Rabbi Search Committee Updates 


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Temple Beth Rishon (TBR) welcomes Rabbi Beni Wajnberg as its new rabbi

Wyckoff, NJ-Alyson Cohn, President of Temple Beth Rishon, announced the unanimous approval of Beni Wajnberg as the new Rabbi for Temple Beth Rishon, beginning July 2018. 
Alyson Cohn, Temple President, shared her excitement about the hiring of Rabbi Wajnberg stating that, “I am delighted that Rabbi Beni Wajnberg will be joining us at Temple Beth Rishon. TBR is committed to fostering a thriving Jewish community that is inclusive and respectful.”Her sentiments are shared by the TBR Board of Trustees, its staff and the congregation.  Alyson further expressed that, “Rabbi Wajnberg’s leadership, creativity and passion will enable us to continue building the strong and vibrant environment we envision.”
Rabbi Wajnberg will support and lead the congregation as it continues to provide Jewish families a warm, welcoming temple to sustain their faith. A diverse and committed Search Committee spent two years seeking a candidate to fill the rabbinic position left vacant upon the retirement of Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Emert in May 2016, at the culmination of his 22 year career with TBR.  Many qualified candidates were considered over the course of the extensive search which yielded Rabbi Wajnberg’s request for consideration. During those months, TBR was fortunate to have the leadership of Rabbi Stephen Wylen as its interim rabbi, who will continue through the spring of this year.
Says Rabbi Wajnberg, “People…are what drive me as a rabbi: growing, supporting and partnering with a community of holy gatherers, curious searchers and impactful leaders. I feel blessed to have had moments of learning and growth during the first stages of my path as a rabbi.  And I look forward with great excitement and humility to the next chapter of my rabbinate, as I become an active member of a new community - journeying together towards the Judaism that is yet to be.”  On his upcoming relocation to Bergen County with his wife, Rabbi Miriam Wajnberg, Rabbi expressed that he is, “looking forward to getting to know the other young families in the area, and establishing deep friendships....” 
Rabbi Wajnberg is currently serving as the Assistant Rabbi at Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City, a position he has held since 2015. He is married to Rabbi Miriam Wajnberg and looks forward to his upcoming move to Bergen County. Prior to taking that position, Rabbi Wajnberg served as Rabbinic Intern at Congregation Shir Hadash, Los Gatos, California as well as at Reform CA/Just Congregations and the Stephen S. Wise Temple, both in Los Angeles, CA.  Rabbi Wajnberg has applied his active listening, meditation and prayers when comforting patients of all faiths and backgrounds in his pastoral care. 
Rabbi Wajnberg is a cum laude graduate of Rio de Janeiro Federal University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with an undergraduate degree in Psychology. After attending Seminario Rabinico Marshall T. Meyer in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Rabbi Wajnberg received his Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, LA, in 2013 before his Rabbinic Ordination in May, 2015.
About Temple Beth Rishon:
For over 40 years, Temple Beth Rishon, conveniently located in northwest Bergen County, has embraced a diverse community of Jewish families.  TBR is an independent, egalitarian, warm and vibrant temple that attracts families from diverse Jewish backgrounds. We embrace congregants with a strong Judaic background as well as those who feel a more cultural connection: those who were born Jewish, those who choose to be Jewish, and those who are part of an interfaith family. Check out our website: www.bethrishon.org


From Ira Lamster, Rabbi Search Committee Chair

December 11, 2017

Dear Friends and Fellow Congregants,

As you know, the Rabbinic Search Committee has been hard at work for close to two years looking for a new rabbi to lead our congregation. I am pleased to announce that we have identified a candidate for our open Rabbinic position.

On behalf of our Board of Trustees, Officers, and Rabbinic Search Committee, I would like to invite you to attend an emergency Congregational Meeting on Thursday, January 4th at 7:30 PM to vote on the appointment of Rabbi Beni Wajnberg as our permanent seated Rabbi for an initial term of three years commencing July 1, 2018.

Rabbi Wajnberg (pronounced Vine-berg) was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and was ordained by the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, although he also studied at the Seminario Rabinico, a Conservative rabbinical school in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He comes to us from Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City. He has served as rabbi, rabbinic intern, hospital chaplain, student rabbi and teacher in congregations, hospitals and nursing homes in New York, California, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, Argentina and Brazil.

Reb Beni (as he likes to be called) is passionate about Jewish law, rabbinic literature and Jewish thought. When not at shul, he can be seen strumming his guitar, cooking a nice dinner, sitting on his meditation cushion, reading or rooting for Botafogo, a Brazilian soccer team. He shares his life with his wife, Rabbi Miriam Wajnberg, and their 2-year old son Shai Lev. Their family will soon expand, as they are expecting their second child this February.

A quorum of our temple membership, which consists of fifty members in good standing is required to vote on this appointment.  A presentation on Rabbi Wajnberg's contract will be given by Matt Herman, chairperson of the TBR Human Resources Committee, and Ira Lamster, chairperson of the TBR Rabbinic Search Committee. If anyone has any questions before the meeting, please feel free to contact me or Ira Lamster.

I know that a number of you have been curious regarding the journey of the Rabbinic Search Committee and the process that led to this decision. I have included a message from Ira Lamster, below, that I think you will find both helpful and enlightening.

'It was very nearly 2 years ago that Alyson Cohn sent a letter to the congregation announcing that Rabbi Ken Emert had decided to retire as our Rabbi.  Alyson asked me to chair the Rabbinic Search Committee, and the first task was to form a committee that was representative of the Temple Beth Rishon community. Ultimately 10 other community members were asked to join the committee, and all agreed. 

Our work began by scheduling a series of open meetings with the congregation to determine the characteristics and strengths they were seeking in our next Rabbi. We conducted an on-line survey to ask specific, quantitative questions so we could select the Rabbi who would best serve our community. We also interviewed Rabbi Emert, Cantor Mamber, educational leadership, and met with past Presidents of the synagogue. Then we began the process of identifying candidates. This was a particularly challenging aspect of our search, because as an independent, unaffiliated synagogue, we could not participate in the job placement services offered by the Reform Judaism (CCAR) or Conservative Judaism (RA) movements. We then began to identify candidates by other means, including Jewish job-posting websites, contact with educational institutions, meetings with influential rabbis, and a variety of other approaches.

 Our first interviews began about 18 months ago, and since that time we reviewed about 90 resumes and interviewed more than 15 candidates. Now, we are pleased to propose Rabbi Beni Wajnberg as our next Rabbi.

Rabbi Wajnberg is currently the Assistant Rabbi at Temple Sharray Tefila in Manhattan. He brings a combination of youthful energy and enthusiasm, with a deep spirituality, and commitment to positive transformation and relationship building. He will connect well with all members of our synagogue. 

Let me acknowledge the enormous dedication and hard work of the members of the Rabbinic Search Committee, including Alyson Cohn, Laura Freeman, Judith Friedland, Bill Heller, Michael Goldberg, Tara Mandel, Michele Opper, Will Rukin, Barry Silverman, and Claire Taub. Special thanks are also extended to David Edelson (IT) and Matt Herman (human resources) for their help whenever needed. Also, many members of the congregation helped by providing input during the onsite evaluation of candidates.

In sum, after two years of work, the Search Committee is excited about the beginning of a new era in the history of Temple Beth Rishon.'

Sincerely,  Ira Lamster

This is a meaningful time for our community so I strongly encourage you to join us on January 4th at 7:30 PM. I look forward to seeing all of you at this very important meeting.

Sincerely,

Alyson Cohn, President


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 permenant 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.  

Temple Beth Rishon (TBR) welcomes Rabbi Beni Wajnberg as its new rabbi

Wyckoff, NJ-Alyson Cohn, President of Temple Beth Rishon, announced the unanimous approval of Beni Wajnberg as the new Rabbi for Temple Beth Rishon, beginning July 2018. 
Alyson Cohn, Temple President, shared her excitement about the hiring of Rabbi Wajnberg stating that, “I am delighted that Rabbi Beni Wajnberg will be joining us at Temple Beth Rishon. TBR is committed to fostering a thriving Jewish community that is inclusive and respectful.”Her sentiments are shared by the TBR Board of Trustees, its staff and the congregation.  Alyson further expressed that, “Rabbi Wajnberg’s leadership, creativity and passion will enable us to continue building the strong and vibrant environment we envision.”
Rabbi Wajnberg will support and lead the congregation as it continues to provide Jewish families a warm, welcoming temple to sustain their faith. A diverse and committed Search Committee spent two years seeking a candidate to fill the rabbinic position left vacant upon the retirement of Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Emert in May 2016, at the culmination of his 22 year career with TBR.  Many qualified candidates were considered over the course of the extensive search which yielded Rabbi Wajnberg’s request for consideration. During those months, TBR was fortunate to have the leadership of Rabbi Stephen Wylen as its interim rabbi, who will continue through the spring of this year.
Says Rabbi Wajnberg, “People…are what drive me as a rabbi: growing, supporting and partnering with a community of holy gatherers, curious searchers and impactful leaders. I feel blessed to have had moments of learning and growth during the first stages of my path as a rabbi.  And I look forward with great excitement and humility to the next chapter of my rabbinate, as I become an active member of a new community - journeying together towards the Judaism that is yet to be.”  On his upcoming relocation to Bergen County with his wife, Rabbi Miriam Wajnberg, Rabbi expressed that he is, “looking forward to getting to know the other young families in the area, and establishing deep friendships....” 
Rabbi Wajnberg is currently serving as the Assistant Rabbi at Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City, a position he has held since 2015. He is married to Rabbi Miriam Wajnberg and looks forward to his upcoming move to Bergen County. Prior to taking that position, Rabbi Wajnberg served as Rabbinic Intern at Congregation Shir Hadash, Los Gatos, California as well as at Reform CA/Just Congregations and the Stephen S. Wise Temple, both in Los Angeles, CA.  Rabbi Wajnberg has applied his active listening, meditation and prayers when comforting patients of all faiths and backgrounds in his pastoral care. 
Rabbi Wajnberg is a cum laude graduate of Rio de Janeiro Federal University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with an undergraduate degree in Psychology. After attending Seminario Rabinico Marshall T. Meyer in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Rabbi Wajnberg received his Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, LA, in 2013 before his Rabbinic Ordination in May, 2015.
About Temple Beth Rishon:
For over 40 years, Temple Beth Rishon, conveniently located in northwest Bergen County, has embraced a diverse community of Jewish families.  TBR is an independent, egalitarian, warm and vibrant temple that attracts families from diverse Jewish backgrounds. We embrace congregants with a strong Judaic background as well as those who feel a more cultural connection: those who were born Jewish, those who choose to be Jewish, and those who are part of an interfaith family. Check out our website: www.bethrishon.org. 
Press Contacts:
Judy White, Temple Office, Temple Beth Rishon, 201-891-4466 support@bethrishon.org