Recruiting a new rabbi

December 14, 2009

Our shul is struggling hopelessly through one of the most traumatic periods in its history. We have been trying to replace our dear rabbi who passed on to a better place four years ago after illness had kept him from the pulpit for the three previous ones.  A decisive group we are not.

The composition of the recruitment panel posed our first problem. Never before have we had so many members suddenly finding time to give to the shul.   Once our 27person panel was decided upon we had to come up with a job description.  The arguments over this led to several resignations before it was finally agreed and the following was published:

Duties:  Spiritual leader, teacher, moral authority, scapegoat.

Hours:  All day, every day.

Holidays:  Yes, but not the Jewish ones.

Salary:  Before we discuss that, let me tell you about how wonderful and caring our community is and how much our last rabbi loved it here before his debilitating stress related illnesses took hold.

Our next task was to decide on a selection process.   The first stage was to invite each applicant to lead a service.  Four members sat directly in front of the bimah and at the end of each performance they took it in turns to give their verdict.  The one sat on the far right of the four was really rather brutal in his assessments and dismissed one candidate saying he had a terrible voice and had made a very bad choice of nusach. Another panellist who, it appeared, had been coaching the candidate during the preceding week then defended this same candidate vigorously.

Asking them to deliver a sermon tested the candidates’ oratory skills.  Each spoke on the topic of the week’s sedra for one minute without repetition, deviation or hesitation.  They all failed on repetition when it was revealed that it was the same sermon they gave every week: Go to shul more often; stop eating shellfish in restaurants.

Finally, we wanted to be sure that the candidates were halachically Jewish because while they were all descended from great rabbis of the 18th and 19th centuries, they were also all born in outside of the UK.  To be safe, we decided it would be best to insist that they undertake a conversion process.

It was at this point that all the candidates mysteriously decided to withdraw from the process.  We therefore plan to restart the search just as soon as we can persuade one or two people to form another recruitment panel.

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