Mark’s Remarks: Rabbinic Search Update
By Mark Frydenberg
As the Search committee is winding down from weekly interviews, and moving on to the next phase of inviting candidates to lead Shabbat morning services with the congregation, it is worthwhile to reflect on the past four months of work that got us this far. In January, the Board and Ritual Committees met to begin the process of healing as the announcement was made that the Temple would be seeking a new rabbi. We formed a Search Committee, composed of members that represent our diverse community. This group began a process of trying to understand our synagogue’s strengths and weaknesses, needs, and values as we seek a new Rabbi.
We also began the process of accepting the transition we are facing with an open congregational meeting in February to discuss our situation. From there, we developed a description of our synagogue and the position, and posted it with several rabbinical schools and placement offices. During March and April, the Search committee received over 15 applicants, and after preliminary phone interviews with me or Temple President Merrill Griff, we invited seven candidates to interview in person or over the Internet, by Skype. (Yes, we received applications from candidates as far away as California and Israel.)
This search process has created an opportunity for us to truly look at what Temple Beth Israel does best, and how to communicate those values to potential rabbis. It has been an opportunity for the entire congregation to gather weekly to hear the candidates at an evening minyan (and approximately 15 people attended each candidate’s preliminary service and teaching prior to their interview). The process has been open, fair, and equal (to the extent that I asked the same set of questions to each candidate) in addition to personalized questions that address each candidate’s unique background and experience.
The level of commitment on the part of the Religious and Search committees has been required is far beyond anything most members of any synagogue committee have been asked people to do (meeting once or twice weekly for about four months, now), and the result are paying off.
Four of the candidates interviewed in person were invited to return to lead a Shabbat morning service with us. That process began on April 24, and continues on May 1, 8, and 15. We have notified members of the congregation by mail with the names and affiliations of the candidates and the schedule of their visits with us. Because of the current employment situations of some of the candidates, we are treating this information as “congregation internal” and therefore it will not be included in the Newsletter or on the Temple’s Web site. If you would like to know more about the candidates who are coming on upcoming Shabbat mornings, please contact me or the Temple Office.
We are in a period of uncertainty, transition, and change, as we hope to welcome a new rabbi to Temple Beth Israel over the summer. The candidates we have invited to lead on Shabbat mornings are energetic, enthusiastic, traditionally grounded, and warm. Their teachings are based on traditional texts, while sometimes integrating ideas found in current books, movies, or news events. They have different life experiences. I hope they give divrei torah that inspire us to think and discuss. I hope they lead services in a way that engages us. I hope they meet us over lunch in a way that helps us, and them, determine if the opportunity we may share together is the right one.
There will be a special congregational meeting on Sunday, May 16 at 10:00 a.m. At this meeting, you will have the opportunity to share your impressions of the candidates. The Religious Committee, Search Committee, and Board will meet afterward to discuss the congregational input in order for the Religious Committee to make a recommendation, in accordance with the synagogue by laws.
If you cannot make this meeting and would like to offer your thoughts about any of the candidates, please feel free to contact Mark Frydenberg or Merrill Griff, or any member of the Search Committee individually. Members of the search committee include Andrea Baron, Jim Baron, Rene Brown , Genevieve Fosa, Mark Frydenberg , Margery Gann, Merill Griff, Marilyn Racette, Yaron Shragai , and Bruce Trager. While these individuals have been meeting regularly for several months, Temple Beth Israel doesn’t belong to the few who serve on committees. It belongs to all of us, and now, more than ever, we need your input and your support to help shape our future.