By Emily Hendel, Director of Career Services
Published February 19, 2020
Last week, the Rabbinical Assembly hosted another successful Interview Week for graduating students from the Conservative Movement’s United States seminaries. The event took place at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where participants were able to use the brand-new arcade passageway to the dining hall, which has been under construction for a few years. They also got to peak into the new Light Court, which is set to open soon. We were lucky not to have any snow this year, but the rainy weather in New York did make us miss the sunny skies from last year’s event in Los Angeles.
Students flew in to New York from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies on Sunday night, ready to tackle a very busy week of interviews. This year, we had 20 congregations attend and a total of 85 interviews. For the first time, JTS Cantorial School graduates participated in the event as well. Cantorial students interviewed with three congregations who had cross-listed their positions with both the CA and the RA. We were thrilled to work together as a movement for such a momentous event.
In recognition of our partnership, the Rabbinical Assembly, Cantorial Assembly and USCJ co-sponsored a dinner for the students on Tuesday evening, February 11th. USCJ and the RA presented the students with gifts of mezuzot and klafim, to symbolize how both organizations are needed for our movement to function at its highest potential. We hope the students think of our important collaboration each time they see their mezuzot on the doorways of their new offices, whether that is in a synagogue or in the many other diverse fields throughout the Jewish community where our members work. In attendance at the dinner, we had RA President Debra Newman Kamin, RA Vice President Stewart Vogel, RA COO Ashira Konigsburg, RA JPC Chair Aaron Brusso, CA President David Lipp, CA EVP Stephen Stein, USCJ President Ned Gladstein, USCJ Director of Synagogue Consultants Jennifer Stofman, USCJ METNY Synagogue Consultant Linda Sussman, JTS Dean Danny Nevins, Ziegler Dean Cheryl Peretz, and JTS Dean Stephanie Ruskay.
As with past years, the event took place over the course of 4 days, and we had congregations representing Canada and 10 of the United States. Scheduling was a huge puzzle to figure out, but we managed with 8 possible periods of interviews per day and a break in the middle. On Monday, JTS hosted a mix & mingle during lunch for the students from the different schools to meet each other.
Emily Hendel, Director of Career Services for the RA, was at the welcome table, ready to greet both committees and students with a smile and a special Interview Week 2020 mug and RA Lego blocks – the perfect desk distraction for long conference calls. If we have learned anything from decades of Interview Weeks, it’s that people love swag! Especially when they can keep it on their desk or bring it back to their children. Congregations and institutions were appreciative of the Face Book (the original!) as well, which is a pamphlet including Interview Week tips and tricks, as well as photos of graduating students. It helps congregations remember their candidates, and in 2020, since we are able to provide a PDF version before the week begins, it helps congregations “put a face to a resume” before they meet.
We started each day together with the JTS community at shacharit, followed by a breakfast hosted by the RA on Monday through Wednesday. Congregations were invited and encouraged to attend breakfast on the day or days of their interviews to meet USCJ and RA staff, as well as the JTS and Ziegler deans. The deans and staff were available to meet with lay leaders and answer general questions before meeting with students. Congregations also used breakfast as a time to plan for the busy day ahead.
Overall, Interview Week 2020 was a great experience for the students and interviewing institutions. Search committees continually remark about how impressed they are with the caliber of the graduates and their hope and optimism for the Conservative Movement. In the coming weeks, students will be visiting communities for callback interviews and Shabbat visits, and congregations will offer positions on Monday, March 23rd.
Check out the Facebook Album of photos from the week.
Caption for photo #2: Back row, left to right: Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay, David Lerner, Jacob Greenberg, Hazzan David Lipp, Rabbi Aaron Brusso, Rabbi Debra Newman Kamin, Linda Sussman, Jennifer Stofman, Rabbi Stewart Vogel, Myra Meskin Gurin, Rabbi Cheryl Peretz, Channah Estrin, Deena Cowans, Hazzan Stephen Stein, Natan Freller, Emily Hendel, Ned Gladstein
Front row, left to right: Zevi Lowenberg, Danny Lutz, Sam Blustin, Adam Lautman, Mary Brett Koplen, Jessica Fisher, Cornelia Dalton, Ariana Capptauber, Jenna Turow