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Our Rabbinic Transition: Together in Sacred Community

February 25, 2021

My Fellow Congregants:
 
I imagine that you, like me, are still absorbing Rabbi Jaffe’s announcement that he will begin his well-deserved retirement at the end of June, 2022. While that seems a long time from now, it will pass all too quickly.
 
When we celebrate Howard and Irene and their contributions to our community, we will also be celebrating the evolution of Temple Isaiah itself. We will celebrate growth, increased diversity, the integration of more interfaith families, the evolution of our governance, our religious school curriculum, the growth of our clergy team, our deepened commitment to social justice, and so much more. This has been an exciting two decades for Temple Isaiah. Our next decades will build on the remarkable strength of the community we have become under Rabbi Jaffe’s leadership.
 
We couldn’t be in a better position to remain a vital Reform congregation and attract an outstanding senior rabbi. Why? We have in Cantor Doob and Rabbi Maimin beloved and respected clergy. Further, we have in Rabbi Amy Hertz and Rabbi Jodi Seewald Smith strong senior staff who represent critical continuity for our religious school and our programming, strengthening engagement from our youngest members to our most seasoned. We have a highly capable, energetic Executive Director and experienced staff. Our lay leadership is outstanding. Our nomination process ensures continuity of our lay leadership including our congregational President.
 
We are also financially sound. Yes, COVID and the fallout from it have resulted in budget challenges for the short term, a reality that nearly every congregation has experienced. But we have an enviable financial position compared to most Reform synagogues and a generous and committed congregation that continues to support us with remarkable philanthropy.
 
And, we are embarking on a strategic planning process, beginning with the Future Visioning already underway. This work is central to shaping the Temple Isaiah of the next several decades. It is a process in which every single one of us can participate as you may have read in the announcement of this work. This community-wide effort will help us define what kind of rabbi we will seek to lead the next stage of our growth and development. This vision will also help our future senior rabbi to better understand our priorities, values, and who we are as a community. I urge you now and will urge you again to add your voice to this process.
 
For all of these reasons and more, we can take tremendous pride in the fact that Senior Rabbi of Temple Isaiah is an extremely attractive position for an inspiring new rabbi. 
 
I feel a tremendous responsibility to lead our community through this transition in a deeply inclusive way. I have spoken before about our congregation being a place where “we” build our culture and our community together. Therefore, how we choose our rabbi is as important as choosing the right rabbi.
 
That said, of course 825 households can’t choose a rabbi. But through visioning our future, strategic planning, direct conversations, and meaningful input about what is important to us in a new rabbi, 825 households will have the chance to be part of this important transition. I commit to you regular communication and a clear rabbinic selection process. While we will maintain the confidentiality of candidates—as is required—we will have a transparent and inclusive process in which you can have confidence. In this spirit, we have prepared an initial list of FAQs to address what may be on your minds already.
 
We probably have many feelings about this transition: excited for Howard and Irene to embark on the next stage of their lives; surprised that something we knew would happen is now on the horizon; saddened to accept that our personal rabbi will not be here in a year and half. For some of us, Howard has been our only senior rabbi. For some of us, he has been part of most if not every lifecycle event. For all of us, he has been our rabbi—our beloved Rabbi Jaffe. We will have many opportunities to express our gratitude and good wishes to Irene and Howard. None of them will be quite adequate. All of them will be heartfelt.
 
And so, we begin the exciting next part of the Temple Isaiah journey. When I accepted the nomination to be President of our congregation, I did not know that Rabbi Jaffe’s retirement would take place during my term though I knew it was possible. I am honored and humbled  that you entrusted me to lead our community and will do my utmost to maintain your trust as we set a course for our future. I look forward to all that is ahead. We will continue to deepen lives and inspire purpose—together.


Rachel Hayes
President

Wed, May 12 2021 1 Sivan 5781