Bet Shalom's Informal Satellite in Phoenix
Rabbi Emeritus Norman Cohen usually winters in Phoenix, AZ. He’s established a Bet Shalom “satellite” in the Grand Canyon State that draws in the snowbirds!
In my youth, the word “satellite” was all about the space race between the United States and Russia and the satellite Sputnik in 1957. But today the “satellite” in my life is the group of Bet Shalomians who winter in Phoenix, Arizona. Years ago at a Passover Seder that I was conducting there, our members and then Arizona snowbirds Max and Linda Rutman suggested that we try to gather fellow Bet Shalomians for a Shabbat service. People could gather with familiar congregants and make connections and plans for social activities.
So I asked my good friend Rabbi Stephen Kahn of Congregation Beth Israel for help. He offered us their chapel on a Friday evening in January, and about two dozen members of our congregation came together for a complete Erev Shabbat. The Rutmans sponsored the Oneg, and Leslie Glaze drove from Tucson, where her daughter and mother live, to chant Torah as she often does at our synagogue in Minnetonka.
Since then as many as 50 congregants and their friends and extended family have attended these services! Over time we have assembled quite a nice informal satellite community. Some come to say kaddish and ask for mishebayrachs surrounded by the familiar comfort of their Rabbi Emeritus and congregants they recognize from home. A couple of Passover Seders (first and second night) I lead attract people from Bet Shalom and other Twin Cities congregations like Adath Jeshurun, Beth El, Temple of Aaron and Temple Israel.
Ron and Toni Dachis attend Shabbat services often, usually bringing others in their family who live in or are visiting Arizona. Cheri and Art Rolnick come with their close traveling friends from Detroit who now live in Arizona. Sam Schenfeld, Marcy Strauss, the Weismans, and the Gilberstadts have been regulars. Eileen and Jim Mitson started the custom of inviting people to join them for dinner before services, and many go right from our service to gather at a local restaurant to eat and schmooze with people from the Twin Cities.
Jane and Charles Vogel were part of a Torah study group I led at Temple Solel in nearby Paradise Valley. Subsequently they joined Bet Shalom for the summer months they spend in Minnesota where their son lives. Naturally they have become active participants in Torah study in Minnetonka as well. And Bruce and Louise Moss and Linda and Bruce Zempel attended our Bet Shalomian services in Phoenix; later they also joined the “main base” Bet Shalom around which this informal satellite revolves!
The gravitation of Bet Shalomians to their Rabbi Emeritus in the winter months has enriched relationships between members of our congregation, as well as the larger “orbit” of their friends and family visiting the Arizona desert to beat the cold. You’re welcome to join us when you’re down there!