In five months I will retire from my position and close a 40-year sojourn in the vineyard of the congregational rabbinate – the last 30 years in my current congregation at Temple Israel of Hollywood in Los Angeles.
I confess, as I move through the weeks and that final day in June, 2019 comes closer, that I have mixed feelings. I anticipate missing much of what has occupied my time and energy throughout the years, the many people I love and care about, the privileged presence I’ve had in the lives of others, and the multitude of weighty ethical and moral issues that confront us rabbis so frequently. I’ll miss especially the intensity of helping people from the cradle to the grave.
I have learned much about people and myself these past 40 years. I’ve been pushed to the limits of my abilities countless times. I hope only that I have met adequately those challenges. I have learned and taught much Torah and shared as best I can my learning and wisdom with my community.
We have created much together in my congregation over the years and the community has evolved in wondrous ways. I have taken controversial positions vis a vis American and Israeli justice, and though many have disagreed with me (sometimes vehemently), I would hope that they know that my criticism comes from a place of love.
Being in Hollywood, my community is as diverse as any in the country. We include Jews from around the world, all the religious streams, Jews and their non-Jewish spouses and partners, Jews-by-choice, LGBTQ Jews, Jews of color, people with widely varying degrees of wealth from the most fortunate to the least secure, “Hollywood” Jews who work in television, motion pictures, music, the arts, journalists, educators and professors, politicians and diplomats, physicians and health care professionals, lawyers and judges, financial experts and business people, self-employed entrepreneurs and the unemployed.
I have been fortunate to have had consistently a deeply meaningful and exciting rabbinic career. In five months I will step aside, let others carry on, and give up most of what I do as I embark on the next stage of my life.
I am ready to change my frame of my mind to whatever the future holds for me. I will assure my successor (an interim the first year and a seated rabbi the following year) that I intend to be a great emeritus – meaning, I will not be around much nor will I allow myself to be drawn into discussions with congregants and staff about new directions the new rabbi is taking that help no one – not me, not the congregant, not my successor, and not the congregation as a whole. I trust my lay leadership and my colleagues currently on staff who will remain and carry on.
As a new grandparent too, I realize how important it is for me to hold my counsel unless invited in, to avoid offering advice or being critical in any way. I have had my time. It’s now the occasion for me to move aside.
I have heard horror stories about the behavior of some emeritus/a rabbis who have a difficult time letting go. That will not be me. My hope for my successor is that he or she will be as gratified as I have been doing the sacred work I have enjoyed for so long. If I can help him or her in any way, I will happily and supportively respond – but only when asked.
There is a time and a season for everything under the heavens – so true!
Rabbi John L. Rosove serves Temple Israel of Hollywood of Los Angeles, CA.