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President’s Message

March 12, 2013 | General News

Dear Fellow Congregants,

As you know by now, Rabbi Peter Rubinstein has decided to step aside as the Senior Rabbi of Central Synagogue effective June 30, 2014.

When Rabbi Rubinstein arrived at Central in July 1991, we had no idea how big an impact one man could have on our community. We have been blessed beyond imagination. Our goal is to ensure that Rabbi Rubinstein’s legacy of innovation and excellence continues under new leadership.

Despite the sense of sadness that many of you may feel, this is not a dark day for Central. Instead, this is a time to reflect on our good fortune for having been led by such an amazing person and rabbi since July 1991. It is a time to appreciate how strong and vibrant Central is today, largely thanks to Rabbi Rubinstein’s vision and leadership. And it is a time to focus on the possibilities ahead for Central, building on the astounding foundation created by our beloved Senior Rabbi.

Rabbi Rubinstein will be our Senior Rabbi for another 15-plus months, during which time there will be many opportunities to express our thanks and affection. Until his retirement, Rabbi Rubinstein will remain fully engaged, continuing to drive Central forward and ensure that we are never satisfied with the status quo. Beginning in July 2014, Rabbi Rubinstein will become Senior Rabbi Emeritus, remaining a part of our community but stepping off of the bimah and out of day-to-day involvement.

Over the coming months, we will undertake a Board-driven strategic assessment process to explore where Central is today and reaffirm our vision of our future. We promise that all members of the Central community will have the opportunity to express their views about Central during the strategic assessment. This stage of the process will guide our search by helping us frame more clearly what we are looking for in our next Senior Rabbi.

We expect to conclude the strategic assessment phase during the summer and move into search mode in September. Our goal is to name a new Senior Rabbi by early 2014.

Our wonderful Senior Cantor, Angela Buchdahl, has informed us that she would be honored to be considered for the Senior Rabbi position. Cantor Buchdahl, who was ordained as both a rabbi and a cantor at the Hebrew Union College, is a cherished and highly respected leader at Central, and a shining light within the Reform Jewish movement. We are delighted that Cantor Buchdahl has expressed interest, and we will consider her candidacy seriously.

We have formed a Transition Committee to spearhead the strategic assessment and subsequent search processes. The Transition Committee will report to the Board of Trustees and will ultimately recommend Central’s next Senior Rabbi to the Board and congregation for approval. The Transition Committee will be chaired by Michael Gould and include Seth Berger, Janet Felleman, Barbara Friedman, Tory Kiam, Juliana May, David Moore, Abigail Pogrebin, Laura Rothschild, Phil Satow, Jaymere Stein, and Jeff Tranen. This is a remarkable group of congregants with a diverse set of experiences and backgrounds but a shared love of Central. They have agreed to dedicate themselves to conducting a thorough and fair process of which all of us can ultimately be proud.

The Transition Committee and Board of Trustees are fortunate to have five past presidents of our congregation to consult over the coming months. Michael Weinberger, Martin Klein, Alfred Youngwood, Howard Sharfstein, and Ken Heitner will be invaluable resources as we move through the process.

We are also forming an Engagement & Communications Committee, whose role is to work with the Transition Committee to ensure that all members of the Central community have the opportunity to express their views and are kept abreast of developments. Jeremy Fielding, a trustee and officer of the congregation, will chair this critical function.

These are emotional yet exciting times for our community. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we want to thank you for your support and we trust that, working together, we will ensure that Central’s future is as bright as its past.

Best Wishes,

David B. Edelson, President


Why did Rabbi Rubinstein decide to step aside now?

Rabbi Rubinstein’s letter was both eloquent and clear on his decision:

For me personally it is now an occasion for another chapter. Though I have no defined plan I believe that there is more for me to do in service of the Jewish community and in supporting the inspiring possibilities of Jewish life.

Above all I long for more uninterrupted time with Kerry and my children and grandchildren. They always understood and endorsed my passionate, consuming commitment to congregational responsibilities and the mission of Jewish survival. Now I yearn to share life more fully with them and be present as my grandchildren grow up as we all remain in good health.

What will Rabbi Rubinstein do next?

Rabbi Rubinstein will certainly spend more time with Kerry and his children and grandchildren who are on the West Coast. As for his future professional involvements, he is still deciding what to do next. He is wisely not rushing into anything and, of course, he will have his hands full until mid-2014.

What will Rabbi Rubinstein’s ongoing connection with Central Synagogue be?

Upon his retirement on June 30, 2014, Rabbi Rubinstein will become our Senior Rabbi Emeritus and will remain part of our community. Expect to see him regularly among us at Friday night services! He will retain an office at Central during his transition but not permanently. Rabbi Rubinstein will not officiate at services regularly but, from time to time, he may be called upon by the new Senior Rabbi to officiate. From his own experience as a new Senior Rabbi many years ago, Rabbi Rubinstein understands the importance of giving the new Senior Rabbi the space to gain the congregation’s complete support to lead it going forward.

What is the Transition Committee’s role?

To spearhead the strategic assessment process and the subsequent search process, identifying the best and the brightest potential candidates, and making a recommendation to the Board of Trustees.

Who makes the ultimate decision?

The Board of Central Synagogue is tasked with making the decision, taking into account the recommendation of the Transition Committee. Per our by-laws, the choice of a new Senior Rabbi will be brought to the membership for approval.

What role and input will ordinary congregants have in the process?

The Transition Committee includes non-Trustee congregants, and as a Committee it is committed to seeking input from all congregants. We promise that all members of the Central community will have the opportunity to express their views during the Board-driven strategic assessment process, which will explore where Central is today and reaffirm our vision of Central’s future. Further, the Transition Committee will communicate the ways in which congregants will have additional input into the process, and you can always email [email protected] with any comments about the process.

How long do you expect the search to take?

We are going to take the time we need to conduct a thorough search, and to ensure we identify the right person to be our next leader. That will take time, and at this stage we will not speculate beyond saying that our goal is to name a new Senior Rabbi by early 2014, in sufficient time to ensure a seamless transition upon Rabbi Rubinstein’s retirement in June 2014.

What qualities are most important for the successful candidate?

Through the strategic assessment process we are launching, we will be able to frame more clearly what we are looking for in our next Senior Rabbi. We will want a leader who can further Central Synagogue’s mission of working tirelessly toward a world in which Judaism is central to the lives of Jews everywhere and is a profound and positive force for humanity. It should be someone who understands what it means to be relentless in pursuit of that goal—and helps Central Synagogue constantly evolve and always seek new ways to raise the bar higher. And it should be a Rabbi who shares our view that as a community, we reach far beyond the walls of our synagogue, to learn, worship, serve, and continually redefine what it means to be Jewish today. Beyond that, the Transition Committee has not even begun its work.

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