B’nai Sholom is conducting a search for a successor to Rabbi Don Cashman, who has retired after 35 years as our spiritual leader, teacher and guide.
Stay up-to-date on the search through the monthly Bulletin, the B’nai Sholom website and the Weekly Announcements.
Any questions about hiring the interim rabbi or the self-study process should be directed to the committee co-chairs, David Liebschutz and Carol Smith.
Update on Rabbinic Search, January 2021
The Rabbinic Search Committee’s work is now starting to heat up as we have (as of mid-January) seven active candidates for the three-quarter time position that we posted with the Placement Commission in November. Two of these candidates are experienced congregational rabbis, and both have had at least one interview already with committee members. The remaining five are fifth-year rabbinic students from the various campuses of the HUC-JIR and will have initial screening interviews with the committee during the proscribed interview period of January 31-February 2. Students whose candidacies we want to pursue further will be interviewed by a larger group of committee members and congregants starting later in February, with any potential tentative offers being extended in March.
The search committee will be reaching out to committee chairs and board members about meetings (via Zoom) as we narrow the field to the best fit for our needs so that we can get as much input as we can before making a recommendation to the board about the best candidate.
Thanks in advance for your continued support and engagement in this process for the future of our synagogue.
Update on Rabbinic Search, December 2020
Last month we submitted our application for the ¾-time Settled Rabbi position to the Rabbinical Placement Commission. The Commission – comprised of the CCAR, the HUC-JIR and the URJ – works with congregations belonging to the URJ to place rabbis and ensures the search process is conducted fairly and with dignity. We have received one application to date and expect to receive additional resumes to review, after which we’ll begin the interview process. In addition, we may consider applicants from the graduating class at HUC-JIR if they meet our needs. Completing the application was much easier thanks to input from the group conversations and the congregational survey.
We’re looking forward to starting this next phase of our search process and will provide updates in the weekly announcements and on the website.
Update on Rabbinic Search, November 2020
FROM OUR PRESIDENT…
While the days are growing shorter and the winter season approaches, both the Jewish calendar and our needs as a congregation keep us looking forward to a future of possibilities and joy. It’s perhaps fitting that right around the time that we celebrate the rededication of the Temple through Chanukah, our rabbinic search will swing into high gear as we look to renew ourselves.
On the advice of the Finance Committee and the Board of Trustees, we are moving forward in what I see as a spirit of responsible optimism. We have looked closely at our congregational profile and thought hard about the right kind of package to advertise to potential rabbinic candidates. We believe that the best candidates, and the ones who will have the best chance of matching our needs and capacity, will be individuals seeking a less than full-time position. We have thus chosen to advertise for a 75% position.
The Search Committee has looked closely at data on national salary scales for Reform rabbis. At the same time, the Finance Committee looked at our resources and calculated a range that we can afford in constructing a package. In putting these numbers side by side, we learned that the total package that we can support without dipping into our savings would fall below what more than three quarters of full-time rabbis are making at congregations of roughly our size. The element of responsibility drove the decision not to spend down our savings drastically, gambling on attracting a candidate whom we might not be able to support in the long term.
Defining the position as a 75% position with a fairly robust salary rather than a full-time position with an anemic salary says some important things about who we are as a congregation. We value rabbinic work, and recognize its immeasurable contributions to our community, and we want to pay fair value for the hours of labor that go into sustaining us as a community. At the same time, we are confident in our own can-do attitude; we are a synagogue where congregants readily volunteer their time and energy to make things happen. We have a longstanding practice of collaboration between the rabbi and congregational committees, and a tradition of robust lay leadership on a variety of issues.
What kinds of candidates might fit well into the kind of position we will advertise? We see many exciting possibilities. Perhaps we will attract candidates with children who deeply value maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Maybe some candidates hope to supplement their rabbinic work through teaching, research or other pursuits that complement and enrich their lives and what they have to offer to us. We might draw candidates who are themselves connected to our area, or who have partners who are connected to our area.
As the search moves forward, we will all have opportunities to be involved. I hope that when the time comes, you’ll take advantage of the chance to meet with candidates. Not only will this help us to make better judgments about who will be our best fit; it will also help us to show candidates what a vibrant and exciting congregation we are, and what a great position this rabbinate will be for the right person.
Update on Rabbinic Search, October 2020
RABBINIC SEARCH COMMITTEE REPORTS SURVEY RESULTS
In September, the Rabbinic Search Committee conducted an online survey to follow up from the group conversations held last winter. The goal was to take some of the predominant themes from the group conversations and ask people to rank them to give the committee information on how to proceed during the search process for our next settled rabbi. We sent the survey to the Weekly Announcement email list, which includes members as well as non-members (for example, non-members who attend Tot Shabbat).
The response to the survey was fantastic: 122 members and 20 non-members completed and submitted the survey. Thank you to all who took the time and effort give us this important feedback. We will integrate the feedback into our steps moving forward in our search.
The Search Committee has prepared this synopsis of the survey results. These reflect the responses by both members and non-members.
The survey was divided into several sections, and the questions and responses from each section are as follows:
142 total responses
- 122 are members
- Fairly evenly split between individual, couple and family memberships
- More than half have been members for more than 20 years
- One-quarter of the respondents have been members for 11-20 years
- This appears to reflect the current makeup of our congregation
- 20 are non-members
- 122 are members
Rabbinic Qualities —
All qualities were ranked in the important/very important range. This is to be expected because we gleaned the list of qualities from the group conversations.
- Interpersonal skills – ranked highest in the list in importance. All respondents said that this was either important or very important.
- Empathetic and flexible with respect to interfaith and same-sex marriages – ranked next highest (scores were very close)
The results from the ranking were somewhat different from this list. The top three qualities were strong interpersonal skills, empathy and commitment to B’nai Sholom. Empathy and commitment to B’nai Sholom ranked almost equally; following those were flexibility and strong leadership/administrative abilities.
Rabbinic Roles —
- Spiritual leader – ranked highest in the list of importance
- Supporter of interfaith couples and educator – scored almost equally as next highest in importance.
The results from the ranking somewhat supported this list: the top three roles were spiritual leader, pastoral counselor and supporter of interfaith couples (educator ranked very close to supporter of interfaith couples).
Full Time vs. Part Time; Experienced vs. Less Experienced; Dues Increase vs. No Dues Increase —
For ease of analysis, we added together “strongly agree” and “agree” responses and we added together “strongly disagree” and “disagree” responses.
Over half of respondents support having a full-time rabbi.
- Approximately 50% of the respondents answered “neither agree nor disagree” to the question about having an experienced rabbi.
When asked how important it is to maintain current dues level, most respondents answered “agree” or “neither agree nor disagree.” This is likely due to the fact that there were no specifics about the level of the dues increase.
There was a modest trend supporting the willingness to hire a part-time rabbi to maintain the current dues level.
- The majority of respondents said that they would be willing to hire a less-experienced rabbi to maintain the current dues level.
- When asked if respondents would be willing to pay higher dues to afford a full-time rabbi, most said “not sure/it depends.” This, again, is likely due to the fact that there were no specifics about the level of the dues increase.
- The results of this section suggest that people might be willing to accept a modest dues increase for a full-time and/or experienced rabbi but generally are okay with a less-experienced rabbi with no dues increase.
Graphs illustrating the data from all respondents are posted here.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact committee co-chairs Carol Smith and David Liebschutz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks once again for your support in this vitally important process!
Update on Rabbinic Search, September 2020
This fall the Search Committee is working on two items: the completion of a survey on the rabbinic search priorities (the follow-up to our group conversations held last winter), and the completion of the application for a settled rabbi to begin next July. We are making good progress on both fronts. Currently, we are compiling the results of the survey. These will provide important guidance for us about the search process, and we thank all who participated.
Work on the application for the settled rabbi is proceeding. There are several parts to the application, and we have a workgroup dedicated to completing it. The information from the survey and the group conversations will help us immensely. Our goal is to submit the application by mid-October after the Board reviews and approves it at its October meeting.
As a reminder, here is the timeline for our search:
August – October 2020
Complete the settled rabbinic application and submit to CCAR
November – December 2020
Conduct remote interviews; narrow list of candidates to 2-3 finalists
Conduct Zoom interviews (in lieu of in-person interviews, per CCAR guidelines)
February – May 2021
Make a recommendation to the Board on which candidate to receive an offer; Seek congregational approval; contract negotiations
Settled Rabbi starts
Update on Rabbinic Search, August 2020
The Rabbinic Search Committee has completed the first phase of its work with the installation of Rabbi David Katz as our interim rabbi for 2020-21 and the holding of community conversations as part of our self-study process.
Our work for the year ahead will have two parts: the first will be a congregational survey this summer to help the committee (and congregation) set priorities for our application for a settled rabbi, and the second will be the actual settled search process, which will begin after Labor Day. Work on both the congregational survey and the application are underway, and we hope to complete both by October.
For the second phase of our work, the committee has undergone some membership changes. David DiPaola has stepped off the committee but will remain involved as a board member and Treasurer of the synagogue. Ann Lowenfels will remain on the committee but has stepped down as co-chair in order to focus on her role as President-Elect and member of the Reopening Task Force. Past-President and current committee member Carol Smith has agreed to step up as co-chair for the second phase. Thanks to David and Ann for their great work this past year and to Carol for stepping into this important role.
We also want to welcome to the committee two new members: Barbara Devore and Joel Bloom. Barbara worked very closely with the committee over the past 18 months as President and will be an excellent addition to our ranks. Likewise for Joel, who brings a wealth of knowledge about surveys and experience as the son of a Reform rabbi and congregational leader. Looking forward to having both Barbara and Joel join our ranks this month.
As always, please email or call Carol or David with any comments or questions about the process.
Update on Rabbinic Search, July 2020
WELCOME RABBI DAVID KATZ
B’nai Sholom joyously welcomes Rabbi David Katz of Baltimore to lead our community as our new Interim Rabbi. The congregation approved Rabbi Katz’s appointment at the 48th annual meeting held June 18.
Rabbi Katz was ordained in 1981 and awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College in 2006. He has 39 years in the rabbinate, including service to seven congregations as interim rabbi. He has authored numerous articles and is the co-editor of Reading Between the Lines: New Stories from the Bible. He served on committees that developed Mishkan T’filah, the newest Reform Judaism prayer book, published in 2007, that is used at B’nai Sholom and in synagogues throughout North America. Rabbi Katz also developed the “Moments” Engagement Program, a way of organizing synagogue life to assure successful attendance at every program, service and event.
Rabbi Katz has served on the boards of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and National Association of Temple Educators and as president of New York Area Reform Rabbis. He has garnered multiple honors, and awards from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion for scholarship, community service and human relations. Rabbi Katz also holds degrees in theatre from Northwestern University.
A native of Rochester, Rabbi Katz and his wife, Nancy, an artist, appreciate the natural beauty and resources of Upstate New York and the Capital Region. Their daughter, Emily, is executive director of “Justice for Kurds” and founder of Hampstead Rose, a consulting firm specializing in international cross-cultural projects. Their son, Benjamin, is a harpsichordist and composer.
Please join us as we move forward in an exciting transitional year with Rabbi David Katz!
Update on Rabbinic Search, June 2020
Our congregation will be voting at the June 18 Annual Meeting on the selection of Rabbi David Katz to serve as Interim Rabbi for a period of one year.
Rabbi Katz was ordained in 1981 and awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College in 2006. He has 39 years in the rabbinate, including service to seven congregations as Interim Rabbi. He has authored numerous articles and is the co-editor of Reading Between the Lines: New Stories from the Bible. He served on committees that developed Mishkan T’filah, the newest Reform prayer book that is used at B’nai Sholom and in congregations throughout North America. Rabbi Katz also developed the “Moments” Engagement Program, a way of organizing synagogue life to enable successful attendance at every program, service and event.
Rabbi Katz has served on the boards of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and National Association of Temple Educators and as president of New York Area Reform Rabbis. He has garnered multiple awards from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion for scholarship, community service and human relations. Rabbi Katz also holds degrees in theatre from Northwestern University.
A native of Rochester, Rabbi Katz and his wife, Nancy, appreciate the natural beauty and resources of Upstate and the Capital Region.
Update on Rabbinic Search, May 2020
As described in last month’s Update, the Search Committee identified an appropriate candidate for interim rabbi and presented a hiring recommendation to the Board of Trustees in April. At press time, discussions with this candidate continue and we expect everything to be resolved in time to present the candidate for the congregation’s vote at the Annual Meeting. Findings from January’s Group Conversations also are being summarized and will be presented to the entire congregation at the Annual Meeting.
Update on Rabbinic Search, April 2020
The Search Committee identified an appropriate candidate for interim rabbi in March and presented a hiring recommendation to the Board of Trustees in April. Negotiations with this candidate are in process and will likely be resolved soon. Meanwhile, the Search Committee continues to receive and review new applications for the position. At the same time, findings from January’s Group Conversations are being summarized and will be presented to the entire congregation at the Annual Meeting.
Update on Rabbinic Search, March 2020
Since the February 13 congregational meeting, the Search Committee has reviewed resumes from four new applicants for the interim rabbi position and conducted preliminary interviews via Skype with two of them. One most promising candidate was invited to Albany for an in-person interview. The coronavirus derailed the planned visit, so the committee set up a series of “virtual” interviews with the candidate via Zoom.
In-depth interviews were conducted over two days in March, “attended” by members of the Search Committee, B’nai Sholom Board, Rabbi Cashman and Christine Blackman, past presidents, committee chairs, members of the Ritual and Adult Ed committees and regular participants in Torah Study. As before, an online poll was conducted afterward to gauge the level of support for the candidate. The Search Committee reviewed the survey results and is on track to make a hiring recommendation to the Board. If the Board approves the candidate, the Executive Committee will offer the position and negotiate a contract that will be contingent on congregational approval at the May 23 Annual Meeting.
Our timeline calls for an interim rabbi to be on-board by this July. The committee is confident that this is still an achievable goal. Indeed, advisers at the URJ have told members that B’nai Sholom is “exactly where we need to be” in the process.
Update on Rabbinic Search, February 2020
To date, we received, reviewed and ranked resumes and personal statements from seven candidates for interim rabbi. Of those, we identified four as the most promising, conducted Skype interviews with them, then invited for in-person interviews the two whom we believed would most closely fill our needs during the interim period: Rabbi Scott Saulson and Rabbi Deborah Hirsch. Their visits in December and January included separate meetings with the search committee, the board, Rabbi Cashman, Christine Blackman, adult education and ritual committee members, past presidents and committee chairs.
Both rabbis clearly possessed very positive attributes. Unfortunately for B’nai Sholom, both withdrew their applications before we could extend any offers to them.
Consequently, we have requested the CCAR to change the status of our search from “resumes held back” to “receiving resumes.” The next steps will be to go over resumes that we previously received along with any new ones and follow up with appropriate candidates. We have already scheduled a Skype interview with one promising candidate.
Our timeline calls for an interim rabbi to be on-board by this July. The committee is confident that this is still an achievable goal.
Meanwhile, the self-study process continues. Eighty-five congregants participated in the in-home group discussions, describing what they value most about B’nai Sholom, what they feel are the congregation’s strengths and challenges, their vision for the future, what roles they feel a settled rabbi should play and what qualities he or she should have. Results will be summarized and shared with the search committee, the board and with congregants at the annual meeting in May. Results will also be used to inform the development of a short questionnaire, which will be circulated in the future to ensure all topics are addressed over time.
Lastly, thank you to all who attended February’s special congregational meeting. Your interest, your questions and your support were appreciated greatly!
Update on Rabbinic Search, January 2020
SPECIAL CONGREGATIONAL MEETING SET FOR FEBRUARY 13
B’nai Sholom will retain an interim rabbi in June 2020 to serve as a transitional bridge so that we’ll have time to explore who we are as a congregation and what qualities we want in our new permanent or ‘settled’ rabbi. So far, two candidates for the interim position have visited B’nai Sholom for in-person interviews. During these visits, the candidates met with members of the Board and other committees and were introduced to Albany. Afterward, an on-line poll was conducted to gauge the level of support for each candidate.
For the next steps, the Rabbinic Search Committee will recommend the top candidate to the Board of Trustees and then to the entire congregation at a special congregational meeting on Thursday, February 13, at 7pm. Please be sure to attend.
Thank you to everyone who has participated in the in-home group conversations! The purpose of these conversations was to help us identify the qualities and skills that our new settled rabbi will need to help us realize our vision for the future. A special thank you goes to the volunteer hosts: Amy and Yossi Koren-Roth, Susan Aron and Joe DeFronzo, Melissa Putterman Hoffmann, Judy and Roy Fruiterman, Cheryl and Mark Reeder, Bettina and Howard Stoller, Mimi Bruce and David Ray, Susan Radosh and Steve Klein, Liz Davis, and Gail and Larry Volk.
Update on Rabbinic Search, December 2019
The Rabbinic Search Committee for our new rabbi continues to make progress toward the twin goals of 1) hiring an interim rabbi to begin in July 2020, and 2) completing a self-study in preparation for our search, which begins in September 2020, for a settled rabbi. For the interim rabbi, two candidates will be visiting the area in late December and early January for in-person interviews. For the self-study, the committee did a “dry run” of the Self-Study Group Conversations in early December and will conduct nearly a dozen of these all-important opportunities for the entire congregation throughout January. Congregants have received invitations through e-mail to sign up for a preferred time and location; check your email inbox for the invite and sign up. Committee members will phone congregants who do not have email addresses on file. We want all congregants to have their voices heard in this process!
Update on Rabbinic Search, November 2019
The search for Rabbi Cashman’s successor continues. B’nai Sholom will hire an interim rabbi in June 2020 to serve as a transitional bridge so that we’ll have time to explore who we are as a congregation and what qualities we want in our new permanent or “settled” rabbi. So far, the search committee has received five applications and conducted two video interviews for the interim position. The committee will conduct one more video interview and then invite the top candidates to B’nai Sholom for in-person interviews. Meanwhile, the committee is also scheduling in-home group conversations, planned for January, to help us identify the qualities and skills that our new “settled” rabbi will need to help us realize our vision for the future. All congregants will receive an email in December inviting them to participate in one of these conversations. The sign-up process will be conducted online; the committee will call congregants who do not have email addresses on file with B’nai Sholom.
Update on Rabbinic Search, October 2019
As of mid-October, we have received four applications for the interim position, and we may receive more applications over the next few weeks. The application subcommittee is working on interview protocols for video and in-person interviews, which will begin in late October.
The self-study subcommittee has been refining the process for convening a series of roundtable discussions to take place this winter (January and February 2020). Volunteer hosts and notetakers have been recruited, and registration instructions for participants will be available soon. The purpose of the roundtable discussions will be to help us find out who we are, who we want to be, and what qualities and skills our new rabbi will need to help us realize our vision for the future.
Update on Rabbinic Search, September 2019
- The search for Rabbi Cashman’s successor is proceeding smoothly and on schedule. In fact, we are slightly ahead of where the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) expected us to be in the process.Earlier this year, the Search Committee recommended to the Board that B’nai Sholom hire an interim rabbi who can serve as a transitional bridge that would allow us the time to more fully explore who we are as a congregation and determine what we want in a new permanent or “settled” rabbi. We completed and submitted to the CCAR the congregation’s application for an interim rabbi earlier this summer. The CCAR has accepted our submission and has posted it to the job board, and candidates have already applied for the position. We are reviewing those applications now. Interviews with candidates whose skills and qualities appear to be most suited to our needs will begin shortly after the High Holy Days, first by phone and/or Skype and then in-person with the most promising candidates.
- The B’nai Sholom Rabbinic Search Committee is organizing a series of roundtable discussions to take place this winter, January 1 – February 15, 2020.
Volunteers are needed to host a group conversation in your home or at B’nai Sholom.
All you need to do:
Choose a date to host between January 1 – February 15, 2020
Select a location: your home or B’nai Sholom
Pick a 2-hour time slot to open your home; conversations are expected to take 60-90 minutes
Tell us how many individuals you wish to host
Provide light refreshments and greet guests
Facilitators and note-takers will be in attendance to conduct and record the discussion.
Volunteers are needed to be note-takers during group conversations.
All you need to do:
Bring a laptop or notepad to record conversation
Take careful notes, capturing the discussion
Coordinate with other note-takers to combine notes
Provide electronic submission of finalized notes
Training and sample format will be provided for note-takers.
Update on Rabbinic Search, August 2019
B’nai Sholom’s Rabbinic Search Committee has drafted an application for the Interim Rabbi. The application will be reviewed by the Board of Trustees before it is submitted to Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) in August. See last months bulletin for more information about the search process
Update on Rabbinic Search, July 2019
The Rabbinic Search Committee has drafted an application as part of the process to hire an Interim Rabbi. The application will be reviewed by the Board of Trustees before it is submitted to the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) in August. See the full timeline and additional information below.
Search Committee Report for Annual Meeting, June 2019
The Rabbinic Search Committee’s charge is to recruit a new spiritual leader to succeed Rabbi Cashman, who is retiring in June 2020. The overall goal of the search process is to locate and get to know the Rabbi who will be the best match for our congregation.
Committee co-chairs were appointed by B’nai Sholom’s president: David Liebschutz and Ann Lowenfels. Eleven members were recruited through B’nai Sholom’s High Holiday Guide, Directory, and Bulletin: Arthur Alowitz, David DiPaola, Katelyn DiPaola, Roy Fruiterman, Maxine Goldberg, Bruce Goldstein, Ben Marvin, Ann Shapiro, Carol Smith, Linda Strohl, and Phil Teumim. Monthly meetings started in November 2018, and a Brit was signed in June 2019.
After communicating with the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), and several other congregations, the search committee determined that the best strategy for B’nai Sholom will be to hire an interim Rabbi in 2020 and a settled Rabbi in 2021:
|Interim Rabbi Timeline|
|June-July, 2019||Fill out application for interim rabbi and submit to CCAR for feedback|
|September 2019||Conduct telephone or Skype interviews; select candidates to recommend inviting for in-person interview|
|October-November, 2019||Conduct in person interviews; decide on who to recommend as final candidate|
|December 2019-January 2020||Call references; possible final interview; make offer to candidate/contract negotiations|
|July 2020||Interim Rabbi starts|
|Self Study Timeline|
|January – February 2020||In-home group conversations to find out who we are, who we want to be, and what qualities and skills our new rabbi will need to help us realize our vision for the future|
|March – April 2020||On-line congregational survey to help us prioritize qualities and skills needed|
|May-June 2020||Summarize results and present at Annual Meeting|
|Settled Rabbi Timeline|
|June-July, 2020||Fill out application for settled rabbi and submit to CCAR for feedback|
|September, 2020||Conduct telephone or Skype interviews; select candidates to recommend inviting for in-person interview|
|October- November, 2020||Conduct in person interviews; decide on who to recommend as final candidate|
|December 2020 – January 2021||Call references; possible final interview; make offer to candidate/contract negotiations|
|July 2021||Settled Rabbi starts|
Throughout the process, the search committee will use seven outlets to keep congregants informed of search status, progress, and opportunities for input: website, bulletin, email, Facebook, Twitter, pulpit announcements and US mail.
Congregational input is needed!
- Volunteer to host a group conversation in your home
- Participate in a group conversation at someone else’s home
- Arrange a one-on-one conversation with a search committee member
- Participate in the congregational on-line survey
- Contact Ann or David with questions or suggestions