By now, many of you have figured out the some of the story behind my post the other day: the Board at our congregation dismissed our Senior Rabbi for some reason; the other Rabbi resigned shortly thereafter. Whatever reason the board had, I’m sure, may come out over time — at this point, it doesn’t matter. There are “town halls” today and next Sunday to discuss the situation. I’m not attending today; nor do I plan to attend next week. I wanted to explain why, and where I stand on this issue.
First and foremost, although I can speculate on a reason, at this point it is none of my concern. The Congregation elects a Board and expects that Board to work in the interest of the Congregation. The current Board has had a thankless task: there were some significant budget shortfalls going in, and a large group of members didn’t renew. It was clear that what we were doing was not attracting new members from the community. In this environment, it was time for review of the Rabbi’s performance and consideration of a new contract. The Board obviously did that, received some information, debated things vigorously, and came to the conclusion that resulted in the situation we are now in. For legal reasons — in particular, to protect the employee — they cannot disclose any more publicly. Think about it: If you were let go, would you want your employer disclosing the reasons for doing so to the world?
Any Rabbi has supporters and detractors. At the Town Hall, those who support the Rabbi will try to convince the Board to change their decision. At this point, that will not happen and should not happen. Here’s why: Even if the Board made a mistake (and I do not know whether it did or didn’t), any damage and divisiveness has been done. The split has already occurred. If the Rabbi came back, those who saw or experienced what problems occurred will now be on the short end, and that wouldn’t be good for a congregation’s future. It is an unrealistic expectation.
The followers of the Rabbi — if the Rabbi wants — may try to form a new congregation. That is their prerogative, and I wish them luck. In this era where many congregations are having trouble, it will be difficult. But this is often how new congregations form. In fact, it is how the current congregation started: one of its forerunners was a split from another congregation.
I won’t be going with them. Most of the folks who I have noted commenting in favor of the Rabbi are folks that haven’t been active on the Boards over the years. The Board members and Past Presidents have mostly been silent; presumably, they are supporting the current Board. During my stint as President of the Mens Club, I’ve gotten to know these people very well: I know they will work hard for the congregation’s survival.
I view this as an opportunity that has been given to us. The situation is what it is and not of my making; whether I agree or disagree (and I’m not saying publicly), I can only move forward. Forward means remaking the congregation into something that works, for what we have been doing is no longer working. The face of Judaism — and especially Reform Judaism — is changing. I heard somewhere that the reason our parents (and my generation) joined congregations was continuity: giving Judaism for their children.
But the youth of today aren’t looking for that. They are looking for a community that cares and listens to one another. They are looking for authenticity — real Judaism, not the cruft that has accumulated over the years. I believe they are looking for what Reform Judaism should be: understanding all of Judaism, and then picking community and individual practices that add meaning based in Jewish values. For some, that’s worship. For some, that’s study. For some, that’s social action. But it all needs to be in an accessible language and with accessible means.
The unfortunate situation of the last week provides the opportunity for our congregation to be a phoenix of myth: born out of the fire of conflict into something newer and better. We have a Board and a collection of congregants that are likely to be willing to work. Now it is time to rebuild and move forward.