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Our Rabbinic Transition (April 25, 2018)

Dear Temple Shalom families,

It is my great pleasure, on behalf of our Board of Trustees, to share with you very exciting news about the conclusion of our rabbinic transition process. The Board has unanimously voted to extend an offer to Rabbi Laura Abrasley and Rabbi Allison Berry to serve as our co-Senior Rabbis. We are overjoyed that they have accepted our offer as we embark on this new chapter in our congregation’s history. We can now move from an interim period into one of stable and committed leadership for the entire Temple Shalom congregation. To have the benefit of their leadership, scholarship and wisdom for the long-term is truly a blessing.

As you no doubt remember, the announcement of the departure of Rabbi Gurvis in 2016 put our congregation into an unexpected transition. Rabbi Abrasley and Rabbi Berry stepped into the void and served our community with distinction, leading us through this period with minimal disruption. Since then, many of our members have gotten to know these two leaders and their families. We have seen what they each bring to this role and how their individual strengths complement each other’s.

During this time, we have also seen this co-Senior Rabbi model work well. A number of you have come up to me and other lay leaders to let us know that while you were skeptical at first of having more than one Senior Rabbi, you have been won over. This is a credit to both the innovative structure itself, and above all to the two remarkable women who continue to make it work so well.

There is no more important decision a congregation makes than the choice of its rabbinic leadership. The Board and Transition Committee treated this process with the careful time, attention and seriousness it deserves, and we know you did, as well. Nearly 400 of you responded to our survey; more than 140 of you attended one of our forums; and we received over 500 written comments about the state of our congregation and your hopes for its future.

Like any congregation, our members conveyed a diversity of opinion on how to move forward. This is to be expected with such a momentous decision. What delighted us – and informed our decision – was the overwhelming endorsement of Rabbi Berry’s and Rabbi Abrasley’s continued leadership. Nearly two-thirds of all survey responses, including a majority of every demographic represented within our congregation, urged the committee to retain Rabbi Abrasley and Rabbi Berry as our future rabbinic leaders. The written responses we collected during the forums closely matched the survey results.

One member of our congregation said of our two Rabbis, “they exemplify what it means to be Jewish and part of a Jewish community.” Another remarked, “I have never felt more connected, prouder or more positive about this synagogue.” Affirmative sentiments such as these were echoed numerous times in the community forums and survey comments.

While we are pleased that so much of our congregation supports this decision, we acknowledge that no decision of this magnitude comes without disagreement or discomfort. We carefully considered a comprehensive external rabbinic search and the implications of doing one, including the inevitable disruption and uncertainty. In the end, after the engagement process outlined above and serious reflection, we concluded that the leadership our community needs is the leadership our community has. This is what we heard from most of you. While we recognize that not everyone will agree with this decision, we are confident that we will continue as a strong, vibrant community that serves the needs of every part of our synagogue family.

We recognize that the amazing level of participation that got us to this point should not end here. All of us in the Temple’s leadership and our new co-Senior Rabbis invite you to continue letting us know how your experience at Temple Shalom is going and what can be done to make our community more fulfilling for everyone.
We look forward now to the installation of Rabbi Berry and Rabbi Abrasley in the fall. We invite you to share your congratulations and well wishes with the Rabbis in the coming days and weeks.

Finally, we want to thank you for your engagement during this process. Your thoughtful contributions and feedback were an essential part of our journey to this decision.

Scott Birnbaum
Temple President

Jo-Ann Suna, Chairwoman
Ed Case    Ed Freedman   Fred Kraus    Andy Molinsky    Marion Pollock Robyn Winik

Thu, April 25 2019 20 Nisan 5779