First and foremost, I would like to thank each one of you for your wonderful support of Adath Israel. It is indeed a special community comprised of families from many different backgrounds. We are a strong Shul with a bright future. Transitions are always challenging, but we have every confidence, that together, we will move forward as a community.
It has been two weeks since Rabbi Strulowitz announced his appointment to the pulpit of the West Side Institutional Synagogue in Manhattan. Although I and the Board had long been aware that Rabbi Strulowitz was a leading candidate for that position, I know that many of you were surprised by the announcement and the imminent departure, at the end of July, of our Rabbi, our Rebbetzin Bethany, and their beautiful family.
Many of you wondered if perhaps there was more to the story than the Rabbi’s explanation that he had been offered an extraordinary opportunity that he could not turn down. I want to set matters straight. The truth is your Board is tremendously proud that all of us, as a congregation, were able to provide our Rabbi with opportunities for career growth that enabled him to compete successfully in a nationwide search, with hundreds of qualified candidates, for one of the most prestigious pulpits in America. The Shul is spiritually sound. We are, thank G-d, in a position to build on the wonderful work that our Rabbi and Rebbetzin did during their 7 years here and to tap into the enormous strengths of our volunteer leadership and of the San Francisco Bay Area Orthodox Jewish community.
This past Tuesday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the first meeting of the rabbi search committee that has been organized under the direction of Vicki Keyak. At this meeting, Richard Israelite was appointed co-chair. Eighteen members of our Shul devoted one and one-half hours to the meeting. The atmosphere was completely positive. We’re excited about the opportunity to define our next growth goals and preferred spiritual direction.
One of the first questions that arose was how much we could afford to pay a new rabbi. Jonathan Esensten reported that the Shul has already budgeted enough for salary and benefits so that we can be competitive nationwide for the finest young rabbinic talent. With that assurance, a most remarkable thing occurred. An immediate consensus developed that we should not rush into hiring a new rabbi, but we should instead use this as an opportunity to develop a long-term strategic plan for the Shul so that we are choosing a Rabbi and Rebbetzin who will not only fill immediate needs, but will help us create the community that we wish to become over the next 5 to 10 years. We will probably not be ready to begin interviewing candidates for some time.
With the decision made that we will take all the time we need to identify the needs and desires of the congregation and then to choose the best available rabbi and rebbetzin to meet those needs and desires, we turned our attention to issues that must be addressed during the interim period when our full-time, permanent rabbi position will be unfilled. These interim issues include: planning for the upcoming High Holidays, providing spiritual leadership for lifecycle events, providing leadership for Shabbat, holidays and the daily minyan and providing learning opportunities. An Interim Committee was formed to address these matters. It will be led by Kevin Saitowitz, who will be assisted by Courtney Beck, Robin Shaw and Seth Skootsky.
The Long-Term Committee, which will focus initially on identifying the needs and desires of the congregation and will plan our search for our new long-term rabbi and rebbetzin, will be led by Chana Piotrkowski, who will be assisted by Bryce Mendelsohn, Tamas Makany, Dvorah Feder and Richard Israelite.
The Finance Committee, which will assist both the Interim and Long-Term committees in assessing the financial feasibility of the various alternatives under their consideration, will be headed by Jonathan Esensten, who will be assisted by Robert (Bob) Berger and Neal Wohlmuth. These committees are still in the process of formation. Any member who wishes to participate in the activities of the committees is invited to do so. The committees consist of members of the Board and congregants who are not members of the Board. The committees will provide a wonderful service to the Board, which will ultimately vote on the recommendations of the committees.
The committees and I will be reporting on our progress from time to time. One obvious way the congregation can support our energetic lay leadership is by participating in the upcoming fundraising dinner in honor of Rabbi and Bethany Strulowitz’s contributions to the Shul. Not only is this an appropriate way to show your appreciation to our departing leaders, but it is a way to provide the financial support the Shul requires to meet its ambitious goals. I look forward to seeing you at the dinner on June 3, and if you are unable to attend, I trust you will make a generous financial contribution to the success of the evening and of our Shul.
In short, we as a Shul have a great deal to look forward to. I am confident that with Hashem’s help, we will continue to grow and shine as a beacon of Orthodox Judaism in San Francisco, and a family-based Shul that produces the next generation of leaders.
Very truly yours,