The Rabbi Search Committee [RSC] of Vassar Temple is completing the first phase in a nearly year long initiative to identify the best candidate to replace our retiring Rabbi who, as you know, will be leaving at the end of June 2015.
Seeking the input of the congregation in order for the committee to be fully informed about the needs and wishes of Temple members was critical to the process. Forums called “Conversations” gave all members an opportunity to speak openly about their vision for the Temple’s future and, given the goals and concerns, what attributes and skills the individual needs to possess in order to help us be successful. Approximately 60 people attended in total, representing a range of ages and perspectives; thoughtful and respectful discussion occurred in the sanctuary followed by two related activities in the social hall, where attendees were asked to prioritize the qualities we should be seeking. Member opinion had been provided in other forms as well: in writing, by telephone and in personal discussions. The data captured graphically and in text was then distributed to all committees members.
As expected, there was a range of responses, with some members feeling more or less strongly about certain elements both of the profile being developed and of the challenges we face going forward. But there certainly were some galvanizing opinions. Virtually everyone expressed concern for securing stable membership and with that financial security. There was considerable emphasis placed on the importance of engaging our young families and children, helping them to connect more strongly with their Judaism in a positive way. And having Vassar Temple actually promote inclusivity – demonstrate sensitivity to all seeking a relationship with Judaism with our synagogue serving as a portal to that connection – was repeated at all sessions.
With regard to the profile then, a unifying message was that the next Rabbi needs to be able to fully engage with all of our families, across all age groups; to be able to promote a love of Jewish learning in all who walk through our doors; and to help members find joyful and meaningful reasons to embrace Judaism in their daily lives. Also, our next Rabbi will need to be mindful of the diversity represented by our temple families and embrace all members and potential members in all life cycle events that are so important to them.
The RSC will transform the input into a profile to be used as candidates are interviewed. The formal application has been submitted to the Central Conference of American Rabbis [CCAR]; Rabbi Henkin, the Director of Rabbi Placement, will in turn make it available to all eligible candidates. The interview phase likely to begin in July, will take place over the subsequent months and involve a review of applications; electronic means of engaging in face-to-face meetings; and ultimately on sight visits, perhaps with committee members visiting home congregations and candidates spending time at Vassar Temple.
Respectfully submitted by Sandra Mamis, Chair, RSC