Letter to Congregation – Congregational Meeting to Approve Rabbi

Dear Vassar Temple Congregants,

I have historic, joyous, and exciting news for you!!

On February 18, 2015 a special congregational meeting was held in order to vote on the selection of the next rabbi of Vassar Temple, The Congregation Brethren of Israel, upon the retirement of Rabbi Golomb. (By now you most likely have heard about the outcome. I wanted to release all of the information about our candidate on a blog post and on social media which is linked to this letter, and we had to wait until the Rabbi had given notice at her current job.)

On December 15, 2014 the Vassar Temple Board of Trustees approved the selection of Rabbi Leah Berkowitz as the next Rabbi of Vassar Temple, The Congregation Brethren of Israel. Our temple by-laws require that the Board of Trustees make this selection; however, the actual approval to hire the rabbi, the salary, and the contract term (which is limited by the constitution to a maximum of two years initially), must be ratified by a vote of 2/3 of the members in good standing present at a congregational meeting for which a minimum of 10 days written notice was given. I am thrilled to report that the congregation voted unanimously 91 (visual count) to 0 to approve the hiring of Rabbi Berkowitz.

The decision to hire a new rabbi is an awesome responsibility and one to be shared by the congregation, with the help of many. Bob Abrams and I worked together to design a structure that would be inclusive, thorough, and support the search process while also providing oversight. We established both a Search Committee, chaired by Sandra Mamis, and an Advisory Committee, comprised of four presidents and the director of our Religious School committee who is also a Trustee. Together we ensured that no one was shut out and any important opinions and information were taken into consideration. The Search Committee did the heavy lifting, and during the congregational meeting Sandra Mamis detailed the search process and the candidate that the committee chose to recommend to the Board of Trustees. The Advisory Committee stayed engaged throughout the search process. The Executive Committee and I are extremely pleased with and grateful to all those on both committees for their collective hundreds of volunteer hours as well as for their quality work and the outcome that has been achieved.

The finance committee, under the leadership of Sam Finnerman, was engaged early in the process to establish compensation parameters for a new rabbi. Sam and the committee revisited assumptions that Vassar Temple had lived by for years and, together with the Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees, determined that significant cost savings could and needed to be achieved under a new rabbi compensation package. Tough choices were made, and there was no guarantee that the Search Committee could fulfill its objectives and meet the expectations of the congregation within the compensation parameters that were set, in a marketplace where we are competing with other wonderful temples around the northeast and the country. Sam brought a Jewish consciousness and righteous guiding principles to the otherwise cold, hard realty of finance. Sam spoke to the financial aspects of the Rabbi’s employment agreement at the congregational meeting.

Minutes of the congregational meeting prepared by Leonard Greenberg, our Temple Board Secretary, will be made available once they are reviewed and approved by the Board of Trustees. Details of the contract terms are in those minutes.

Last but not least I want to thank you, the congregation, especially all those who participated in the focus groups and attended the various programs and services involving the four final candidates. Your reactions, thoughtful questions, comments, and communications were invaluable to the overall process.

Now, please visit our blog to read about Rabbi Berkowitz:

Rabbi’s Letter to Our Congregation
Rabbi’s Resume
A Photo Collection (On our new YouTube Channel. Produced by Sandra M.)

Perla Kaufman is chairing our Transition Committee. This letter is long enough, so I will simply say that we have great ideas for how we can say “goodbye” to Rabbi Golomb as we also say “hello” to Rabbi Berkowitz. Stay tuned for plans and announcements on our next steps.

Let’s all give Rabbi Berkowitz a friendly and supportive welcome to both Vassar Temple AND the Dutchess County community!!!


Bob Ritter
Vassar Temple (Congregation Brethren of Israel)

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