What are the steps in the search process for a senior rabbi?

The search process has multiple steps:

  • Building on the feedback from the congregation described in the Futures Committee’s 2016 report, the Senior Rabbi Search Committee (“Search Committee”) will prepare an application for the Joint Commission on Rabbinic Placement (“Joint Commission”), which facilitates URJ member congregations’
    searches for rabbinical candidates.
  • At the same time, the Search Committee will draft a document that includes
    information similar to the application, which will be public and will be a
    companion document to the CCAR application. The Search Committee will seek
    feedback from the congregation on this document in early August and will
    incorporate information from this document into the application.
  • The Committee will file the application with the Joint Commission in early fall
  • The Joint Commission will send us resumes of rabbis interested in applying for
    the position. The Search Committee will vet those applications, conduct
    telephonic/skype interviews with multiple candidates, undertake reference checks and other due diligence, select candidates for in person interviews, and aim to select a finalist to recommend to the Board of Trustees before the end of 2017.

How will we find candidates?
In order to hire a Reform rabbi, Temple Shalom will file an application with the Joint
Commission on Rabbinic Placement - a partnership among the Central Conference of
America Rabbis (the association for Reform rabbis), the Union for Reform Judaism
(representing congregations), and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of
Religion (the Reform rabbinic seminary). The placement office posts all applications on
a secure website accessible only to CCAR-affiliated rabbis. Rabbis interested in our
position submit their resumes to the Joint Commission, which forwards the resumes to
our Search Committee.

Can any rabbi participate in our search?
To be an eligible rabbinic candidate, rabbis must be in the final year of their current
contractual commitment or receive a waiver to enter into placement and must be in
good standing with the CCAR and the Movement. For a synagogue of Temple
Shalom’s size (considered a medium congregation), a rabbi must have at least three
years of rabbinic experience.

Does the CCAR Placement Office filter the candidates whose resumes they
receive, or do Temple Shalom and other Reform congregations seeking to
hire rabbis receive all applications for consideration?
The CCAR Placement Office will send a rabbi’s resume to the Search Committee as
long as a rabbi meets the eligibility requirements described above and contained in
Temple Shalom’s application.

Are we allowed to recruit candidates outside the process prescribed by the
CCAR Placement Office?
No. Once our search begins, we are required to follow the process of the CCAR, and all
resumes must come through them. However, if you know of a rabbi whom you would
like us to consider for the position, you may speak directly with that rabbi and suggest
that he or she submit a resume to the Joint Commission on Rabbinic Placement.

Is interim Senior Rabbi John Franken eligible to be a candidate in the
Under the rules of the CCAR, an interim Rabbi is not eligible to apply for the settled
Rabbi position. In very limited and rare circumstances, if after a congregation
completes a full search, and (1) it is not able to find a candidate who it believes should
serve as its next Senior Rabbi, or (2) no candidate accepts its offer, only then the
congregation may petition the Placement Commission for permission to consider the
interim Rabbi for the settled position. The Placement Commission would then decide
whether granting permission would be in the best interest of the congregation, the
interim Rabbi, and the overall integrity of the placement and interim rabbi processes.
Neither Temple Shalom, Rabbi Franken, nor the CCAR anticipates that this limited and
rare circumstance will be relevant to our search as Temple Shalom should be attractive
to many exceptional candidates.

What information appears in our application?
The application form is about six pages long, and requests data about Temple Shalom
relating to our size, finances, education programs, building, and professional staff,
among other things. It also contains information about our community’s goals and
desires. Our responses will be crafted by the Search Committee in consultation with the
President, Clergy and Senior Staff and informed by the responses provided in the
Interim Rabbi Application, the insights gained from the Futures Committee, and the
perspectives of the individual Committee members who were selected to reflect the
diversity of our congregation.

Are there any other materials that are part of our application?
Informally, yes. The companion document to the Joint Commission application will
contain narrative information that is included in the application and provide additional
helpful information about our community to prospective candidates. This document will
be a non-confidential version of the application and will be posted on the Temple
Shalom website.

What characteristics and skills are we looking for in the new Senior Rabbi?
The Search Committee is using the wealth of information gathered by the Futures
Committee and will pair that information with each Committee member’s understanding
of the nature of our community and vision for Temple Shalom. Together, the Committee
will describe the qualities and characteristics we collectively seek in a rabbi.
Even as we recognize that no one person (or one rabbi) is “perfect,” the qualities we
seek in a rabbi are many of those reflected in our community itself: warmth, welcoming,
family-friendly, spiritual, intellectual, and committed to social action. We are looking for
a teacher of excellence, a moving leader of worship, and someone to inspire us with
new ideas while respecting Temple Shalom’s long-history and well-loved traditions and
practices. And of course we seek a Senior Rabbi who will be committed to maintaining
and growing Temple Shalom’s uniquely inclusive and diverse community.

What is the timing of the “candidate phase”?
Typically, the “candidate phase” occurs in the fall, right after the High Holy Days. This
year the URJ Biennial in early December 2017 may impact the timing of when the
Committee meets with some candidates in person. Our search will also be driven
somewhat by the candidates’ timetables. In any event, our goal is to select a finalist in
December, because most rabbis are required to provide six months’ notice to their
current congregations of their intent not to continue in their current positions.

Why are the details of the candidates kept confidential?
The Joint Commission’s rules and procedures require that the names and resumes of
candidates be shared only with members of the Search Committee. A primary reason
for confidentiality is that the mere suggestion or rumor that a rabbi is considering
another congregation may tarnish his or her current employment relationship to the
great detriment of all parties.

What role will our clergy and staff have?
Under the Joint Commission’s guidelines, the clergy and senior staff do not participate
in the actual rabbi search and selection process. However, their perspectives will be
very valuable to us. Rabbis Franken, Ackerman and Kahn plus Cantor Levine and
Executive Director Susan Zemsky will be consulted by the Search Committee and serve
where appropriate as helpful advisors. Each will typically meet with prospective
candidates who are brought to Temple Shalom for in-person interviews and can offer
their impressions to the Committee.

What role does the Congregation have?
Everything that our community has learned in the self-study of the past year will inform
our application and provide the Search Committee with clear guidance on what our
community is seeking. Most importantly, our diverse community is reflected on the
Search Committee itself to ensure that all voices and perspectives are heard and
considered. As discussed above, the Search Committee will seek input from the
congregation on the companion document to the Joint Commission application that will
be posted on the Temple website. And, pursuant to Article VI of the Temple’s
Constitution, the Congregation will be asked to vote at a Congregational meeting to
approve the term of a contract if it is in excess of two years.

Will my communications with the Search Committee be confidential?
Yes. The Search Committee wants to be as open, informative, and accessible as
possible while, at the same time, protecting the privacy of applicants and allowing for
complete candor within the committee deliberations. These somewhat competing goals
will require that the Search Committee solicit input from the members of the
Congregation and Board of Trustees as it deems appropriate and that all deliberations
of the Search Committee take place in executive session and be kept strictly
confidential. It is our ethical obligation, as well as a Joint Commission placement rule,
to honor this confidentiality. We will respect your privacy as well. All input that we
receive will be held in the strictest confidence and will be shared only within the Search

Please understand that the Search Committee will not accept or consider
anonymous input.

When will the congregation receive updates?
We will communicate with you about the search along the way, through various media,
including congregational emails and our website, particularly as we reach significant
milestones. We plan to provide monthly updates. Of course, given the sensitivity and
confidentiality required of this work, the Search Committee will not share names of
candidates and other confidential information. But we will be able to share information
on the number of applications received, number of first interviews conducted, etc.

What is the process for appointing our next Senior Rabbi once a finalist is
The Search Committee will make its recommendation to the Board of Trustees. Our
finalist candidate will then meet with the Board. The Board of Trustees will vote on the
Search Committee’s recommendation, and if it approves by a two-thirds vote, the
President and Temple Counsel will negotiate a rabbinic contract. If the contract is for
more than two years, pursuant to Article VI of the Temple’s Constitution, the
Congregation will be asked to vote at a Congregational meeting to approve the term.

When will our next Senior Rabbi begin?
Rabbinic employment typically begins on July 1st, and our goal is to have our new
Senior Rabbi join us on July 1, 2018.

Who are the members of the Rabbi Search Committee?
The Search Committee has attempted to draw members from all parts of the
congregation to provide as many perspectives as possible. Some of the Search
Committee members participated in the search for our interim Senior Rabbi and have
recent experience in the rabbinic search process. The Senior Rabbi Search Committee
page on the Temple website has a document with short biographies of the Committee
members. The Committee includes:

  • Liz Dayan*
  • Sherry Doggett*
  • Anne Feinberg
  • Jill Greenstein
  • Scott Kravetz*
  • Lisa Krim, Co-chair
  • Alan Lewis
  • Heidi Lovett*
  • Toby Lowe*
  • Andy Mark
  • Megan Parker
  • Leslie Rubin*, Co-chair
  • Michael Schwartz*
  • Earl Simons
  • Janice Simsohn Shaw*
  • Stacey Wahrman

*Member of the Interim Rabbi Search Committee

Whom can I contact if I have further questions or comments?
If you have any questions, comments, information, or ideas that you would like to share
with the Search Committee, please:

  • Email them to rabbisearch@templeshalom.net, or
  • Mail your comments to the Temple in an envelope addressed to the Rabbi
    Search Committee at Temple Shalom 8401 Grubb Road, Chevy Chase, MD
    20815, or
  • Contact any member of the Search Committee.