B’nai Zion Board Meeting
Thursday, May 14, 2020
6:30 p.m. – 8:26 p.m. Held via Zoom
Attendees: Dr. Bill Hillner, Joel Susman, Scott Israel, Bea Lurie, Roy Rosenfeld, Jackie Rosenfeld, Jordan Parker, Joe Kodsi, David Rose, Howard Kaplan, Cara Weiner, Beth Lowe, Michael Spector, Rob Cowan, Mark Shapiro, Irv Ginsburg, Alan Lebovitz, Owen Allen (18 people).
Absent: Randi Weiss, Matt Kodsi, Rachel Hanan, Cassie Rose, Kevin Moore, Micah Hodes, Dr. Reuben Dubrow,
Lynn Hochman (8 people).
Also in attendance were: Rabbi Susan Tendler (left after her verbal report) and Laurie Fisher, Director of
Agenda may include:
Rabbinic Search Update
Mizpah Status of Agreement
HHD Services via Zoom or Streaming
Replacements for someone to schedule Sabbath services; Education Director, Programming person
Nomination Slate – still in progress
Capital Fund Raising Effort
List from Scott/Amy re Board members making check-up calls on congregants
1. The meeting started at 6:34 p.m.Laurie Fisher gave the D’var Torah. This is her last Board meeting with us. B’har Buhochotai (double portion). This is a Schmita year; the next one starts 5782, a year from this September. Schmita is every seven years and means in effect, Let the land have a Shabbat. One is allowed to pick what one needs from food that grows there naturally, but one cannot reap or store product. This makes a lot of sense agriculturally. In recent times in the Disapora, it has come to mean something else – What does it mean to rest for a whole year? Rav Isaac Cook lived in British Palestine, before Israel became a country. Most of the elders of Zion were very secular. Rav Cook started religious Zionism and was also very religious, what we would call Orthodox. Laurie read a quote from him. One could compare the coronavirus to a schmita year where we are not acquiring a lot of stuff, and this downtime gives us an interval for reflection, thoughtfulness, and kindness. Its calls upon us to be truthful and genuinely kind and not react to the usual forces of society. Let’s really listen to those inner voices and heed them.MOTION: To accept minutes for both the March 12th and April 19th Board meetings:
1st: Irv Ginsburg
2nd: Alan Lebovitz
Abstained: None that I saw.
The motion was passed.
2. Reports from Vice Presidents
From Roy – no announcements.
From Rabbi – Thank you to Laurie for being an awesome partner and for all of your support, dedication, hard work. Between Laurie, Eytan, and I, reaching out to seniors students (high school), we were taking videos and hope to share them with you soon. We are sending them t-shirts and bringing a taste of Ramah Darom to kids, too. Other events included Day of Yizkor service at BZ, drive-in adult B’nei Mitzvot of David Fairchild and Traci Sloan. Thank you to Jeff Sandy for helping with the audio visual
aspects. Downloads will be sent to you as available. Ask Amy (if you are at health risk to get packet) ahead of time.
In other news, one day it will be public about where my family is going in about a month.
3b. Administration/Finance — Scott Israel.
See his proposed budget.
This is a review of the tenth month for 2020. Income was $388K, and expenses were $365K which is 3% below the budget approved to last year. We are doing very well in view of current situation. Labor is running high, but this will be offset by not having a seder. Billy Joe and his team have been cleaning out building. I have added a line item for Building Cleanout which includes packing up, buying moving materials, etc. Budget is on task. We are about $30K off, but that’s okay. Please look at the Accounts Receivable report. We have about $60K outstanding.
Question: Have we rented storage space?
Answer: Yes, still downsizing. Plan to move to this space around early June.
Budgeted $219K (for Dues), a $19K decrease. Come this July, we will be down thirteen (13) members units representing about $20K of dues income, difficult to get by this difference.
Question: Are we in reasonable shape to close down?
I added $25K to rabbi search and same for director of education.
Labor decreased a little bit. Billy Joe would be on the Mizpah payroll if we were immediately moving to share their space. We will still have 2-3 months of Billy Joe on the BZ payroll.
Plant Operations – Encompasses $4200/year which I increased by $3K to include finding a place for HHD services.
Question: What is the $25K quotes for?
Answer: It is for building clean out and moving. Armstrong Relocation Services will be doing this. Looking at the next few categories in the operating budget, you can see that we cannot afford the building demolition. Endowments will help offset this cost.
Jordan: This negative budget is of concern. Maybe the Finance committee could meet to find savings.
Answer: My plan of action is a balanced budget. We will make that happen.
Jordan: What is the status of the various Endowments during Covid-19?
Answer: We were at $4.8M before March, lost $800K to $1M in endowments. Markets are going up again.
Membership units lost: 13 due to moving, resigning, death.
3c. Engagement & Outreach – Bea Lurie
Board Retreat is Sunday, May 17th, from 10-3. Info has sent out. There is a follow-up meeting May 31st. Anticipated Attendance Rollcall:
Irv-didn’t get info [Sec. note: At the time, VPs were not invited.]
Mike Spector-cannot make it.
Kevin-??? Need to follow up.
Bea stressed importance of this meeting as subsequent meetings will build upon this. Thank you for all of your hard work.
3d. Building Report — Howard Kaplan.
See his brief update previously emailed which includes a 95+ page report from the vendor. Hazmat has been completed. BZ has asbestos, lead paint, a few other materials. Then mid-April tornado hit which reprioritized many pending jobs. One additional detail is sidewalks. We will ask for bids both with and without demolition of sidewalks and parking lots.
Howard met with Tommy Ireland today at B’nai Zion with engineers to determine what permits we need. Regarding mitigation of Hazmat issues, there are two options: Hire company to mitigate portions of building with hazmat. Second option is to treat whole building as a hazmat site. Will follow up with that.
Irv: After building demo, will the empty lot be immediately sale-able?
Answer: Don’t see any reason why not. Only hold up is condition of building. Once building is gone,
there should be no issues to selling the site.
Bill: The Board of Directors has to approve the sale of the lot.
Irv: yes, of course.
Howard: Keeping the parking lots/sidewalks as-in may adversely affect $ in sale of building.
Bill, to everyone: Because people have left the congregation (moving, resigned, death), please recommend who can assist with education, administrative responsibilities, programming, assignments of Torah portions for Shabbat services, new readers, but we still need to move forward. We are at a very critical time right now.
Bea will send the Visioning agenda to Irv along with the Zoom link. Irv: Will verify receipt.
4a. High Holidays and Re-Opening Considerations: Rabbinical Assembly Thoughts.
Bill conveyed a message from the Rabbinical Assembly about Jewish values regarding reopening of our synagogues (read memo). We hope this document will be used by our clergy. We envision a gradual re-engagement between memberships and local facilities. Pikuach Nefesh (preservation of life) supersedes everything. Professional staff and leadership should not be under any force to reengage prematurely. We need continued flexibility in interpretation of our religion. We are responsible for one another. Mentioned other Jewish terms that reinforce us to act with caution. Ensure partnership with all leaders. Other activities, day school, camp, might begin much later only with great caution. We must be careful moving forward, but continue trying to meet spiritual needs.
Bill feels that we are looking at least one more year of modified synagogue life. Any short-term rabbi will need to be comfortable with Zoom technology. Bill has met with our other local Jewish groups to determine unified approach to moving forward.
Alan: Make sure we have on-going meetings. [Maintain forward momentum]
Bill: For example, Ashwood Square members mostly don’t have technology to be included. Maybe we could arrange for a large viewing screen yet maintain social distancing while seeing services.
Other comments, questions?
Bea: Need status of list for board members to call congregants.
Scott: Sending list to Jackie tomorrow for distribution.
Joel: We are not the only congregation going through this. Have you talked with USCJ for support and guidance?
Bill: Yes, I have been in touch and am receiving materials. I am also talking to Knoxville re joint zoom services.
Education – Avath Achim in Atlanta, Heska Amuna in Knoxville, and others can negotiate and network
to share services.
Bill: Any thoughts about how to handle this year’s High Holydays? Personally, I cannot attend services
face-to-face, all things considered, the way things are going. We need guidance from our rabbi.
Alan: Let’s lay out all options, rank them, then vote on them.
Howard Kaplan: Are we working as three congregations together to set up a date for re-opening?
Bill: Ultimately, it is our own decision. I am guessing that Chabad may move faster to open for face-to-face. Our rabbi also needs to be our leader in this endeavor.
David Rose: What about using a facility being used as a studio so that everything could be done like a television station?
Rob Cowan: City court is being re-opened on May 27th. You can have an open YouTube channel, have everything set up, no switches to be turned on/off, everyone can attend remotely. This is easily done with minimal technology.
Joel: Let’s set up a task force, including Roy as prime representing the Ritual Committee, to see what options are available and to learn about getting the technology to work. We have internal expertise with Mike Spector and others who know their way around computers.
Howard K: What about the Service itself, how would that change? We need to explore a different approach.
Joel: That’s where Roy gets involved.
Roy: I defer to Rabbi Tendler’s opinion. Until I have the freedom to consider alternatives, I can’t do anything that is not sanctioned by our current rabbi.
Joel: We must plan ahead of time now.
Bea: See the email Rabbi Tendler sent out about how other congregations are handling this.
Bill: I met with the rabbi today, and her thinking may be changing.
4d. Volunteers for this ad hoc Technology Committee: Rob Cowan, Roy Rosenfeld, Irv Ginsburg, Alan Lebovitz, Jackie Rosenfeld, Scott Israel, and Beth Lowe. Please contact Bill or Scott for direction moving
Amy Sandy: We’ve been doing online services with our church, and it is not always as easy as it sounds.
5. Interim Rabbi: Rabbi Neal Sandler, currently with Avath Achim (AA), availability for HHD at B’nai Zion has been rescinded. We may still use him during the year. We have two other rabbis under consideration specifically for HHD. We have needs for pastoral counseling, funerals, other needs to be dealt with.
6. Office Update: Asked Amy to give update about office, what she is working on, etc. Brooke has been on maternity leave since March. Maybe mid-June return. We also miss Lester Votava, who is a huge font of knowledge. I miss Randi calling re: oneg, minyan list, etc. Will
need some volunteers to fill in for some areas, proofreading, other tasks, office stuff. Everything else seems to be going well. Miss seeing everyone in person.
Bill thanked Amy for what she does
7. BZ/MZ agreement: The Mizpah Board approved the written agreement which was sent to each board member. We will have separate worship services, separate office space, etc. We will move physically when it is safe for us to resume face-to-face meetings and services. We have to approve this as a BZ Board. Bill wants better food preparation area.
Question: Do we have a signed agreement? Not yet. Please read it and ask questions at next board meeting.
Scott: Any other questions?
Rob: If we don’t act on the contract after the Mizpah Board has already approved, will MZ be upset if we don’t reply in the positive?
Others: What about food prep area, what about upcoming HHD – who would meet where?
Irv: Why would we wait [to sign the agreement]? What is the agreement as far as [when we would start] paying them?
Scott: Regarding food prep, Mizpah will have a dedicated space for us. Additionally, we are planning to put one of our refrigerators in their workroom.
Bill: Does MZ expect us to immediately sign it?
Scott: It’s a question of approving the agreement. Mizpah will be upset if BZ does not sign it. It is understood that we will not move until it is safe, nor will we give any monies until we move in.
Bea: Need to add this into the agreement – that First Friday of every month is off limits [because Mizpah has services in the Sanctuary and then a large gathering with a meal in Feinstein Hall.]
Scott: I have asked Mizpah to remodel a room close to second floor to be used for first Friday for us.
Bea: Doesn’t protect us from their exceptions.
Laurie/Bea: Such as a second floor that is not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible.
Scott: We knew this aspect from before.
Bea: Need to find better alternative for our membership.
Howard K: The Mizpah building’s non-ADA aspect is grandfathered in because it is an old building.
Roy: Wouldn’t we be going to Ashwood Square on first Friday of the month?
Joel: There is a provision in the agreement to work out these kinds of issues. There is a workaround, and Mizpah would be willing to work with us.
MOTION: To approve the Mizpah/B’nai Zion Agreement as currently presented, when it is safe for in-person worshipping as designated by the B’nai Zion Board.
1st: Alan Lebovitz
2nd: Irv Ginsburg
[Added by Rob Cowan: When it starts – when it is safe for in-person worshipping as designated by BZ
Bea: I want to be sure we never have services on second floor, and we should agree to this as a Board.
Joel: I call the question.
[Secretary’s note: Votes are recorded verbally because we are meeting via Zoom.]
The motion was passed.
Rob: This is a stopgap recommendation, not a forever agreement.
Howard K: Clarified that second floor is not a viable solution.
Roy: For Ari’s Bar Mitzvah we used the Mizpah Library for worship, and it was adequate, not ADA accessible.
Alan: After this meeting, I want to quash any plans of having services on second floor of that building.
Jackie: Except that Ashwood Square may have a longer quarantine period because they are a very
8. Nomination of Slate of Officers for 2020-2021, by Alan Lebovitz.
MOTION: To approve the Slate of Officers as submitted. See next page. [Secretary’s note: Later,
there were some slot changes.]
1st: Rob Cowan
2nd: Roy Rosenfeld
The motion was passed.
Goodwill started at 20:15.
The meeting ended at 20:26.