President's Point of View - May 2016

By Vic Vercammentower-1


Don’t forget to join all of us Sunday, June 5th at 10 a.m. at BHT for the Beth Hillel Temple Annual Meeting! This is an exciting time for our community, and I encourage everyone to come hear about our present accomplishments, and more importantly our path to the future. Also soon, a letter will go out to the congregation, informing everyone about Rabbi Feingold’s upcoming Sabbatical. The Sabbatical will take place from October 25, 2016 to January 24, 2017 and from June 1, 2017 to August 31, 2017. As discussed in my letter, the purpose of a Sabbatical is for self-renewal, enabling a rabbi to better serve the congregation when s/he returns. Rabbi Feingold will be taking classes, attending conferences and seminars and engaging in self-directed study during her Sabbatical. In the publication The Guidelines for Rabbinical-Congregational Relationships it is recommended that a rabbi receive a 6-month Sabbatical every seventh year. Rabbi Feingold’s last Sabbatical, which was also taken in two three-month segments, began in November of 2009.

In order to minimize disruption to the congregation, Rabbi has been working with the Sabbatical Planning Committee, and other Temple Committees to cover BHT needs. In addition to scheduling her upcoming Sabbatical in two three-month segments, one half of the Sabbatical will occur during the summer months, when activity at the Temple is less. Rabbi’s careful planning, the activities of the various Committees as well as the strong support of our entire BHT community should help to make her absence more manageable.

Past experience shows that Rabbi Feingold’s Sabbaticals have proven helpful to the congregation in building its lay leadership strength.  I trust that the upcoming Sabbatical will likewise improve Beth Hillel and reinvigorate Rabbi Feingold as she begins her thirty-second year of service to our congregation this August.

For those that were not able to join our community on Sunday, March 20, commemorating our 90th Anniversary, you missed a powerful reminder of how the BHT community is “small but mighty” and truly represents “A House for All People”!   Hearing from Rabbi Benjy Bar-Lev, Rabbi Monica (Meyer) Kleinman, and Rabbi Dan Selsberg as they described the special role BHT played in their unique journeys to become rabbis gave me new perspective on the congregation and its impact. Given that BHT has provided international inspiration (Canada counts!), I may have to rethink describing us as small! 

During the celebration dinner and festivities, it also became clear that the 90 years BHT has enjoyed are due in no small part to the foresight of the founders and the continued support of BHT benefactors. As we enter our next 90 years, it was heartening to learn of the early success the “A House for All People” capital campaign has experienced. While we invest in ourselves, more importantly we invest in others – a true sense of community. I appreciate the energy and commitment the BHT family represents, how we support each other in times of joy and times of hardship. Here’s to the next 90 years, may we all share in the investment into the future and reap the blessings of our “not-so-small, but mighty” community.

As always, members are welcome to attend an LC meeting, dates are on the calendar but generally follow the second Tuesday of each month at 6:45 p.m. Come join us and share your thoughts on how we are doing. Thanks!


Vic Vercammen, President

I write this message inspired by a recent trip to New York. Manhattan specifically – for those even more curious – mid-town. As the Hanukkah season approaches, we also find ourselves in the Christmas season. It is not our holiday for obvious reasons but is there something to consider here?

I bring this up observing my fellow man (and woman) excitedly awaiting the tree lighting ceremony in Rockefeller Center. I met a couple who flew to New York from Italy that week specifically to start their NY vacation off seeing that tree get lit. As is the vogue these days, security was very tight – while I did not feel unsafe there was no question that the NYPD was well prepared for this big event. It was clear to me that whether Christmas was a big or small factor in a particular person’s life the idea of the lighting ceremony was a big deal.

And a big event it was, as one of my sons would likely say – totally overwhelming Hanukkah and anything we will do this winter… 

As I left the Rockefeller tree and walked to Fifth Avenue, my son’s words rang in my ears. Those words were somewhat juxtaposed against a familiar winter feeling arising within me. Not so much a specific Christmas feeling, rather a lightening of the spirit as I saw happy faces and friends meeting in front of the flagship Saks Fifth Avenue store. I thought about how we share the Earth, share these spaces and can share in common happiness without adopting false rituals. Said another way, we can draw positive energy from the spirit of the overall season without giving up our identity (or as my son would say, being steamrolled).

I try to take the overwhelming messages of the season and consider the positive energy they bring to celebrants of all stripes. Rather than be angry at being given short shrift, I delight at spying the rare Hanukkah item or decoration. I explain my holiday plans, helping everyone understand there is a world bigger than they are out there.

This message is not meant to compare Hanukkah and Christmas, as we know they are not at all alike besides which we could fill another issue with Hanukkah analysis alone. Rather, as we whether in New York or Kenosha have the season “wash over us” as it is wont to do – we can educate others on what makes Hanukkah important and special to us as well as be happy we all can smile and seek friendship together as people over the winter season, regardless of what holiday we go home to celebrate. 

A Happy Hanukkah to you and your family, and may the BHT community have a healthy & prosperous 2016.

May FOOD OF THE MONTH: canned or dried beans

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