Accordingly, B'nai Israel has established a search committee that is following the procedures, guidelines, and best practices of the Conservative Movement's Rabbinical Assembly to identify and secure the future services of a "new" rabbi.
The RA has told the committee:
The task of a search committee seeking a rabbi for a synagogue, for the kehillah kedoshah may appear to be secular or mundane.
But understanding that we are a sacred community reminds us that the task before us has as its ultimate purpose securing a religious leader to guide the membership on the path to becoming and enduring as a sacred community.
As it says in Genesis 28:16: “Surely, the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it.”
We hope that the rabbinic placement process of the Joint Placement Commission (JPC) of the Conservative Movement, is for you to discover Divine presence in your search process.Members of the search committee have just returned from the Jewish Theological Seminary (Abq Jew's alma mater!) to interview rabbinic candidates, Soon, a select few will be invited to visit us here in the Land of Enchantment.
Which of course brings to Abq Jew's misfiring mind the glorious flick Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
What are the questions that Abq Jew would like to ask each candidate? Abq Jew joyfully recalls (as he is sure you also do) The Bridge of Death. As every Monty Python fan knows, the first two questions are always
What is your name? What is your quest?
The third question, we surely recall, varies, with distinctly varying outcomes. Here are some of Abq Jew's possibilities. You're welcome!
1. How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man? Yes and how many roads must a woman walk down before they call her a woman? Are these numbers the same? Discuss.
2. You live in T or C. You are a guest at a Sunday wedding that will inexplicably take place at a megashul in downtown Pittsburgh. You are staying the weekend at the Steeler Stele, a 42-storey architectural wonder that offers self-directed elevators and electronic room keys. Your room is on the 27th floor. The Friday night Oneg Shabbat runs a bit late, and you stay at shul for the Hashkama Minyan on Saturday. Describe where, when, how, and why you take your Shabbos nap.
3. You are the new rabbi in a a well-established congregation. Every week on the Sabbath, a fight erupts during the service. When it comes time to recite the Shema prayer, half of the congregation stands and the other half sits. The people who are standing yell at the people who are sitting, "Stand up!" while the people who are sitting yell at the people who are standing, "Sit down!" Should the congregation stand or sit for the Shema? What is the tradition?
Hint: The Story of Shabbat 505
4. According to some (but, of course, not all) commentators, the purpose of performing mitzvot is to guide us in living good lives, being good people, and doing good things in the world. Describe in discrete mathematical terms the exact correlation between performing mitzvot and being a good person. Carefully but completely explain why there is a need for kosher food in our prison system.
5. Your local JCC offers excellent facilities for exercise and very good Jewish programming. It also offers no pleasantly functional performance space ("theater") and no kosher food service (although pescatarian fare is available). Your synagogue currently offers a beautiful sanctuary (with comfortable seats, good sight lines, and superb acoustics) and full meat and dairy kosher food service. How can your synagogue work with the JCC to provide a magnificent performance space, outstanding kosher dining, and terrific Jewish programming?
6. Your new synagogue has a strong tradition of congregational singing during worship services, often with instrumental accompaniment. You are not comfortable with this arrangement. If the instrumentalists promise not to tune their instruments, will this ameliorate your concerns? If not, describe the concrete steps (or earthen ramp) you will take to transform the choir into a powerhouse a capella group (like Pizmon or, lehavdil, the Maccabeats) suitable for weddings and b'nai mitzvah.
Hint: Rabbi School Dropout
7. Who wrote the Five Books of Moses? Who wrote the Book of Mormon? Who wrote the Book of Love?
Maftir. If and only if the candidate responds both earnestly and meaningfully to the above questions, he or she may be entitled to attempt the tie-breaker. Which is (Abq Jew's favorite!)
Define the universe. Give three examples.
Here are some of my questions arising from your blog about the rabbi search at B'nai Israel (on 5/6/22) . What is the relationship of the rabbi candidate to Conservative Judaism? What does the synagogue stand for? Does the rabbi have freedom of the pulpit? Is there a role for tikun olam in the congregation? Is there something you identify as a lower priority, or is the rabbi supposed to be all things to all people? What is the relationship of the rabbi to the sisterhood and the men's club? Do they coordinate? How will the rabbi relate to the membership committee? What is his/her role with membership growth? Does the synagogue rely totally on the rabbi for pastoral care, or does the congregation cultivate a complimentary congregant caring team to reach out to congregants in need?
From an anonymous former interim rabbi of Congregation B'nai Israel.
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