Kadima: Our Search For BCC’s Next Rabbi


Ginger Jacobs and Elizabeth Savage, Co-chairs

Our search for BCC’s next “settled” or permanent rabbi is now in full swing. As co-chairs of the Rabbinic Search Committee, we are committed to conducting this search on behalf of the congregation 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.

In this article we hope to answer some of the questions you may have. We also plan to maintain a page on the BCC website that will keep you updated during the months ahead.

What are the steps in the rabbinic search process, and what is the timetable for it?

In order to take full advantage of the placement process of the CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinic arm of the Reform movement), we will need to publish our position description with the CCAR by shortly after High Holidays. That is when openings for the following year are traditionally announced. Rabbis who are interested will begin to submit their resumes to the CCAR soon after our rabbinic position is posted. The CCAR Placement Commission will review them to make sure they are qualified and will then forward them to our Search Committee for review.

The Search Committee will review applications on a rolling basis and will conduct interviews by telephone, Zoom, or Skype during the remaining months 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.

How will the congregation be able to have input into this process?

The position description that we will post with the CCAR includes a number of questions about BCC and the candidates we seek. It asks 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, we have sought input from as many BCC members as possible. 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, from 4:00 to 5:30 at which members could consider the opinions of the congregation as a whole and provide additional input if desired.

The Search Committee will take all of this information into consideration in completing the application to the CCAR. Our current clergy and staff will also have an opportunity to provide input at this stage.

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, when rabbis begin to submit their resumes, the Search Committee will be required to maintain strict confidentiality about who has applied to become our next rabbi. 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.

Based on the CCAR recommendations, the Search Committee members were also selected for their ability to embody certain character traits from the Mussar tradition of Judaism, and have signed a Covenant that embodies these character traits in support of central Jewish values. These values are:

• L’shem shamayim (literally, “for the name of heaven”) – we work for the sake of our sacred community and will only recommend a candidate we can support with whole hearts and in unity. We will put aside personal desires and interests for the sake of the congregation.

• Eilu v’eilu (literally, “these and these”) – each member’s words are equally important and reflective of the divine spirit within each of us and will be considered appropriately. We will work together as a team to make judgments that are well considered, neither impetuous nor indecisive.

• Derech eretz (literally, “the path of the Earth”) – we will treat one another with kindness, courtesy, decency, and humility. We will listen to one another and choose our words calmly and carefully.

• Lashon hara/chasui (literally, “evil tongue/sanctuary”) – we will make our committee a sanctuary from gossip about each other and about the rabbinic candidates.

The work of the Search Committee will be 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 holy task and find the right new rabbi for our community. We are looking forward to the journey together. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact us at gingerj18@gmail.com and ehsavage@charter.net.

This article was taken from G’vanim Issue 48 vol 1, September/October 2019 Check out the full issue

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