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Rabbinic Search Updates

December 19, 2022 - Our Next Senior Rabbi
November 29, 2022 - What Does the Rabbinic Search Process Entail? - Part 3
November 9, 2022 - What Does the Rabbinic Search Process Entail? - Part 2
October 24, 2022 - Rabbinic Search Update
October 24, 2022 - Rabbinic Search Update
October 6, 2022 - What Does the Rabbinic Search Process Entail? - Part 1
September 19, 2022 - CCAR Application
September 5, 2022 - Rabbinic Search Input
August 29, 2022 - Rabbinic Search Input
August 11, 2022 - Rabbinic Search Input
June 23, 2022 - Announcing the Rabbinic Search Committee

Our Next Senior Rabbi
December 19, 2022

Dear Friends,

On behalf of the Rabbinic Search Committee, we are thrilled to share the news that Rabbi Karen Thomashow has accepted our offer to become Temple Isaiah’s next senior rabbi.

Rabbi Thomashow has spent her 15-year rabbinic career at two of North America’s most renowned congregations. She comes to Isaiah from Wise Temple in Cincinnati, where she served for the past nine-and-a-half years as Associate Rabbi. Prior to that she was Assistant and then Associate Rabbi at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. In both synagogues, her portfolio included a wide range of rabbinic responsibilities. She and her husband, Yonatan Eyal, have two school-aged children, Alma and Ethan.

In Rabbi Thomashow’s application, she told us, “above all else, I take my calling as a rabbi to be about fostering relationships.” With relationship building at the center of our own vision, and with welcoming, inclusiveness, and warmth at the center of who we are, we could not have hoped to find a better partner. 

We see in Rabbi Thomashow a spiritual leader who can inspire, motivate, and innovate, not only because of her great intellect and integrity, but because of her deep and genuine caring and compassion. She sees her role as a rabbi as being “a partner, a catalyst for growth, a companion, and a maker of meaning.” Her power as a congregational leader comes in her ability to work with, and through, people. She brings the same approach to her internal collaborations. Her strong skills in organization and supervision are amplified by her graceful leadership and her open, supportive, collaborative style. She is a rabbi whom rabbinic students turn to for mentoring and whom colleagues ask to serve in leadership roles.

It will be our job to embrace Rabbi Thomashow’s spirit of connection as we work towards a bright and exciting future…together. 

Rabbi Thomashow’s tenure will officially begin on July 1, 2023. We hope to afford opportunities to connect with her before then. She has written her own letter of introduction, which is included below.

In closing, we would like to express our gratitude. To our Search Committee partners, thank you for your friendship and for your invaluable, tireless and selfless commitment: Gil Benghiat, Gary Fallick, FayeRuth Fisher, Ruth Fleischmann, Sharon Grossman, Rachel Hayes, Jane Heifetz, Wendy Liebow, and Jason Schneider. Thank you to the Board, staff and everyone else who provided input and support for this search. And thank you to you all for trusting us with this sacred responsibility.

Happy Hanukkah,
Dan Ostrower, President
Meryl Junik, Co-Chair Search Committee
Sam Zales, Co-Chair Search Committee



Dear Temple Isaiah,

It is an honor to be named your senior rabbi-elect.

I started a sacred conversation and relationship with your search committee over four months ago. It has been evident from the start that the search process for your next senior rabbi has been thoughtful, purposeful, and hopeful. Building on a legacy of excellence, I see how the Temple Isaiah community is poised to enter the next years with the same spirit of forward-thinking, creativity, inclusion, depth of meaning, and more. I am humbled to succeed Rabbi Jaffe. Thank you to all of the professional staff, lay leadership of the Search Committee, Board of Trustees, and the members of the congregation who participated in the search process and welcomed me into your spiritual home.   

My husband, Yonatan, and our children, Alma and Ethan, look forward to making Temple Isaiah their congregational home as well. I trust that we will have the opportunity to meet and begin to get to know one another in the months and years to come. In the meantime, from my current home in Ohio, I share my enthusiasm and gratitude in becoming a part of the Temple Isaiah family. Rabbi Hillel taught that we light one candle the first night of Chanukah and one more candle each subsequent night because we increase in matters of holiness. I wish you and your loved ones overflowing joy and light. 

Warmly,
Karen Thomashow

What Does the Rabbinic Search Process Entail? - Part 3
November 29, 2022

The Rabbinic Search is moving forward and digging deeper. We’re doing things a little differently than last year, and we want to let you know where we are in our search.

Rather than limit ourselves to two interviews via Zoom before selecting finalists, we have created an extra step in our process. In order to learn more about our applicants, we invited a small group of candidates for a limited visit. During this introductory visit, candidates had an opportunity to meet one-on-one with senior staff. Each candidate also spent time with the search committee outside of little Zoom boxes so that we could get to know each other better.

With these introductory in-person visits completed, the committee plans to select our finalists, which might be anywhere from one to three rabbis. Each finalist—along with any spouse or partner—will be invited for a more comprehensive multi-day visit to get to know the Temple community, the neighborhood, and our area’s Jewish resources.

In planning this year’s finalist visits, we sought feedback from last year’s participants to learn which experiences were most valuable in helping congregants and staff get to know the candidates. During these visits, each rabbi will meet with all staff members and with groups of congregants, including the Board, past presidents, and members of our teen community. The visits will include an in-person teaching and Q&A session, a model service, a formal interview with the search committee, and many informal interactions.

Last year, we found that the questions asked by congregants during the Q&A closely matched many of the questions the committee posed in earlier interviews, telling us we were on the right track. Everyone who meets a finalist will be asked for written feedback.

The finalist visits also give us the opportunity to introduce these rabbis to the warmth and welcoming that is at the heart of Isaiah. If they have specific questions about the area or Isaiah, we will put them in touch with people who can answer them. We will also arrange for the candidates to meet with a realtor, tour the area, and explore school options, if they wish.

Although we would love to invite the entire congregation to meet the candidates, the CCAR does not permit this. The placement commission requires strict confidentiality about the identity of the candidates to protect their relationship with their congregation in case they do not leave. That means the number of people a candidate can meet is intentionally limited.

The search committee will then review all of the feedback we receive. Many of the committee members will likely spend sleepless nights—as we did last year—thinking hard about which of the candidates would be the best senior rabbi for our community. The committee will then make a recommendation to the board, which may accept or reject the recommendation.

The CCAR advises that a hiring recommendation have the approval of at least 75% of the search committee members. Our experience last year was that the process of review and discussion led to consensus among the committee members. We expect the same this year.

The process we have crafted falls somewhere between the direct participation of the ballot box and the spectacle of a puff of white smoke. Whatever the outcome, you can be confident that the selection process has included congregant input about what is important in our next rabbi and will be based on a deep, broad and consensus-based approach.

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What Does the Rabbinic Search Process Entail? - Part 2
November 9, 2022

If you’re curious about clergy searches, you are not alone. At least two books—one fiction, one not—have come out in the past ten years detailing the inner workings of a clergy search. The books presented the process as high drama or one in which there were fundamental differences between committee members about the direction of the institution.

Our experience could not be more different. In this article, we will tell you what Temple Isaiah’s search process really looks like for a new senior rabbi.

The first step in our search was to submit our application to the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), which is the Reform Rabbinic leadership organization. The CCAR and Union for Reform Judaism have established rules to ensure fairness and dignity in the placement of rabbis in URJ congregations. They also have strict protocols to ensure candidate confidentiality, which limit our ability to include everyone in the search process. This is because a rabbi's relationship with their current congregation could be severely damaged if the rabbi does not leave.

The CCAR prohibits synagogues from discriminating on the basis of gender, sexual identity, race, age, marital status, and whether the rabbinate is a candidate’s second career. (Unlike for other employers, we are allowed to insist that our candidates be Jewish!) Prior to evaluating any candidates, the search committee participated in a discussion about implicit bias, including a review of how our group can thoughtfully and respectfully identify these dynamics and counter them should they occur.

As soon as we submitted our application, resumes started to arrive. Each resume is accompanied by a personal statement, shedding more light on a candidate's approach to their rabbinate, such as how they became a rabbi or what they particularly value. We have learned about rabbis' favorite holidays, about growing up in a place with few Jews or growing up with a parent who is a rabbi, and about why a candidate left a different career path to pursue the rabbinate. Some candidates also create websites, and almost all have videos on their current congregation’s website of them leading services or teaching a class.

As the resumes and personal statements come in, each committee member reviews them to evaluate whether the rabbi has the experience and qualifications for our position. Then the committee meets to decide whether to schedule a preliminary interview with the candidate. The CCAR encourages committees to interview as many applicants as possible, since the resumes and statements offer only a partial view. Indeed, we have found that some candidates who do not look strong on paper are much more impressive in person, and vice versa.

The initial interview takes place via Zoom, with as many committee members as possible participating. While all committee members would prefer to attend “live,” it can be tricky to coordinate schedules across several time zones and amongst everyone’s schedules. Members who are unavailable review a recording so they can participate in the subsequent committee discussion.

To ensure fairness and reduce bias, we ask each candidate the same questions during their hour-long interview. We ask about the rabbi’s approach to worship, relationship-building, tikkun olam/social justice, inclusion of underrepresented groups, interfaith families, team leadership and supervision, innovation, and other aspects of a senior rabbi’s portfolio. At the end of each interview, candidates have an opportunity to ask us questions, which can further highlight a candidate’s concerns, priorities, and thoughtfulness. All committee members complete an evaluation form, rating each candidate on the criteria that are important for our next senior rabbi. At a subsequent meeting, the group reviews the collective feedback, discusses each candidate, and determines whether to continue the rabbi’s candidacy.

A similar process is followed for a second round of interviews, which last about 90 minutes each. The core of questions is the same for each candidate, but we also ask questions following up on specific aspects of a candidate’s experience. Again, each candidate is evaluated and reviewed at a subsequent committee meeting. After the second round of interviews, the committee thoroughly checks a candidate’s references.

The committee then determines whether any follow-up Zoom interviews would be helpful before selecting finalists.

Stay tuned for more information about the later stages of the search process as we get closer.

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Rabbinic Search Update
October 31, 2022

Today is the final day for rabbis to apply for our senior rabbi position. After two thoughtful rounds of Zoom interviews and with guidance from the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), we are excited to invite a small group of candidates to meet our senior staff! We are eager to get to know the rabbis outside the confines of little Zoom boxes! After these brief visits, we anticipate selecting finalists to invite for a more comprehensive multi-day in-person visit. 

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Rabbinic Search Update
October 24, 2022

We have scheduled or conducted ten initial interviews, and we are in the process of scheduling and conducting follow-up interviews. There is only one more week for rabbis to apply as our application will close on October 31st. While we can’t share the candidates’ names, we can share that they are inspiring, inclusive, and thoughtful spiritual leaders who are very excited about Temple Isaiah. Curious about the interview process? Make sure to read the article in next month’s Inside Isaiah!

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What Does the Rabbinic Search Process Entail? - Part 1
October 6, 2022

Are you wondering about what our rabbinic search actually entails? To answer this question, the Search Committee will be sharing a series of articles to explain the search process in greater detail.

The search process begins when a congregation files an “application” with the CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis), which is the Reform Rabbinic leadership organization. CCAR members can view applications and, if interested, submit their resumes and personal statements. For a congregation of Temple Isaiah’s size, rabbis must have a minimum of five years of rabbinic experience to be eligible to apply. Applicants must also be contractually free to take a new position or have permission from their congregation’s president to apply. In practice, this means that the pool of applicants changes significantly from year to year, depending on when each rabbi’s contract comes up for renewal.

The application is our first opportunity to present Temple Isaiah and to describe what we are looking for in a rabbi. The CCAR provides a standard set of questions about the congregation and what it is seeking.

Before beginning our search, the congregation engaged in a discovery process in conjunction with the Shaping Our Future initiative to learn what the congregation wants and needs in our next senior rabbi. Congregants made it clear that our next senior rabbi should excel at relationship-building, be inclusive, inspire us, be a strong leader, help us bring our vision to life, and guide us through our transitions.

With this information, we crafted our application, which we encourage you to review here. To make Isaiah come alive on paper, we upgraded our application from a bare bones fill-in-the- blanks form to a visually attractive brochure. We tried to capture – through pictures, graphics, and text – who we are as a community. Candidates have commented on how impressed they are with our application, and many have pointed to something in the application that particularly matters to them. One rabbi even told us that our application was one of the best-written things they had read recently, including their favorite novels! Our Sh’ma and Vision statements have prompted a great deal of positive feedback.

We hope you will agree that our application captures the spirit and community values of our congregation.

We will continue to update you about the status of the search as it unfolds. As always, we welcome your questions and input at rabbinicsearch@templeisaiah.net.

Next up, we’ll outline the interview process.

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CCAR Application
September 19, 2022

It's clear that Temple Isaiah is quite attractive to the rabbinic community! We have received wonderful accolades on our application to the CCAR and invite you to view our current application. The Rabbinic Search Committee has started preliminary interviews with eight candidates for our next senior rabbi, and we have been very impressed with the diversity of candidates' backgrounds and rabbinic experiences. The committee will be taking a pause during these most sacred days and will share another update after the high holidays. L'shana tova! 

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Rabbinic Search Input
September 5, 2022

The Rabbinic Search Committee has started to receive resumes from candidates for our next Senior Rabbi and will begin preliminary Zoom interviews this week.

 

Thank you to everyone who has already responded to our request for input. Through last year’s focus groups, surveys, and community conversations, we learned what our congregation most wants in a Senior Rabbi. Do you have new ideas this year about what we should be looking for in our next rabbi? Are there other ways you would like the committee to communicate with you? Please use this form to share your thoughts with the search committee.

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Rabbinic Search Input
August 29, 2022

Thank you to everyone who has already responded to our request for input. Through last year’s focus groups, surveys, and community conversations, we learned what our congregation most wants in a Senior Rabbi. Do you have new ideas this year about what we should be looking for in our next rabbi? Are there other ways you would like the committee to communicate with you? Please use this form to share your thoughts with the search committee.

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Rabbinic Search Input
August 11, 2022

Thank you to everyone in our Temple Isaiah community who provided input during last year's Rabbinic Search process. We enter our search process this year with a deeper appreciation for what we are seeking in our next senior rabbi and for what makes Temple Isaiah so special. We would once again like to hear from you.

Through last year’s focus groups, surveys, and community conversations, we learned that our congregation most wants a senior rabbi who:

  • Excels at relationship building: Our next senior rabbi must be someone who will build strong relationships with each of us. They should be warm, empathetic, compassionate, non-judgmental, approachable--an embodiment of menschlichkeit. We want someone with strong pastoral skills to guide, comfort, and uplift us.
  • Is inclusive: Our next rabbi should be a strong community-builder and be involved with all segments of our community, from youth and teens to our most senior members. We need someone who is deeply inclusive and who will help ensure that every member of our community feels that they belong. We would like a senior rabbi who will be involved in our local communities beyond Isaiah.
  • Will inspire us: We want a rabbi who will inspire us through meaningful, uplifting worship and life-cycle events and through teaching that helps us infuse Judaism and Jewish values into our lives. We want the inspiration of intellectual challenge. We want a rabbi with a deep concern for social justice who will inspire us to help repair the world and guide us in doing so.
  • Leads: We need someone who is a strong supervisor and team leader, partnering with clergy, staff and lay leadership and setting a tone of collaboration and mutual respect. The rabbi should build consensus while making sure that things get done.
  • Will be a change agent: We want a rabbi who will help bring our Vision to life and to make it real--someone who brings our community and teams together to drive the adaptation we need to fulfill the needs of today and tomorrow's Jewish community.
  • Will guide us through our transitions: Finally, our next senior rabbi must be skilled at making transitions, respecting and continuing the traditions that mean so much to us, while bringing new ideas and approaches.

Do you have new ideas this year about what we should be looking for in our next rabbi? Are there other ways you would like us to communicate with you? Please use this form to share your thoughts. 

The Search Committee has just filed our formal Application with the Rabbinical Placement Committee of the Reform Movement, and we look forward to seeing candidates' resumes and personal statements soon. We will keep you posted as the search progresses.

We welcome your input and feedback throughout the search. You can reach us at rabbinicsearch@templeisaiah.net and read updates in the weekly digest, special emails, and on the temple website. 

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Announcing the Rabbinic Search Committee
June 23, 2022

Fellow Congregants,
 
It may be hard to believe, but while we are saying farewell to Rabbi Jaffe and welcoming Rabbi Crystal and Rabbi Battis, we are also restarting our search for our next settled Senior Rabbi. I’m happy to announce our search committee members and let you know that our process, which will be very similar to last year’s, is formally underway. Look for continued updates via email and in the weekly digest. You may also find information on our dedicated rabbinic search webpage.

I am extremely pleased that seven of the nine members from our previous search committee are returning. Their collective experience with the process, learnings from dozens of candidate conversations, and familiarity working together will help ensure the best possible decision. In addition, we will have three new members on the committee. Together, this group reflects a wide range of congregational interests, cohorts, and demographics. Some of their particular perspectives are reflected in their short bios. In taking on this job, they are committing to a substantial and sacred piece of work. I am so pleased that we have such a capable group and, on behalf of our entire community, I want to thank this team for their commitment to our temple. They are:

  • Gil Benghiat 
  • Gary Fallick
  • Ruth Fleischmann
  • Sharon Grossman
  • Jane Heifetz
  • Meryl Junik (Co-Chair)
  • Wendy Liebow
  • Dan Ostrower
  • Jason Schneider
  • Sam Zales (Co-Chair)

​​​​​​​We will submit our application to the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) this summer. The search committee will review candidates and then begin interviews slightly before or just after the High Holidays. Candidate visits to Temple Isaiah will likely take place during late fall or early winter. The committee’s goal is to select our next settled senior rabbi in the winter so that we may welcome them into our community next summer. Please look for updates on the candidate evaluation process and timing.

Please view this important FAQ. I urge you to review it as it addresses the most common questions we have had about the search process.

And, of course, if you have any questions or thoughts to share, please reach out any time at rabbinicsearch@templeisaiah.net.


Dan Ostrower
President

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Mon, June 17 2024 11 Sivan 5784