UHC board reflects on eventful year, elects officers, plans for challenges ahead

By Terry Fear

As United Hebrew Congregation president Betsy Frank noted with her D’Var Torah during the Temple’s annual meeting on July 19, we begin our countdown to the High Holy Days with The Book of Deuteronomy.

Another name for Deuteronomy is Mishneh Torah, or “Repetition of Torah”. In Deuteronomy, Moses leads the Israelites through a reflection on their journey as a free people preparing to enter the Promised Land.

Here at UHC, Betsy reminded us the annual meeting is a time for consideration of our past year’s congregational journey and preparation for the High Holy Days of 5781 and beyond.

In Deuteronomy, Moses leads the Israelites through a reflection on their journey as a free people preparing to enter the Promised Land.

Remembering the past year always involves a long pause to honor those the congregation has lost. We followed this silence with the Mourner’s Kaddish.

This year, we remembered Beatzy Becker, Mishelle Cohen, Dr. Fred Haggerty, Eva Kor, Fannie London, Lucien Meis, Allane Zucker and Dr. Karl Zucker.

The loss of past congregants who are part of the synagogue’s collective memory, including those who had moved away and others who remained active until the end, is difficult and personally painful for all of us. Zichronam liv’rachah. May their memories be for a blessing.

URJ COVID-19 impact survey brings encouraging results

As the congregation moves forward, COVID-19 has become an unseen, uninvited and unwanted intrusion into our personal lives and our collective life at United Hebrew Congregation. Out of that concern for the health of our members, we continue to hold all services and events virtually through Zoom.

To help member congregations cope with the virus’s impact, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) sent a COVID-19 impact survey to all participating synagogues. While only 10 congregants from UHC completed the survey, we have reason to take encouragement from its findings:

  • 89 percent agree or strongly agree they would recommend UHC to their friends.
  • Prior to COVID-19
    • 77 percent participated in services.
    • 55 percent participated in education.
    • 55 percent participated in social programs and/or social justice programs.
  • Since COVID-19
    • 88 percent participated in services.
    • 33 percent participated in education.
    • The congregation has conducted no social or social justice programs.

Perhaps this is a good time to consider these questions, even if you didn’t participate in the survey:

  • Would you recommend our synagogue to your friends?
  • Prior to COVID-19, did you attend services or participate in Torah study or religious school?
  • Did you attend any of UHC’s social or social justice programming?
  • Since COVID-19, have you attended any of our Zoom services?
  • And most importantly, how will you choose to participate in the future?

Virtual Shabbat services help bridge the gap

Our Shabbat services via Zoom provide opportunities for truly meaningful worship and meditation; maybe even more important now that we are readjusting to a “new normal” (whatever that may be).

We always enjoy a brief virtual “oneg” afterward. This chance to visit helps bridge the social distancing gap.

The board is always seeking new ways to engage congregants virtually. We welcome and encourage any suggestions.

United Hebrew Congregation is committed to maintaining the Jewish presence in the Wabash Valley by providing religious, spiritual, educational and social programming.

During the annual meeting, attended by 14 congregants, president Betsy Frank highlighted active engagement in our synagogue and in the community. We continue to fulfill UHC’s mission statement:

United Hebrew Congregation is committed to maintaining the Jewish presence in the Wabash Valley by providing religious, spiritual, educational and social programming.

We strive to broaden and strengthen our connections with all members of the Jewish community. We value our historical role as an integral part of the wider Wabash Valley community and endeavor to contribute to its welfare.

Thanks to all who keep the Temple going

The board also recognized individuals for their efforts to maintain the Temple’s physical, social and financial foundations:

  • Karen Harris ably leads religious school, both on-site and virtually.
  • Sisterhood president Patty Lewis has prepared a new booklet, “Sisterhood: Past, Present & Future” and will convene the group’s first physical meeting in several months at Deming Park.
  • UHC treasurer Bruce Black continues to efficiently and skillfully manage the Temple’s finances.
  • Scott Skillman has been researching past practices of the Cemetery Committee as the group updates its rules and regulations.
  • The Security Committee and House Committee implemented security measures and improvements to the synagogue. Those improvements included refinishing the front doors with repairs to the locking mechanism. The groups arranged to remove shrubbery to improve security and installed inside locks on some doors. Committee members can provide a more exhaustive list of completed work.
  • Restoration efforts included replacing protective coverings and their frames around the sanctuary’s stained glass windows. Mominee Studios of Evansville completed that work. These windows are now stabilized. Also, Midwest Restoration visited for a consult on the exterior front steps and determined the steps are safe to use. Donnie Furry provided recommendations for repair or eventual replacement.
  • Following Sandy Mutchler’s invitation, Debra Israel led a group decorating a table for Arts Illiana’s Tablescapes fundraiser. The theme of UHC’s tablescape was Tu BiShvat -— New Year of the Trees.
  • Terry Fear (author of this column) is active in interfaith and social justice events, while volunteering as a docent on Saturdays at CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center on Saturdays. Terry is substituting at the museum until Walter Sommers can resume his duties.
  • UHC has joined the Farrington’s Grove Historical District. Debra Israel and Wilma Turetzky represent us at the meetings. Volunteers during the group’s regular neighborhood cleanups have improved the alley behind our property.
  • Thanks to Bonnie and Donald Turner for cleaning the alley (on a very hot day) in July.
  • Special thanks to Temple secretary Norma Collins. Norma’s work is invaluable, and her care and concern for congregants, past and present, marks an important part of UHC life.

Slate sails through elections

Elections capped the annual meeting, with the board unanimously accepting the 2020 slate. These officers and board members will serve three-year terms (with end dates in parentheses):

  • Betsy Frank, president (2023).
  • Terry Fear, vice president/secretary (2023).
  • Bruce Black, treasurer (2023).
  • Herschel Chait, director (2023).
  • Wilma Turetzky, director (2023).
  • Karen Harris, director, (2021, filling the unexpired term of Debra Israel).

Now, we put our plans to work, demonstrating commitment to the Temple.

Our new student rabbi, Emily Dana, will soon join us virtually, with the hope of in-person visits to follow.

We continue to welcome out-of-town guests, new members and those interested in virtual Shabbat services.

Even with the membership working and worshiping from home, United Hebrew Congregation remains a strong center for Jewish life in the Wabash Valley, and a sacred presence in the community at large.

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