Our Search for BCC’s Next Rabbi: An Update
Ginger Jacobs and Elizabeth Savage, Co-chairs of the Rabbinic Search Committee
Our search for BCC’s next “settled” or permanent rabbi is now underway. This webpage is intended to keep the BCC community informed as the search proceeds. Our most current work is outlined first below, and a timeline of the entire process follows.
The Rabbinic Search Committee is 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.
What is happening now (November 10, 2019) 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.
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.
What are the steps in the rabbinic search process, and the approximate timeline for them?
The Rabbinic Search Committee was appointed and held its first meeting.
Five “community reflection meetings” were held, two at BCC and three in members’ homes around the LA area. Led by trained facilitators, these meetings allowed BCC members to provide input regarding BCC’s goals and visions for the next 3 to 5 years, the most important issues and challenges facing BCC, and our core strengths and values. Members also provided input regarding the skills, priorities, and personal qualities that are most important in BCC’s next rabbi. A short online survey was also made available so that members who could not attend one of the meetings in person also had an opportunity to contribute their input.
September 8, 2019
Results of the community reflection meetings and the survey were presented to the congregation at a “town hall” in a summarized fashion, allowing BCC members to consider the opinions of the congregation as a whole and to provide additional input.
The Search Committee prepared BCC’s application to the CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinic arm of the Reform movement) to post an open rabbinic position. This application made use of the input received from the congregation at the community reflection meetings and the town hall, as well as input from current clergy and staff. Our application also included other information about BCC that prospective rabbis should know, such as size of membership, demographics, and religious education.
Our application was posted as a position description with the CCAR and made available to prospective rabbis. 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.
November and December 2019
As it receives resumes from rabbis, the CCAR Placement Commission reviews them to be sure they qualify and forwards them to our Search Committee. The Search Committee reviews applications on a rolling basis and conducts interviews with all or some of them by telephone, Zoom, or Skype. The Search Committee may set its own criteria to evaluate candidates in accordance with the wishes of the BCC community, so long as they comply with the law and CCAR guidelines.
During this stage, the congregation is informed of our progress in a general sense through this webpage and articles in the newsletter. However, when rabbis submit their resumes, the Search Committee is 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.
January and February 2020
The Search Committee likely will invite two, three, or four candidates to visit BCC for 2 to 3 days 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. 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.
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. BCC President Jay Jacobs is also an ex-officio member of the Search Committee. The members 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. A copy of this Covenant is posted below.
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 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 email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Last updated November 10, 2019.
COVENANT FOR OUR SEARCH COMMITTEEWe, the members of the Rabbinic Search Committee, are honored that the leaders and congregants of our synagogue have entrusted us with the sacred responsibility of searching for our next rabbi. In order to carry out this charge with integrity and fairness, we pledge to uphold these values in the course of our process.
L’SHEM SHAMAYIM: WE WORK FOR THE SAKE OF OUR SACRED COMMUNITY
· We will be mindful that ultimately at stake in our search is the keeping of the covenant made by God originally with Abraham and Sarah, renewed at Sinai, and lived out by every generation in their time and place.
· We will only recommend to the congregation the candidate whom we support with whole hearts and in unity.
EILU V’EILU : EVERY MEMBER’S WORDS ARE IMPORTANT
· We will listen to everyone’s perspective.
· We will make decisions by consensus or by large majority.
· We affirm that disagreement is acceptable and often positive, and we recognize that great wisdom can come from legitimate disagreement.
· We will create an atmosphere of openness in order to allow each member the freedom to express his or her ideas, feelings and concerns.
DERECH ERETZ: WE WILL TREAT ONE ANOTHER WITH KINDNESS, COURTESY, AND DECENCY
· We will treat one another with respect. We will speak our truths with honesty and humility.
· We will welcome humor as it breaks tension, brings us closer and will help during difficult deliberations.
· We will honor one another’s time by attending meetings, by showing up on time, by coming to meetings prepared and by being flexible when more time is needed to make a decision.
· We will communicate with the Board and the congregation as much as possible without undermining our process.
· We will act with the best interests of our congregation at heart and we will therefore refrain from pursuing personal agendas and manipulating the positions of other Committee members.
· We will be thorough and ethical in all our investigations and evaluations of our candidates.
LASHON HARA/CHASUI: WE WILL NOT ENGAGE IN GOSSIP AND WE WILL RESPECT CONFIDENTIALITY
· We will observe absolute confidentiality around the identities of the candidates, not sharing the details even with spouses, partners, friends, and family.
· We will also uphold the confidentiality of our internal Committee deliberations.
· We will not solicit other candidates on our own or make inquiries to third parties about current candidates on our own.
· We will disclose all that we know about a candidate and not withhold relevant information.
· We will conduct our reference checks and due diligence only with the permission of our chairperson.
All this we accept as valid and binding. Together let us find the right rabbi for our holy