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December 6, 2019 - Letter to Congregants

12/16/2019 02:10:04 PM


Letter from Temple President Scott K. Arden re: Transitions and Changes


December 6, 2019

Dear Congregant,

With the end of 2019 approaching, it’s a good time to catch you up on topics of interest.

Rabbinic Transition: The Temple Emanu-El Board of Directors voted at its October meeting to initiate a search for an interim rabbi. We formed a Rabbinic Search Committee (“RSC”) this fall. I am serving as Acting Chair, with Co-Chair Seth Ruskin. The RSC is made up of fourteen temple members representing a wide range of age groups, forming a cross-section of our diverse congregation. RSC member names will be posted on our website,

We submitted an application to search for a rabbi to the Central Conference of American Rabbis (“CCAR”). We received word that the CCAR posted our application to its website, and that we can expect to receive a first set of resumes later this month. Meanwhile, the RSC met on November 19 and 2 to begin preparing for the work ahead.

Why did the board elect to search for an interim rabbi? This was a topic of intensive debate. A key point was the need to assist the congregation with navigating through transition. This is a specialized skill of an interim rabbi. We are in discussions with Congregation Or Chadash that may lead to a merged congregation, growing the number of member units from roughly 400 to more than 700 families. Rabbis tend to gravitate toward congregations of a particular size. As I see it, Temple Emanu-El is not in a position today to offer a rabbi a multi-year contract; and a settled rabbi may not agree to join the congregation in 2020.

Congregational Survey:
More than 250 individuals responded to the invitation to take the congregational survey. 70% of survey respondents were age 60 or above. As a rough estimate, this age group makes up ≤40% of the population of individual temple members.

Key take-aways from the survey include the following. Respondents expressed a keen interest in community, spirituality, and connection with Jewish culture and traditions. They strongly affirmed the importance of education and worship. They weighed in on the types of skills valued highly in a rabbi: the ability to teach, to lead worship services, to represent Temple in the Jewish community, and to provide visionary leadership to help us to evolve and change. Top adjectives that respondents looked for in a rabbi were approachable, supportive, compassionate, warm, and knowledgeable.

While a majority of survey respondents favored a settled rabbi over an interim, in the board’s view, this is not the best choice for Temple at this time. This is especially the case in light of the potential merger with Congregation Or Chadash. Yet I see a clear message from our experienced members: turn our transitional times into longer-term stability.

Thank you to Kathleen Kennedy for making this survey possible. We will publish results on the Temple website in the near future. And the Rabbinic Search Committee is taking the results into consideration in the selection process.

Talks with Or Chadash: Much activity has taken place, given the exciting prospect to join with Congregation Or Chadash. We received and shared reports from task forces created to envision the future and to identify any risks. Topics included Governance, Finance, Facilities, and Religious School. This month, we’re adding reports from the Worship and Clergy task forces. All reports are, or will be, available on our website.
Thanks to everyone at both congregations for the time invested in this effort. Teamwork is, and will be, key; a theme of “stronger together” has emerged. My special thanks to Mona Gibson, Immediate Past President, for her tireless work in this area.
A decision on the path forward is in your hands. More information will be available as we move toward a congregational vote on this topic.
Please join us at the next Town Hall meeting on Sunday, 8, 1-2pm, to review the Worship and Clergy task-force reports, to ask questions, and to voice your thoughts about our temple’s future. And please feel free to write to me at

Kol tuv,

Scott Arden
Temple Emanu-El




Fri, January 15 2021 2 Sh'vat 5781