Congregation Adat Reyim in Springfield is looking for a few characteristics in the rabbi it wants to hire before next summer. He or she must be “available, compassionate, approachable, open-minded, and have an appropriate sense of humor.”
And those are just a few of the traits the independent congregation decided it will look for in candidates to succeed Rabbi Bruce Aft, who retires in June after 29 years.
To find the next rabbi, Adat Reyim’s search committee polled congregants through surveys and focus groups. The committee also contacted other synagogues to learn about their rabbi searches.
In the process, the congregation learned more about itself. Congregants want Adat Reyim to be even more welcoming and inclusive, especially when it comes to LGBTQ rights, the socioeconomic differences between members, and their individual Jewish journeys and identities, said Eileen Kugler, a former president who co-chairs the outreach and recruitment subcommittee.
“People want to be increasingly welcome to everyone who wants to be part of our synagogue community,” Kugler said.
Developing the job description for their future rabbi (“Engaging spiritual leader who makes Judaism relevant to congregants of every life stage, background, or Jewish journey”) and analyzing the data was “very intensive,” Kugler said.
“It’s been very thoughtful, and because we wanted this to be unique and we wanted it to be meaningful, and just not go through the motions, it’s been hard.”
Kugler said the synagogue hopes to find a rabbi who shares the congregation’s passions — this is an important criterion, she learned, from talking to other synagogues and rabbinical seminaries about their hiring processes.
The new rabbi should be a good communicator, an educator and a strong leader and supporter of the community, congregants said.
The synagogue began accepting applications in August.
Aft announced his retirement in July 2018. Even then it was no surprise. In 2005, Aft told the board of directors he would step down in 2020. He will hold the title rabbi emeritus.