Community Update on the Rabbinic Planning Task Force
From the President, to the Members of Adas Israel 

To the Members of Adas Israel Congregation,
 
I’m writing to further update you on the work of the Rabbinic Planning Task Force and its Work Groups. As I’ve explained in my July and August updates, the group, under the leadership of past president Johanna Chanin, has worked for the past several months to ascertain, based on your feedback, the needs and goals of the congregation regarding our future rabbinic leadership. The Job Description Work Group then crafted the candidate requirements for such a position (i.e., a job description).

As you know, Rabbis Lauren Holtzblatt and Aaron Alexander have submitted a proposal for a co-Senior Rabbi partnership. In anticipation of the possibility of receiving such a proposal, the Governance Work Group of the Task Force spoke in depth with a variety of lay leaders and professionals from synagogues and other organizations employing clergy and other leaders who share the senior positions, to become familiar with the strengths and challenges inherent in this model. This group also met with our rabbis to explore in detail the depth to which they have considered and resolved potential leadership challenges, such as handling policy disagreements and establishing clear roles, responsibilities, and lines of communication.
 
On August 23rd, in a meeting lasting more than two and a half hours, the rabbis presented their proposal to the Task Force and answered questions. The proposal is comprehensive; the presentation was impressive; and the Q & A was thorough and thoughtful. The Task Force will meet this coming Monday to further review questions surrounding the proposal, as well as any other issues related to its work and next steps.
 
Special thanks to the External Communications Work Group of the Task Force for creating a summary of the work of the Task Force to date, as well as answers to some of the Frequently Asked Questions about where we are, and possible next steps. I’m pleased to share them with you below. These FAQs go into more detail regarding the summary I just provided.

As you will see, the Task Force has been extraordinarily deliberate and methodical in its work. They are a large, diverse, committed group of community members who have already devoted an enormous amount of time, energy, and thought to this critical process. By intention, this Task Force has not included any members of the Adas Israel Board of Directors (except as ex-officio), and is designed to be representative of the largest possible cross section of the community. I am deeply grateful for their work thus far, and know that some of their most impactful decisions still lie ahead. Many of you have already shared your thoughts with the Task Force, with our Board Members, or with me, and I encourage you to do so if you haven’t already.

I’m honored to extend to you the best wishes of the officers, trustees, and board members of the synagogue for a happy, healthy and fulfilling High Holy Days in a few short weeks. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Ricki Gerger, Synagogue President
 


Rabbinic Planning Task Force Frequently Asked Questions

At what stage in the process are we?
 
• The Task Force was charged with seeking new rabbinic leadership for the Congregation. As Ricki Gerger noted in her August 22nd communication to the Congregation, following the completion of a congregational survey and the creation of a formal job description, Rabbis Holtzblatt and Alexander submitted a proposal for a shared Senior Rabbi partnership.  Under this model, the two rabbis would lead the congregation together in a partnership model, and Adas Israel would have two fulltime Senior Rabbis. Under this model, a third rabbi would also be hired as an Associate Rabbi. After careful consideration, the Task Force elected to review the rabbis' proposal before moving forward with any external search. 
 
• Subsequently, Rabbis Alexander and Holtzblatt made a detailed presentation about their proposal to the Rabbinic Planning Task Force and engaged in a robust discussion with the Task Force about the model and their vision for how this partnership would work.
 
• The proposal was extremely comprehensive, and demonstrated that the Rabbis have given a great deal of thought and consideration to how this model would work at Adas Israel – from matters of Jewish ritual and halacha, to the daily running of the shul, to how they would approach decision making and differences of opinion.
 
 
So what happens next?

• The Task Force will finish discussing and exploring questions raised by the proposal, and then, will make a recommendation to the Board of Directors regarding the proposal and any next steps.


So, are we undertaking an outside search for a Senior Rabbi?
 
• At the moment, we are not engaged in an outside search for a Senior Rabbi. The Task Force is considering the proposal put forth by Rabbis Holtzblatt and Alexander and will make a recommendation to the Board regarding this proposal before it decides whether to undertake an external search.
 
• The Task Force understands that whatever the decision, a congregation of our size will ultimately require three fulltime rabbis in our clergy structure (as we’ve had in recent years), and that if a joint rabbinic leadership model were to be adopted, the Task Force would commence an external search for an Associate Rabbi reporting to the rabbinic leadership.
 

Is this process sufficiently thorough?


The 20-person Task Force, made up of committed members from a cross-section of the Congregation, and coming initially from very different approaches to what they expect from the role of Senior Rabbi, has taken seriously its deliberations and its responsibility in looking out for the best interests of the Congregation as we select our senior rabbinic leadership. The Task Force is extensively working through this process, focusing on the needs of the Congregation, the attributes we seek in our senior rabbinic leadership, and any questions that arise from various leadership models and approaches. To review what the Task Force has done so far, and what it is continuing to work on:

     (a) The Congregational Survey was sent out, analyzed and tabulated by the Survey Analysis Work Group. The nearly 400 responses illustrate a Congregation deeply invested in its future.
     (b) The Job Description Work Group used the survey to inform their work to develop a job description for the Senior Rabbi position.
     (c) The Governance Work Group spoke to a number of congregations that have experience with a shared rabbinic leadership, to help inform the creation of the job description, as well as the deliberations of the Task Force as a whole.
     (d) Rabbis Alexander and Holtzblatt submitted their proposal having reviewed the job description document, and having done their own research on shared leadership models.
     (e) The proposal the rabbis submitted specifically deals with issues that could arise under a shared leadership model, such as how portfolios would be divided, questions of dispute resolution and communication, etc.
     (f) The Task Force will finish discussing and exploring questions raised by the proposal, and then, will make a recommendation to the Board of Directors regarding the proposal and any next steps in our search process.
 
• Importantly, the committee is continuing to consider the possible benefits and challenges to the synagogue under a partnership model, as well as to anticipate any circumstances that might arise. Furthermore, the Task Force has reviewed the timetables and processes for an external search with our movement partners (ie, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly), so it is prepared for any contingency. 
 

How can you take part in this process?
 
• The views of the Congregation have always been crucial to this process. That is why we conducted the congregational survey and have used it in the deliberations of the Task Force. And perhaps even more importantly, the Congregation has been involved in this ongoing process since the beginning. For one, Rabbis Holtzblatt and Alexander have been leading the Congregation over the last few months, and we have all been witness to and participants in what they bring to our synagogue. In addition, we have continued to receive thoughtful feedback from our members regarding what they are looking for in our future senior rabbinic leadership, as well as preferences for this process.
 
• The Congregation continues to be a part of the process, and can approach any member of the Task Force to discuss their views, or email the Task Force at rabbinictaskforce@adasisrael.org.
 
 

 
The Work Groups of the Task Force:

Survey Analysis: Joyce Stern, Chair, with Rae Grad, Judd Holzman, and Ari Strauss
Job Description: April Rubin, Chair, with Cathy Gildenhorn, Julia Gordon, Al Munzer, Adam Rubinson, and Healey Sutton
Governance: Brian Schwalb, Chair, with Melanie Nussdorf and Rob Satloff
External Communications: Dennis Yedwab, Chair, with Laurie Moskowitz and Amy Schwartz
 
 
Adas Israel Congregation • www.adasisrael.org 202-362-4433
Cleveland Park Metro •  2850 Quebec Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008
 
 
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