            Abstentions:  None that I heard.
            The motion was passed.

            The communication team will get this out to the congregation.  Thank you so much for your work.  I think these are all great statements [and will help us along our way].

5.         Review/Approve Minutes for July 16th, 2020

            MOTION:  To approve the July 16, 2020 Board Minutes as submitted.

            1st:  Bea Lurie
            2nd:  Howard Kaplan
            Ayes:  Many
            Nays:  None that I heard or saw.
            Abstentions:  None that I heard.
            The motion was carried.

            Scott:  I will make sure that the Minutes will be on our website as soon as possible, via password.  [Notes that Meeting Minutes will effectively be posted about one month behind schedule as Minutes must be approved by the Board before being posted online.]

6.         Education Update by Tal Cohen: 
            a.  Long-term plans.  Not a lot of updates on this.  The Jewish Federation is taking the lead on this.  The organizations will sit down and have discussions on this.  These are just exploratory talks.  Once we have decisions and goals to talk about, we will bring to our Board.

            b.  Short-term plans.  We are meeting with parents, explaining our short-term goals re content and structure, and assessing how best to provide education during this pandemic.  I feel we are very lucky to have the structure that we have, whether it’s Eytan or Traci or Randi or Cory, plus Rebecca and Cassie helping from an educational and advice perspective, even without an educational director.  People seem to want more one-on-one or one-on-two sessions to have better engagement and better content, a better understanding Judaism, and an ability to stay engaged via online classroom.  Our instructors are all paying attention to this.  For BSI, this is not going to be two hours in the afternoon but will probably be more dedicated timeslots between teacher and children, plus some group sessions that will concentrate on community and holidays.  Planned are 20-30 individual sessions and 20-30 minutes/group sessions.  Registration forms are out, and parents are signing up for BSI and Machanooga.  Sessions will be no more than 1.5 hours.  We are looking forward to having Rabbi Norry as a guide through this new territory.  [ended 7:20 p.m.]

            Scott:  Board member brought up that we are doing this as a process.  The Executive Committee understands that we are brainstorming to come up with different alternatives.  Conservative education is very important to BZ, and please understand that we are trying to find the best route going forward.  Tal is leading the group of the different identities.  No decisions will be made without the Board’s and Congregation’s approval.

            Irv:  Whatever help you might need, we are willing to do.
            Tal:  All voices are welcome.
            Scott:  Any more discussion?  None.

7.         Building Update by Howard Kaplan: 
            Please see the Motions which were emailed to you earlier today.  There were two estimates, very close in price. 
Here is the REVISED motion based on the estimate I received this morning. 

The MOTION is:
I move that the Congregation abandon the Sanctuary Ark, wood sculptures, podiums, chairs, and Torah holders and include them with the demolition of the building.  Reasons include: 1) the high cost of removing, storing (for up to three years), and refinishing these items; and 2) the uncertainty of whether they will be appropriate or even be used in the new B’nai Zion venue when we acquire it. The Congregation will retain and store the Eternal Light.

The following are the rough order of magnitude costs for the Board to consider when making the decision on whether to keep or abandon the Ark and Bima furnishings:

1.Dismantle, remove, and store Ark and furnishing for 36 months (for crating vs. boxing, add $1,500 more)  $8,200. 
2.Refinish the Ark$4,000. 
3,Refinish wall sculptures and other bimah furnishings$2,600. 
 Subtotal $14,800.
4.Add 20% Contingency due to uncertainty and long timeline$3,000. 
 TOTAL $17,800.
5.Refinish the Eternal Light$300. 

            We have a signed agreement with SME.  The spec should be received within 10-14 days re remediation (hazmat) work.  Re long-range planning, we probably don’t see the building coming down until November.  We are behind, but we are getting more on track now.  If we can move up that date, it would be great.

            Roy:  Can we approve that if the contract is under a certain amount, so you could just go ahead?
            HK:  Good question.  Is there a Bylaws limit on spending?
            Scott:  No, they don’t.  [The Bylaws don’t spell out this kind of spending limit.]  Roy, that’s a great recommendation.  Howard will get three bids and select one to do the best job correctly.  We did say as a Board that with this size of spending, should the Board see the contract?
            HK:  The Board should approve demolition costs.  Remediation – I’m not sure where that is going to fall.
            Scott:  As a Board, can we trust HK to move forward with the decision?
            Gary:  If we don’t know the order of magnitude of, but … voting by email is not in bylaws on this type of thing.  His question to HK:  Can you, yourself, review and choose the best bidder?  Can we see the contract/bid, or vote on via email?

            Scott corrected Gary that we are allowed to vote via email.  [ended 7:30 p.m.]

            Ark in Sanctuary – Motion, as stated above.
            1st:  Howard Kaplan
            2nd:  Gary Lander, reluctantly

            Bea:  I don’t think the expenses are very high at all.  The cost of having something newly made will be exponentially higher than the $17K being discussed here. 
            Lynn:  I expect the Chapel Ark to be kept with us forever.  Re Sanctuary Ark, I think it should be offered to others for sale.
            Terry:  The strongest argument in favor of the motion is the size of it, storage, etc.  If it were smaller, I would be against the motion.
            Joel:  I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of using the big ark, but I feel we should not let go of the art pieces go – on the sides of the ark.
            Roy:  The old ark was cut down, the wood piece is still there, and there is precedent by B’nai Zion for renovating an ark.  I think it may be worth spending the money to store and keep the big ark.  Bill Neblock was the original architect.
            Bill:  Our shul has been through a lot, and I feel it is the wrong thing to destroy what has been a big part of our lives – even if we have to cut it down to a smaller size.  We can find a place for the two side pieces no matter where we move.  Keep the ark and keep what we can.  It has been emotionally difficult for many people in this congregation.

            Rabbi:  This is a very meaningful conversation.  People have a very emotional attachment to items like this.  Would you indulge me in a little Torah study?

            Passages from the Mishnah, one that starts with an aleph, one with a bet, etc., wide range of topics working through the alphabet.  It teaches how there is an order up in going through things.  If you sold a synagogue, you could buy an ark.  If you sold an ark, you could buy a …

            The closer you get to a Torah scroll, the closer you get to the heart of the thing.  You cannot sell a Torah to buy notebooks. 

            You can really take something like that too far.  If we really live this way, we would never be able to live because we could never move on to something else.

            The balance is between something practical vs. something symbolic.  $40K (over 2-3 years, as Roy suggested), is not small change.

            We might not use it at all, but if we do use it, it would probably need to be modified before we could use it again.

            Gary:  See the revised motion.  I seconded the motion so we could have discussion rather than have it fail.  I did some research last time about disposing of an ark, teshuvah, selling a building, the holiness of an object is imparted by its use rather than intrinsically.

            The concept from Mishnah was also in some of the readings I came across.  I don’t think a demo contract would significantly lower a bid due to salvageable wood.  The financial consideration over three years is not significant in our budget.

            Certainly the other sculptures should be retained.  The chairs are [not well maintained].

            Joel:  I call the question on the motion as presented.
            Scott:  In favor?
            Against:  Majority
            The noes have it.  We will keep the ark and preserve it.
            [ I believe the count was done by raised hands. ]

8.         High Holiday Update by Joel Susman.

            Last year I was heavily involved in HHD.  To say that things are different this year is an understatement.  We started without a rabbi, now we have two rabbis.  The JotForm link is going out this weekend.  No flowers for the bimah.  No traditional break-the-fast, however, we are doing something else.  Opportunities for Flower Fund in Honor of/Memory of whomever, but flowers will be delivered to people who are shut-ins, in facilities, etc., with attention paid to people who have issues with fragrance.

            Break-the-Fast Bags will have a challah, a honey cake, apples, orange juice, honey straws, etc., things to break your individual fast.  We will have a group Zoom to gather up items, bag them up, and arrange for distribution.  They will be given out between RH and YK.  I am begging for the help to assemble these.  We are doing 150 challah/honey cake combination.  That will be the main thrust for the HHD.

            Bea volunteered to do no-contact deliveries.

            Joel:  Drive-through deliveries, etc.   Bea, Beth, Terry, who else volunteered?

            Probably assemble the bags at either JCC or MZ, but probably JCC.  [ended 8:00 p.m.]


            Had a good Ritual Committee.  Will get communication out as soon as possible.


9.         Administration, by Scott Israel.
a.  BZ Personnel Handbook.  Not sent out because I knew this Board meeting would run long.  Will send it out this month or next.  [Given to Jackie for review on September 1st.]

            b.  Dynamic Change Solutions (DCS) Proposal.  Need to go through this in the next month or two, not right now.  Please read through it in the meantime.

10.       Board Composition Issues – Scott Israel

            a.  Engagement & Outreach Position Open (Marketing/Communication Emphasis)
            b.  Board Reorganization – Ad Hoc Committee Needed?
            The Executive Committee met last week to talk about downsizing the Board.
    Volunteers:  Mark, Terry, Jackie, who else?

            Does everyone agree with this process that we ourselves can handle the recommendation that Lou gave us?

            Bea:  Disagrees.  So many personalities involved.  Great job so far re Mission, Vision, but long way to go before we can be an effective board ourselves.
            Scott:  We desperately need board training and governance, and we will get to that.  I’m not sure that the current board of 20 people would like to go through this process and then end up with six people.
            Bea:  That’s not what I said.  Congregational structure is incredibly bloated.  Lots of history, very complex, with so many components to it.
            Joel:  Process to get to 4/5/6 people or what?
            Scott:  Two years ago we shrank from 18 to 12 members.  If the Board doesn’t like that direction, I can call Lou and begin the conversation again.
            Howard K:  There is a big difference between 18 to 12 vs 12 to 5 or 6.  It’s a sea change of difference.  More than just trying to make the board more manageable, if you will, but goes more to the core of how the synagogue operates going forward.  Basically I think you’re talking about just having an executive committee.
            Joel:  This is such a dramatic change from our historical structure.  I don’t think we can do this on our own.
            Gary:  Read the DCS in depth.  Talk about it next month.  Revise the bylaws, substantive changes, I think forming an ad hoc committee [isn’t enough].
            Scott:  We have to focus on this and get it done.
Bea:  Move that we approve the DCS contract.  [8:13 p.m.]

MOTION:  To approve the Dynamic Change Solutions contract.
1st:  Bea Lurie
2nd:  Gary Lander

            Funds will come from an Ask of the congregation or from the Endowments.
            Can they come from some of the savings that we’ve had this fiscal year?  Yes
            Joel:  I call the question.
            Approve DCS contract:  Many
            Nays:  Unknown
            Abstentions:  Unknown
            The motion was passed.

11.       Scott:  Moving to Mizpah Phase I is next Wednesday, August 12th.  There will be no cost for storage until we physically move in, face-to-face.

            We are going to have Shabbat services on Saturday, August 15th with the guidance of Rabbi Norry, who will briefly describe what we talked about earlier.

            Friday Kabbalat Shabbat, Minchah and Ma’ariv.

            Saturday Shabbat, abbreviated beginning, Torah readings, abbreviated end of service.

            Reminder about Wednesdays and Fridays via Zoom minyanim.

12.      Upcoming Events

           a.  Minyan via Zoom on Wednesdays, 6:00 p.m.
           b.  Minyan via Zoom for Kabbalat Shabbat on Fridays, 6:00 p.m.
           c.  Scholars of the Scroll via Zoom is now on Saturdays, 9:00 a.m.
           d.  Executive Committee Meeting:  Thursday, September 3rd, 6:30 p.m., via Zoom
           e.  Next Board Meeting:  Thursday, September 10th, 6:30 p.m., via Zoom

  • Good & Welfare began at about 8:19 p.m.
  • The meeting was adjourned at 8:20 p.m.
  • Tal suggested RSVP for services.
  • Welcome Rabbis – Zoom cocktail hour.  Will send out communication for that.