20 Years of Saying Goodbye

10 Lessons We Have Learned from 20 Years of Transition Training

by Rabbi Elliot Schoenberg 

Eit Ratzon is the Rabbinical Assembly’s annual transition seminar. When we convene on June 10 it will be the 21st time we will be bringing together rabbis and their lay leaders to study the psychology of leaving one rabbinic position and entering into the next. What have we learned in 20 years?

  1. The transition period is real - Although there is no fixed length of time, it usually takes about 12 months to settle in.
  2. There is a vocabulary to discuss transition- When both the rabbis and lay leaders have the vocabulary it facilitates a conversation around the integration process.
  3. "You never get a second chance to make a first impression".  Be mindful about your first sermon, your first counseling encounter, your first board meeting.  It will set the tone moving forward. 
  4. Although there is a lot that is logical about change, transition is about accepting emotional losses.
  5. It may be that the new rabbi is coming to town but the transition includes the rabbi's family as well.
  6. Different personalities manage the transition process differently. Extroverts want to talk about what’s going on. Introverts want to take time alone to reflect. Some in transition like a clear and concise plan of action. Others in transition like an open ended plan that develops. There is no right way.
  7. People talk about a honeymoon period where the rabbi is not evaluated. It’s a myth. Lay people are talking about the rabbi all the time, they have just not included you in the loop yet
  8. People go through transition at different speeds. Everyone goes through the same phases of transition but no one does it exactly like anyone else.
  9. Most synagogues and organizations are running a transition deficit - most people in an organization try and slide by without making a change or acknowledging transition issues. They are exhausted from the search.  
  10. When you transition with intention it is more likely to be successful.

Please join us for our transition seminar. Bring your new cantor. Bring your new educator. Bring your president. It is one more tool to build your success going forward.

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