Horwitzes share honors as Persons of the Year

     Iris and Herb Horwitz were honored as the 2005 Persons of the Year at a special Shavuot service June 12.
     The service, led by Women of Reform Judaism, also honored our Religious School teachers -- Herb Horwitz and Adam Forstot -- and our departing student cantor, Marla Goldberg.
     All of these people have contributed enormously to our Congregation, but Iris and Herb's contributions have been particularly outstanding.
     Here is Marilyn Blackhall's moving presentation of the 2005 Persons of the Year Award -- the first time, by the way, that two people have been honored together. Other wonderful tributes were made by Rachel Rampino and Chelsea Laing, whom Herb tutored for their bat mitzvahs.
     
     Tonight we have come together to celebrate Shavuot and to recognize the Women of Reform Judaism, the teachers in our Religious School and now we come to the most significant recognition portion of evening, the presentation our Person of the Year Award. This award began as the Woman of the Year and evolved into Person of the Year as we crossed gender boundaries. We began this award in 1981 and the presentation of this award has continued almost every year since then. I was kind of surprised to note that I, myself received this distinguished honor way back in 1988, almost 20 years ago, and I find that I continue to be most proud of being a recipient and to try and live up to the guidance of the illustrious company in which I stand, both in life and in memory. The recipient of each year's award is chosen by the former persons of the year.
     
     Although I know that it will take some time, I would like us all to turn to page 13 in our service booklets and read aloud together the names of each person of the Year and if you are here please stand for a moment when your name is called. *See below for list.
     
     Have you ever watched a flock of geese flying in their traditional "V" formation? Two engineers learned that each bird, by flapping its wings, creates uplift for the bird that follows. Together the whole flock gains about 70 percent greater flying range than if they were journeying alone. Think of that…they improve their performance by 70% because they work together rather than alone. We all know this to be true within our Synagogue and within our Sisterhood. However, this engineering feat has particular significance in terms of the recipient of this year's award. When the former Persons of the Year were agonizing over the choice for this year, two individuals immediately came to the forefront of our minds. However it became extremely difficult to determine which was more deserving. And then as often happens when we think Jewishly, it became obvious…both of these people were part of a formation that allowed each one of them to fly higher and better because of the other. It became obvious to the decision makers that we had to make a grand exception and the Person of the Year Award, for this year only (unless the need presents itself in the future) will become the Persons of the Year Award and will be jointly awarded to two very deserving individuals.
     
     One of our recipients arrived on-island right after Hurricane Hugo in 1989. He came as an insurance adjuster and many of us got to know him in that capacity. It is noteworthy that one of his first acts was to find out about the Synagogue and to make sure that he attended High Holy Day Services. At some point he knew that St. Thomas was to be the place that he would make his life and after about a year of so of traveling back and forth, he brought his lovely wife with him. He became a member of the Board of Directors, assisted the Synagogue with adjusting its insurance claims after Hurricanes, and served on a number of Committees throughout the years. He is currently a member of the Religious Practices Committee for at least 3 years and teaches in Religious School. He rarely misses a Shabbat Morning service and has made his truly major contribution as a Bar and Bat Mitzvah tutor to a significant number of students throughout the past several years. It is in this capacity that he has justly become a beloved contributor and a meaningful figure in the life of many of our young people. But we will hear more about that directly from them in a few minutes.
     
     Our second recipient, and by no means second in merit of this award arrived on-island and immediately became active in the Synagogue in a great many capacities. Sometimes the words, dear, sweet, kind, loving, affectionate, caring, warm can become hackneyed and over used and loose their meaning. However, with this person they actually gain their true meaning. One can use any and all of these words and be totally on the mark with our recipient. She has been an active member of the Synagogue and the Sisterhood from the day she arrived. Our recipient has not only been a member of Sisterhood, but also served as its President from 1993 to 1994. She has been part of almost every social function conducted by Sisterhood and many by the Synagogue, in some capacity or by providing some of her famous goodies. A number of years ago, she actually worked in our Gift Shop and truly brought it to new heights. And because of the words I mentioned earlier, warmth, sweetness, kindness, etc. she became famous with our off-island visitors and was responsible for their being extra specially generous to the Synagogue. She truly became an ambassador for us and continues to be welcoming to anyone who comes to our doorstep, offering her smile and her help. She has become totally famous for her baked goodies, which she brings to Synagogue for Onegs every single Friday night. The Progressive Dinner has been one of the most successful and memorable events that Sisterhood has organized for many years and rarely has their been a Progressive Dinner without our recipient's involvement. What is so special about this recipient is that she will do not only the big things, but those smaller things that will often will be show stoppers if someone doesn't do them. For example, how would we light our Shabbat candles each Friday night if this person did not bring the propane lighters. She also brings sponges and tea towels for our kitchen to name a few other items….and who would be concerned about seeing that we had Passover foods on island. In speaking with one of our members, I found that she summarized our recipient's contributions quite well and I quote: "She worries a lot………about the well-being of our Synagogue."
     
     And who are the people in each of your lives who have worried about you most…..the ones who have loved you the most. And, perhaps, our recipient's most significant contribution is her love for our Synagogue and Sisterhood, which is evident in all of her actions.
     
     Now there is more to come as we will have a few more testimonies with regard to our recipients before I call them to the Bima to receive their award. However, fellow congregants and friends, may I now call the names of the Persons of the Year for 2005: Herb and Iris Horwitz.