In June of 2022, we announced the WJC Settled Rabbi Search Committee (SRSC). Chaired by Ellie Kramer and joined by a diverse representation of our community: Elizabeth Appel, Ed Baum, Glen Berger, Nathan Brenowitz, Allison Gould, Karen Levine, Desirée O’Clair, Leah Rosen, Laurie Schwartz, Rabbi Ellen Triebwasser, and Rahel Gruenberg (Staff Liaison). The committee’s work began by discussing timelines and protocols and sharing hopes and concerns for this process. Over the summer the committee continued their work by structuring the interview process and researching the different rabbinical schools. A major question of discussion was “How do we best evaluate the candidates for the position?” The decision was made that the community would need to assess what is important to us and how that candidate would match our needs to be the best fit. The tool that we utilized for deciding what was important to us were the House Meetings that all members were invited to attend throughout the summer and early fall. The community articulated that the highest priorities of the WJC rabbi are connected to prayer, music, and learning.
As summer turned to fall the SRSC shared with the community information about the major rabbinical schools and the data from the house meetings was analyzed. By October 19th the position was posted and we began receiving applications. Throughout the fall the committee continued to facilitate first-round interviews and plan for our in-person interviews.
Beginning of January
The SRSC provided opportunities for the community to weigh in on the process by sending in questions to ask candidates over the course of the interview weekends. Additionally, Rabbi Noyo led a havdalah ritual to mark the next stage of our transition year, with a framework for letting go, opening, and receiving.
End of January – End of February
We welcomed three candidates, all very talented and qualified, each of whom led services, taught an adult learning session, shared oneg, kiddush, and meals with us, and shared their hearts, souls, and vision for how they might lead the WJC into our next chapter. Followed by asking the membership to reflect on all three candidates individually and comparatively.
Beginning of March
After a thorough and thoughtful seven-month process, the Settled Rabbi Search Committee made a unanimous recommendation to the WJC Board. The search committee met with the board to present their recommendation and the board unanimously approved the committee’s recommendation to hire Rabbi Jessica Kate Meyer to be the WJC’s new settled rabbi. This recommendation was based on the detailed interviews, resume review, successful synagogue weekend, AND most importantly the overwhelming feedback from the member survey in support of Rabbi Jessica.
End of March
After a few weeks of contract negotiating Rabbi Jessica decided not to take the full-time position. She called our community “rare and remarkable,” and wrote that she “fell in love with the WJC, and envisioned serving this congregation with dedication.” Though “grieving her decision,” after additional soul-searching, Rabbi Jessica came to the conclusion that she will not be taking a pulpit rabbi role and has instead taken a unique position at her alma mata that was created specifically for her teaching rabbis and cantors how to lead services.
Upon receiving this information, the SRSC immediately met to make a new recommendation to the BOD. The SRSC reviewed all the materials connected to the two other candidates who visited the WJC, and also looked back at candidates who were interviewed by the committee but were not invited for in-person interviews. After weighing the feedback from the congregation regarding the two candidates who visited, the SRSC decided, with the support of the BOD, not to recommend a contract to either of the other finalist candidates. The committee also decided not to reconsider previous applicants. This recommendation was also approved by the board enthusiastically based significantly on the membership surveys. The SRSC and Board decided to reopen our settled rabbi search.
As of May 1, 2023, our search for a settled rabbi has been paused, until after the 2023 High Holy Day Season, and the board has enthusiastically approved the hiring of a Clergy Team. Focusing on prayer, music, learning, and pastoral care, this team of leaders will serve the WJC for the year July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2024. This innovative model with tap into the talents of a team of clergy and community members to share responsibility for our many rabbinic needs. The WJC community has a wealth of resources and we are excited by the opportunity to utilize these in new and interesting ways.