Hank Feuerzeig is 2003 'Person of the Year'
Hank Feuerzeig, a man who has contributed in countless ways to the Hebrew Congregation and to the St. Thomas community for 31 years, has been named the Synagogue's "Person of the Year" for 2003.
In a moving ceremony during the Erev Shabbat service April 11, Hank was extolled for his work on the board, for co-chairing two rabbinic searches, for heading the annual Friends drive since its inception and for serving as the Synagogue's unofficial in-house counsel.
Marilyn Blackhall, a past recipient of the award, made the presentation, offering a wonderful epic poem about Hank's life and contributions.
George Dudley, his law partner at Dudley, Topper and Feuerzeig, lauded Hank's virtues as a Territorial Court judge for 10 years, a past president of the V.I. Bar Association, an outstanding attorney and someone who has contributed greatly to the community. He called Hank one of his five "heroes."
Donald Pomeranz, another previous recipient, read messages of congratulations from Hank's children, Paul and Darcy.
Hank was the 21st congregant to be given this honor since Sisterhood started it in 1981. It was originally a "Woman of the Year" award but was changed in 1997 to "Person of the Year."
Here is Marilyn Blackhall's tribute to Hank:
Our recipient is a legend in this congregation today
No matter what is asked he will find a way
Committees, boards, special tasks and advice
All with wisdom, sincerity and a touch of spice.
He quietly listens and thinks everything through
But if you're wordy or inappropriate… God help you
With a few sparse words of brimstone and fire
He'll put the conflict to rest… midst the muck and the mire.
His spirit is feisty with ideas clear and precise
He rarely speaks out unless thoughtful and concise
With a force that is respected by one and all
In this congregation he stands mighty and tall.
So what are his achievements you might ask?
Why in our sunlight does he gloriously bask
Not for one year or two years or five years or ten
But serving our congregation then, now and again
Let's start from the beginning my dear friends
To see the factual history upon which our story depends
Rising from beginnings truly humble and poor
With a brother, a single working mother and many a chore
Much was expected of him to keep the household going
But scholarly achievement insisted upon while he was growing
His intensity and brilliance were clear as a bell
And he rose to the occasion working his tail off to excel
Our gallant fighter met the demands put upon him
Without halting or wavering or stopping on a whim
With the same lively nature he reveals today, without a doubt
Tough work, rigorous expectations … that's what he's always been about
In his modest family there wasn't enough money for college
So he became an Evans Scholar to gain higher knowledge
Chick Evans a well-known golfer with money and a heart
Set up a scholarship for needy golf caddies to give them a start
It gave our recipient full tuition and room and board
For a college degree he otherwise couldn't afford.
It doesn't stop there, my friends, because then he met a jewel
They married in 1967 and she put him through law school.
A charming young wife … so tender, fulfilling and sweet
Yet, living the same modest life, struggling to make ends meet.
You know, I think the time has finally come to expose the mystery for all to see
Hank Feuerzeig is our person of the year A great choice don't you agree
But the story goes on, because there's so much more to tell
So hold your applause, and I promise you shortly we can ALL qvell
And Hank please enjoy…As we continue with your most interesting life-story
How you came to serve congregation and community with triumph and glory
Now folks we must get them to this Caribbean border
With a cute little boy child and a tiny baby daughter.
This is how the thought process went:
Let's go to St. Thomas they said and chill for a couple of years
And then we'll settle down and face real living amongst our peers
A short stint in paradise before the rigors of actual adult life
To enjoy a carefree existence without any strife
We'll then go back and begin what we started
We just need a break, something easy and lighthearted.
But 31 years later they are still here in all their splendor
Prominent, respected, successful…. What a life agenda
Hank began with the AG's office and then in his own law firm
His legal ability noticed by many in just a short term
He was only 37 and here on St. Thomas for a short five years
When Gov King appointed him to the bench, amidst shouts and cheers
Shortly thereafter, Judge Feuerzeig became a member of the Synagogue Board
Where we served together as the younger generation, brandishing plowshare and sword.
With more modern ideas, philosophies, programs and dreams
That we sought to initiate… Gosh, those new fangled schemes.
Amidst our more conservative elders, it was difficult to have a say
To move them towards a democratic approach…to get our way.
For example: We wanted camp scholarship programs for our children to enjoy
To reinforce their Judaism in ways that would bring them joy
Things that today would sound logical and natural to do
Were disagreed with and brought clamor and much ado
Trips to Israel for the youngsters to experience their ancestry
Our recipient fought hard for these ideas that were contrary
He worked very diligently as the board's Scholarship Chair
Making sound decisions that were both generous and fair
Balancing budgetary constraints with our children's needs
He encouraged their Judaism by providing the means to plant Jewish seeds.
And after his board term of 6 years expired
He still remained active…. never to be retired
He was always there.. for us… no matter what the task
Do you need something from Hank? … Well just ask
From financial contributions, wise counsel, free legal work, too
He was a valuable asset and always true blue
Later on when the Synagogue constitution allowed him to serve once more
He was back on the Synagogue Board for 6 years, making prudent motions from the floor
We served together every step of the way
So you can believe everything I have to say
This time there were other tasks for which we put our heads on his shoulder
He was becoming a congregation elder, both wiser and older
Rabbinic Search arose as a difficult reality for us to undertake
And we served as Co-chairs of the committee… without taking a break
Interviewing 21 Rabbis was a long arduous process of labor and love
And Hank's efforts were beyond the call of duty, …yes way above.
Bradd Boxman became our Rabbi, a young man with zeal
And a Jewish education for Hank…. finally had appeal
He studied with Bradd for all the years he was our Rabbi here
Learning Hebrew and philosophy, making Hank's heritage come clear
Once more Hank served in the role of
Rabbinic Search Committee co- chairing
With Mina, this time, and once again giving hours and hours of work and diligent caring.
I could go on and on in ways Hank has served our needs
Giving of himself totally in all these deeds
Serving on our Board for over 12 years like, well…. a saint
Chairing committees without a word of complaint
Free Legal work to the Synagogue and private counsel to a member
There are so many things, that we can all remember
And while doing this, maintaining an illustrious legal career
With financial generosity and kindness we can all revere
Never forgetting how he climbed the ladder of success, my friends
Always giving to others so they could achieve their ends .
It's great to give…. he feels, deep down in his soul
But to be able to give back is truly his goal.
A Founding member of the Community Foundation, as well
My goodness there really continues to be too much to tell.
But lest we forget to say what a dresser this guy is with his ties of many colors
Almost Biblical in nature reminding us of others
What would Joseph have thought if he saw our Person of the year
Maybe….."A cool, stylish dresser that is quite clear."
Hank Feuerzeig you're splendid, you're dynamic you're grand
A man for all seasons shining brightly in this Caribbean land
I could go on all night because you are truly a treasure
And talking about you gives me great pleasure
But we must continue on with our service tonight
Honoring our shining star so vibrant and bright
So let me conclude now by saying:
We love you; we respect you; we think you're the best
And to have you as part of our congregation makes us feel truly blessed.