Maintaining optimism and hope while reflecting on these last challenging months in our communities may seem like a tough goal to achieve, but as Rabbi Alan Berlin and I begin our new roles in the CCAR’s Department of Rabbinic Career Service that is precisely our mission. Recognizing that the rabbinate has changed significantly in the last decade, the Conference made an interim shift in the department structure last year that is now expanded and firmly in place. By creating a team to work with our congregations, communities, and rabbis not only for placement work, but by looking at the whole of a rabbi’s career and the relationships they build with congregations, organizations, and communities both inside the institutional framework of the Reform Movement as well as outside, we have the potential to introduce even more people to the beauty and integrity of Reform Judaism.
Even in the first days of working together and with many of you and your communities, Rabbi Berlin and I, in our separate but inherently connected positions of CCAR Director of Rabbinic Career Services and Director of Search Services, have already found that offering the rabbis and communities of our Movement the guidance of 4,000 years of Jewish wisdom is extremely fulfilling and rewarding. My role will be specifically working with the rabbis of our Movement: those looking for new positions, those who may be heading on a different path than pulpit work, and those who may just be looking for new inspiration in the work they are already doing. Rabbi Berlin will work primarily with our congregations and organizations in the search process. He will also oversee the CCAR Interim Rabbi Program.
In the few short weeks since we joined the CCAR as staff members, we have had the opportunity to offer equal measures of empathy, experimentation, firm counsel, creativity, and join conversations centered in curiosity and inquiry. We believe that these are just the beginnings of the conversations we will have and the types of discussions we will all be in together as we support Reform rabbis and Reform communities in navigating the future of our collective sacred work.
As Director of Search Services, Rabbi Berlin works closely with congregational and organizational leaders as they seek rabbinic leadership. He envisions facilitating a rabbinic search process rooted in Jewish values where CCAR members feel that they are treated with kavod before, during, and after the process. At the end of a rabbinic search, candidates and interviewing congregations and organizations should feel that they engaged in a good and fair process. And, of course, Rabbi Berlin intends to facilitate a process that leads to excellent matches between rabbis and their congregations/organizations.
My vision for the role of Director of Rabbinic Career Services is one inspired by the interconnected themes of storytelling and collaboration. By weaving these elements together, I hope to help my Reform rabbinic colleagues continue to experience the Reform rabbinate in ways that are meaningful and inspiring. I am hopeful that I can help identify the individual story that each rabbi wants to share most about Judaism. I look ahead with excitement to working with Reform rabbis to find the communities that will appreciate them most and allow them to develop their strengths. Ultimately, my goal is that through this work, the Reform rabbinate will be represented by people sharing their highest level of creativity and insights with the many people rabbis walk alongside.
Some of you may be familiar with the story about the daughter and father who were traveling far from home. On their way back, hoping to arrive home by the start of Shabbat, their wagon lost a bolt. They stopped and encountered a farmer who offered them anything they wanted. After asking for a wrench, a bolt, and some oil, still unable to fix the wagon, getting more and more nervous about the arrival of Shabbat, the farmer reminded them of the one thing they had not requested: his help, upon which he sat with them and helped them fix their wagon.
Rabbi Berlin and I both hope you know that the whole Rabbinic Career Services team is here to offer Reform rabbis as much assistance, advocacy, and help as we can to help you on your path.
Rabbi Leora Kaye is CCAR Director of Rabbinic Career Services. She resides in Brooklyn, New York. Rabbi Alan Berlin is CCAR Director of Search Services. He resides in San Antonio, Texas.