Rabbi Ethan Seidel, who has led Tifereth Israel Congregation in Washington since 1992, said he will step down as the full-time rabbi in 2020. The synagogue has begun to search for a new rabbi, according to Stan Dorn, president of the Conservative congregation.
Seidel announced his retirement in the synagogue’s March newsletter, saying that he came to the decision while traveling on sabbatical.
“[Tifereth Israel] now needs a leader with different strengths. A leader more comfortable and skilled with social media (as opposed to one who is constantly decrying it),” Seidel wrote, “a leader who is more adept at planning events to bring the community together … a leader who is willing to take clear political stands on the issues of the day (as opposed to one who mostly avoids politics).”
Dorn said the congregation was in the early stages of the search process. With help from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, its next step will be to identify the strengths and characteristics congregants want to see in their next rabbi. To do so, the synagogue’s board will arrange a number of focus groups and town hall-style events for its 350 member families.
Only once that’s settled will the synagogue solicit applications and determine what Seidel’s future role will be. In his letter, the rabbi said that he would be open to staying on in a part-time capacity if it made sense for him and
“[Seidel] is such an incredible, creative force. I don’t know what will happen but there’s so much love and respect that we all have with Rabbi Seidel,” Dorn said. “A lot of people were sad at [news of] his departure because he’s a much-beloved leader in the community.”
Seidel did not respond to requests for comment.