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Rabbinic Transition


Rabbinic Transition Update - February 25, 2014

Last night at a special congregational meeting, our community took an historic step forward. Following a presentation that outlined the search process, highlighted Rabbi Zlotnick’s professional biography, and shared a few of her words that helped win over the Search Committee and the Board, the congregation voted unanimously to affirm Rabbi Ruth Zlotnick as our next senior rabbi.
(For those of you who were unable to attend, you can see the presentation here. The video of Rabbi Zlotnick is on our Facebook Page.)

While she continues to serve as senior rabbi of Temple Beth Or in Washington Township, NJ, through the end of June, Rabbi Zlotnick will also work with our staff and lay leaders on the transition. Together we will plan the calendar for the coming year. Rabbi Bogosian will pass along our minhag and share the insights gleaned from her time with us. And most importantly, Rabbi Zlotnick will begin to work with summer and fall b’nai mitzvah families so they can focus on their simchot and not worry about any last-minute surprises.

Rabbi Zlotnick’s expected start date at Temple Beth Am is August 1, so that she and her family have a little time to settle in before she hits the ground running. Throughout the fall there will be numerous opportunities to meet the rabbi, both at Temple Beth Am and at house parties and other neighborhood gatherings.

What a long way we have come in less than a year! As we turn to a new chapter in the history of Temple Beth Am, it seems appropriate to say “Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek!” – Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened!

Rabbinic Transition Update - February 13, 2014

It has been gratifying to feel the excitement in the air at Temple Beth Am since we announced Rabbi Ruth Zlotnick as our new Senior Rabbi. This summer, when she’ll start with us around August 1, will be here before we know it!

Rabbi Zlotnick will be in Seattle for a few days in early March to begin her family’s search for housing and a school for her daughter. While she is in town, she has graciously agreed to take time from her family business to spend some time with us on Sunday, March 9:

  • 12:30 - 1:30 PM: Rabbi Zlotnick will be in the Social Hall for a brief meet-and-greet, and will share a few thoughts with us.

  • 5:30 PM: Rabbi Zlotnick will also be our Special Guest at the Black & White Ball. The main point of the evening, as always, is to bring our community together, and to dine and schmooze with friends to support the good work we do at TBA, and she is eager not to distract from that objective; but she has agreed to share a few thoughts on the evening’s theme, Looking Forward and Giving Back. If you have not yet secured your ticket(s) for the Annual Gala, RSVP before we reach capacity.

Of course we will soon have many opportunities – worship, Torah study, social events and celebrations – to get to know our new Senior Rabbi. In addition to events at Temple, we will plan for neighborhood meetings starting this fall to facilitate small group connections, too.

Yascher Koach to our entire community, as we move into an exciting new chapter for our Temple.

Rabbinic Transition Update - February 7, 2014

It is my great pleasure to announce that the Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to affirm the recommendation of the Rabbinic Search Committee (RSC) that Rabbi Ruth Zlotnick be invited to serve as Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth Am. You and your family are encouraged to attend a special Congregational Meeting on Monday, February 24, at 7:00 PM to participate in the final act of Temple Beth Am's search for our next spiritual leader, marking a truly joyous milestone in our congregational history.

The Committee and the Board believe wholeheartedly that Rabbi Zlotnick is the right person to lead Temple Beth Am forward. We are proud of the intensive process that has brought us to this significant and exciting moment: members of the community, the RSC, and the Board have deliberated and acted with a level of insight, seriousness, and integrity that our congregation expects and deserves.

Rabbi Zlotnick has been Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth Or in Washington Township, New Jersey, since 2008. She had previously served as Assistant Rabbi and then Associate Rabbi and Director of Lifelong Learning at New York's prestigious Central Synagogue. Between her ordination and her first pulpit role, she had the distinction of serving as Associate Director of Programs at Synagogue 3000, a national Jewish think tank revitalizing synagogues from all streams of American Judaism. She is a graduate of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), where she was ordained in 2001 and where she also taught. She earned a Master of Hebrew Letters from HUC-JIR. In addition she a holds a Master's degree in Philosophy of Religion from Yale University and a Bachelor's degree in Religious Studies from Wesleyan University.

Last year we set out to find a Senior Rabbi who is capable of inspiring our congregation spiritually, has impeccable intellectual credentials, embraces the importance of Tikkun Olam, shows personal warmth and magnetism, connects with people, and cares for their personal needs. The Board is confident that Rabbi Zlotnick possesses these qualities and that she will continue working tirelessly towards redefining what it means to be Jewish in today's world while working with us to continue building a community in which Judaism is central to the lives of all our members.

In the many hours that the RSC and the Board spent with Rabbi Zlotnick, we were overwhelmingly impressed with her ability to bring meaning, relevance, and joy to the practice of Judaism, and to foster our continued growth as an open, engaged, and vibrant Jewish community. We were also struck by the intellectual rigor, Jewish scholarship, and insight that she spontaneously and comfortably displayed on virtually every topic discussed during her two visits at TBA.

From the outset, both the Board and the RSC have been dedicated to a comprehensive process that was thorough, as transparent as possible, and designed to select the rabbi who is the best match for us--our bashert. The candid, impassioned, and persuasive responses you provided at the congregational meetings and the online community survey helped us better understand what our congregants wanted in a new Senior Rabbi, and framed the content and helped guide the course of the search itself. The RSC spent hundreds of hours this fall evaluating more than 40 highly qualified candidates to narrow the field to a small handful who best exemplified the values and personal attributes most important to our congregation. (Many of the candidates commented that the congregational outreach we have done demonstrates the strength and vitality of our community.)

I would be remiss at this time if a special thank you were not given to the thirteen congregants who labored mightily on the Rabbinic Search Committee (Sandy Melzer, Dita Appelbaum, Michael Berman, Shelly Cohen, Garry Crane, Jessica Goldman, Katya Grigerman, Toby Harris, Lisa Levine, Bob Lipson, Marty Kaplan, Rich Shikiar, and Ken Shiovitz) and also to their families, who graciously shared them with us for the duration.

We should all take pride in the intensive process that has brought us to this significant and exciting moment. It is with feelings of excitement and great promise that we put forth the name of Rabbi Ruth Zlotnick for your approval as the next Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth Am.

Elizabeth Asher, President, on behalf of the Board
Bryan Rutberg, 1st Vice President
Sandy Melzer, 2nd Vice President
Leslie Deitz Kaplan, Treasurer
A.J. Merrick, Secretary
Ross Kling, Past President
David Appel
David Brown
Sheila Kasprzyk
Lisa Levine
Robert Lipson
Julie Mackoff
Betsy Maurer
Leslie Redd
Vivian Scheidt
Laura Stusser-McNeil
Heidi Turner
Stephen Varon
Beth Weisberg

Rabbinic Transition Update - January 30, 2014

On January 30, the following email was sent to all congregants from Board President Elizabeth Asher. We look forward to sharing more news as soon as we are able.

No one is more eager than I to introduce our congregation to our new senior rabbi. I'm writing today to assure you that our contract team is hard at work on the negotiations, and that things are going well. Despite weeks of delays caused by the winter holidays, illnesses, and other life events, we continue to make steady progress toward a final deal. In a negotiation process that can often last many months, the fact that we can say this less than six weeks after the initial offer was made is indeed a healthy sign.

As soon as an agreement is reached, we will send out another e-mail introducing you to our new rabbi and calling for a special congregational meeting to ratify our selection. In the meantime, if you haven't seen all of our prior updates about the selection process, be sure to visit our web page for all the details.

Elizabeth Asher

Rabbinic Transition Update - January 21, 2014

In our annual Torah cycle, our people are smack in the middle of Exodus: we are receiving the law and hearing about sacred covenants between the Almighty and Israel. Well, in our rabbinic search cycle we are in the midst of creating another sacred covenant – the contract between Temple Beth Am and our new senior rabbi.

After the intense activity of the search itself, this phase can seem rather anticlimactic – but the current negotiations are just as critical to our (and the rabbi’s) future as everything that went before. The Board takes seriously our fiduciary responsibility to the congregation, and we need to address some very specific issues that perhaps were not adequately covered in prior contracts. To reach an agreement that is fair to both sides and sets an appropriate baseline for the future, we recognize that the process must be both thorough and thoughtful.

Eager as we are to introduce you to our new senior rabbi, we ask your patience just a little longer while we finish "dotting i's and crossing t's." (In other words, don’t start building any golden calves!) Just as soon as negotiations are concluded, we’ll send out announcements by e-mail and postal mail to introduce the rabbi to the community and invite you to a special congregational meeting where you can learn more, ask questions, and ratify the selection of our new senior rabbi.

Rabbinic Transition Update - December 20, 2013

The past three weeks have been the most stimulating, difficult, and exciting of the entire search – the (almost) conclusion.

From a start all the way back in June, the Rabbinic Search Committee (RSC) narrowed 42 applications to 22 screening calls; then eleven Skype interviews, that led to four “first round” in-person visits; and, since our last update, two visits by our finalist candidates with their respective spouses. Last night the RSC made their strong recommendation to the Board and the Board voted unanimously to accept it.

The Board has three reflections at this moment, as we ask for your continued patience (but we hope not for very much longer):

As of this morning (Friday, December 20) we have received an enthusiastic “yes” from our choice and have already begun work on several fronts – transition plans, communication plans, contracts, and so on. We will be “ready to go” soon; meanwhile we continue to respect the rabbi’s relationship with the current congregation. A community of fellow committed Jews will soon feel the emotion we felt when Rabbis Jonathan and Beth announced their transition, so we are working with their Board president and Executive Director on the timing of announcements. We look forward to sharing all of our exciting news with you as soon as we are able.

Outstanding candidates
Our congregation is truly blessed. We had been told by the Commission on Rabbinic Placement to expect a flood of interest in our Senior Rabbi position, and did we ever get it! This reflects the great growth and depth we achieved with the Singers’ leadership, and the strong professional and lay leadership we demonstrated through the Congregational Outreach and Engagement process and the self-knowledge we showed in its findings. It validates that Temple Beth Am is a notable congregation in a thriving urban location.

The RSC spent hundreds of hours with our candidates and many more hours of reflection, research, and debate at each step to narrow our candidate pool. The committee truly felt that Temple Beth Am would have welcomed and been in good hands with any of our last several candidates, and deeply believes that the rabbi we have invited to join us is the best choice we could have made from among all.

Please join the Board in saying “Yascher Koach!” to the tireless members of the Rabbinic Search Committee. They have served our congregation on a holy task with seriousness and intent, and have led us to our bashert rabbi. We are very excited to complete the process and introduce you very soon.

Next steps
As soon as we can, we will send an email and post on the website a full bio of the new rabbi we have chosen. We will call a congregational meeting between mid-January and mid-February, at which we will ask those in attendance to ratify the Committee and Board’s selection. We will provide a full introduction of the candidate and have time for questions, and we are confident that this rabbi will impress everyone with worship and pastoral ability, scholarship, congregational vision, and leadership within the Reform movement. We will announce the date by email, on Facebook, and on the website – stay tuned!

Finally, the Board would like to thank our entire congregation for the generosity of your patience and support as we as a community work together in this effort.

Rabbinic Transition Update - November 27, 2013

The work of the Rabbinic Search Committee has been very much like the proverbial duck – gliding along up top, but madly paddling beneath the surface. We started the process by carefully reviewing dozens of resumes and spoke with the candidates via phone and Skype, which was the easy part. In November, the committee took the time to get to know a small number of candidates very, very well, through several lengthy in-person visits and scores of reference calls.

Beth Am hosted four rabbis for in-person visits, rabbis of different genders, ages, and experiences, from different places across the U.S., with different visions, different perspectives on worship, minhag, and Temple operations. All were deeply serious about making our Temple the best it can be, and wish to serve our congregation with wisdom and vision. All had reviewed the Congregational Outreach & Engagement Committee (COE) results and were very impressed with our process and self-knowledge.

The visits were scripted roughly the same, giving the candidate time to get to know us and vice-versa. Each candidate:

  • led a text study with some members of the Religious Practices Committee
  • met with Tikkun Olam Committee leadership
  • met with Rabbi Janine and Rabbi Allison to learn more about our Religious School
  • met with a small contingent of youth leaders
  • had the chance to observe some Sunday or Tuesday school activity
  • had lunch with the Temple President and 1st Vice President
  • met with our Executive Director and professional staff
  • had dinners with a variety of Search Committee members, Board members, and Past Presidents

Ultimately, majorities of the search committee felt that each rabbi who visited with us had the talent to become “our” rabbi, and that the difference would be made by degrees – what qualities and capabilities, in what measure, would best fit us today and help us grow in the future? Which rabbi had the right mix of scholarship and social action, bimah and pastoral presence, organizational and management ability, and everything else that goes into serving our community? Which rabbi would show the most potential for emotional, spiritual, and leadership growth along with us, even as he or she helped us grow in strength and numbers as a community and a congregation? We have set a high bar for consensus on the committee before making a recommendation to the Board of Trustees, and these are the questions we will be challenging ourselves to answer.

At this point the committee has spoken with several references for each candidate, and plans are being made for return visits, with spouses, for the top finalists. Spirited yet respectful debates take place among committee members, and there is meaningful discussion about the benefits and advantages of each of the candidates. The COE material continues to be a “North Star” for conversations, and the questions being planned for second visits aim to get deeper understanding of each rabbi’s vision for Beth Am based on what she or he has learned about us so far.

We have to keep in mind that the selection process is a two-way street. Some of the candidates we met with are applying to more than one synagogue. Even if a candidate is applying only to TBA, there’s always a possibility that the contract terms we can offer will not be accepted. So second visits are also a time for our Temple to “make our pitch” to the finalist candidates. Each could be our bashert rabbi and we want to be welcoming even before we know the final outcome. Neighborhoods, schools, opportunities for spouses, Pacific Northwest quirks and charm – all will be on the agenda. As we wrote in our last update, we are on schedule and the RSC expects to make its recommendation to the Board before the end of December.

Thank you for your continued interest – we hear so many questions! – and patience. Please tell your friends to check here about every three weeks for a new update, and Happy Thanksgivukkah to all!


Rabbinic Transition Update - November 7, 2013

Since our last post, the Rabbinic Search Committee (RSC) has further narrowed the field of candidates for our next senior rabbi. The decisions have been difficult, not because there are too few good candidates but because there are so many. Each brings his or her own strengths (and yes, weaknesses; rabbis are only human). We are at the point where it helps to remember the advice we have gotten from many sources, including our own temple member and URJ executive Rabbi David Fine in the August Bulletin: we’re not looking for the “best” rabbi; we’re looking for the rabbi who’s right for us at this time in our congregational life.

The Congregational Outreach & Engagement Committee (COE) results have been invaluable in reminding us that of all the things we need in our next senior rabbi, the most important is balance. The committee’s charge is to find someone with the right mix of skills – not just a scholar; not just a visionary; not just a silver-tongued sermonizer – who will also feel at home with us. Ideally we’d like to have another 18 years before we do another Senior Rabbi search, although there is no way to guarantee that will happen.

These are intangible things, so as the RSC brings in candidates to meet face to face, they have created a schedule that includes meetings with staff, Board members, past presidents, and committee chairs. By moderately expanding the group of people engaging with the candidates at this stage, we get more comprehensive feedback about how well each of them fit with us. At the same time, we still need to keep the overall number of people involved relatively small in order to ensure that we preserve confidentiality. (At this stage, there are still a very limited number of people in a candidate’s home congregation who know about the visit.)

We wish we had an opportunity to share a Shabbat with our candidates, but alas all of our visitors of course have their own congregations to serve. We have shared stories of beautiful Friday night services and Saturday B’nai Mitzvah and Minyan services with the three who have visited so far, going on about the variety of worship, our amazing music, and the importance of services celebrating our entire community as we embrace our B’nai Mitzvah celebrants and share the simcha with their family.

The one thing we do know for sure about our bashert next rabbi is that he or she will be neither Rabbi Jonathan nor Rabbi Beth. As good a match as our next rabbi will be, some things will be different – and that will be uncomfortable, maybe even hard, for some of us. The COE results indicated that we are remarkably content and happy with the way things are now at TBA, something that several candidates have noted and been impressed by. But in truth, we all know that without any change at all our community will not stay vital. Temple Beth Am today is a far cry from the Temple Beth Am of 1994; the Rabbis Singer brought their vision and talents and changed us for the better.

It is clear that big changes will not happen right away, however. Every candidate we’ve interviewed has expressed the value of spending the first several months listening to our community and learning who we are; no one is going to come in and revamp our minhag from day one. Yet there is one unavoidable culture change that is already taking place: we at Temple Beth Am have never before had to work with a solo Senior Rabbi and a junior rabbi. During this time of transition, we are indebted to Rabbi Ilene for teaching us (and Rabbi Jason) how to manage those relationships.

As of this writing, the search is on schedule. The RSC is hopeful of making a final selection and recommendation to the Board, and handing things off to the negotiating team before the end of December. Our Congregational meeting to share information about the rabbi and approve the Board’s decision would be in the first quarter of 2014.

Rabbinic Transition Update - October 24, 2013

This post is part two of last week’s update, updating our congregation on the search for our next senior rabbi. For a description of the process up to this point, see part one (below). Our next update is scheduled for the week of November 4.

In early October, the Rabbinic Search Committee (RSC) met to make some difficult decisions. Out of two dozen candidates who had been interviewed by Team Aleph and Team Bet by phone, the goal was to settle on eight to ten candidates who would have a second interview – this time via web video in a Skype call.

(According to the RSC’s internal rules, a 70 percent majority is required to advance a candidate from a phone interview to Skype, and from Skype to an in-person interview. When it comes time for the final selection of our new rabbi, the committee will settle for nothing less than complete consensus.)

The committee divided applicants into three broad groups which more or less translated to “must advance to the next step,” “interesting and we need to find out more,” and “not the right fit for Temple Beth Am.” Supporting cases were made by each team, with presenters reviewing the resumes and personal statements that had already been seen by all and embellishing the group’s perspective by reflecting on the call, online bios, writings, and videos that provided insight to the rabbi’s scholarship, pulpit and pastoral presence, tone, and style. With questions and discussion, the entire committee agreed on the list of rabbis invited to meet the whole team via Skype.

For the Skype calls, the RSC developed a core set of questions to be able to compare results across candidates, and some questions specific for each rabbi based on his or her writings, comments from the original phone calls, or some other element of their rabbinic leadership. Each call was scheduled for 50-60 minutes, with time immediately following for committee discussion. Committee members are passionate and focused on the search even in their private time – emails fly back and forth with questions, comments, observations, and newly-found online content for each rabbi. Great care is given to ensuring each member represents the entire congregation in his/her thinking, including frequent referrals back to the Congregational Outreach & Engagement report.

Between October 7 and 15, the committee conducted ten Skype interviews, and plans are taking shape now for in-person visits to Seattle for the top candidates. The agenda for these visits will be similar to the visits for the interim and assistant rabbi candidates, informed by feedback from Rabbi Ilene about best practices she has seen in her decade of interim work. The visits will include meetings with the search committee, staff, board members and past presidents, and representatives from other constituencies across TBA.

Temple Beth Am will continue to respect candidates’ confidentiality through these visits. To protect a rabbi’s relationships with his or her current congregation, candidates generally are not required to tell anyone when they submit an application for another pulpit, although CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis, the principal organization of Reform rabbis) rules do require that rabbis only search when they are contractually permitted to do so.

Once an invitation to visit is extended, the rabbi’s board president must be informed and, if applicable, their senior rabbi. Other than that, it is possible that no one at their home congregation is aware the visit is taking place. So, while it would be exciting to open the visits to more of our Temple Beth Am community, out of respect for the candidates we can have only limited attendance. This is another reason we made the search committee as diverse and representative of our community as possible, and grounded the team’s work in the COE report.

We expect to bring four candidates to Seattle for a visit and anticipate that at least one or two will be invited back for a second visit with spouse, partner, and/or family before an offer would be extended and negotiation begins. Happily, we are still on track to meet our timeline goal of selecting a final candidate and beginning our negotiations before the end of the December.

Rabbinic Transition Update - October 17, 2013

We promised an update every three weeks, and there’s been so much going on and such sensitive deadlines that we will have another post next week. Please remember to check back!

Since our Board of Trustees and Rabbinic Search Committee (RSC) posted our call for applications with the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), we have felt like the popular kid in school – lots of great people want to be associated with us! Throughout this post we’ll share with you some of the comments from applicants.

“The position at Temple Beth Am is truly a gem in the rabbinic world. It would truly be an honor to continue the process with you.”

Rabbis are drawn to our size, our “good health” as an active, engaged congregation in reasonable financial shape, the lure of the Pacific Northwest, and the steps we have taken to define ourselves through the Congregational Outreach & Engagement work.

“I greatly appreciate the link to your congregation’s survey results. It is wonderful that you value the input of members and I look forward to learning more about your hopes for the congregation as you look to the future.”

So far, more than 35 rabbis have applied, and resumes continue to trickle in. (We won’t close the job posting until we’re sure we’ve found our bashert.) The rabbis we’ve heard from have come from all over the country – and even from Canada. There’s a 30-year span between the earliest ordination date and the most recent. Some are senior rabbis now at smaller congregations; some are associates at very large synagogues. Some have known from a young age that they wanted to be a rabbi, while others have spent time in the corporate world or surfing in Australia. They are all unfailingly polite.

“You know... I realized after I hit send, that I wished you a Shabbat Shalom, but I COMPLETELY forgot Sukkot! A Hag Sameakh to all of you. May your Lulav and Etrog wave proud!”

One surprise in the applications: we received fewer resumes from women than we had expected. Rabbi Ilene and others who are familiar with searches have suggested that this is likely due to the smaller number of female rabbis who have had the appropriate length of tenure and experience in larger congregations. As rabbinic classes at Hebrew Union College have evened out across genders in recent years, we expect to see more balance in every rabbinic search going forward. The quality of the best female applicants is definitely on par with the male applicants, and a representative percentage have advanced through the evaluation process.

Following the High Holy Days, the 13-member RSC temporarily divided into two teams (Team Aleph or Team Bet) to share the task of reviewing the candidates, which allowed deeper evaluation. In addition to reviewing resumes and personal statements, committee members researched online material such as scholarly articles, recordings of services, even YouTube videos of their Temple events or divrei Torah. Base criteria were established for consideration, including size of the rabbi’s current congregation and overall length of rabbinic service. In total, about two dozen candidates were selected for the next step, a “getting to know you” call with either Team Aleph or Team Bet.

“I am writing to thank you and the other members of the selection committee for taking the time to speak with me this afternoon. I am honored to be considered for the position of senior rabbi at such an amazing congregation. I hope you are aware of the engaging community you have created - a place which any rabbi would be gleeful to call home. I suspect your fellow congregants feel the same way.”

When the calls were completed, each team developed recommendations that were shared with the whole group in an open and interactive meeting in early October, to determine which candidates would continue in the process.

Rabbinic Transition Update - September 26, 2013

This posting marks the start of a regular series of updates. Check this page every three weeks for the latest from the Board of Trustees and the Rabbinic Search Committee.

The results and analysis of the congregational survey are being used in two important ways:

  • To share a sense of Temple Beth Am with the thirty candidates who have declared interest in being our next Senior Rabbi (and we are still open to new applicants).
  • To help us talk about ourselves with ourselves – stimulating conversations among those serving on the Board of Trustees and/or the Rabbinic Search Committee (RSC), and between members of those bodies and the congregation as a whole.

One Rabbi under consideration wrote to the RSC: “The nature of the survey and the way you have presented it to the congregation reflect a thoughtful, community-focused process. You should be proud that Beth Am is going about this in the right way.”

Below is a brief summary of the analysis provided at the September 8 Congregational Forum. (Go here for full report and presentations by Congregational Outreach & Engagement (COE) and RSC.) These will be provided to all Senior Rabbi candidates.

  • We are a diverse but united congregation. The fact there were no major surprises in the survey results nor at the forums is notable. We have all heard stories of unhealthy or troubled congregations that fall into rancor during rabbinic transitions. This is not us.
  • Our community is committed to a diverse set of activities and values. Well over half the congregation said our sense of community and welcoming/inclusive environment are top values: music, worship and spirituality, learning, and Tikkun Olam also placed high.
  • Within Worship Services, Music was a practically unanimous choice as Very or Somewhat Important, followed closely by the Rabbi’s Sermon and Congregational Participation. Our membership likes our variety of worship formats , which might lead our new Senior Rabbi to think about new ways to guide us through Shabbat worship, holidays, and festivals. (Several of our candidates have musical skills, and meeting with Wendy will be part of the agenda for finalists.)
  • Our congregation is very committed to Youth programs: nearly 100% of respondents said that B’nai Mitzvah and Religious School were Very or Somewhat Important, and no element of school and youth programming fell below 80%.
  • Among the qualities desired in our new Senior Rabbi, worship leadership, connection to youth, being caring and compassionate, and joyful with a good sense of humor were frequently cited. Other items of note include respecting a range of religious beliefs, being intellectual and scholarly,and providing a vision for the congregation.
  • Over 50% of our members feel “direct one-on-one support to other members” and “Social Action” are community engagement priorities.
  • Responses to the open-ended questions include being respectful of the history of TBA, leading engaging and participatory services, working with Wendy to continue our musical traditions, developing a long-term vision for the Beth Am community, and demonstrating leadership.

All in all, we believe the survey results give a rich and meaningful view of Temple Beth Am. Our rabbinic candidates will be asked about their reflections on the results, and the RSC will be listening for the right mix of appreciating our minhag and a wise and spirited approach to bringing new practices, new leadership, and new opportunities to our flock.

Elsewhere you can find the names of Rabbinic Search Committee and Board of Trustee members, all of them would be delighted to hear your personal feedback!

On a separate note, yasher koach to Rabbi Ilene and Rabbi Jason for leading us through the gates of prayer and repentance over the High Holy Days. Creating a meaningful and spiritual experience for a congregation as large and diverse as ours is never an easy task. Now imagine preparing for it in only one month, with musicians, support staff, and volunteers you only met a month before, all while trying to find your way around a new office in a new city! Many thanks to Temple Beth Am staff and everyone who helped lead worship from the bima or assisted as a Shamus for supporting our rabbis and helping them learn our minhag in record time!

Congregational Outreach & Engagement for Rabbinic Search - September 13/16, 2013

Thank you to the 115 adults and 40 teens who participated in the Congregational Outreach & Engagement (COE) forums and the 676 congregants who filled out our online survey. Our congregant, Bonnie Berk, and her staff at Berk Consulting tell us we had a great response rate. Berk Consulting shared the survey results and its analysis at the congregational forum on September 8.

Click here for Berk Consulting's slide presentation on September 8.
Click here for Berk Consulting's full survey report.
Click here for Rabbinic Search Committee presentation on September 8.
Click here for a summary of the interactive forums held earlier this summer and the transcriptions of the responses.

Our COE effort in support of our search for a new senior rabbi is just the beginning of what we hope will become a broader and ongoing member dialog about TBA. Please email if you have comments or questions about our COE work supporting our rabbinic search.

Rabbinic Committee Update - August 15, 2013

The Committee on Congregational Outreach and Engagement (COE) has been busy analyzing your feedback from the two community forums in the spring and the congregational survey in July, and is anxiously awaiting input from the teens-only forum on August 25.

The results of the COE’s work will be unveiled at the Rabbinic Transition Forum at Temple Beth Am on Sunday, September 8 at 10:00 AM. Members of the COE will discuss the findings of this extensive research, including what we as a community want to see in our next senior rabbi, and what we feel are our greatest strengths and challenges.

Meanwhile, the rabbi search is officially on! Based on the number of inquiries the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) is already receiving about our pulpit, we were advised to post the job opening sooner rather than later. Fortunately, we are able to update the posting with more detailed information once we have the COE’s report – and we won’t start doing any interviews until the week of September 16. Members of the Rabbinic Search Committee will also be present on September 8 to explain where we are in that process and answer your questions.

We’ll be updating this as the search continues, so be sure to check back periodically.

Rabbinic Committee Update - June 14, 2013

Several days have passed and in the quiet of a workday break we reflect on what a lovely weekend of celebrations we just had. Our community pulled off such a heartfelt homage to our beloved Rabbis Singer on a very tight timeframe and a limited budget - this is something that we should be very proud of.

We put out a call to volunteers, and so many people responded "hineyni": we had bakers and planners, chairpeople and setter-uppers, program creators and tear-downers, cat-wranglers, and creative writers. We had so many motivated, creative, helpful people that the weekend events took place without a hitch.

Friday night's service was energetic, warm, spiritual, tearful, funny, touching - and VERY well attended.
Sunday's family goodbye was fun and full of ruach.
Sunday afternoon's program was musical, enlightening, lovely, heartwarming - all the right notes.
To our program chairs: Thank you for all the work you put in up front to make the weekend so wonderful:

Cecily Kaplan - Friday night service
Leah Vetter - Friday night Oneg
Gina Baden - Sunday Family event
Sheila Kasprzyk - Sunday afternoon program
To our speakers - Richard Shikiar, Alan Schulkin, Wendy Marcus, Ken Shiovitz, Ethan Patashnik, Gary Faigin, Bruce Kort, and Shoshana Stombaugh - Thank you for sharing your stories, teaching us Torah, bringing smiles to our faces and tears to our eyes.

On behalf of the members of the Transition Committee and the entire congregation, please accept our heartfelt appreciation to everyone who came together to celebrate our 18 years of growing as a community with two wonderful Rabbis Singer.

Ruth Berkman & Leslie Redd
Transition Committee Co-chairs

Rabbinic Committee Update - May 22, 2013

Congregational Forums:
Tuesday, May 28 / 6:45 - 8:15 PM
Sunday, June 2 / 10:00 AM - Noon

These two Congregational Forums (along with an online survey that will go out to every Temple Beth Am household) will provide members the opportunity to give input on what we are looking for in our next Senior Rabbi. Our goal is that, through these activities, everyone who wants to participate will have a voice in shaping the job description and search criteria for our new Senior Rabbi.

Rabbinic Search Congregational Outreach & Engagement Committee (COE)
Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Congregational Outreach & Engagement Committee (COE), and what happened to the Visioning Committee?
The job of the COE Committee is to get feedback from the congregation on what characteristics and skills we would like to see in our next Senior Rabbi, and to understand how the congregation views key opportunities and challenges, in order to provide the best picture of our community for potential candidates. ("Visioning" felt a little too broad for the task we are undertaking.)

Who is participating in the COE Committee?
The COE Committee is comprised of a leadership group (Bonnie Berk/Lead, Elizabeth Asher, Betsy Maurer, Sandy Melzer, and Robin Shapiro) and an Advisory Group with dozens of Temple Beth Am members from diverse backgrounds who will help provide strategic feedback on the content and process for the Forums and On-line Survey.

What is the role of the COE Committee?
Once we have both qualitative (from the Forums) and quantitative (Online Survey) data, we will develop a report that will help inform the Rabbinic Search Committee how they approach the application and job posting documents for our new Senior Rabbi. We are hoping to have this complete in September.

Important Dates

  • Our two Congregational Forums:
    Tuesday, May 28; and Sunday, June 2
  • June: COE Advisory Meeting to discuss Forum Outcome and On-Line Survey Questionnaire
  • July (approximately): COE On-Line Survey sent to Congregation
  • Late July (approx.): COE On-Line Survey Completed
  • August: COE Advisory Meeting to review preliminary data
  • September: findings from Forums and Survey available to entire congregation

Can I Still Get Involved?
If you are interested in participating, contact Betsy Maurer or Robin Shapiro.

Rabbinic Committee Update - May 16, 2013

The Rabbinic Search Committee has been chosen:


  • Dita Appelbaum and husband, Fred, joined Temple Beth Am in 1989, and she celebrated her Adult B’nai Mitzvah in 2005. Dita served on and chaired the Annual Fundraiser Committee for 5 years, was a member of the Board of Trustees for 9 years, and was President of the Board. She has served on the Finance Committee, Dues Committee, K’hilah Building Committee, and K’hilah Capital Campaign Committee (as well as its chair). She volunteers regularly with the Bulletin mailing and is an original member of the Knitzvah Knitters. Dita worked as an Oncology nurse for many years and currently is a Health Advocate for Allied Health Advocates. She is the mother of Jacob and David, who grew up at Beth Am, and soon will be blessed with her first grandchild.
  • Sandy Melzer and his family joined Temple Beth Am in 1995. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees and Co-Chair of our Development Committee. Sandy taught 4th grade in our Religious School for several years, served on the Search Committee for the Education Director, and is a regular Torah reader. Sandy is a Past President of the Board of Jewish Family Service. A pediatrician and hospital executive, he serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at Seattle Children's Hospital. Sandy and his wife, Ellen Evans, have two grown children, Lilah and Daniel, who both attended the Religious School.


  • Michael Berman and wife, Terri, joined Temple Beth Am in 2006, are both active Temple Beth Am volunteers, and created a chavurah for Jewish families in the Edmonds/Shoreline area. Their daughters, Alissa and Isabel, are in the Religious School. Michael is a member of the Religious School Board. He received a Master’s degree in city planning, worked as a corporate litigation attorney, and is currently a program manager for Sound Transit.
  • Garry Crane and his wife, Kay (who was the Temple Beth Am librarian for nearly a quarter century), have been Temple Beth Am Members since 1974; he served on the Temple Beth Am Board in the early 1980s. Their three sons were all raised and had Bar Mitzvahs at TBA. Garry has a BA in Economics from University of Chicago and PhD in Economics from George Washington University. He worked for Center for Naval Analyses, US Dept of Commerce, and at Weyerhaeuser as economist, housing forecaster, international economic forecast, and US Economic forecaster; since 1983 he has been in the Finance Division of Seattle City Light.
  • Shelly Cohen joined Temple Beth Am in 1995. With her partner, Julie Shapiro, she has two children, Eli and Leah. Shelly taught 9th grade in the Religious School (2006 – 2009), and has been on Religious School Board for four years. She is on TBA’s Welcoming Synagogue Task Force, is helping coordinate interfaith activities at TBA, was a member of the inaugural Temple Beth Am leadership development class in 2008, and is a regular Torah reader at TBA. She, currently a stay-at-home mom, is involved with the newly formed Jewish Coalition for Justice, was co-director of Camp Kesher (2011-12), has been on the Boards of Jewish Family Service and the Federation, and was part of the Federation’s Bashert initiative.
  • Jessica Goldman and husband Adam Shapiro joined Temple Beth Am in 1996. She has been an active member of the Reform movement since childhood; she also spent 6 months in Israel on URJ Exchange program, and was a counselor at the URJ Greene Family Camp in Texas. At TBA, she served on TBA’s Board (2006-2008), as the Temple Beth Am representative to the URJ Regional Board in 2008, and on the K’Hillah Committee (2004-2007). She was co-director of Camp Kesher (2009-2010), and has continued to serve on the committee since. She has been actively involved in Religious School since 2000. Their daughter Hannah is the board of BATY, and son Noah is preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. Jessica is an attorney with a commercial litigation practice.
  • Katya Grigerman is a sophomore at Ingraham High School, and has been a member of Temple Beth Am since she was 5 years old. She has attended Religious School since then, and is in this year’s Covenant Renewal Class. She has been on BATY Board for 2 years, this year as president. She has been a madricha since 8th grade, first working with Pre-k, and currently with the 5th grade.
  • Toby Harris has been an active member of Temple Beth Am since 1986; her three children were Bat Mitzvah at Temple Beth Am and are Religious School graduates. Toby chaired or co-chaired our Membership Committee and Library Committee, and is currently on the Religious School Board. She has been an active member of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) since 2006, chaired AJL’s Seattle conference (2008-2010), and is currently the national conference chair. She worked as a legal assistant/paralegal for 12 years, on the UW campus for 9 years, in community history for 7 years, and has worked as Temple De Hirsch Sinai librarian since 2005.
  • Lisa Levine and her family joined Temple Beth Am in 2003. Her husband just converted to Judaism; their children are madrichim in the Religious School, are active in NFTY, and go to Camp Kalsman. Lisa is active in the Religious School, has been on the Religious School Board, is currently on TBA’s Board of Trustees, and co-chaired the Black & White Ball for 4 years. She was raised in the Conservative movement in Philadelphia and attended religious school through 10th grade, then went to a Jewish day school, and was very active in USY. After over 20 years working in the film/music community, she is now in the process of getting certified and starting business as a Life Coach.
  • Bob Lipson and his wife Sharon have been members of Temple Beth Am since 1985, and consider the Temple community and the close friends they have made through it a keystone to their life in Seattle. Bob was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Tulane Law School. Most of his professional career was spent at the Washington State Attorney General's Office in Seattle, where he was a civil trial lawyer and a consumer protection specialist. Both of his children attended Religious School and celebrated B'nai Mitzvahs at TBA. Bob is currently on the Board of Trustees, having also served on the Board twice before. He was on the last rabbinic hiring committee, which resulted in the Temple hiring Rabbi Jonathan Singer in the early 1990s. He has also been on various other Temple committees over the past 28 years, including the Budget and Capital Campaign Committees.
  • Martin Kaplan and his family joined Temple Beth Am in 2006. His wife, Leslie, is on TBA’s Board and Finance Committee; their daughter Sydney became Bat Mitzvah at TBA, and has attended Religious School since 2005. Martin has served on the Temple Beth Am Building & Facilities Committee for over 5 years, on the Board of the Jewish Day School (2001-06) and their committee to find a new Head of School, on Queen Anne Community Council, and as chair of their Land Use Review and Planning Committees. He has been principal of Martin Henry Kaplan Architects AIA for 41 years, and has worked on many city-wide committees, including for South Lake Union, the Seattle Waterfront, and Mercer Street Corridor. He served as a Seattle Planning Commissioner (2004-12), as a trustee for Intiman Theatre (1990-2000), and the Pike Place Market Historical Commission (1998-2004), as chair for the last 2 years.
  • Rich Shikiar and his wife, Barbara, joined Temple Beth Am in 1979. He was President of Temple Beth Am in 1992-1994, during which time he emphasized the importance of youth activities. He also chaired the Rabbinic Search Committee that hired Rabbi Jonathan Singer, and the committee that hired Wendy Marcus as our Musical Director. He co-chaired TBA’s “Project Machar” in 1990, which helped define our congregational aspirations, and was on the Board of the Federation for many years, where he co-chaired the Community Demographic Study in 2000, which helped to cement the North End as a center of Seattle Jewish life. He has had a number of executive positions, and recruited more than 100 professionals at the PhD, M.S., or M.D. level.
  • Ken Shiovitz and wife, Cathy, have been members since 1985. As a member of the Religious Practices Committee for over 20 years and serves as High Holiday Role Coordinator, Ken has also led Minyan and Shiva Minyan services for over 15 years. Ken is managing broker at Windermere Real Estate, and has a PhD in Animal Biology. Their two children, Dan & Stacey, both attended Temple Beth Am Religious School.


Interim and Assistant Rabbi Update - May 14 and May 20, 2013

The Board of Trustees and Rabbinic Transition Committee are delighted to announce that our searches have resulted in bringing two very inspiring rabbis who we believe are an excellent fit for our minhag to Temple Beth Am.

At our Annual Meeting on Sunday, May 19, the congregation ratified the selection of Rabbi Ilene Bogosian as Senior Interim Rabbi (to serve August 2013 - June 30, 2014) and Jason Levine as Assistant Rabbi (to serve beginning in August 2013 and continuing at least through July 2015, the first year of the long-term Senior Rabbi).

Interim Rabbi - Rabbi Ilene Bogosian


Rabbi Ilene Bogosian is an experienced Interim Rabbi, one of the Union for Reform Judaism’s first Interim Rabbis when the program was established in the early 2000s. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Hebrew College (Brookline, MA) in 1988, and received ordination from Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati, OH) in 1992. Since then, she has not only served as Interim Rabbi for nine congregations throughout the country, but also as Jewish Chaplain in several locations and a 10-year stint as Hillel Director at Wellesley College, MA. According to Rabbi Bogosian’s personal statement, from her application to serve as our Interim Rabbi:

“...Jewish community is never more important than in moments of stress or transition, the in-between times in our own lives and in the life of our communities. ...I have led and accompanied individuals, families and communities through the sometimes daunting chaos of the time in between - the interim time - when they can’t return to the past but have not yet been able to dream the shape of the future. I believe that the rabbi who accompanies a congregation in transition can best serve the needs of the community by maintaining continuity of routine, worship and ritual, by caring for the needs of groups and individuals as they grapple with feelings of loss and confusion that may arise during a time of transition and finally, by offering resources to support congregants as they shape the new vision that will form the foundation of their relationship with their new rabbi.”

Assistant Rabbi - Jason Levine


Jason Levine has completed his rabbinic studies at Hebrew Union College and will be ordained in June. Over the past several years, Jason has led Shabbat and holiday services at several congregations, taught both formal and informal courses, acted as Youth Director, and organized Jewish community building with Hillel programs. The following excerpts are from the personal statement on his application for the Assistant Rabbi position and give a sense of his practical approach to the rabbinate that the Transition committee feels will suit us well at Temple Beth Am:

“A Jewish community does not grow without roots in the ground and vision in the air. A popular phrase heard in the Hillel world is ‘meet them where they are at,’ and this could certainly be a useful concept throughout the Jewish world. There is little sense in sitting behind a desk offering creative programs and waiting for people to walk in. It is necessary to go out into the community, into the living rooms, boardrooms, and Little League fields. I have gained the willingness and initiative to embrace new approaches and the desire to be strategic and creative in community organizing, service learning, interfaith outreach, and the next great idea.”

Transition Committee Update - April 24, 2013

The Transition Committee has been very busy reviewing candidates for both the Interim Rabbi and Assistant/Associate positions.

  • The committee spent a lot of time learning the difference between a regular Rabbi and an Interim Rabbi, and the specialized skill sets that an Interim Rabbi brings to a congregation in transition.
  • We have invited two Senior Interim Rabbi Candidates to come to Temple Beth Am during the week of April 28. We are very excited by both candidates!
  • Candidates will be meeting with a representative cross-section of the community.
  • We continue to move down the path on the Assistant/Associate Rabbi process. Here too, we have wonderful candidates and are ready to invite some to visit us very soon. Our candidates have a wide range of experience and skills.

We will also not only keep the congregation updated through our website, but you can contact us at any time at either Search@templebetham.org or 206-525-0915 x250.

Transition Committee Update - April 17, 2013

The Transition Planning Committee has been chosen:


  • Ruth Berkman joined Temple Beth Am in 1993 after moving to Seattle from New York. Ruth has volunteered on projects, committees and boards at Temple since those very first years, including: member/Chair of Chavurah Committee, member of Annual Fundraiser Committee, member of the committee that launched the Religious School Board, member/Chair of Religious School Board, teacher in the Religious School, member/President of the Board of Trustees, participant in several search committees for Educator and Executive Director, member Finance Committee, member/Chair of K’hilah Capital Campaign Committee, and member of Development Committee. Ruth was very lucky to stand under the chuppah at Temple Beth Am in 2009 with her husband, Greg Berkman. She is the proud mama of Emma and Ben Kahle, and the lucky stepmom of Maddy and Charlotte Berkman.
  • Leslie Redd and her husband Tom joined Temple Beth Am in 2001. Their sons James and Andrew became B’nai Mitzvah at TBA, and they all volunteered at Teen Feed. Leslie co-chaired the Black & White Ball fundraiser for three years, was elected to the Board and became the co-chair of the Development Committee, and is currently serving her second term. Leslie was an active volunteer and board member at Stroum Jewish Community Center. Professionally, Leslie spent seven years as a senior administrator at The Evergreen School, followed by two years in the entertainment technology sector, where she concentrated on digital learning. She now acts as an independent consultant conceptualizing strategy and tactics in educational technology, and volunteers for her sons’ schools.


  • Gail Broder joined Temple Beth Am in 2003. Her involvement has included singing in the choir, serving on the Welcoming Synagogues Project, helping launch Sisters of Beth Am, being involved with the Social Action Committee, speaking at services, and teaching in the Religious School and several Sunday Morning Forums. Gail has been involved in the search for an assistant/associate rabbi before, including hiring Rabbi Janine Schloss (at another synagogue) fresh out of rabbinical school. Professionally, Gail is a Project Manager for the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, and responsible for oversight of the Community Engagement Programs.
  • Linda Freyd grew up at TBA: she attended the Religious School and High School of Jewish Studies, went through Covenant Renewal, was involved in both Junior/Senior youth groups as President, and assisted her mother (President of Temple Beth Am and founding member of Sisterhood). Linda and her husband Alan have two teenage children, Jacob and Sarah, who are involved in BATY/NFTY. Linda has volunteered in many capacities at TBA, including many Religious School committees, and continues to be a member of KlezKids. Linda is also involved with Camp Kesher and is past Chair of their Food Committee, and is a Life Member of both Brandeis National Women’s Committee and of Hadassah. Linda continues to play in many community-based symphonic bands, and volunteers in her kids’ school. Linda has a nursing background but is not currently practicing.
  • Ben Glatstein and his wife, Theresa, joined Temple Beth Am in 2009. They were founding members of Young Adults of Beth Am (YABA), are currently active members of Young Families of Beth Am, and are expecting their second child in June. Ben is an attorney with Microsoft (specializing in IP law) and a sometimes-adjunct professor at Seattle University Law School.
  • AJ Merrick retired from the US Army in 1993, having specialized in operations and security, and is currently employed as a Senior Veterans Service Representative at the Veterans Administration. AJ converted in 1996, and began his volunteer work for TBA’s Religious Practices Committee; over the past 15 years has been Shamus Ha’Gadol for the High Holy Days. He has been Temple Beth Am Chair of Safety and Security for twelve years, has served for four years on the Board (currently serving as Secretary), and is member of the Rabbinical Negotiations, Interim, and Associate Rabbi Search Committees. AJ and his wife Jo have volunteered to feed the homeless for the past seven years.
  • Bryan Rutberg has been an active member of Temple Beth Am since moving to Seattle in 2004. He served on the Temple Beth Am Board in the mid-2000s, for the last five years has been a popular 3rd Grade teacher in our Religious School, and rejoins the Board this May. His wife Sharon and children, Jamie and Teddy, have all become B’nai Mitzvah at TBA, and all have been involved in TBA’s Tikkun Olam efforts. Bryan has also become a regular Shabbat Torah reader. In his professional life, Bryan helps executives and organizations connect with their most important audiences, working with them to craft key messages, develop communications plans, and coaching to help deliver presentations with impact.

Interim Rabbi Update
The Transition Committee has conducted eleven phone screen interviews in the last two weeks, and have selected their top five candidates for in-depth Skype interviews within the next two weeks. After that is complete, the week of April 28, they will bring their top two to three candidates out to Seattle for a final interview. The goal of the committee is to hire an Interim Rabbi by May 1, with a planned start date of August 1. A similar process for an interim Assistant/Associate Rabbi will go into effect once the Interim Rabbi offer is made.

Rabbis Singer Celebrations
There will be a two-part celebration in honor of Rabbi Beth and Rabbi Jonathan: the first on Friday, June 7, with a special oneg after services that evening; the second on Sunday, June 9, as a post-Religious School event.

Call for Committee Applications - April 3, 2013

Hiring a rabbi is one of the most important steps a synagogue community takes, and prior to welcoming a new rabbinic leader we have many challenges and opportunities to address.

The Transition Planning Committee, which has already been formed, will handle the most immediate challenge of arranging for coverage during the interim between the Rabbis Singer's departure and our new Senior Rabbi(s) arrival (planned for August 2014). Given the fast timeline required to bring interim rabbis on board, we had to start this committee almost as soon as the transition began. This committee is analyzing the current rabbinic needs and gaps, identifying solutions, coordinating the honoring of Rabbi Jonathan and Rabbi Beth, and recruiting interim Rabbi(s).

The Community Outreach and Engagement Committee will provide framework, opportunity, and analysis of our community self-reflection on who we are and what we seek in terms of spiritual leadership. The committee will also facilitate community-wide forums and discussions in a variety of venues in order to clearly articulate priorities, re-affirm values, and direct our collective vision.

Finally, the Rabbinic Search Committee will be responsible for preparing the application to fill the position to Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), interviewing candidates, and recommending a final candidate to the Board of Trustees.

The work and outcomes from the Transition and Community Outreach and Engagement Committees will serve to inform the deliberations of the Rabbinic Search Committee.

Rabbinic Transition Update - April 2, 2013

The first Congregational Forums to discuss our Rabbinic Transition were held March 24 and April 2. Thank you to everyone who attended these discussions. After introductory remarks by Temple Beth Am President Elizabeth Asher, and heart-felt reflections by Rabbi Jonathan and Rabbi Beth, Temple Beth Am Vice President Sandy Melzer spoke about the Board of Trustee’s plan for the Rabbinic Transition.

Transition Principles

  • Be led and staffed together by the Board and congregation
  • Be transparent and easy to navigate and understand
  • Ensure continuity in our religious and community practices
  • Meet the religious and life cycle needs of the congregation
  • Be highly inclusive and reflect the wide diversity of our congregants
  • Include regular communication in print, on-line, and in person
  • Allow opportunity to reflect as a community on our future
  • Be driven by our vision and values as a community

Transition Plan will be managed by the Executive Committee, which will handle initial communications with congregation and determine end date for Rabbis. The Board of Trustees will implement the following Transition Structure.

Transition Structure

Transition Structure

As shown above, a Transition Subcommittee of the Board will coordinate three committees, which will include members of the Board and Temple Beth Am congregants.

  • The responsibilities of the Transition Planning Committee will include analysis of current rabbinic needs and gaps, identification of internal and external solution options, honoring Rabbi Jonathan and Rabbi Beth, and recruiting of interim Rabbi(s).
  • The responsibilities of the Community Outreach and Engagement Committee will include vision setting for the congregation.
  • The responsibilities of the Rabbi Search Committee will include application of position to Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), active candidate recruitment and identification, screening and interviews of candidate screening, and recommendation of final candidate to the Board of Trustees.

Transition Timeline

  • April 2013: Convene Committees
  • May 2013 - September 2013: Visioning process
  • August 2013: Interim Rabbi(s) begins
  • October 2013: Search Process begins
  • August 2014: New Senior Rabbi begins

We will also not only keep the congregation updated through our website and regular meetings, but you can contact us at any time at either Search@templebetham.org or 206-525-0915 x250.

During their time at Temple Beth Am, the Singers helped our synagogue community grow into a vital, progressive, warm, and welcoming Jewish congregation. While we will miss their energetic, spiritually engaging rabbinic leadership, we are pleased that they are fulfilling a long felt desire to be with their families in California. (See below for the Rabbis’ letter to the congregation.)

As we prepare for this change in our rabbinic leadership, we can celebrate the fact that our vibrant and active congregation is so highly regarded. We are confident that our engaged membership and innovative programming will capture the attention of many excellent rabbinic candidates.

We are working on a transition plan and will bring together a diverse group of members to serve as a transition committee. Our goal is to keep you informed. We will respond quickly to questions and concerns. We will make sure that we maintain rabbinic coverage during this time for all scheduled life cycle events, especially b’nai mitzvah. As we go forward, the details will be communicated via this website, email, and congregational forums. Your ideas and expectations as a congregation will be the cornerstone of this effort.

With the help of the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, we will engage an Interim Rabbi, who will fill the rabbinic role during the search process to hire new rabbinic leadership.

In addition to the transition team we will convene a committee to lead our search for new rabbinic leadership. This group comprised of board members and congregants will take time to listen to our congregation and develop a vision of what rabbinic leadership at Temple Beth Am should look like.

We welcome you to attend one of our Congregational Forums to discuss our transition, on either Sunday March 24 at 11:00 AM, or Tuesday April 2 at 6:45 PM. You can also direct questions to search@templebetham.org or to our hotline at 206-525-0915 x250.

We thank you for your ongoing support of Temple Beth Am. We know that you join us in expressing our gratitude for all that the Rabbis Singer have done for us. Let us stand together as the members of Temple Beth Am—a true house of the people—and continue to build a future of blessing.

Elizabeth Asher, President David Appel Leslie Redd
Sandy Melzer, 1st Vice President Marc Jacobson Vivian Scheidt
Julie Mackoff, 2nd Vice President Sheila Kasprzyk Laura Stusser-McNeil
Leslie Deitz Kaplan, Treasurer Whitney Leibow Heidi Turner
A.J. Merrick, Secretary Lisa Levine Stephen Varon
Ross Kling, Past President Robert Lipson Beth Weisberg
Betsy Maurer


Letter from Rabbi Jonathan and Rabbi Beth Singer - March 19, 2013

Dear Beloved Members of Beth Am,

The number “18” in the Hebrew practice of gematria is equivalent to chai–meaning “a life.” It has been an amazing part of our lives to be a part of your life for the past 18 years. We consider ourselves so lucky to have been able to serve Temple Beth Am, building on the foundation of our predecessors, upholding the vision of the founders, and helping to create with you a true dynamic center of Jewish civilization.

We feel that all these years you have welcomed us as family and have seen our family grow as we have grown as rabbis. It has been a joy to be a part of your family, to celebrate with you under the huppah, or while standing on the bimah, and so meaningful to support you in times of struggle and need.

We want you to know that we were not seeking another job as it was our assumption that we would remain at Beth Am for the duration of our active rabbinic careers. Only after multiple invitations to be considered as the rabbis at Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco, did we agree to interview there. Our primary motivation in doing so was the lure of being next to our family after so many years. As many of you know, my (Rabbi Beth’s) parents are no longer living and my sister, Amy, is my closest kin. We have always dreamed of raising our families together, and although our kids have mostly emptied our nest, this provides an opportunity for us to be in each others’ lives. I have long worried about which one of us will take responsibility for my disabled sister, Lori, as she ages and this opens a way for us to jointly share that family duty. My (Rabbi Jonathan’s) mother is 91 and this brings me closer to her, for the time she has left. This also enables me to be there for my sister, Marilyn, in years to come, who has taken care of our mom all these years. Family is what pulls us away from the family we love at Beth Am.

As you can probably imagine, this has been for us a very difficult decision – probably the most difficult of our lives -- because we truly do love our community and each of you and will miss all of you. It has been a holy endeavor for us to join with you in the task of creating such a welcoming, engaging place for Jews and those who love us to hold up Torah and discover new ways to make its teachings apply to our lives.

That said, we wouldn’t have even considered this move without our firm belief that this can be a good and growing opportunity for Beth Am as well as it will give an opportunity for a fresh and new rabbinic presence to build further on what we have created together.

We have the utmost confidence in our temple leadership to help guide this community that we so love forward into its next stage of growth and development. They will help make sure that your needs are met and we ask you to support them, and continue to hold up and embrace Temple Beth Am as an essential part of your life. We pledge to you also to be available to your new rabbi and to do everything within our power to make this transition as smooth as possible.

We will always feel a part of the Beth Am family and be grateful that such a significant part our lives was spent with you partnering with God’s presence in this great, beautiful Jewish adventure that began so long ago.

Rabbis Jonathan & Beth Singer,
Rena, Jenny, and Robert