Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I just got asked to be on the search committee for a new rabbi for our
synagogue. It’s a big honor to be asked but also going to be a very
controversial process. It’ll take a lot of time for the next year and
ultimately no candidate is going to satisfy everyone. There are fans of
the retiring senior rabbi of thirty years. There are fans of the new
junior rabbi who will certainly be a candidate for the job. There are
families who care about the Talmud Torah School. There are elders
who care about services and rituals. People who like social events and
community. And on and on and on. I want to say yes, because I care
about the outcome. I have mixed feelings about the junior rabbi but
can keep an open mind. I like most of the other members of the
committee, but one is an attorney with whom I had a big run in a few
years ago in our professional lives. I just don’t trust her. Do I say yes
or no?


Dear Torn:

One big question for me would be if the attorney is the committee
chair or another member. I would be more cautious if the former, at
least without a history clearing one-on- one, if indeed the history could
be cleared. On the other hand, your presence could be a burr under
his/her saddle, though that is not always a comfortable role to play.
Also if this is a committee of three or of twenty. If the attorney is not
the air, and only one of many, do not let that variable alone determine
your answer. If you have the time to serve, and are willing to willing to
weather the unhappy opinions of various members of the
congregation, consider a yes.

Talk to the committee chair and ask what serving would entail. Ask
about the timing and frequency of meetings, the process for the
synagogue members giving input and getting clarity about community
priorities, the role of various committees in the temple in giving input,
and the process for final decision making. You might also ask, but
should be cautious about relying on any answer, about confidentiality
in the proceedings. At worst, risk that you end up preferring a new
candidate to the current junior rabbi, and your preference isn’t chosen.
Ultimately, if you trust most of the other members and have the time
and skills, it sounds like an honor worth accepting.