Board Meeting Minutes: March 21, 2021

Next Executive Committee Meeting:

Thursday, April 29th, 2021; 6:30 p.m.

Next Board Meeting:

Thursday, May 6th, 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.


Owen Allen, Tal Cohen, Reuben Dubrow, Irv Ginsburg, Rachel Hanan, Bill Hillner, Scott Israel, Joe Kodsi, Alan Lebovitz, Beth Lowe, Bea Lurie, Jordan Parker, Jackie Rosenfeld, Roy Rosenfeld, Mark Shapiro, Cara Weiner, Terry Wheeler.

Not able to attend: 

Orly Berke, Rob Cowan, Lynn Hochman, Howard Kaplan, Matt Kodsi, Cassie Rose, David Rose,

Joel Susman.

Guests:  Traci Sloan, Rick Jacobs, Robert Cohen, Jeff Weiss

Also in attendance was Amy Sandy-Office Manager.

Rabbi Hillel Norry was not in attendance.

Unable to attend:

Orly Berke, Howard Kaplan, Cassie Rose,

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

The Zoom link was open by 3:20 p.m., and our meeting began at 3:32 p.m.

1.       The D’var Torah was given by Bill Hillner who spoke about Vayikra, which is about sacrifices.  Sin offerings were considered for different kinds of things.  Karet – being cut off; one did not know the law or did not know the facts.  Whether it was it an intentional act or an involuntary act were also considered.  Why would an unintentional sin need atonement?  Even inadvertent sins can testify to a person’s soul.  Gave Chabad reference.  Cannot dissociate ourselves from our acts; we must still undergo contrition.  Said few protested against the Holocaust while it was happening, and inaction had significant consequences.  We need to offer sacrifice and contrition even for unintentional actions.

          Scott then asked Jackie Rosenfeld to say what our Why, Vision, and Mission Statements mean to her.  She said that while we are all eagerly looking forward to meeting in person, over the next many months we will be having many changes for B’nai Zion.  More than likely, we will still need to wear masks, consistently wash hands, and wipe down commonly touched surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes.  Although it may seem “like someone else’s job,” each of us must adhere to these Covid-19 mitigation behaviors and when asked, take up the tasks required of us, no matter how large or how small.

2.       High Holidays

          a.       Chair:  Mark Shapiro

                     Happy to report that Mark has accepted being chair for this important group of holidays.

          b.       Hazzan:  Hila Brod

                     Hila has expressed interest in being our chazzan for HHD 2021.

                     Question:  Where will we be having our HHD services?  [to be determined]

                     MOTION:  To Engage Hila

                     1st:  Mark Shapiro

                     2nd:  Roy Rosenfeld

                     Discussion.  Jordan:  I feel it’s pre-emptive to engage her this soon.  Last year we had a number of professionals who were also available.  Last year we were way over budget.  I think we need to post-pone this motion for 3-4 months.

                     Alan:  We know Hila, we get great feedback on her, and I feel we should go ahead and secure her for our services.  Rabbi Sam Rotenberg has said he is amenable to hiring someone tried and true with whom we have experience and who worked well with our past rabbis.

                     Bill:  I agree with Alan.  Rabbi Sam has agreed to enter negotiations with us.  Our congregation needs a good HHD experience.

                     Jordan:  Need to secure our rabbi first.

                     Bill:  We had two rabbis last year – Rabbi Ed Bernstein and Rabbi Hillel Norry – that is  why our budget was impacted.

                     Bea:  Feel we should vote but have a $ number attached to it.

                     Scott:  Last year the cost was $5,500.  We will negotiate for that plus hotel and travel expenses.  That is in line for what we’ve spent the last five years.

                     Bill:  Call the question.

                     Visual roll call for this motion [Rachel Hanan recorded voting info.]

                     Yes:  13

                     No:  1

                     Abstain:  1

                     The motion was passed.

15:52 p.m.

3.       Rabbinic Search Committee (RSC) – Bill Hillner / Scott Israel

          We interviewed two rabbinical candidates.  Forty-three people responded to the survey.  The majority felt either candidate would be acceptable, but overall Rabbi Sam Rotenberg was the preferred candidate.  Then the RSC turned the baton over to Scott to begin negotiations with Rabbi Sam. 

          Scott:  We are proposing a three-year commitment, $128K/year includes housing, insurance, and benefits.  I’m still working on securing health insurance at a reasonable price with good benefits and co-pays.  Quotes range from $1300 to $1700 to $3300 per month for various insurance coverages.  We offer $6K towards health insurance, which doesn’t seem to be enough.  His out of pocket expense would be $17K per year, for a total of $44K/year just for insurance.  We need to do better than that.  I will go to USCJ/JoAnne to see what they can offer, plus one or two other sources.

          Qs:  Are we providing a place to live?

          Ans:  Salary includes parsonage.  Rabbi Rotenberg has been put in contact with Andy Hodes.

          Bea:  I’m concerned salary is too low and we might lose them.

          Terry:  His wife is working from home, and she may be able to continue to work from home.

          Scott:  She will have a newborn plus two other kids.

          Bea:  United Way may have a collaborative for nonprofits.

          Scott to call them.

          Irv:  Check with Rabbinical Assembly to see if they offer something.  We’re hiring him, and not sure we can involve concern for her livelihood.  May be able to find something in the area.

          To Scott:  Have we said $128K to Rabbi Sam?

          Scott:  Not yet.  The whole package is $128.3K

          Jordan:  A “whole” package is everything, right?

          Scott:  No, this does not include taxes.  Typically, BZ pays taxes.

          Bea:  This does include personal development?  Yes.

          [Voice?  David Binder?]  There are special rules for self-employed individuals.

          Scott:  No, the rabbi will not be self-employed.

          The total package is $110K plus taxes.

          RA application stated salary range and benefits, and we stated $110K plus taxes.

          Proposed salary is $110K. Total package includes conferences, RA dues, retirement, personal development, etc.

          Taxable base is $110K, plus benefits, plus.

          Proposed will be a 1-3% increase depending upon budget.

          Bea:  Are we going to tie in deliverables with increase?

          Scott:  Yes, that’s important.  Bea and I should have a side conversation to determine what we should include.

          Bea:  It’s quantifying some aspects of his job to justify a raise.

          Irv:  To put a deliverable on the way in – I’m not sure that is the way to bring him in initially.  Not sure where we are going to get new members.  Need to build up the people that we already have.


          MOTION:  I move that we prepare a package and present it to Rabbi Sam Rotenberg.

          1st:  Irv Ginsburg

          2nd:  Alan Lebovitz

          Bill:  Point of clarification – Motion to present to congregation.

          Scott:  We have to recommend to the congregation that we should hire Rabbi Sam Rotenberg.

          Irv to Scott:  So, you negotiate with the rabbi, get terms acceptable to him and to us, then we present it to the congregation for approval.  If the $128K is not acceptable to him, we go back to the table.

          Terry:  How should the motion correctly be worded?

          Scott:  Either modify motion Irv stated or resubmit it.

          Suggested MOTION:  Provide a recommendation to the congregation to engage Sam Rotenberg within the grounds as outlined by our application and …

          Irv withdraws his motion.

          Restated Motion:  Bill Hillner


          Rabbinical Search Committee proposes that the Board accept its recommendation for Rabbi Sam Rotenberg including the salary package as delineated within the original application and maintaining our budgetary constraints.

          1st:  Bill Hillner

          2nd:  none

          Yes:  13

          No:  0

          Abstain:  none

          The motion was passed.

          Bill:  I propose that the Board accepts Sam Rotenberg as our candidate, allow Scott to engage negotiations with him within the parameters we have set.

4.       Sale of Land at 114 McBrien Road – Rob Cowan, Alan Lebovitz, and Terry Wheeler

          We had a congregation meeting Tuesday night to cover this, pros and cons.  I will ask Alan to read the motion, then we can have a discussion period.   


          To sign contract with Ethan Collier to purchase B’nai Zion property “as-is, where-is” (including full building demolition) for $300,000.  

          Contract will expire August 2021.

          a.       The signed contract will include $10,000 non-refundable earnest money.

          b.       Closing is contingent upon:

                     – Rezoning that allows a minimum of 25 lots (March deadline is March 22; submit in   April, preliminary PC (Practical Completion) in June, July is full council, closing would be   end of July.)

                     – Environmental clean closure documents (have in hand, w/delivery immediately)

                     – Geotech documents and full disclosure (have in hand, w/delivery immediately)

          The Building Committee is presenting this motion as so stated.

          Roy:  In original schematic, how many lots did they come up with?

          Alan:  I never saw his plan.

          Irv:  We don’t get involved in the rezoning.

          Voting on this Motion:

          1st:  Alan Lebovitz

          2nd:  Terry Wheeler

          Scott:  With the rezoning, going to the city and all that, are we responsible for anything to go to the zoning commission?

          Alan:  No, it’s all on the shoulders of the buyer.

          Jordan:  In the contingency list, closing by end of July, do we need to add a timeframe as a contingency?  Rezoning can take a long time.

          Alan:  We can state that rezoning should start in April.  Expiration of 9 months.  If it gets denied, then we have to start all over???

          Irv:  How about August 1st?

          Alan:  If it fails, we get $10K and start over.

          Joe:  Shouldn’t we declare the condition of the ground?

          Alan:  Geotech documents covers the studies and condition of the ground.  We will give him our documents; that’s one of the contingencies.

          Bea:  Previously I saw a draft of minutes, and it seems like it was brought up suddenly.

          Alan:  We had a second offer, negotiated back and forth, and this offer is the best.

          Bea:  How did we find buyers?

          Alan:  They came to us.

          Bea:  We got ourselves in trouble previously re: transparency.  I don’t recall this having been discussed.

          Terry:  Did you attend the congregational meeting?

          Bea:  No, couldn’t make it.

          Terry:  Feelers were put out; two offers were what we got.  The downsides of not accepting an offer now would be too great financially.  This is the best offer we are likely to get.

          Alan:  There was a third developer, who passed on this opportunity.

          Roy:  There are constant costs to maintain our property now, like water run-off, insurance, etc.  If him getting rezoning takes 9 months, it’s going to cost us even more.

          Terry:  It may take maybe 5-6 months, possible extension, get it moving along.

          Roy:  If it takes more than a certain period of time, then he takes on our expenses.

          Alan:  Amend the motion to add in an August 2021 expiration and agreed upon options to cover ourselves.  If we are having exorbitant expenses, we’ll go to him and discuss that.

          Scott:  Re transparency, the bylaws state that the Board of Directors may sell/buy property.  I called a specific meeting for this.

          Roll call vote re Alan’s amended motion:

          Yes:  12

          No:  1

          Abstain:  None

          The amended motion was passed.

          Jordan:  Are we planning to rent space at Mizpah when allowable to have in-person services? 

          Scott:  We did sign a one year contract, then Covid hit.  Federation, Mizpah, B’nai Zion, and Chabad will meet this coming Wednesday to discuss when we can meet indoors, in-person.

5.       Future Home Search – Scott Israel / Bill Hillner

          As soon as we finalize our land/building sale, we’ll know how much money we’ll have to work with.  There are many variables – what part of town, what kind of building, etc.  Need members for this committee.  There were no questions from the audience.

6.       Upcoming Events – See extensive list from agenda.

7.       Good & Welfare started at about 16:49 p.m.

(BZ Board Meeting Notes 20210321 final)