The Latest from BZBI

March Board Buzz

March 16, 2017


Want to get involved? We’d love to hear from you! Reach out to any of the board members/committee chairs listed below, or contact Community Engager Terri Soifer.


Upcoming events for this spring include:

  • April 22: HIAS Shabbat, with HIAS Pennsylvania Executive Director Cathryn Miller-Wilson
  • April 30, 4:00-6:00 pm: Jewish Thought & Psychoanalysis lecture by Marsha Hewitt: “Unconscious Communication, Psychoanalysis & the Religious Experience.” The event is chaired by Dr. Harvey Schwartz.
  • May 22: SICHA with Josh Aronson, author of book/documentary Orchestra of Exiles
  • June 12: BZBI’s Annual Meeting – with Abby Pogrebin, author of My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew

Have ideas or feedback for the programming committee? Contact Sabrina Rubin Erdely.


Security update: Even before the recent acts of vandalism and threats against the Jewish community, we’ve long been proactive about creating a secure environment at BZBI. We have a fully upgraded security system; security guards monitor our doors; our staff is trained in emergency and evacuation plans; and we are in regular communication with Federation’s Secure Community Network to ensure our plans are up-to-date.  Our procedures were developed in consultation with the Philadelphia Police and FBI Joint Task Force on Counter Terrorism, and meet Homeland Security best practices as applicable to our facility. Additionally, three years ago, we requested an evaluation by Philadelphia police, and adopted their recommendations.

Prompted by recent events, BZBI undertook a full re-evaluation of its security measures, and found that our security is fully up to speed. As an added precaution, all staff will undergo a refresher on shelter-in-place (lockdown) and evacuation procedures.

Have ideas or feedback for the building committee? Contact Josh Weingram.


What a community we have here at BZBI!  Last month, after a Marom Rosh Hodesh service, we held a Volunteer Appreciation Brunch to celebrate our first cohort of dedicated volunteers: Alyssa Bailkin, Gary Bramnick, David Forgosh, Sharri Horowitz, Jaci Pollock, Susan Roe, and Laurie Segal. Thank you for your commitment to making our Shul great!

On Saturday, March 25, we will have our first Shabbat Without Walls.  This program will offer opportunities for our community to connect on Shabbat outside the synagogue. We hope to match people, based on location and interest, for a shared activity on Shabbat day. Several congregants have volunteered to host Shabbat lunch. Now, they just need guests! Please contact Sara Laver [link] if you are interesting in attending Shabbat lunch around town. Other activities will include an early morning Shabbat Meditative Walk on the Schuykill River trail with Rebecca Kraisner-Freedman; afternoon playdates at Liberty Lands park, Seger Playground, and Chester Arthur; late afternoon Board Games, Seudah Shlishit, and Havdalah, as well as Post Shabbat Adult Board Games. The BZBI website has more information about all these activities.

Other upcoming events include:

  • Stocking Up: Cook together in the BZBI kitchen. Move over, Alicia, as we gather to prepare food for our friends! We will be looking for volunteers after Passover.
  • Hazak Brunch on March 26
  • Rosh Chodesh Circle: Calling all the Ladies!  Join other like-minded women as we gather in a sacred space to honor the New Month.  Our next circle meets Tuesday, March 28. Please contact the Temple Office for location details.
  • Girls’ Night Out Bingo on April 20
  • Community Shabbat dinner: Friday, April 21. Let us do the cooking so you can do the schmoozing!

Have ideas or feedback for the Community committee? Contact Sarah Greiss Kahn.


On the evening of May 11, our community will be invited to enjoy cocktails at the National Museum of American Jewish History to thank Arlene Fickler for her four years of leadership as BZBI’s president. Look for a save the date card and sponsorship opportunities.  We look forward to getting together with one another at this great museum and celebrating the latest in the line of presidents who serve us all so well.

Two years ago, our congregation was generously offered a challenge match to raise the money necessary to fund its decision to hire two rabbis upon Rabbi Stone’s assuming emeritus status. Our donors generously agreed to match the sum raised up to $300,000. Thanks to a minyan of donors plus 2, we raised the funds that will be matched. The money raised has been used to pay Rabbi Goldman’s and Rabbi Stone’s salaries last year and this year, as well as other transition costs.  As we approach the end of our new rabbis’ second year, we can report that members have donated or pledged $300,298 – more than the amount of the challenge grant.  The funds were raised primarily from twelve donors who collectively donated $296,580, in addition to their Annual Giving gifts, over the two-year period.  To get the full benefit of the match, the twelve members of the Board who had not previously given to the Challenge Grant, no matter what their financial circumstances, agreed both to maintain their Annual Giving gift and to make a gift to the Rabbi Fund.  With those commitments, we have raised slightly more than the $300,000 of the challenge grant.

Have ideas or feedback for the development committee? Contact Harry Roth.


Our Early Childhood Director, Brooke Mildenberg, has announced she will not return after this school year. We are sad to lose Brooke, are grateful for her dedication to our school and community over the past two years, and wish her the very best.

The search for a new Early Childhood Director is in process under the leadership of our Early Education Committee, with Brooke’s assistance.

Have ideas or feedback for the Early Childhood committee? Contact Nikki Morris or Alexandra Garber.


We’re beginning work on next year’s budget, a process that will continue into the spring. We’re beginning the process by tasking each committee to submit their proposed budgets for the coming year.

In addition, the finance committee is working with the Hashlama Task Force to develop a 2017-18 personnel budget, based on various staff hiring options that the Task Force is considering.

Have ideas or feedback for the finance committee? Contact Jill Jokelson.


We’re forming a Nominating Committee to seek out new board members for next year. Under the bylaws, the Committee is chaired by Governance Committee Chair Rob Biron and the immediate past-President Josh Levy. All the officers serve one year terms but are eligible for re-nomination for up to three or four years in the same positions, depending on the office; everyone other than our President is eligible for re-nomination either in their current position or another role; there is one board vacancy to be filled; and four non-officers’ terms end this year and each of those trustees is eligible for re-nomination.

Want to help select candidates for next year’s BZBI board? Have ideas or feedback for the governance committee? Contact Rob Biron.


The goal of the Hashlama (“Completion/Making Peace”) Task Force is to develop recommendations about how BZBI can best fill the openings resulting from changes in clergy and staff. The Task Force is focusing on our ritual, educational, musical, and pastoral needs; the roles and responsibilities of our clergy, professional and educational staff; and the best ways to secure leadership for our Shabbat and holiday services, Hebrew school, and the training of B’nai Mitzvah. The Hashlama Task Force met earlier this week, and will send a detailed report to the congregation early next week.

Have ideas or feedback for the Hashlama Task Force? Contact Jill Jokelson or Josh Weingram.


To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, the Israel Engagement Committee will sponsor a series of Pop-Up Book Clubs. The discussions will take place on March 18, April 15, and May 13 immediately following Kiddush. The first session will be about the book Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation by Yossi Klein Halevi. All are welcome and are strongly encouraged to read at least the designated chapters of each book before the session!

Have ideas or feedback for the Israel Engagement Committee? Contact Randy Schulz.


The Committee is working with the Early Ed Committee to refresh the preschool’s logo in order to create a cohesive image that connects the preschool to BZBI. We also plan to implement best practices in communicating with our current and prospective parents.

In addition, the Marketing Committee is working on an invitation package and promotion for the May 11 fundraising event at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Have ideas or feedback for the Marketing Committee? Contact Nancy Katz Colman.


Forty-six (46) household units – some families, some couples, and some individuals – have joined BZBI as new members since the beginning of this fiscal year and new members continue to come in throughout the year.  As a result, our dues income year to date is $55,000 ahead of where we were at this time last year and we are projecting a year-end collection rate with a comparable increase.

Have ideas of feedback for our Membership Committee? Contact Ben Silverman.


We finalized a job description for the Education Director position. The description was shaped in part by comments provided by the Hashlamah Task Force, as well as parents and others since Cindy’s departure. The person who will ultimately be hired as the Education Director will serve as Principal of NHS and take the lead on other projects, including coordination with members of the clergy of B’nai Mitzvah training.

Have ideas or feedback for the Neziner Hebrew School Committee? Contact Rachel Gross.


Among our priorities is to boost consistent attendance at minyan, especially to ensure those attendees saying Kaddish are always able to do so. We’re fortunate to have our minyan regulars who make our daily services possible; we ask congregants to please recognize and support their efforts by showing up whenever you can. Stop by in the morning in on your way to work, or in the evening before picking up your kids from Hebrew School—being our “tenth person” will make a big difference for those remembering loved ones.

Daily Minyan Schedule:

Monday-Friday morning: 7:45 AM

Monday-Thursday evening: 5:30 PM

Friday Kabbalat Shabbat: 6:00 PM

Sunday morning: 9:00 AM

Have ideas or feedback for the Ritual Committee? Contact Suzanne Litke.


The new Social Justice Task Force is forming under the leadership of Rabbi Yosef. Its goal is to determine what justice issues BZBI will address, how, and with which community partners. We have begun to design the process by which our community members may reflect and share their concerns and passions. The process will include one-to-one meetings, a community-wide survey, and parlor meetings. When we have heard from as many members as possible, the task force with use the data collected to determine how to proceed as a congregation.

Have ideas or feedback for the Social Justice Committee? Contact Rabbi Yosef Goldman.

BONUS! Highlights of March’s board meeting:

The Board approved our congregation’s support of HIAS’s Welcome Campaign, an affirmative statement of support of welcoming refugees to the United States. You can find the statement, and the hundreds of congregational signees, here.

Amid much laughter and snacking on hamentaschen, we tagged, bagged and twist-tied mishloach manot, Rabbi Abe (aka DJ Aluminum) solemnly reminded us of our religious obligation to have a crazy good time on Purim; and a new nickname for Arlene was born: “The Fickler.”

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