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Clergy Transition

Friday, November 5, 2021

It continues to be an auspicious time for our HEA community, as we make important decisions about the future of our synagogue.  While we continue striving to meet the diverse needs of our congregation, we are also cognizant of the changes that will be taking place in the next year as we approach Rabbi Dollin’s impending retirement and fill the gap left by Cantor Reisner's departure.  Our leadership has made some important decisions that we want to share with you.  We appreciate you taking time to review the entirety of this communication, which provides an explanation of:  

  • Rejoining the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism 
  • Composition of HEA’s clergy team beginning July 2022 
  • Addition of a professional position to provide a comprehensive approach to HEA’s musical needs 
  • FAQs pertaining to the launch of an upcoming clergy search, our decision to rejoin USCJ and the role of a Music Director 

Rejoining the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism 

The HEA Board of Directors voted to rejoin United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), the national network of Conservative Movement synagogues.  HEA first joined USCJ in 1994, embracing the identity and values of Conservative Judaism.  In 2012 HEA discontinued membership in USCJ because the board at that time felt that HEA was not getting enough value for the cost of dues.  In the years since, USCJ has undergone a major reorganization and significantly improved its services to congregations.  USCJ has also granted HEA a generous discount on membership.   

Rejoining USCJ affirms our commitment to Conservative Judaism and will provide important guidelines for decision-making and valuable resources for our synagogue. Chief among the benefits of joining USCJ is that our youth group will once again be part of USY, the national organization of Conservative Movement youth programs.  Our teens will once again have access to the rich experiences of regional, national, and international opportunities USY offers, such as trips, conventions, and programs in Israel.   

Most immediately, membership in USCJ is the only way for HEA to access the Conservative Movement’s clergy placement services.  In partnership with the Rabbinical Assembly, the professional association of Conservative Movement Rabbis, USCJ governs and organizes the hiring of Conservative rabbis.  Hiring a Conservative rabbi who is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly will best ensure that HEA is guided by the values and practices of Conservative Judaism.   

Composition of the HEA clergy team beginning in July 2022  

The HEA Board of Directors formed a Clergy Transition Committee to work with Rabbi Gruenwald in ensuring that HEA continues to provide our members with energetic and compassionate spiritual leadership.  The Transition Committee, selected for its broad representation of the community, did a thoughtful assessment of our members’ needs and weighed practical challenges.  We also drew from comments provided by focus groups conducted last summer with dozens of congregants, and feedback that Rabbi Gruenwald received during his interview process and in his many conversations with members.   

What we need: Ruach (spirit) and Relationship 

Vital to the wellbeing of our members is having clergy who are responsive, dynamic, warm, and inspirational.  We look forward to a clergy team led by Rabbi Gruenwald that is deeply invested in relationships with members and fostering meaningful connections among congregants.  To meet the needs of our over 825 member families, HEA needs a team of dedicated rabbis.   

HEA also needs skilled musical leadership that inspires members to come closer to God and each other through prayer and song.  Music infuses everything we do at HEA, from Shabbat services and lifecycle rituals to religious school, youth, and preschool programming.  For this reason, HEA needs talented and inspirational music and prayer leadership.   

Practical Challenges 

Clergy searches are enormous undertakings, requiring countless hours and significant expenses.  The Transition Committee concluded that it is not feasible nor desirable to embark on two clergy searches at the same time.  Further, budgetary constraints do not make it possible for HEA to hire two additional ordained clergy until the fiscal year following Rabbi Dollin’s retirement.  For all these reasons, the Transition Committee and Board of Directors concluded that we must make choices and set priorities in our search for leadership.    

The Plan: Search for a skilled Assistant Rabbi and a talented Director of Congregational Music.   

We recognize that the needs of an 825-family synagogue cannot be met by one rabbi alone, the Transition Committee and Board have concluded that we must give priority to hiring an assistant rabbi.  To meet the musical needs of the congregation, we will create a position for a Director of Congregational Music.  The new assistant rabbi will support Rabbi Gruenwald in meeting the clergy-related needs of our members, and the Music Director will ensure that our worship services and other musical programs are always excellent.   

This creative approach makes it possible for us to undertake both searches immediately and within the budget available.  Hiring for a Director of Congregational Music opens up the possibility of meeting our congregation’s needs from among a growing cadre of exciting Jewish music professionals who are not necessarily ordained cantors.  

Want to Learn More? 

See an exhaustive list of “Frequently Asked Questions” in the right column. We urge you to please read the FAQs to learn more about our plans for hiring an Assistant Rabbi and Director of Congregational Music. Additionally, Rabbi Gruenwald will facilitate a series of public forums in the coming weeks, and if you have specific questions, we invite you to contact Rabbi Gruenwald directly.

Community Q&A Forums: 

Mon, December 6 2021 2 Tevet 5782