A Message From the Rabbinic Search Committee, 12/16/2013

We’re writing to update you on the search for TBC’s next permanent rabbi, including results from the recently completed electronic survey. The search is on track, and we remain optimistic about the process and encouraged by the quality of rabbis who have submitted their resumes. Frankly, we are humbled by the strong interest shown by so many superb rabbis.

First the numbers: we have received resumes and personal statements from 28 rabbis, we interviewed 15 of those rabbis via 45-60 minute Skype calls, and we then narrowed the list to four whom we determined most closely match TBC’s needs. We then held second Skype interviews with those four rabbis, intending to narrow the list to two whom we would invite to visit us in Georgetown — but we are now considering inviting three. We’ll make formal invitations to those rabbis (whether two or three) this week. One of our next tasks will be to design these visits, including how best to give several different groups within our community an opportunity to get to know the candidates, and vice versa.

As we continue to narrow the pool of candidates, we are heavily informed by the feedback received from so many of you. Thank you for all that input, in every form. The electronic survey we distributed last month has been particularly helpful. We had the advantage of all survey data before conducting the second interviews with our strongest candidates.

The survey response was overwhelming, with 104 members participating. We had responses from every community and from every tenure of membership, from our newest members to our founders. This level of involvement underscores the commitment of our members to ensuring we identify the best possible rabbi for our community. Major findings from the survey follow, along with examples of how your input has been utilized:

(1) 60% of respondents feel “well connected” to the community, while 40% feel only marginally connected or not connected.

Our Follow-up. Although this glass is more than half full, these results should be stronger. A key focus for our next permanent rabbi should be how to grow a broader and deeper sense of connectedness within our community. During our interviews, the strongest candidates have spoken to this concern with understanding, eloquence, and practicality.

(2) When asked how we would like our next rabbi to address several practices that are part of our TBC culture, respondents favored a continuation of current practices, though we received several different observations which were thoughtful and will be shared with our next permanent rabbi. The current practices that are broadly embraced include:

  • Use of congregants to chant Torah for holiday and Shabbat services.
  • The amount of Hebrew used in our holiday and Shabbat services.
  • Opportunities for interfaith partners to participate on the bimah.
  • Access to yarmulke and tallit at services.
  • The reading of names of fallen military personnel prior to reciting Kaddish.
  • Promotion of participation at URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) summer camps.
  • Continuation of our current absence of a dress code for services.

Our Follow-up. The strongest of our candidates share one threshold feature: when asked how he or she would spend the first 100 days as our rabbi, each answered that the process has to start by meeting as many people as quickly as possible in order to learn our practices. Although we certainly want a rabbi who will lead us through personal conviction and who will constructively challenge us, we are steering toward candidates who also appear highly respectful of embracing TBC’s own traditions.

(3) When asked to rank the importance of a list of activities one could desire from our next rabbi (in addition to leading services, leading ritual programs, and officiating at life-cycle events) those listed most often by respondents as “very important” or “important” were:

  • Create and deliver thought provoking sermons
  • Provide pastoral counseling
  • Participate in growing TBC membership
  • Help congregants connect one to another
  • Promote TBC volunteerism
  • Develop robust early (toddler and elementary school level) education programs
  • Teach confirmation classes
  • Promote adult education
  • Develop and lead adult b’nai mitzvah programs
  • Create ritual programs that educate and enlighten members
  • Train b’nai mitzvah students
  • Lead family services and community seders

Our Follow-up. As a result of this feedback, our interviews have more heavily emphasized such things as the quality of the rabbi’s sermons, pastoral sensitivity and experiences, ideas and past actions regarding development of volunteers, and direct experiences in religious school and adult education.

Thank you again for the strong participation in the electronic survey. The Rabbinic Search Committee will also share the results with our Executive Committee and our Board because the value of your input goes beyond our current search process. Although the survey is now complete, we remain eager to hear all feedback. Please don’t hesitate to contact any of us with any questions or observations.

Tom Dubin, on behalf of the Rabbinic Search Committee: Seth Arnowitz, Cindy Baulsir, Richard Bloom, Mike Bonheim, Alice Czuczka, Susan Farber, Ruth Hurwitz, Jamie Kapel, Deborah List, Andy Nevas, Judson Scruton, Sharon Sobel, and Michael Wolfman