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Spontaneous Kindness

The national political atmosphere is toxic. Does it seem that people are a little more on edge, angrier and less generous? Or at least, when watching the news about the presidential election, aren’t you left with that feeling? That’s why I want to share two stories about unexpected kindness. Despite the way it may feel, I still generally believe that people are good and decent.

On Friday, I drove to my optician to pick up a new pair of glasses. Near the entrance to the office, there was an older gentleman in front of me and I raced ahead so that I could open the door for him. He refused to let me do so, explaining, “I decided that from now on, every day, I want to do something nice for a stranger.” I thanked him for his act of kindness and for taking the time to explain his motivation.



A little while later, I left my office to meet with a friend of mine who was helping with some repairs. I promised that I would return with a cup of decaf coffee, as I didn’t have any at home. I learned that the cafeteria in my office building doesn’t sell decaf, so I made a quick detour to a nearby Panera Bread restaurant. As I reached for my wallet, the person working behind the counter said, “It’s free.” A number of family members and friends have suggested (not so subtly) that I should have my hearing tested. Thinking that I misheard her, I continued to reach for my wallet. She said again, “It’s free. It’s on the house today.” I asked her why, and she said, “Because I decided that it is.” I thanked her and then decided that after having been “kinded” spontaneously twice, it was a reminder to me that we have the power in our own hands, right now, to freely perform spontaneous acts of kindness, which are especially precious at this time in our history.

Never underestimate the value of an intentionally kind act, no matter how large or small. That is one Talmudic teaching that I learned in rabbinical school that I’ve tried to keep in mind throughout the years. “Our Rabbis taught: A person should always regard himself as if he or she were half guilty and half meritorious. If that person performs one mitzvah, how wonderful it is, for that individual has tipped the scale to the side of merit. But woe to the person who commits one transgression for tipping the scale to side of guilt…” By this logic, another rabbi continues, “Since the world is judged by its majority, and an individual is also judged by the majority of actions (good or bad) if that person performs one good deed, happy is that person for tilting the scale both personally and for the whole world on the side of merit” (Kiddushin 40b).

I’m making a pledge to perform one act of spontaneous kindness everyday to a stranger between now and the end of election season. Small acts of kindness can have large multiplier effects-something that the two individuals whom I encountered on Friday reminded me about. Will you join me in doing so?


Rosh Hashanah 2016

From “Who shall live and who shall die?” to “How to live and how to die”

What does it mean to be human? It’s a simple question, with unclear and unsettling answers. “Faster than the speed of light” is a phrase that can equally apply to outer space travel as well as to the state of the velocity of change in our lives. Compared to ten years ago, how frequently do you find yourself saying, “I used to understand the world, but these days I longer do?” That’s because we’re headed into new territory: as individuals, as members of particular families and faith communities, and as members of the broader family of humanity. Rosh ha-Shanah celebrates the birthday of humanity. In that spirit of celebration, I offer some questions that transcend current political divides and refocus our attention on some shared assumptions of what it means to be human, how those might be changing, and how we can navigate some of these changes.



Work and worth. Some people strongly dislike their work and curse it as a burden, and Judaism commands us to rest one day each week so that we can maintain some balance in our lives. But in the first half of the verse that mentions Shabbat, we’re also commanded to work: “Six days you shall work…” (Exodus 20: 9). In Judaism, work provides opportunities for us to be a blessing to others and better the world through it. So even if your work sometimes feels like a “curse,” what will happen to our identities and communities when increasingly significant numbers of “white collar” professionals will be automated out of a job? That has already happened to many honorable “blue collar” workers, with devastating effects. If persistent economic volatility continues to be the new norm, what resources do we need to put into place to help many people from all walks of life structure time purposefully, as they will not have the traditional support of the structure of work?

Redefining Reality. What will happen when instead of venturing outside to experience reality, we can snap on inexpensive miniaturized headgear and exchange it for virtual reality? Will we retreat further into our personal spaces and individual selves, diminishing interactions with other people and places, or be stimulated to physically venture forth to new places after visiting them virtually, and open ourselves up to the world?

Algorithms or Spiritual Rhythms? What will it mean when all of our devices, vehicles and appliances are having connected “conversations” with one another behind our backs (that is, without our awareness)? Will digitally generated algorithms that “suggest” choices that are similar to our prior history of shopping, entertainment and web browsing cause our spiritual attributes of curiosity, serendipitous wandering into new interests, and stumbling upon ideas that enliven our spiritual selves to atrophy?

Empathy or Apathy? How will we learn to develop deep relationships with others when we no longer make eye contact, forget how to read their feelings, and intuit the impact of our words and actions on them because we look down at a screen instead of up at the person before us? (Recommended reading on this topic by a leading expert: Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle, whom I credit for this thought.)

Fluid Gender Identity. Today, individuals who need to claim their true gender identity can do so by undergoing the complex process of gender reassignment, and there is growing acceptance of gender as a dynamic, changeable, social construct. In the future, will more people elect to undergo gender reassignment because they want the experience of living multiple-gendered lives? This is a plausible question, too, if we look to the history of other required medical procedures that began as “life-saving,” and were later commercialized for massive profit by designating them as “elective.” For example, cosmetic surgery was initially developed to help soldiers heal from disfiguring gun shot wounds that left them in physical pain and social isolation. Today, a recent Global Cosmetic Surgery and Marketing Report estimates that the industry currently generates “over $20 billion and is set to rise to over $27 billion by 2019.” If gender identity reassignment surgery follows typical paths of rates of adoption of innovations, and significant numbers of individuals elect to have it, what effect will it have on their relationships with family, friends and people in their social and professional networks?

The Fragility of Community. When social media provide everyone with loud, amplified voices, how do we maintain communities in which we are able to listen to one another? As we begin to accept that shouting people down is an acceptable response to disagreement, how can we hold on to the richness of heterogeneous communities? Ask almost any clergy person today to state a major concern about the future, and he or she will soon express anxiety about the fragility of community.

The Exposed Self. How do we maintain our dignity once our digital lives have been hacked, violated, bullied, or exposed to the world in some other way? When someone without authorization has exposed our private lives to the world, how does that feeling of personal violation affect our trust in others for the long-term?

Creating Sustained, Meaningful, Multi-generation Contact. What does community look like when there are already four generations of people alive in large numbers (and in the near-term future, soon to be five if medical scientists are correct in their predictions about aging and longevity)? How do we create places in society where sustained, meaningful, multi-generational relationships can develop, and wisdom and experience can flow up and down, across generations? What are the new supports, structures and organizations that we need, or existing ones that we need to retool, to accommodate this reality?

We’re certainly not the first generation to feel like vast changes are redefining our most fundamental assumptions of what it means to be human. The projected future convergence of digital technologies, disruptive leaps in biomedical and social sciences, and our willingness to choose behaviors and lifestyles that often wind up owning us, has arrived. Increasingly, wherever I travel, I hear from friends, family and acquaintances that we always seem to be heading into unmapped territory. We’re like the Biblical Israelites on their way out of Egypt, moving toward a promised land, with a big stretch of menacing wilderness that they first had to traverse. In one episode when Pharaoh is considering allowing the enslaved Israelites a limited release from slavery, Moses counters with a response that captures today’s zeitgeist. He explains that he must take everything with him into the wilderness, without conditions, for, “We don’t know what we’re going to need to serve (God) until we get there” (Exodus 10:26).

That’s more than a cagy negotiating tactic. Moses expresses a truth about how to prepare for an unknown future. Because it’s impossible to know what we’ll need for an unprecedented stage of life personally and collectively, the only preparation that can guarantee our future is to commit to travel together as a community. As a part of a community, we contribute our collective caring, insights, intuitions and inspiration that enable us to navigate uncertainty.

Rosh ha-Shanah allows us the time to look back on who we are in order to better see our way forward. If we have understood being created in God’s image as including the capacities to have deep relationships, to contribute productively to the world, to listen and love one another not despite but because of our differences, what is the work that we have to do today to ensure that these traces of Divinity continue to define our humanity? Personally, I’d rather hear sermons on Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur about these kinds of ultimate issues that are not set in some far away galaxy, but have begun to arrive, than conjectures on current politics which, as important as this presidential election is, distract us from much more urgent considerations.

Cross posted to eJewish Philanthropy


Zionism: Once Again Today’s Rorschach Test for American Jews


As a member of a Jewish youth group (USY) in the mid-1970’s, I remember our advisors often leading us through a “Jewish values clarification” activity about being a Zionist and an American. It was designed to help us gain insight into the inherent tensions of a hyphenated Jewish-American identity. One variation of this activity’s trigger question was, “If Israel and America were on opposite sides of a war, what side would you choose?”


As context, at that time, there was a string of historic events involving Israel whose impacts were felt in the United States: the June 1967 Six Day War, the1973 Yom Kippur War, the OPEC oil embargo from 1973-74 that caused severe economic disruption, and the 1975 United Nations resolution describing Zionism as, “…a form of racism and racial discrimination.” Being a Zionist was a kind of Rorschach Test for American Jews. Did the images of Zionism make you see yourself as having a binary choice of being Jewish/pro-Israel or American? Or, as our youth group values clarification exercise sought to do through debate and self-exploration, could we feel that being proud citizens of one country (America) was generally compatible with deep feelings for our “Jewish homeland,” despite periodic tensions?


Zionism is once again a Rorschach Tests for American Jews. There were early warning signs that anti-Zionism was on the march: several Christian denominations that castigated only Israel and not Palestinians for the ongoing conflict; the growing campus “Boycott Divestment Sanctions” (BDS) protests; and, blatantly anti-Semitic articles by the likes of academics including Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.


Because of its unabashed anti-Israel platform that asserts Israel’s campaign of “genocide” against Palestinians, the Movement for Black Lives has “called the question” for American Jews: Do you stand with the progressive American social justice movement and against Israel, or do you stand with Israel, which by definition, negates your social justice “creds” and invalidates your alliance with progressive social justice issues. The compartmentalized explanations about simultaneous commitments to social justice work in America and staunch support for Israel do not work anymore; Jewish organizations will increasingly have difficulties in forming alliances with NGO’s and faith-based groups dedicated to social justice causes.


This ultimatum for a binary choice creates a painful dilemma for the many American Jews whose Jewish identity rests upon deeply rooted Jewish values and teachings to address mounting social justice issues (structural racism, economic inequities, literacy gaps-to name just a few). Some, most recently like American Jewish historians Hasia Dinar and Marjorie Feld, have let personal ideologies override historical facts and publicly renounced their Zionism. As Jonathan Sarna incisively noted, their ideas are naively delusional (and I would add, destructive) propaganda. But because they are scholars of American Jewish history, their personal animus against Israel creates pressure for other American Jews to “act bravely” and renounce Zionism.


While Diner and Feld’s agenda is to undermine American support for Israel within and outside of the Jewish community, there are many American Jews who love Israel but are justifiably weary about having to defend Israel’s actions before their peers. Israel did not seek the wars that led to its conquest of territory. But fair or not, after forty-nine years, the Israeli government is a co-owner of the indignities that Palestinians who are entitled to sovereignty suffer every day. Especially under Prime Minister Netanyahu’s administrations, the Israeli government continues to promote an environment that chills democratic values of a free and independent press, and funds right-wing religious bigotry, courtesy of the Chief Rabbinate. So American Jews who care deeply about Israel, like many Israeli citizens, have ample reason to to express disapproval about the direction of Israel as a Jewish and democratic nation.


And that is why I worry that as an American Jewish community, we are losing our collective ability to withstand the trap of the binary choice of either being with social progressives and against Israel, or with Israel and against social progressives. Extremism has taken root on the left and the right in the American Jewish community. Often, the American Jewish left looks blithely past the realities of living in Israel and raising a family: Intifadas, knifing attacks, bus bombings, vehicles turned into weapons of mass destruction by plowing into crowds of pedestrians, withdrawal from territories that lead to greater violence, ISIL at all of Israel’s borders….At age eighteen, American young adults complain about not having enough “safe spaces” for troubling ideas in college classrooms. At age eighteen, Israeli young adults worry about safety for their lives as they enter mandatory military service. It’s easy to talk about all of the failures of another country that you don’t visit, let alone live in, from a safe distance of 6,000 to 8000 miles away.


At the same time, the American Jewish right often ignores the indignities of daily life for Palestinians, even those that can be more easily ameliorated, with a justification that there are, “no partners for peace.” Maybe there are no partners for peace, but what actions can Israel take to try to cultivate better relations and the possibilities for having future partners for peace? There are over 200 retired senior officials from Israel’s security agencies who believe that, “launching an Israeli regional initiative is essential, possible, and urgent.” They assert that, “…a two-state solution can be implemented and sustained while providing both Israelis and Palestinians with the security, sovereignty, and dignity they deserve.” What special military and diplomatic insights does the Jewish political right wing have that makes them dismiss statements like these?


The mutual extremism of the left and right only reinforces the unsatisfactory status quo because vitriolic attacks against “the other side” don’t demand new and divergent ways of thinking. They only make people defend their failed positions.


I’m in Israel now. It’s a relief being away from the degrading political scene in the United States, and having some momentary respite from news about violence continuing in communities across America. But even on my days of very low feelings about the current state of America, it would never occur to me to label America as thoroughly evil country responsible for all of the world’s ills. There is still a lot of goodness in Americans, despite the tremendous amount of corruption in politics. I’m not blind to the shocking social problems that are besetting us as Americans. But would I renounce my faith in America and abandon hope in believing that we can make progress? Absolutely not!


That leads me back to memories of my youth group values clarification activities. I’m still a Zionist, but a more mature one: aware of some dangerous tendencies today in Israel, and equally aware of Israel’s tremendous achievements despite its location in a region that makes it ever vulnerable. That means that I won’t support any progressive cause that has aligned itself with those who seek to legally dismantle Israel’s right to exist by using the kind of intentional, malicious rhetoric found in the Movement for Black Lives platform, but I will support other progressive groups that don’t make taking an anti-Israel oath a prerequisite for involvement. Nor will I support any right wing groups that dismiss the reality that Israel occupies territories that have a Palestinian majority who are ultimately entitled to statehood (which every Israeli government has affirmed, since the Oslo accords in 1993 to this very day) or refuse to take greater steps to increase chances for the implementation of the two-state solution.


I’m on firm ground in staking out the desideratum of holding on to the tensions of being a proud American Zionist who cares about progressive causes. Between the Fast of the 17th of Tamuz and the week leading up to Rosh ha-Shanah, there are 10 weeks, each with specially designated haftarot. The first three are rebukes to the Israelites by the Biblical prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, for immoral and unjust behavior. These three prophetic portions are then followed by seven others expressing hope and consolation about the redemption of Zion through justice. Three prophetic portions about rebuke, and seven about hope. Coincidently, recent brain science suggests that a person needs an average of about six messages of positive feedback in order to accept one piece of constructive criticism, approximating that ratio of positive to negative feedback during this ten week period.


Dinar and Feld claim that we are not sufficiently self-critical within the Jewish community. They are not only wrong, but they misconstrue the purpose of criticism or tochekha that this ten-week period gets right. Self-criticism isn’t a goal, but one of the tools that leaders use as a springboard for striving closer toward Jewish ideals of peace, justice, and an overall better condition for all of humanity. So while I have deep disappointments in the lack of progress toward a two-state solution (just like I have deep disappointments about so many problems in America today), and I will lovingly express them, I won’t make statements that feed distorted, destructive narratives about Zionism and Israel. There are enough other people who are happily doing so already.



On The Rebellions of 2016



I recently read Frank Bruni’s op-ed on election season in the New York Times, titled, The Rebellions of 2016. In comparing both Republican and Democratic conventions, he writes: “The parallel speaks volumes about 2016’s mood, which is one of untamable grudges and unquenchable rebellion.”





The current cycle of weekly Torah readings from the Book of Numbers has eerie comparisons and could be called the Book of Rebellions:


+The people rebel over the food


+Moses rebels against God by hitting a rock instead of speaking to it to draw water for the people


+Miriam and Aaron-Moses’s siblings-rebel against his leadership


+That causes a ripple effect leading to a broader popular rebellion led by Korach,


+Finally, leading to a rapid slide to a full-scale popular rebellion (Israelite men co-mingling with Midianite women)


Pinchas, a priestly leader, literally takes the law into his own hands and quells the rebellion by being judge, jury and executioner (Numbers 25:7). That’s why Pinchas is given a b’rit shalom, “a covenant of peace” by God for his decisive but extrajudicial action. We focus on the restoration of “shalom” or peace in this phrase, but the word “b’rit” is equally important. Reintegrating relationships into a legal framework or “covenant” mitigates the possibility of a just rebellion from deteriorating into community chaos.


I think this is an important message to those of us who are religious leaders. We can consider that the Book of Numbers is a wake-up call to create frameworks of dialogue and action, so that righteous anger doesn’t indiscriminately scorch everything in its path, but focuses energy for change to where it’s needed.




The Entrepreneurial Rabbi

Dear Friends,

I recently led a webinar on The Entrepreneurial Rabbi . While this webinar was with my rabbinic colleagues, you’re invited to listen to the recording and download a PDF (below) of the accompanying slides. The content is relevant for volunteer leaders of congregations and Jewish organizations, Jewish educators, Cantors and others who are interested in learning about innovation and entrepreneurship within a Jewish organizational or congregational context. And please be in touch if you have comments or questions about the webinar!


Thank you, Hayim


The Entrepreneurial Rabbi-Web Slides


The Entrepreneurial Rabbi webinar (Audio)


Crowdsourcing Worksheet




What Are Your Mind-Stretching Plans This Summer?


What’s your recommended reading list for the summer? Or, to update the question, what mind-stretching experiences are on your “to do list” or have you recently had? Here are some of mine and please share yours on my Facebook page.


• Recently read: Dr. Sherry Turkle’s book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.
• Currently reading: Atul Gawande’s book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.
• Midway through auditing a Coursera MOOC (massive online open course): Leading Innovation in Arts and Culture, developed by Professor David Owens at Vanderbilt University and customized for the cultural sector with Jim Rosenberg, Independent Consultant and Senior Advisor at National Arts Strategies.
• Next up: Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Dr. Linda Thal’s book, Wise Aging. Living With Joy, Resilience and Spirit.
• And-I’m committing to moving more rapidly through my study of Psalms, using Robert Alter’s commentary (growth for the heart and mind).



I’m also developing presentations and workshops around my forthcoming book, co-researched and co-authored with Professor Terri Elton at Luther Seminary, in which we studied a number of Jewish and Lutheran congregations and nonprofit organizations in two categories: “established and adapting” to a more decentralized, co-creative, flatter, socially networked way of working; and, “emerging and maturing” startup congregations and nonprofit organizations that are navigating the challenges of maintaining their entrepreneurial character while scaling for sustainability. Stay tuned for publication information!


In addition to focusing on these mind-stretching experiences, I am consciously avoiding mind- narrowing activities, which means ignoring most things related to the presidential campaign, where it often seems that speculation and gossip masquerade as analysis.


So are what are your mind-stretching ideas (and please share your creativity here)?



Rabbinic Search: Choosing Wisely, Transitioning Smoothly



My colleague, Linda Rich, and I recently presented a webinar, titled, Selecting a rabbi is one of the most important decisions a synagogue makes. Based on new research, Rabbi Hayim Herring and Linda Rich, two national experts in congregational consulting, share current insights, best practices, and practical tools for enhancing your congregation’s rabbinic search and integration process. This webinar, recorded on March 30, 2016, was hosted by the Alliance for Continuing Rabbinical Education and sponsored through the generosity of UJA-Federation of New York.


Rabbinic Search Webinar - Hayim Herring


You can view the webinar and download the slides even if you didn’t participate in the webinar. We know how timely this topic is as greater numbers of Baby Boomer rabbis retire, and as congregational life becomes more complex. We hope that you’ll take advantage of these free resources, and share them with others who you think may be interested. And- please contact us; we’re happy to work with you on this most critical choice and on other issues that can enrich and revitalize congregational life


* We thank the Alliance for Continuing Rabbinic Education for hosting the webinar, which was sponsored through the generosity of UJA-Federation of New York.



Leading in Front, Beside and in the Middle




Many congregations are in rabbinic search mode this time of year. Given the instability that congregations often face, many will seek rabbis who can initiate and lead the kinds of change that will reinvigorate congregational life. The intuition of these congregations is right on target, as rabbinical leadership ultimately determines the impact and sustainability of congregational change efforts. Of course, it takes the collective effort of an inspired rabbi and excellent, focused volunteer leaders to make congregations vital. However, a rabbi’s personal and ongoing involvement is a critical and key success factor to the achievement of lasting and significant congregational change. I therefore focus on insights about rabbinical leadership that increase the likelihood of success of broad and deep congregational change initiatives.


My colleagues who have successfully transformed congregations have a repertoire of leadership stances. They practice leading in front, leading beside and leading in the middle. They move in and out of these roles as they initiate and attempt to anchor transformational change. These observations flow from my primary research on denominational and independent rabbis and congregations, a review of substantial secondary research on congregations and nonprofit organizations, scholarly literature on leadership, and extensive work with rabbis, congregations and nonprofit organizations.* While certain fundamentals of leadership are enduring, other needed attributes of leadership are emerging in today’s environment of expected transparency, immediacy of communications, disruptive technologies and the chaos they engender.




Leading in Front


Every successful change effort begins with a person’s inspirational vision and passion. An effective change mobilizer maintains the passion but seeks out a core team of people who enrich it because it resonates within them. Competent stewards of congregations and organizations invest significant energy into management, a complex set of activities and skills that include issues such as board and professional leadership development and adherence to the highest professional standards of governance. Rabbis who execute these responsibilities well are fulfilling a reasonable expectation of professionalism. But effective rabbinical change leaders view stewardship as the beginning of their work.




2015: The Art of Selectively Remembering and Forgetting



I didn’t blog very much in 2015. I’ve had plenty to say but little time or appetite for expression. As my mother recently said to me, “I’ve got the best of both worlds—I celebrate two new years, Rosh ha-Shanah and January 1!” I’ve been struggling with how much of this past year I wish to remember and how much I choose to forget. But her words gave me the push that I needed to write a personal, partial timeline of 2015, both by way of explanation for my digital silence and in an effort to loosen the emotional and spiritual restraints that have been holding me back from moving forward.


January 2015 (about a year ago): my wife and I had been thinking about downsizing to a smaller home, and the right opportunity appeared earlier than we had anticipated. Like many Boomers, we had too much house, for too few people, with more maintenance than we cared for at this stage of life. A recommendation for anyone planning to move: don’t prepare one house for the market and purchase and renovate another simultaneously, especially while editing a book (Keeping Faith in Rabbis: A Community Conversation in Rabbinical Education, which I co-edited with Ellie Roscher, was published in January 2015). Alternating between chipping away at paint and picking apart sentences is a sure way to intensify stress. Without my good friend and general contractor, I wouldn’t have made it. As I worked alongside of him, I understand why my inner handyman had remained in hiding all of these years, and decided that he should remain concealed. We sold our home toward the end of January.





What A Judge Can Teach Us About Rabbinic and Executive Searches



How does a former judge create a fair search process for hiring a new rabbi and a new senior federation professional? I had a chance to learn from my father-in-law, Norman Krivosha, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Nebraska, who chaired a rabbinic search committee for his congregation several years ago, and later, chaired the search process for a new federation executive. We are approaching the time of year when rabbis and congregations begin to think about making placement changes, so I wanted to share one part of the process that I believe is especially valuable. Although this post describes a rabbinic search process, the Judge established the same process for hiring the lead federation professional in his community.


The search process began like most others. The judge invited a diverse cross-section of the congregation to serve on the Search Committee. The committee developed criteria for the ideal candidate, aware that it would need to prioritize them. They prepared a series of questions that members would ask consistently of each candidate, and decided that they would interview six rabbis during a Shabbat weekend in their congregation. They wanted a diversity of rabbinic candidates, so that Search Committee members and congregants would be exposed to a range of rabbinic models and minimize any pre-existing biases about the “right” kind of rabbi for the congregation. And now is where it gets really interesting….


Prior to interviewing candidates, the judge instructed Search Committee members not to have any “off the record” conversations with one another or members of the congregation. As he explained to me, juries are instructed not to discuss a case with one another until they have heard all of the evidence. He added that it is a known fact that once someone has made up his or her mind it is very difficult for a person to un-decide and make a new decision. By establishing this “no discussion” rule, candidates were given an equal opportunity to demonstrate their abilities, without Search Committee members biasing one another’s views through private discussions or conversations with congregants.


Unlike other search processes, where members meet and debrief throughout the interview process, this Search Committee first conducted all of the six interviews and only then met to deliberate. The result? One and done! Search Committee members reached consensus in only one meeting. It became clear which of the rabbis would not be an appropriate match for the congregation, and they were then able to focus on a small number of potential candidates. They did not have to spend time trying to persuade one another of a conscious or unconscious choice that they had already made, as they had no prior discussions with one another. This process occurred over two years ago and the relationship is still going strong!


I am not sure how many other congregations have a process that is designed to respect each rabbi’s unique personalities and talents. But whether you were the first or the last rabbi, you were given the same opportunity to succeed.


So what do you think about a “no discussion rule” and no deliberations until after all candidates have interviewed? Has your congregation tried this before, or do you know of another congregation that has? Are there other helpful aspects to a rabbinic or senior executive search in which you have been involved that you would like to share? The most important choice that a congregation or Jewish nonprofit organization makes is in engaging the best senior professional for its congregation or organization. A search process is a significant investment of resources for congregations and organization, so if you wish to share your insights, please do so on my Facebook page.




©2017 Hayim Herring
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