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The Rabbi's Corner

About two years ago, and then again about a year ago, I had roughly the same conversation with two different people in our congregation. On these two separate occasions, these two different people said the same thing to me, one by the way was Ron Zaguli, and I apologize, I cannot quite remember who the first one was, I think it was Isaac Rosen. They said to me, ‘you know, Stuart, about two years before you retire, we are going to have to get a search committee to look for your replacement, to find the next rabbi of Shaar Hashalom.’

My answer to them, was, ‘No, it is not two years before I retire, it is three years before I retire, because in that third year, the committee will be carrying on the active search, and interviewing the prospective candidates. Therefore before that last year, the congregation will need two years to prepare and study all the issues.’

The same answer I gave to each of them, is what I must speak to you about this morning.

My friends, I became your rabbi, as you well know, 25 years ago, and I love each and every one of you.

The glow of that celebration of those 25 years, now more than a month ago, still warms my heart, and pushes me even more to do all I can for the betterment of this congregation and its members. And therefore my remarks this morning.

That three years before I retire begins in less about 5 months from now, and that means that now, you must begin the process to form the larger committee to analyze this congregation, poll its members, interview the members, take surveys, study the demographics, figure out what you need, figure out what you want, not as individuals what each of you wants, but what is in the best interests of the entire congregation as a whole, so that by the time that third year arrives, in just and only two short years, you can intelligently search for my replacement.

Although of course, I am irreplace-able.

I am being Funny, I am all too well aware, that I am very replace-able!

In the past five years, with surgeries and, as Marcy tells me, my memory has gotten worse after each anesthesia, so with my health and my memory, I am sure I have disappointed some of you. Remember what I have said, repeatedly, over the years.

Do not attribute to Maliciousness, what can be better and more accurately attributed to stupidity, or absent-mindedness, or just a bad memory, or my own bad health! I do not think I am ever intentionally hurtful, I don't think I am that kind of person, and if I do something that is wrong or hurtful, or if I don’t do something that I should have done, it is not, believe, me, intentional, and I am sorry!

But regardless, the time is now to create the initial committee so that you can start planning, and studying the issues, and asking the right questions, so that you can come up with the right answers, and know what is best for Congregation Shaar Hashalom over the next 25 years, and then begin the real search for a rabbi in my last year at Shaar Hashalom.

I retire in three years and about five months, my last night will be a Friday night, the 30th of June, 2023, according to my contract.

I have not gotten approval for what I am saying and going to say. My concepts are my own, and they remain only suggestions. Nor have I gotten permission to say some things now and name people, but they, too, are only my ideas, and you certainly will choose to do it your way with your own choice of people. Which is as it should be, and needs to be, but what I am saying should be really good food for thought. Remember these thoughts and ideas are my own. Feel free to ignore them.

But here is my vision for what must happen over the next two and half years, give or take, so that you will be ready in the third year to start the process with the smaller Rabbinic Search Committee.

First, I think you should begin with a rather large committee to investigate the needs and the directions and the concerns and the issues facing Shaar Hashalom.

I believe that everyone who has ever been president of Shaar Hashalom should be on that committee. The presidents of a congregation are privy to so much more information and dynamics and personalities of a synagogue than everyone else. They have a wider view of all the issues. I think this large committee should also include those who have ever been the VP Financial, the Financial Secretary, and the treasurer of Shaar Hashalom, they are deeply aware of the financial aspects of our congregation and have seen it rise and fall over the years. I think every committee on the board must be represented on this larger committee. If you think this would be too big a committee, fine, then maybe only those who have served in these capacities over the last ten or maybe five years. But this large committee and the smaller one that comes out of it to actually be the rabbinic search committee in the third year, two years from now, must start its preparations now.

The following is obvious, but that makes the following the hardest part:: This initial and larger committee must have members on it from all aspects of the synagogue membership. Young and old and in between. It needs to be a mix from all aspects of our congregation, from those who have served as chair of each committee. Any way you classify it, classify the membership, people on this large committee should come from all sides, and all aspects and all committees. So, if this is too big, figure out a way to get their representation, but with less numbers.

The truth, unfortunately, is that the true future of Shaar Hashalom rests in the hands of those whose are under-represented here this morning. But I think that if some of them were asked to serve on this vital large committee, they would, because they recognize its importance to them and to us.

Let me tell you something else, again this is my opinion, do what you wish. I think there is one person who should be the Chair of this larger committee. He will shoot me for saying this, but he ran a large committee like this, about 15 years ago, and came up with a magnificent report analyzing this synagogue, with conclusions. But times have changed, enormously.

Shaar Hashalom needs the same sort of study, and I am speaking of Isaac Rosen. (Ellen don’t kill me!) But, like everything else I am saying this morning, this is my opinion, he may disagree, he, too has other things pressing for his time and may simply not be able to Chair this committee, and this is all up to all of you and him, not me, anyway. But I do believe Isaac would be the right choice to Chair this committee!

Before I finish, I do have some caveats. No, they aren’t caveats. That’s too grandiose, these are just plain and simply Warnings.

When I began today, I said, ‘This congregation must figure out what you want, not as individuals what each of you wants, but what then is in the best interests of the entire congregation as a whole.’

You see, surveys in and of themselves can cause problems, and create divisions. People answer a survey, give their suggestions, tell what their concerns are, and then they expect that THEIR problems and issues regarding the congregation will be solved and solved immediately, since theirs are obviously more important issues than anyone else’s. But, since that is not the way of the world, they get mad, feel they were ignored, when they were not ignored, and feel hurt. Surveys are not always a good thing. It can make people who are usually positive and upbeat, and turn them into being negative and cynical and critical of everything.

My point is that EVERYONE must realize that this large committee, and the smaller committee that comes out of it to actually do the interviewing in just roughly two short years from now, will do their best, but not every problem or concern HAS a solution, or can be dealt with instantaneously. Each of you has to understand that the good and welfare of this congregation, its future and not just your individual wishes and concerns, are what counts.

Another warning: Before I came, this congregation was divided and there were factions, and usually over the rabbis. You can’t let that happen again! There is a reason for the sayings, ‘Together we stand, divided we fall,’ or ‘A house divided among itself cannot stand.’ Don’t let it happen again! Realize now that no rabbi is perfect, every rabbi will have positives and negatives and if the rabbi has more of the positive than the negative, feel lucky!

There are questions that must be asked, whose answers will shape this congregation in the decades to come. Questions and more questions. And I will speak to the larger committee regarding those questions as it gets formed, and soon I hope.

I have just three years and five months, roughly, left. Pardon my saying so, but where in the HECK did the time go?

In the coming short three plus years, I will continue to do my best, to be the best rabbi I can be, and continue to try to earn the love and respect and friendship demonstrated a little over a month ago.

But the time to start planning for AFTER my retirement has already begun! To make sure that all Our work, my work And yours over these last 25 years does not get thrown out, I need you, Shaar Hashalom needs you, to do YOUR best to continue to be the best congregant you can be, and pitch in as you all have done up until now as well!

Submitted with more love and gratitude than you can possibly imagine,

Rabbi Stuart Federow
rabbi@shaarhashalom.org
February 2020

Mon, April 6 2020 12 Nisan 5780