View from the President

Resilience: Our Determination to Move Forward
A message from Stuart Ratzan
President, Temple Beth Am
[email protected]

I knew when I took this responsibility as President of Temple Beth Am, it would be a lot of work and a labor of love. My responsibilities have grown beyond my wildest imagination due to the coronavirus, but my respect and love for our Beth Am community have only been enhanced by the work of our community and the dedicated clergy and professional staff who make our home so special.

At Beth Am, we are a family. And families make sacrifices for the betterment of the whole. Families adapt to their circumstances, and most importantly, families find ways to move forward regardless of the impediments put in front of them.

The Beth Am family is no different. We have been focused, creative and productive while providing a safe and caring environment. And we have continued on our core mission of Jewish life through lifelong learning, spiritual growth and community engagement.

The world changes. And we at Temple Beth Am adapt. We are resilient.

Life is not easy these days. We face uncertainty, isolation and frustration. We feel confined, restricted and always limited. Our politics are tending to the extreme and we face deep division over every aspect of our lives. It may seem impossible at times to get our footing, to find rhythm, to feel secure.

Through all of this, we may feel a greater need for community, spirituality, and Jewish education than ever before. Your clergy and professional staff at Temple Beth Am sense this. They have risen to the occasion, working day and night often without any breaks or vacation, to bring you the best of Beth Am, despite all the constraints the pandemic imposes upon us. It has been a remarkable year.

Over the course of the last year, even as the pandemic took hold and uprooted all of our lives, Temple Beth Am has relentlessly, almost in spite of the virus, moved forward.

What have we been up to?

We said farewell to our longtime, beloved Executive Director Bob Hersh, and we hired our new Executive Director Brian Chartock. Welcome Brian.

We said farewell to our longtime, beloved Head of School Deborah Starr; and we hired our new Head of School Nora Anderson. Welcome Nora.

Both Brian and Nora came to Beth Am with impeccable credentials, great passion, and incredible energy. We were in the midst of their transitions.

And then came the virus.

We had to respond. We had to adapt.

Immediately, recognizing the threat and import of the situation, we made the difficult decision to close our campus. But we did not close our school or our synagogue. Instead, we took them online. We did not stop; we did not give up.

Although we had never done this before, and although we had no experience dealing with a pandemic, we quickly transitioned. Teachers, students and their parents quickly learned how to use the technology and Day School and Religious School studies continued. We learned many lessons on how to deliver elementary education through an iPad, but again we adapted, we grew from our mistakes and held on to our successes. This school year, our platform is more sophisticated and better than ever.

Our clergy developed robust online programming, providing learning and entertainment opportunities galore. It seemed there was something for everyone. Torah study; Live from Beth Am!; Who Wants to be a Minyanaire; The Jewish Voice with Cantor Rachelle Nelson; Erev Tov with Rabbi Jaime Aklepi; Reading with the Rabbi with Rabbi Rachel Greengrass; Minyan services; and Shabbat Services were all online. To date we have broadcast over 450 original programs at Temple Beth Am!

And all of us learned to use Zoom.

Zoom shabbat; Zoom Torah Study; Zoom everything: board meetings; executive committee meetings; management team; clergy team; directors; day school. All of it on Zoom. The world changed and we adapted.

We kept moving forward for Beth Am.
Relaunching Beyond the Curve Campaign

We must continue to move forward because that is the Beth Am way. We cannot, must not, let this relatively short detour in our lives hinder our progress.

We are so grateful to the almost 200 families that have enabled our “Beyond the Curve” Capital Campaign to commence its work so that our most precious resource, our children, will be in that beautiful 3-story school building on campus on time for the fall 2021 school year.

And, after the High Holy Days, we will relaunch our campaign to complete our work. Some of you may question why we would want to restart our capital campaign amidst the economic crisis the pandemic has caused for so many. And it is an honest question indeed. But here are six things we know:

(a) delaying the campaign would be economically damaging to the building project: stopping the construction would produce significant costs and delays, making the project more expensive than it needs to be;

(b) we owe it to our children to give them this incredible facility to learn, play, and grow;

(c) while the pandemic has threatened the economic stability of many in our community, the fact is that many of us are doing well and some even better during this pandemic: no one who cannot give would ever be expected or asked, we understand that, but at the same time there are many in our community who have not been impacted and who can give generously. As a family, those of us who can find their way to generosity will happily help those of us who cannot;

(d) we know that this pandemic and it’s economic impact won’t last forever, and we have faith that better, more stable economic times are right around the corner.

(e) We also remain committed to our dream to house the most vibrant, thriving, and engaging Jewish community in the Reform movement, to give our families in south Miami Dade County a center for Jewish life, and to enrich Beth Am and the broader community with cultural and athletic opportunities. We have a vision, and we believe in Beth Am’s commitment to that vision.

(f) And finally, Beth Am’s major donors have made once in a generation financial gifts to this campaign that bestow upon us the privilege and the responsibility to see it through. We are recipients of a blessing that has come to us at this moment. We hold in our hands, therefore, a responsibility to future generations to give, to build, to sacrifice so that tomorrow is better than today. In honor of those gifts, and in honor of our children and our grandchildren and even great grandchildren, G-d willing, we must find a way to deliver the promise. From those of us who are able, as a blessing for those who are not, and as a blessing for those who have not yet come to this place, we will give the gift of community, of being responsible one for the other, and of continuing Beth Am’s legacy of building a brighter tomorrow.

In the coming days, we will release the plans for Phase 2 of the project, which will include a new indoor basketball gymnasium, a beautiful, state of the art performing arts center, and a welcome center, complete with abundant party and meeting space where we will fulfill the dream of gathering for musical, cultural, educational and spiritual events and opportunities like never before. We will be the center for Jewish life, for cultural and spiritual growth, and for celebration in all of Miami Dade County. Keep an eye out for the upcoming emails and links.

Families, in good times and bad, have each other’s backs. The Beth Am family is no exception. Our mission will continue. We will always be the beacon for the South Dade Jewish Community. And our future remains bright thanks to the combined light all of you shine on our community every single day.


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