Rabbi Emeritus Hyman Fishman z”l
Rabbi Hyman Fishman, 85, has witnessed many changes at Temple Beth El in West Palm Beach, since he and his wife, Ida, first came to the synagogue, in 1963.
Moreover, he has seen a number of major changes in the Jewish community during the subsequent decades, as well.
“They only had about 100 people when I arrived,” he said. “They had over 600 when I left [in 1976]. We built every building they have.”
Jews were scarce in the community back then, he said.
“There were no Jews in Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, or Boca Raton, when I came,” he added. “There were no Jews in the area because there was a lot of anti-Semitism.”
Fishman also helped to establish the Jewish Day School of Palm Beach County, which later became the Arthur I. Meyer Academy. In fact, Ida Fishman was one of the first teachers at the day school. Fishman added that, “back then,” after his daughter transferred to Florida Atlantic University, not long after the school first opened, she was not allowed to stay in the dorm because she was Jewish.
“When I came to the synagogue, there was a small Jewish community in the county,” he said. “It was the beginning of growth – especially with the establishment of Century Village in West Palm Beach. Suddenly, others like Kings Point took off.”
After a short retirement in South Carolina in 1978, the Fishmans moved back to West Palm Beach, and Temple Beth El, where they had been given a lifetime membership.
“After I came back, I became a congregant, a substitute rabbi, and then rabbi emeritus,” he said.
The members of Temple Beth El recently showed their appreciation of the Fishman’s years of dedication and commitment to the community by honoring the couple with a gala tribute dinner at the temple.
“It was beautiful,” Rabbi Steven Westman said. “In all the years I’ve been at Temple Beth El, I’ve rarely seen such a well done event.”
In addition to a tribute book signed by many of the Fishman’s former students, along with a photo album, they also presented the couple with a video of the event.
“It couldn’t have been nicer,” Westman added. “When they sang ‘Ida is sweet as apple cider,’ it was very touching. They loved it.”
Esther Barrish, 99, and a “best friend” to the couple agrees.
“It was wonderful. I gave them the plaque [honoring them],” she said. “I’ve been a friend for 40 years. I am crazy about them. I am part of their family, and they are part of mine.”
Arnold Lurie, dinner co-chairman, together with his wife, Flora, said the Fishmans left a “very deep imprint” within the community.
“They are the role models that my wife and I followed,” he said. “They are a most loving couple. They’ve done wonders for the community. The tributes are still coming in.”
Lurie added that Ida Fishman, who is seriously ill, left her mark not just as a teacher, but in her craftwork as well. “She made the Torah covers and many yamulkes. I even have one.”
The tribute for the Fishmans was something that was long overdue, Lurie said.
“So many people go through life without being recognized,” he said. “We couldn’t let that happen with the Fishmans.”