Chances are, if you’d called Temple Ner Tamid of the North Shore in Peabody sometime in the last decade, the first person to answer the phone would have been Beth Hoffman.
But after serving as Ner Tamid’s synagogue administrator for 13 years, Hoffman has decided to retire. The temple marked the occasion with a kiddush lunch last Saturday, with over 100 people coming to pay tribute to Hoffman.
Hoffman called it a “hard decision” to retire. “But I had to do it. It’s what’s best for me,” she said. “I love our Jewish community. I’ll still be involved.”
Hoffman has had an extensive career in synagogue administration. Starting in 1999, she was the executive director of the former Temple Israel in Swampscott – a position she held for eight-plus years. Temple Israel eventually merged with Temple Beth El to form the current Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott.
Although she grew up in Swampscott, she was familiar with Temple Ner Tamid. As a teenager, she was involved with the local chapter of United Synagogue Youth (USY). Members traveled from Swampscott to events at Temple Ner Tamid.
“I already knew a lot of people from that experience,” Hoffman said. “It didn’t feel unfamiliar when I first started out [in the job]. As the years went on, I considered it my home.”
In her work, she said, “I enjoyed a lot of the congregation members.” She listed groups such as the sisterhood and men’s club, while also mentioning Rabbi Richard Perlman.
“I really enjoyed working with Rabbi Perlman,” Hoffman said. “He’s a wonderful person and a wonderful rabbi. I’m grateful to him.”
Perlman became Temple Ner Tamid’s rabbi in 2016. Ever since, he has appreciated working with Hoffman. “I’m certainly going to miss working with her day to day,” Perlman said.
Asked about the decision to retire, Hoffman said that due to health problems, she worked from home all summer, with her biggest project the preparations for the High Holidays.
More recently, she learned about some other health issues. “I just had to stop [working] and enjoy life,” she said. “I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. It was a very hard decision to make, because I love my job. I have to take care of myself. I’m going to miss the job and the people a lot.”
Hoffman lives in Swampscott with her husband, Robert. They have a son, David, who is married to Ashley and has a 15-year-old son, Noah.
Hoffman believes that the COVID-19 pandemic was the most challenging period of her tenure at at Temple Ner Tamid.
“We were all on Zoom,” Hoffman said. “We kept it going as normal as possible, with services and activities online, interactions online for holidays.”
Temple Ner Tamid’s services are now hybrid.
Reflecting on the early days of the pandemic, Hoffman said, “I loved how people were grateful for that opportunity we were able to give them. Everything was closed, but we still functioned as a synagogue as best we could.”
Hoffman was moved by the response to the news that Temple Ner Tamid was holding a kiddush lunch in her honor.
“I didn’t know so many people were going to come,” she said. She received messages such as “I don’t know what we’re going to do without you” and “I’m going to miss you.”
The rabbi shared some reactions of his own.
“Obviously, we’re going to stay friends,” Perlman said. “She’s going to be difficult to replace. She will be missed. We just want her to get better. Health comes first.”
Hoffman does have some post-retirement plans. She intends to continue serving on the sisterhood at Temple Ner Tamid, and to do some consulting.
“I’m not going far,” she said. “It’s nice to know you are appreciated.” Θ