Rabbinic Search Committee Updates

October 30,2019

The Search Committee met this week and we are very pleased to report that the updated Sr. Rabbi application has been posted with the Rabbinic Assembly. We hope to be receiving applications between now and the end of December and we encourage your participation in recommending applicants. If you know rabbis for us to consider, please contact Arielle Ehrlich. And finally, we are developing a communication plan to ensure that all of our members are able to stay fully apprised of our progress. Stay tuned.

Questions? Please reach out to any of the Search Committee members: Ryan Lohr, Stuart Bear, Randi Roth, Laurie Fink, Laura Broder, Nina Samuels, Marvin Pertzik, Benj Kamm, Tamar Resnick, Mickey Minsburg, Barbie Levine, Robert Goffman and the two of us.

Ricka Kohnstamm and Rosanne Zaidenweber
Search Committee Co-Chairs

May 1, 2019

We are truly excited to welcome Rabbi Sami Barth to Beth Jacob as our new Interim Rabbi!

Rabbi Barth applied to Beth Jacob several weeks ago, with a stated desire to serve as a transitional rabbi for our congregation, a position he has held in many other congregations in the last decade. When the interim rabbi position was posted through the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), Rabbi Barth was enthusiastic about the opportunity and quickly emerged as a candidate. Based upon advice from the RA, when the search committee received the interim application, we needed to move quickly. The Rabbinical Assembly informed us that that there are many congregations looking for interim rabbis right now, so if we had the opportunity, we should make every effort to move forward immediately to find a good match.

The search committee was able to schedule a Skype interview with Rabbi Barth during Chol Ha’moed Pesach. We learned much about Rabbi Barth’s significant experience and talents in interim and transitional roles. He taught us Torah, and answered our questions with references to Jewish texts, which provided a glimpse of his skills as a teacher. It is clear that Rabbi Barth is excited to be part of a shul like Beth Jacob that has strong roots in Jewish life and learning and strong bonds within the community. His compassionate listening style and desire to learn from, teach, and be part of the community will help us become even stronger in our core values while helping us continue to grow.

Rabbi Barth has served the Jewish community in a wide variety of roles, including as a long-time rabbi of a congregation, lecturer at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and interim rabbi at congregations undergoing many types of transition. He has engaged with both traditional texts and modern media. He has academic credentials and an enthusiasm for bringing spirituality to those around him. The combination of his experience, his warmth, and his commitment to helping Beth Jacob go michayil l’chayil – from strength to strength – convinced the search committee that he was the right person to lead us on the next step of this journey. The committee recommended to the Board to extend an offer; the board voted to do so; and those negotiations are well underway.

An interim rabbi is someone who, in addition to performing the regular pastoral duties of a rabbi, can help the congregation see strengths and potential, give suggestions for new ways to continue being true to our values, and can help us evaluate what we do well and where we have room for growth. Because an interim position is by definition, temporary without possibility of being considered for the permanent position, a rabbi in this role can help find space for hard conversations and guide the congregation through them. The goal, at the end of an interim year, is that the congregation will remain solid in its core, will understand even more deeply who we are, and will be able to move confidently forward into our future.

The search committee is going to take a deep breath before getting back to full intensity senior rabbi search in the coming months. We will continue to network with rabbis and others in the Jewish community, listen for feedback from Rabbi Barth and the congregation, and partner with the Transition Team.

We are looking forward with great anticipation and excitement to having opportunities for people to get to know Rabbi Barth over the coming weeks and months, and to helping him learn about what makes Beth Jacob the warm, welcoming, thoughtful, committed congregation and community that we are.

Rabbi Barth has already begun his journey with Beth Jacob, as he has agreed to join us at our Annual Fundraiser this coming Sunday, May 5. He will also join us for Shabbat the weekend of May 17-19. Please join us to meet and greet him with the warm welcome for which we are known! Below you will find a letter of introduction from Rabbi Barth to us.

May Beth Jacob go from strength to strength. And may we find blessings and joy in the journey!

Ricka Kohnstamm and Rosanne Zaidenweber
Search Committee Co-Chairs

April 19, 2019

We thank you, on behalf of the entire Search Committee, for your continued involvement and interest in the Search process. There was significant congregational participation for our first interview weekend and we are posting what we learned from the congregational survey.

The Committee has taken a brief proverbial “breath” and is now re-energized to begin the search for an interim rabbi. Our application for that position is listed with the Rabbinic Assembly and we hope to start receiving applications very soon. The Rabbinic Assembly assures us that many synagogues our size take two years to find their new senior rabbi “match” and having an interim rabbi is often extremely helpful in a number of ways. An interim rabbi will lead all day-to-day rabbinic responsibilities, as well as advise and support as a transitional consultant as we explore our transition process. The interim candidates will be trained and/or experienced in this process. The interim rabbi position is for a single year and then we will continue our search for a senior rabbi, beginning in November 2019.

The Rabbinic Assembly tells us that many synagogues of our size also did not “match” in the first year of their search for a senior rabbi. Those same synagogues are now also searching for an interim, so we plan to move quickly to secure the best fit for our congregation.

We appreciate hearing from you! Continue to write to us with questions as we move forward from strength to strength.

Chag sameach!

Ricka Kohnstamm and Rosanne Zaidenweber
Search Committee Co-Chairs

April 7, 2019

We learned Friday that Rabbi Weiss has withdrawn her candidacy for Beth Jacob’s senior rabbi position.

We are so appreciative of the level of congregational engagement with our search. We value how many people were in shul last Shabbat, and how many of you attended the events last weekend and made the effort to greet and welcome Rabbi Weiss and her family. It was Beth Jacob hospitality at its best.

Rabbi Weiss expressed her gratitude for the warm welcome she received from the Beth Jacob community. We thanked her for the effort she made to travel here with her family to daven with us and teach us and share her gifts with us in so many ways.It was an invaluable learning opportunity for all of us. And now, we need to consider the next steps in our search process.

As we continue our search, and likely shift to seeking an interim rabbi, we invite and count on your continuing involvement in the process. We look forward to opportunities for additional conversation and feedback – after Pesach!

Thank you for your continued support as we partner together to take our shul from strength to strength. Shabbat Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom,
Ricka Kohnstamm and Rosanne Zaidenweber
Search Committee Co-Chairs

February 14, 2019

The Search Committee has been hard at work on its Board-mandated goal of finding “the best fit full-time Senior Rabbi for Beth Jacob by July 1, 2019”. No surprise that it is a challenging job and there is no quick and easy straightforward path. We are making steady progress toward this goal on behalf of the entire congregation.

In our last update, we reported that the Search Committee was meeting every two weeks, had submitted a strong application to the Rabbinical Assembly (RA) and that we were starting to receive applications. At the same time, members of the Committee were having outreach conversations with over 80 individual contacts.

Through discussions with shuls that had completed similar searches last year, we had set our expectations that we would have received 10-15 applications by 12/31/18 and that we would be scheduling in-person interviews with three or four candidates by this time.

Our path hasn’t matched that trajectory and we would like to tell you why we think that is the case, where we are right now, and what our next steps will be.

As of 1/31/19, we had received seven applications. We dismissed four as not being qualified for our position. We requested additional materials from the three remaining applicants and were sufficiently impressed with each of them that we invited them to do video conference interviews with all 14 of us on three separate Sundays. Those interviews were intense and informative and we gathered a lot more information.

Following the final video conference interviews, one additional applicant was dismissed, a second applicant withdrew, which left us with one remaining applicant. After much deep and thoughtful discussion and consideration, the Committee voted not to invite the remaining candidate for an in-person interview at this time. While this was an arduous decision, the Committee knows that there are advantages as well as distinct disadvantages in inviting a single candidate to interview.

This past week, we received an eighth promising applicant and we have requested additional written materials. We will review those materials, make a decision about a video interview and then take next steps from there.

That’s where we are. Why are we here and not where we expected to be?

The RA informs us that there are 150% more shuls searching for senior rabbis this year than last year, and therefore the applicant pool is much thinner. Other congregations, they report, are experiencing the same thing we are. The RA is committed to helping us meet our goal and we understand from them that it is entirely reasonable to expect that our process may take two years, instead of just one.

We are considering our options and with board approval, we plan to submit an application with the RA for an Interim Rabbi before Passover should we feel we are unable to meet our original goal. The earliest we can do this, according to RA rules, is April 15th. And doing so would not preclude continuing our original search for a full-time senior rabbi through this cycle. And we would be able to again post our application for the next search cycle.

Our Committee is working diligently, dedicated to Beth Jacob congregation, and completely committed to doing what we believe is right for the congregation.

We know you will have questions for us, so we are scheduling an “after Kiddush” conversation for Saturday, February 23, 2019. Please join members of the Committee for this conversation; and while we will not be discussing specific candidates, we will discuss our process and will do our best to answer your questions. Thank you for your continuing support and confidence.

Shabbat Shalom,
Ricka Kohnstamm and Rosanne Zaidenweber
Search Committee Co-Chairs

December 1, 2018

In our last update, we provided a detailed description of the preparation of the Beth Jacob Senior Rabbi Application which was posted on the website of the Rabbinical Assembly in late October. The search committee is very proud of this application, and we have now posted it on the Transition and Search Timeline page of our shul website for all to see. You can also access it here. We think it does a good job of describing our community and its values and presents a clear picture of what we are seeking in our next rabbinic leader.

And now, the next phase of our work in the rabbinic search has begun. We are receiving applications, and expect that we will continue accepting applications for another two weeks. We have carefully reviewed resumes and cover letters and have asked some of the applicants to provide additional written materials, including examples of a sermon, a eulogy and detailed answers to some philosophical and background questions. Once we have reviewed these materials, we will invite applicants to participate in a video interview with the entire committee. We have worked extensively on the questions and the format for these interviews, and expect that we will have a good sense of the applicants after speaking to them in this way. And if we conclude that there are appropriate candidates, the next step will be to invite them to visit our shul community so that they can become acquainted with us, and we can continue to delve into who they are and whether they are a good fit for Beth Jacob, with many opportunities for the entire community to be involved. We expect this will happen in late January/early February.

We know this is a liminal time in our community, when it is important for all of us to know as much as possible about what is happening and to trust that the leadership is moving forward to address the change that is occurring as we transition to a new period in the life of Beth Jacob. To that end, we are committed to being as open as we can about the search process while still maintaining necessary confidentiality. We also believe communication among us is critical to make sure that the search committee and the transition committee connect with members of the congregation and that we all feel that we have the opportunity to provide feedback and talk about the process.

The Havdalah gatherings planned for December 15, 2018, are such an opportunity for congregants to reconnect with each other and provide feedback to the transition and search committees. This is a continuation of the conversations that began last year with the Congregational Survey and Conversations. We encourage everyone who is able to participate in a Havdalah gathering and conversation; we believe this type of gathering can enrich our relationships and provide support and comfort in a transitional time.

We thank you for your trust and support.

Ricka Kohnstamm and Rosanne Zaidenweber
Search Committee Co-Chairs

September 2018

The Rabbinic Search Committee has been working very hard over the summer primarily on the enormous task of preparing Beth Jacob’s Application to be posted on the Rabbinical Assembly website. This is the first step in the rabbinic search process.

This lengthy application requires the congregation to focus on how we want to present ourselves to potential candidates, and includes everything one might want to know about Beth Jacob, from the basic data (how many families, how many people attend on a regular Shabbat, etc.) to our mission, history, accomplishments, challenges, vision, and the qualities we want in a new senior rabbi to help lead us into the next stage in the life of our community and our shul.

Our committee has worked incredibly diligently synthesizing the information gathered from the community survey and the congregational conversations, as well as the stories from our founding members, the original position description, and many other documents and conversations we have gathered over the years. The result is a beautiful piece of writing that truly expresses and reflects who we are as a congregation and our hopes and dreams for the future of this community. The application has been finalized, edited, and reviewed by both the entire search committee and the executive committee, and the responses to it from these groups have been enthusiastic.

We are now anticipating that the application will be posted on the Rabbinical Assembly website after the holidays. After that, we expect we will begin receiving and reviewing candidate applications. We also hope to provide a version of the application that can be accessed by all members of the congregation; we are that proud of it, and believe you will be too!

We invite you to reach out to any of the committee members with questions, concerns, or just to talk about the process. We want to keep you updated as we go along. As a reminder, committee members include Arielle Ehrlich, Barbie Levine, Laurie Fink, Laura Broder, Marvin Pertzik, Mickey Minsberg, Nina Samuels, Randi Roth, Ryan Lohr, Stuart Bear, Tamar Resnick and Benj Kamm. You can also reach the two of us directly by e-mail at bjrabbincalsearchchairs@gmail.com.

Wishing everyone the blessings of a happy, healthy and sweet New Year. It will be an exciting one for all of us as we move into the future at Beth Jacob.

Shana Tovah,
Ricka Kohnstamm and Rosanne Zaidenweber
Search Committee Co-chairs

Rabbinic Search Committee Introduction

June 2018

We have been extremely fortunate, as the Beth Jacob community, to have been guided by Rabbi Morris Allen, our wise and visionary senior rabbi, for over 30 years. Rabbi Allen and Phyllis Gorin have built a strong foundation that has provided us with a place to learn, a place to grow spiritually, a place to live our social justice beliefs, a place to educate our children, and a place to connect with beloved community.

And, after 32 years, they deserve to take a breath and to explore what else life has to offer. We congratulate them on the birth of their first grandchild, as well as their daughter Adina’s engagement. And we wish Rabbi Allen well as he starts his sabbatical and sets out on the first steps of his new journey.

This means, of course, that it is time for our senior rabbinic search to begin. We’re excited to report that the Search Committee had its first working meeting Wednesday evening, May 30. We couldn’t ask for a stronger, more energized committee; all 14 members bring great skill and dedication to the table and are committed to representing the entire shul community throughout the search process.

We’ll be meeting once a month as a full committee, and many times as smaller working groups, focused on specific tasks, which will then be brought back to the full committee.

Our committee objective is to hire a great fit senior rabbi for our shul by July 1, 2019. There is a lot of work that precedes that, of course, and we’ve included a timeline overview so that you can see what we’ll be doing and by when.

We will keep you updated as we go, and feel free to reach out with questions and concerns.

Co-Chairs Rosanne Zaidenweber and Ricka Kohnstamm

Establishment of Rabbinic Search Committee

May 2018

We would like to announce the Search Committee, which was approved by the Board. The chairs of the Search Committee will be Ricka Kohnstamm and Rosanne Zaidenweber. Rosanne is a past president who is intimately familiar with the workings of the shul, and Ricka was the chair of the T’fillah Team, and is experienced in facilitating committees making difficult decisions, with an emphasis on kavod and respect. The Search Committee members are: Stuart Bear, Laura Broder, Arielle Ehrlich, Laurie Fink, Benj Kamm, Barbie Levine, Ryan Lohr, Mickey Minsberg, Marvin Pertzik, Tamar Resnick, Randi Roth, & Nina Samuels. We believe that this entire committee is comprised of people who can speak to our values of who we are and where we want to go in a way that is compelling and full of kavod, are representative of our past and our future, and that each member brings specific skills and wisdom.

Thank you.
Rachel Hertel & Laura Honan, Co-Presidents