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History

Bet Chaverim Congregation of Howard County, MD was founded in 2013 by more than 50 families who sought an intimate, member-centric, Conservative-style Jewish experience.  The name “Bet Chaverim” means “House of Friends,” and that is the spirit in which our congregational community was created.

Most of the founders had been active in prior congregations, and several possessed a deep knowledge of Jewish liturgy, ritual and spirituality.  They sought a shul that emphasized the needs of its members, and the congregation began life without clergy or staff, holding member-led services in members’ homes and public spaces such as Columbia’s neighborhood centers.

As the congregation grew, it became clear that we needed structure, specifically bylaws that reflected our inclusiveness, member-focus and mission.  The membership approved Bet Chaverim’s bylaws  in 2014, with amendments in 2015 and 2017.

In 2015 Rabbi Morris Zimbalist joined the congregation as a member, attracted by our warmth and spirituality.  As we came to know him and his family, many members desired him to become our first rabbi, and he served with us in a part-time capacity (he had a full time position with AIPAC) from 2016-2018.  His wife Alison, a highly regarded Jewish educator, became our de facto youth and educational director, creating and leading Shabbat and holiday programs for our children.  She played a key role in launching our religious school in 2016.

Following Rabbi Zimbalist’s departure for a full-time rabbinate in Chicago, Bet Chaverim launched a search for a new part-time rabbi, and we were fortunate to find Rabbi Kim Blumenthal. She  and her young family had just moved to Maryland from Michigan, and our needs matched well with her strengths as a knowledgeable, egalitarian pulpit leader, her haimisch approach to Jewish life and her creativity.

Since joining the Bet Chaverim family, Rabbi Blumenthal has led Shabbat and High Holiday services, orchestrated our “Torah on Tap” discussion program, led members on a Mission to Israel, and helped create a variety of holiday programs for youth and adults.

Earlier, in 2018, Rabbi Faith Cantor became the Educational Director of the Bet Chaverim Religious School (BCRS).  Rabbi Cantor is a leading Baltimore-area educator whose hands-on, experiential approach to Jewish learning is reflected in the innovative curriculum she developed for students in Grades K through 7.

The next step in Bet Chaverim’s growth was the acquisition of dedicated space for our services and religious school.  In 2020, we signed a long-term contract for a suite in a Columbia office park.  The main sanctuary can seat some 80 worshippers, and the classrooms can accommodate all our religious school classes.  However, our use of the space was delayed until the summer of 2021 because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Today, Bet Chaverim members look ahead to a growing congregation and religious school, a strong and responsive clerical and lay leadership, and the continued expression of Jewish values and activity in our “House of Friends."

Mission Statement

Bet Chaverim Congregation provides a warm, inclusive Jewish experience that enables all members to participate and fulfill their religious and spiritual needs within a dynamic, Conservative-style framework.  Member-driven and committed to participatory Judaism in our services, structure, and decision-making, the Congregation also plays an active role in the local Jewish community.

 

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Bylaws

(Effective -  Dec. 18, 2017)

Approved by the Members of Bet Chaverim - June 17, 2014

Amended at the Fall 2015 Congregational Meeting - December 20, 2015

Amended at the Fall 2017 Congregational Meeting - December 17, 2017

 

Bet Chaverim

Mission Statement

Bet Chaverim Congregation provides a warm, inclusive Jewish experience that enables all members to participate and fulfill their religious and spiritual needs within a dynamic, Conservative-style framework.  Member-driven and committed to participatory Judaism in our services, structure and decision-making, the Congregation also plays an active role in the local Jewish community. 

Article 1 – Name

A.  Bet Chaverim Congregation—chartered as Congregation Bet Chaverim, Inc.— was formed during the summer of 2013.  It is registered under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code as a Section 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Article 2 - Purpose

A.  Bet Chaverim is dynamic, egalitarian and inclusive, with roots in Conservative practice and a warm appreciation for the diversity of today’s Jewish community.  The Congregation provides a joyous Jewish experience that enables all members to participate and fulfill their religious and spiritual needs. Member-driven and committed to participatory Judaism in our services, structure and decision-making, the Congregation also has an active role in the Howard County Jewish community. 

B.  Subject to any restrictions in the Articles of Incorporation the Congregation may engage in any lawful activity consistent with its tax-exempt status for which corporations may be organized under the laws of Maryland for nonprofit corporations.

Article 3 – Membership: Rights & Privileges

A.  Regular membership in Bet Chaverim is open to all persons who are considered Jewish according to Jewish law, either by birth to a Jewish mother or by conversion, and who are at least 18 years of age; and shall subscribe to the purposes of the Congregation.

B.  Membership includes the applicant and spouse/partner (if any) and dependent children under the age of twenty-five (25) years. So long as his, her, or their membership (as appropriate) is in good standing, the applicant and his or her spouse and adult children (above the age of 18) if any, shall each be considered a member of the Congregation for all purposes under these Bylaws. 

C.  In the case of families where spouses/partners or adult children are not Jewish, Bet Chaverim welcomes them to our congregational family. These family members are members of Bet Chaverim, and have the rights and privileges of members including: serving on the Board or its committees - except as voting members of the Religious Affairs Committee - and shall vote in Congregational meetings on non-Halachic issues as determined by the Religious Affairs Committee.  The non-Jewish spouse/partner and children may participate in most parts of religious services including but not limited to opening and closing the Ark, carrying the Torah, passing the Talit to b’nai mitzvah youth, and joining their Jewish family members on the bimah for aliyot.  However, non-Jewish family members may not be counted as part of a minyan or lead those parts of religious services that may only be led by a member of the minyan.  The Religious Affairs Committee may make determinations regarding additional non-Jewish participation in religious services or education.

D.  All persons who meet the criteria of Paragraphs A or B and who are currently full-time members in another Jewish congregation may elect to become associate members of Bet Chaverim.  Associate members may participate in all religious activities, may serve on committees and may attend and participate in Board and Congregational meetings.  However, they are not eligible to serve on the Board or to vote in these forums. 

E.  Honorary membership in the Congregation may be conferred by vote of the membership upon any nonmember who, for example, renders outstanding service to the Congregation or to Jewish life.  Honorary members are not eligible to serve on the Board or vote in Board or Congregational meetings.

F.  Applications for membership shall be made in writing to such person as the Board may designate or via the Bet Chaverim website, and applicants shall become regular members upon approval by such officers as the Board shall designate.

G. The dues year begins July 1st.  The dues structure may be reviewed and if necessary changed only by majority vote of the Congregation at the Spring Congregational Meeting. 

H.  Requests for special financial consideration regarding the congregation or the religious school shall be evaluated by the Treasurer.  Any decision to reject such a request must be approved by the President or Vice President.   At all times the confidential nature of such matters must be protected.

Article 4 – Congregation Meetings & Procedures

A.  Bet Chaverim shall hold both a Spring and a Fall Congregational Meeting each year at times to be determined by the Board.  

1.  The Spring Congregational Meeting shall include the presentation of the annual budget by the Treasurer.  That budget shall be discussed and approved by a majority of those voting, including any recommendations regarding changes in the dues structure. 

2. Election of officers and Board members shall take place at the Fall Congregational Meeting.  (See Article 9 regarding elections.) 

3. Congregation members may propose items from the floor without advance notification, subject to standard Robert’s Rules procedures, at any Spring and Fall Congregational Meetings, but not at special meetings.

B.  Special meetings of the congregation may be held at the call of the Congregation’s president at his or her discretion or at the request of a majority of the Board of Trustees.  The agenda of each special meeting shall be limited solely to the designated situation for which that meeting was called.

C.  Congregants shall be given 21 days advance notice of Spring and Fall Congregation Meetings.   Special meetings may be convened with shorter advance notice as determined by the Board.

D.  Attendance by twenty-five members in good standing constitutes a quorum for a Congregation meeting.  Proxy votes shall not be counted towards the quorum.

E.  A simple majority of qualified voters at any meeting is sufficient to adopt a budget or approve any other motion.  Written proxy votes given within a family by one spouse/partner to the other will be counted, if the proxy-holding spouse/partner is in attendance at the time of the vote.  No other proxy votes will be allowed.

Article 5 – Officers and Trustees

A. There is a 12-member Board of Trustees consisting of the Congregation’s four officers and eight Trustees. In addition, the immediate past president shall serve as an ex officio, non-voting advisor to the board.  All officers and trustees must be members in good standing at the time of their elections and throughout their terms in office.

B.  The Congregation’s officers are a president, a vice president, a secretary, and a treasurer.  Officers should volunteer to attend and assist in shul events, membership outreach and other activities.  They should make every effort to regularly attend Shabbat and holiday services.

C.  A Trustee may, but is not required to, chair a standing committee listed in Article 7.

D.  Each officer is elected for a term of two years.  No officer may be elected to more than two consecutive terms in any one position.  Terms begin on January 1 following the election.

E.  Each Trustee is elected for a term of two years, except that half of the Trustees elected upon adoption of these Bylaws shall serve an initial term of one year, so that each year the terms of half of the Trustees will expire.  No Trustee may serve more than four consecutive terms on the Board

F.  President: The President shall preside at all Congregation and Board meetings - regular, special and executive.  Congregation and regular Board meetings shall be conducted in accordance with Robert's Rules of Order, Revised. The President shall observe and enforce all requirements of the Bylaws and shall appoint chairpersons of special committees. The President shall be a member, ex officio, of all committees and shall evaluate, along with the Vice President, all denials of requests for special financial consideration, along with the Vice President and Treasurer, as noted in Article 3, Paragraph H.  All agreements, contracts, deeds and other documents for the Congregation and the Board shall be signed by the President or if the President is unavailable, the Vice President.

G.  Vice President: The Vice President shall assist the President in the discharge of the duties of that office and evaluate requests for special financial consideration, along with the President and Treasurer, as noted in Article 3, Paragraph H. In the event of the absence of the President, the Vice President shall discharge the duties of the President. In the event of the resignation, disability or death of the President, the Vice President, who shall have been elected, shall assume the position of President.

H.  Treasurer: The Treasurer is the custodian of all funds of the Congregation and shall present a financial report covering finances and the status of all funds and savings accounts at each meeting of the Board of Trustees and of the Congregation.  Additionally, the Treasurer will respond to special reporting requests by the President, as needed.

The Treasurer shall maintain complete financial records relating to Congregation members. This responsibility includes maintaining an accurate list of members' names, addresses and telephone numbers.

The Treasurer shall oversee the mailing of statements to the Congregation members. Statements shall include the total amount due the Congregation and the amount due at the time of the mailing. The Treasurer shall report to the Board, at regular Board meetings, all new members and members who have resigned.

In conjunction with the President, the Treasure shall select a depository or depositories for the Congregation’s funds.  Each disbursement of Congregation funds shall require the authorization and signature of either the President - or if the President is unavailable, the Vice President - or the Treasurer, all of whom shall be signatories on the Congregation’s accounts.  The Treasurer shall evaluate requests for special financial consideration as noted in Article 3, Paragraph H.

The Treasurer shall record all funds, e.g. checks, cash, money orders, etc., received by the Congregation.  The Treasurer shall keep records of all accounts receivable and accounts payable. Such records shall be open at all times for inspection by the Board and the Finance Committee. The Treasurer shall prepare the financial records for review at the end of the fiscaI year. 

The Treasurer shall be a member of the Finance Committee.  

I.  Secretary: The Secretary shall record the minutes of all Congregation and regular Board meetings and shall have available, for ready reference, a copy of Robert's Rules of Order, Revised and a list of all committees. The Secretary shall ensure the minutes are properly dated and signedAdditionally, the Secretary shall send out notices of all meetings, oversee and manage the web site, and perform such other duties as are incident to the office according to applicable law, if any, or a duty specified by the Board of Trustees.  The Board of Trustees may delegate some of these functions to the Congregation staff or others, but the Secretary shall be responsible for the performance of any delegated matters.

J.  Trustees: The Board of Trustees has overall responsibility for the management of the affairs, funds, records and property of the Congregation.  It shall establish policies, guidelines and direction with respect to matters within its management and control.  The Board or its designees shall act on all matters of policy, and may fill any vacant office or any vacancy on the Board of Trustees with an eligible member in accordance with Article 10.

Trustees are required to attend all Board and Congregational Meetings, except when they have provided prior notification to be absent to the President or Vice President acting on behalf of the President.

Board members who do not serve as committee chairs shall serve as members of at least one standing committee and all Board members may be expected to serve on at least one ad hoc committee as requested by the President. 

Trustees should volunteer to attend and assist in shul events, membership outreach and other activities.  They should make every effort to regularly attend Shabbat and holiday services.

K.  The Board of Trustees may make recommendations about engaging a rabbi, a cantor, and congregational executive director, and their duties and compensation.  The Board may also make recommendations regarding affiliation with Hebrew schools or other Jewish organizations.  However, all matters relating to clergy, the congregational executive director and affiliation with other organizations will require the approval of the Congregation in open meeting and the separate approval of the Board of Trustees, to become final. 

L.  All officers and Board members shall be covered by a fidelity bond and by Officer and Directors insurance, the cost of which shall be borne by the Congregation.

Article 6 – Board of Trustee Meetings

A.  The Board of Trustees shall meet once a month, but may elect not to hold a meeting in July.

B.  Fifty percent of the Board of Trustees membership, to include at least two officers, constitutes a quorum.

C.  A simple majority of a quorum is sufficient to enable the Board to exercise its duties.  Proxy votes are not admissible.

D.  All Board meetings shall be open to Bet Chaverim members, who may request the opportunity to speak.  The presiding officer shall ask non-Board members to leave if confidential matters affecting members or current or prospective employees are under discussion.

Article 7 – Committees

A.  The nine standing committees of the Congregation are (in alphabetical order): 

  1. Communications
  2. Education and Youth
  3. Facilities and Catering
  4. Finance
  5. Long Range Planning
  6. Membership
  7. Religious Affairs
  8. Social Action and Green Committee
  9. Social Events

 

B.  New standing committees may be created by a majority vote of the Board.

C.  The President may establish ad hoc committees and shall appoint the chairpersons of such committees.  When established, ad hoc committees must have a specific written charter (assignment) and a designated lifespan of no more than one year, renewable for a maximum of one additional year.  Ad hoc committees shall report to the full Board except on matters relating to specific congregants or congregational employees.   In such cases, the ad hoc committee shall report in confidence only to the officers.  Chairpersons of ad hoc committees, or their designees, may participate in Board discussions, but they shall not vote on any Board matters. 

D.  One ad hoc committee shall be a nominating committee consisting of five members composed of three congregants and two Board members.  Each nominating committee will expire at the conclusion of the meeting at which an election occurs.  At least 30 days prior to an election the nominating committee will present to the Secretary a list of all nominees to be included in the notice of the meeting.

E.  Except for the nominating committee, the functions and duties of each committee shall be determined and documented by the Board of Trustees.

Article 8 – The Bet Chaverim Religious School

 

A.  Bet Chaverim recognizes that education of our youth, preparation for B’nai Mitzvah and for life as Jewish adults are crucial responsibilities for the congregation.  To help meet these needs, the Bet Chaverim Religious School was created. 

B.  Activities of the Religious School will be supervised by a School Board composed of a trustee appointed by the Congregation’s Board of Trustees and two at-large members of the school elected for staggered two-year terms by the parents of enrolled students.

 

  1. Members of the School Board will elect their own chairperson.
  2. Members of the School Board must be members in good standing of Bet Chaverim Congregation. 
  3. The Rabbi and education director will serve as advisors to the School Board.

 

C.  The chairman of the School Board shall represent the School Board in all Bet Chaverim Board of Trustee matters, presenting actions, activities and policies adopted by the school board for review, comment and/or approval. 

  1. Items requiring Board of Trustee approval include, but are not limited to: the annual budget, site logistics, special activities and fundraising efforts, overall goals and objectives, the structure of the curriculum, hiring of the education director and general safety and security plans and procedures both in-school and on trips. School activities must be included in the overall congregational calendar and budget.
  2. Items that do not require Board of Trustee approval include, but are not limited to: specific classroom and curriculum materials, hiring of faculty, textbook selection, in-class projects, individual trips, holiday and festival activity.

 

D. The education director shall be selected by the School Board and recommended for hire to the Bet Chaverim Board of Trustees. 

  1. The education director shall be responsible for the Jewish education of the children of the congregation, development of the school curriculum, the supervision and selection of the faculty and the administration of the school(s).
  2. The education director shall be responsible to and report directly to the School Board.  Also, the education director shall report on the progress of the school at each Congregational Meeting.

 

E.  Because the school is part of the congregation, the Bet Chaverim Board of Trustees retains final authority over school matters including but not limited to curriculum, finances, logistics, and staffing levels.  Staff members, including the education director, are employees of the congregation and will be paid by the congregation.  

 

Article 9 – Elections of Officers and Board Members

 

A.  Elections of officers and Board members shall be held at the Fall Congregational Meetings, as specified in Article 4, Section A above.

 

B.  Nominees for officer and Trustee positions receiving the highest number of votes for each position shall be elected.   The votes of members in attendance shall be counted in all balloting.

 

C.  All voting at contested elections shall be by closed ballot.

 

D.  Ballots shall be counted by three individuals designated at the meeting: an officer designated by the President, a Board member designated by the Board, and a congregant designated by those members in attendance.

 

E.  At any congregational election, nominations for open positions may be made from the floor.

 

Article 10 – Vacancies in Office

 

Upon the resignation or removal of an officer or Trustee during his or her term of office, a successor shall be designated by the Board of Trustees to fill the seat until the next election, when a successor will be chosen to complete the term.  If that Trustee starts service prior to the calendar mid-point of the incomplete term, that term shall count towards the Trustee’s term limits under Article 5, Section E.  If the term begins after that calendar mid-point, that term shall not count towards term limits.

 

Article 11 – Adoption of Bylaws and Amendments

 

A.  These Bylaws were adopted and effective upon their approval by a majority of the members voting at a meeting of the Congregation for the purpose of adopting the bylaws on June 17, 2014.  Interim officers and board members serving prior to the adoption of these bylaws shall continue in office until the election at the first election of officers and board members pursuant to Article 8, Paragraph E.

 

B.  Proposed amendments shall be submitted to the Board of Trustees at least 30 days prior to the Congregational Meeting at which they are to be acted upon, and the proposed amendment and the Board of Trustees’ recommendations with respect thereto shall be included in the notice of the meeting.

 

C.  Amendments to and substitutions for a proposed amendment may be offered and voted upon at the meeting.

 

D.  The Board may make corrections of form to the Bylaws, including matters of punctuation, format, and other non-substantive changes without the prior approval of the Congregation.  The Board shall advise the membership about such changes after they have been made.

Mon, November 28 2022 4 Kislev 5783