An Update on Our Sacred Search for BCC’s Next Rabbi
Ginger Jacobs and Elizabeth Savage, Co-chairs
On behalf of the members of the Rabbinic Search Committee, we would like to update the congregation on the progress of our rabbinic search since our last report in September. We all take seriously the responsibility that the BCC Executive Committee has entrusted to us to conduct this search in a way that is thoughtful, transparent, responsive to our members, and in accord with the spiritual values and practices of Judaism and the Reform movement of which we are a part.
What has happened so far in our rabbinic search process?
We have filed BCC’s “Solo Rabbi Application” with the Rabbinical Placement Commission of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the organization for Reform rabbis. Our application was posted on the CCAR website in late October and is accessible to all rabbis who are members of the CCAR. Any rabbi who is interested in applying to become BCC’s next rabbi may submit a resume to the CCAR, which will review the resume and forward it to us.
Fully aware of the importance of this rabbinic search, the Search Committee took great care in preparing our application over a period of several weeks. The application form includes a range of questions about BCC and about the candidates we seek. It asks for details about our current clergy and staff, lay leadership, religious school, building facilities, finances, and membership demographics. It requests narrative statements about BCC’s primary goals and hopes for the next few years, about the most important issues and challenges facing our congregation, and about our core strengths and values. It asks for the qualities that are most important in our new rabbi, the most important priorities of our new rabbi, and the most important things a rabbinic candidate should know about BCC.
In order to answer these questions as completely and accurately as possible, we sought input from as many BCC members as we could. We held five “community reflection meetings” during the month of August, two at BCC and three in members’ homes around the LA area. Each meeting was led by a trained facilitator and sought input directly related to the questions on the CCAR application. The comments of BCC members at each meeting were recorded anonymously by a “scribe” during the meeting and then collated with the comments from the other meetings. Some 60 BCC members attended these meetings.
We also made available a short online survey to allow those who were unable to attend one of the meetings in person to provide input as well.
On September 8, we presented the results of the survey and the community reflection meetings at a “town hall” at BCC, at which members could consider the opinions of the congregation as a whole and provide additional input if desired.
The Search Committee took all of this information into consideration in completing the application to the CCAR. Our current clergy and staff also had an opportunity to provide input at this stage.
What are the next steps in the rabbinic search process, and what is the expected timetable for it?
To prepare to interview and evaluate rabbinic candidates, the Search Committee has been working diligently over the past few weeks to prepare interview questions for the candidates and to decide how we will evaluate their responses. We have made use of the resources of the CCAR, which provides sample questions and guidelines for evaluation, and we have sought similar information from other Jewish movements as well.
Although we may modify the questions as we proceed, we expect that our first round questions will focus primarily on the areas that BCC members have indicated are most important to them. These include the candidate’s experience working with the LGBTQ+ community, experience working with multicultural Jews and families (including interfaith families), working collaboratively with lay leadership and other clergy and staff, openness to a variety of religious practices including queer liturgy and gender-neutral liturgy, and commitment to social justice. We will also explore the candidate’s rabbinic experience and achievements and will conduct our own online research of each candidate.
The Search Committee will review applications as they are received on a rolling basis and will conduct interviews by telephone, Zoom, or Skype during the remainder of 2019. We will likely invite two, three, or four candidates for a 2 to 3 day visit to BCC during January and February of 2020, to allow BCC members an opportunity to meet them. The Search Committee will then deliberate and recommend a candidate to the Board of Directors. Upon approval of the Board, the congregation will be asked to approve the new rabbi at a special congregational meeting in the spring of 2020. This will allow sufficient time to negotiate a contract and for the new rabbi to make arrangements to begin serving BCC on July 1, 2020.
What are the qualifications for rabbis to apply to become BCC’s next rabbi?
Any rabbi who is a member of the CCAR may apply to serve BCC, whether or not they were ordained at Hebrew Union College (the seminary of the Reform movement). Since we are a small congregation, rabbis with any level of experience are eligible to apply. Beyond that, we can set our own criteria for evaluating rabbinic candidates, so long as they comply with the law and CCAR guidelines.
Will BCC members be kept informed as the search proceeds?
We will keep the congregation informed of our progress in a general sense through our webpage and periodic articles in the newsletter. However, as rabbis begin to submit their resumes, the Search Committee is required to maintain strict confidentiality about who has applied to become our next rabbi and how many applications we have received. This confidentiality extends to BCC’s current clergy and staff and to family and friends of the Search Committee members. This is necessary because some of the rabbis may not have informed their current congregations or employers that they are seeking a new position. It would also harm BCC’s reputation if we become known for “leaks” in the search process. If Search Committee members decline to answer questions about the search, they are not being rude or secretive but rather are maintaining the necessary confidentiality of the process.
Once we invite a few candidates to visit BCC, their identities will become public to our members and to their current congregations or employers.
Who are the members of the Search Committee and how were they selected?
There are eight members of the Search Committee, including the two co-chairs. The other six are Robin Berkovitz, Davi Cheng, Naomi Katz, Jack Kelly, Deborah Lowe, and Larry Nathenson. They were nominated by the co-chairs and submitted to the BCC Executive Committee, which consented to these nominations. The members serving on this committee reflect the diversity of our congregation in terms of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, race, age, length of membership, prior service to BCC, and family status (including parenting). Also, members of this committee have diverse work experience as teachers, managers, lawyers, HR administrator, insurance broker, community activists, LGBTQ archives, social services, the arts and more.
The work of the Search Committee is time-intensive, involving numerous evening and weekend meetings. We are aware that the choices we make will affect all the members of BCC, both now and into the future. Rabbi Alyson Solomon, in her role as Interim Rabbi, will assist us in this process. We will benefit from her years as a congregational rabbi and her special training in the interim rabbi process, as well as her skills as a change management consultant for Jewish non-profit organizations.
With your help, support and input, we will accomplish our sacred task and find the right new rabbi for our community. We are looking forward to the journey together. We hope we have answered most of your questions here and on our page on the BCC website. But if you have additional questions, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.