Rabbi Search Committee Updates 

From Ira Lamster, Rabbi Search Committee Chair

October 1, 2017

In the spring of 2017, the congregation voted to hire Rabbi Stephen Wylen as the Interim Rabbi for 2017-2018, as well as Rabbi Lois Ruderman as Assistant Rabbi for that same period.

The search for our next permeant Rabbi continued during the spring and summer, and resumes continued to be received, but this is a relatively slow time in terms of recruitment. The Committee has taken a more proactive approach to identifying perspective candidates, and during this time a number of individuals were invited for web-based interviews, three candidates were invited for in-person interviews, and two of these individuals were invited back for a second interview. We entered into discussions with one of these candidates about becoming our next Rabbi, but these negotiations did not conclude successfully.  The Committee has also been in discussion with the organization Rabbis Without Borders, a rabbinic networking group that crosses Judaic affiliation borders, to assist us in our recruitment. As an unaffiliated synagogue, collaboration with this organization is potentially of great value.

With the conclusion of the High Holidays, there will be increased recruitment activity.

APRIL 18, 2017

A special meeting of the congregation was held on April 18 to review the search process, and present the terms of a proposed contract for Rabbi Stephen Wylen as our Interim Rabbi for the 2017-2018 year. After discussion, a vote was called, and the results were 69 in favor, 10 opposed and 1 abstention. Rabbi Wylen's contract was approved.

APRIL 4, 2017

The Rabbinic Search Committee has concluded one phase of its work, and we can now provide the congregation with a report of our progress.

The Committee's work began more than a year ago. We listened to the congregation's thoughts via open meetings and an on-line survey. As an unaffiliated synagogue, we were not eligible to be listed on the CCAR (Reform Judaism) or RA (Conservative Judaism) placement services, but we contacted both organizations for any help they could provide. Our outreach efforts included contacting educational institutions across the country about our opportunity,  contacting other religious organizations which could inform their members, posting our position on appropriate job placement websites, as well as following many personal contacts with synagogue members and others about potential candidates.

We ultimately reviewed nearly 50 resumes, conducted video interviews with 10 candidates, held 6 initial face-to-face interviews and invited 4 candidates back for second interviews with wider representation from the congregation. The Committee was prepared to begin negotiations with one candidate, but he had to relocate to Maryland for family reasons.

The absence of communication relates to the nature of how resumes were received. Since we are unaffiliated, resumes were received one at a time, and each review would then begin. If the candidate was judged to have potential, the vetting would begin. This could take a few weeks, and as this was occurring other resumes would be received and vetted. Ultimately the Committee concluded that none of the other candidates met our requirements.

Therefore, we have decided to hire an interim rabbi for the 2017-2018 year. The rabbi chosen was Steven Wylen, who was the long-term rabbi at Temple Beth Tikvah in Wayne, and for the last two years has been an interim rabbi, first in Mississippi and now in Connecticut. Further, we are negotiating with Lois  Ruderman to be our Assistant Rabbi for next year.

This has been a challenging year for synagogues seeking to recruit a permanent rabbi. Two other local synagogues that were also seeking to recruit new rabbis (Beth Haverim and Barnert) were not successful with their searches, and have also hired interim rabbis.

The Committee will continue its work to identify our next permanent rabbi, using outreach initiatives employed in the past year, as well as new approaches.

It is important to acknowledge the efforts and dedication of the eleven members of the Search Committee. The Committee has devoted hundreds of hours to their task, displayed remarkable dedication to their assignment, and will begin their work again in the next month.

JANUARY 6, 2017

The search process is ongoing, and the Committee continues to vet candidates. Committee members have been remarkably dedicated to their task, and demanding in their expectations. 

The Committee has discussed hiring an interim rabbi for a one year period if we do not find a person who meets our needs. While the search is ongoing, we will define our direction in the next few weeks.

SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

The search for the next Rabbi at Temple Beth Rishon has entered the stage of vetting and interviewing candidates.

After outreach to educational institutions, and contact with a variety of other individuals and organizations, resumes are being received.

Our job description has been submitted to the Rabbinic Assembly or RA (Conservative Judaism) and the Central Conference of American Rabbis or CCAR (Reform Judaism). Since we are not an affiliated synagogue, our job opportunity will only be listed briefly on the RA website and not at all on the CCAR site. Nevertheless, the placement director for the CCAR is sending our description to selected individuals.

To date, we have received resumes from rabbis affiliated with the reform movement and the conservative movement. We have a rolling evaluation process, and candidates are contacted as resumes are received. After initial vetting of a resume, an initial interview is conducted by video conference. Selected candidates are then invited for a first, limited on-site visit, and the first of these meetings was held on Thursday, September 22. Other first on-site interviews have been scheduled after the High Holidays. Selected candidates will then be invited back for a more extensive, second on-site visit, when they will participate in Temple activities, and meet with members of the congregation.

APRIL/MAY, 2016  - In April and early May, 2016, a series of 6 open meetings were held for the congregation to express their thoughts about the search for the next Rabbi. This report is a summary of the major themes that emerged from those meetings.

The Search Committee would like to thank those members of the congregation who attended the various meetings.  

The summary of results reflects the notes of all of the committee members who attended the meetings. They are summarized here in order to share the information that was gleaned as a result of these meetings. A number of common, major themes were evident:

  1. The rabbi should be a leader, both within the congregation and within the community. 

  2. The rabbi should know the membership. Sensitivity and pastoral care are key issues. He/she must make a sincere effort to know the families, welcome the members and be available in times of need. The rabbi should be approachable. Being a rabbi should not be just a job; it should be the essence of the individual.

  3. We are a very diverse congregation. There are young members and old members. There are members whose level of observance is traditional versus members whose practice is more liberal. There are families where both parents are Jewish as well as interfaith families. The new rabbi should be able to work with and nurture all of the members of our community. It would be important to have programs which would bring our community together. 

  4. There should be a focus on spirituality. The rabbi should be a scholar and be able to engage the congregation in Torah. The rabbi should have a background of tradition. 

  5. The new rabbi should be able to work well with our current staff. 

  6. Through teaching and through sermons, it is expected that the rabbi will inspire our current congregants to support the congregation and showcase our congregation to those looking to find a spiritual home.

Those of you who attended the congregational meetings have given us your thoughts as to what would make for the perfect rabbi. We will do our best to be mindful of all of these attributes, as we try our best to reconcile perfection and reality.    

As was stated in all of our congregational meetings, please do not hesitate to contact any of our committee members if you have additional input that you believe would be helpful as we go forward in our search process.