2018-01-17 / Voice at the Shore

Beth El’s Joyce Bank retires

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore editor


JOYCE BANK JOYCE BANK This year, for the first time in many, many years, Joyce Bank will no longer be a full-time presence at Beth El Synagogue in Margate. Bank officially retired last month, but that doesn’t mean she’s leaving Beth El, she stressed.

“This wasn’t just a job for me. A lot of the congregants I’ve known for a long time and they have known me. We are a family,” said Bank. “It’s not like retiring from a business. This is my family, and my relationship with the family is changing; it’s not being severed.”

Bank began her involvement with Beth El more than 30 years ago, first as a volunteer, and next as a helper in the Sunday school. Over time, she progressed, becoming a Hebrew School teacher, then assistant principal, and finally the administrator for the synagogue.

“Joyce has been in many ways the strength of Beth El and by extension the entire community,” said Beth El Rabbi Aaron Krauss. She has been there for people in their times of trouble as well as in happy times, he added.

“She goes way out of her way to extend herself to people. She is the kind of person who is difficult to replace,” said Krauss.

Bank’s relationship with Rabbi Krauss stretches back even before her time at Beth El. “I’ve known Rabbi Krauss since I was 14,” when he was rabbi of the Community Synagogue in Atlantic City, she explained.

She vividly remembers one night right after he came to Community Synagogue. Krauss was the DJ for a party at the synagogue, and his wife, Mildred, made cookies for the event. That was the night Bank met her late husband, Sheldon. “He walked me home, and that was it!” Eventually, the couple began visiting the rabbi and his wife at their home for “marriage training, or whatever you would call it. We would sit on the couch and [Rabbi Krauss] would talk to us about life.”

Not surprisingly, Bank and the rabbi share a special bond of mutual admiration.

“Rabbi Krauss is part of my family. He officiated at my marriage and was part of every other event in our life. He was there for my son’s brit and my son’s death, said Bank, whose son Howard passed away last May.

“Joyce is the type of person you rarely meet in life,” noted Krauss. The tragedies that she has endured “have made her remarkably strong and empathetic.”

Early last month, Beth El celebrated Bank’s contributions to the Beth El community at a retirement lunch in her honor. More than a hundred people attended, including community members as well as Bank’s relatives and friends. Many spoke of Bank’s caring and kindness.

“I was very overwhelmed and grateful, to have known so many people. I thought they had done so much for me; I didn’t realize I’d done so much for them!” said Bank. The best part, she added, was seeing the look of pride on her daughter’s face, and watching her two little nephews, as so many congregants spoke of Bank’s many good deeds and kindnesses.

To Bank, these acts of kindness didn’t seem out of the ordinary. “When some of the older [congregants] were ill, I’d go visit them or give them rides, or I’d reach out and call them. I felt that was just part of what I should be doing, and it’s something I will continue to do,” she stressed.

For now, Bank is easing her way out of her administrator role. “I’m keeping my hands in, just in case I’m needed,” said Bank, who is now working parttime, splitting her former duties with long-time Beth El congregant Denise Borisch until the synagogue finds a new full-time administrator.

“Now I will be able to do the things I’ve wanted to do,” she noted. Among those things are finishing a book that she is writing about her late son, and working on a fundraiser for the Arc of Atlantic County to honor his memory. “My son loved bowling, so I’m working on a bowling fundraiser,” she explained. “I felt it was time to take care of these things.”

“She’ll be around, just not as often,” stressed Rabbi Krauss. “She won’t go away.” 

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