Choosing a Rabbi

Posted on: 
Thursday April 20, 2017

The Rabbinical Assembly, USCJ and Joint Placement Commission do not ever recommend specific rabbis for kehillot. All candidates are members in good standing of the RA and candidates choose which communities they are interested in considering for employment. Each rabbi in placement has the full list of kehillot in search from which to choose. Aside from the placement restrictions on years of experience needed to apply to various size congregations (see below), any rabbi may apply to any kehilla. That is why the application form and your web site are so important.

No recommendations are ever made or withheld about individual candidates, nor are screenings applied to the experiences or skills of the respective candidates. Accordingly, the fiduciary responsibilities of synagogue leadership that applies to all areas of congregational life apply here very specifically. It is solely the responsibility of your synagogue's Search Committee or designees to actively screen, confirm, and validate whatever information is given by candidates. This confirmation should be done in writing, and should include any information that enters the conversations, deliberations and negotiations during the search process.  When the RA sends an applicant’s file to you, this does not constitute a recommendation of endorsement of his or her candidacy.

Searching for a new rabbinic leader is a complicated process. The kehilla needs to evaluate competence, fit, and chemistry. We advocate that all references be checked in detail and that multiple sources be consulted. Additionally, the congregation needs to integrate the new rabbi into the culture of the congregation. Congregations are well served to create a transition committee to begin the integration process. Every year, the Rabbinical Assembly hosts Eit Ratzon, a transition conference that takes place in June.

An alternative option for congregations seeking a leader for a transition process is to seek an interim rabbi. Congregations often seek an interim rabbi after a rabbi of many years retires, when they are coming out of a major conflict, or when they have suffered some kind of traumatic experience. The congregation must complete the regular questionnaire for rabbis with the added question at the end specific to interim rabbis. Interim rabbis are customarily engaged for one year. Interim rabbis may not apply for the longer-term pulpit position.

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