Rabbi Search Update November 16, 2018

Dear Fellow Congregants,

Since our last report, the Rabbinic Search Committee has continued its work. We are committed to finding Beth El’s new Rabbi and keeping Beth El moving forward toward a successful and rewarding future for our entire congregational family. From our recent congregational open house and those we’ve held since last spring, we have learned that all of us seem to be looking for the same characteristics in our Rabbi: an empathetic person who can relate both individually and collectively to all of our congregants, regardless of age and circumstances, and will help educate us and move us spiritually to become better people and find joy, comfort and peace through our Jewish traditions in a continuing atmosphere of warmth and fellowship.

Today, we want to report to you on several exciting developments about our search, the upcoming visit bya rabbinic candidate, and a return visit by Rabbi Joshua Katzan. First, we have submitted and the RabbinicalAssembly has posted our revised Congregational Questionnaire, which is required by the Rabbinical Assembly for our search for our permanent Rabbi. This report includes information regarding our services and programming, demographics, history, and vision for the future,and it serves as a snapshot for candidates to learn about us.

Second, we have received several applications from rabbinical candidates and discussed them at great length. So far, we moved forward with one application and had a productive video conference call with the candidate, Rabbi Ben Herman, whom the committee agreed was an excellent prospect. Rabbi Herman is currently the senior rabbi at Jericho Jewish Center on Long Island, and he was previously the Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Anshei Israel in Tucson. We are delighted to announce that we will be hosting Rabbi Herman at Beth El over the weekend of November 29 – December 2. This will be a busy weekend, filled with many opportunities for you to meet Rabbi Herman. Hewill lead services, address the congregation and conduct Torah study, and be available to answer your questions, respond to your concerns, and exchange visions with us for for Beth El’s future.

The opportunities for community interaction with Rabbi Herman will be as follows (click on event to RSVP):

Third, we are planning for Rabbi Katzan’s return visit to Beth El on Shabbat from December 14-16.  During his visit, we will be arranging for a series of programs to lead us in Jewish celebration and learning.

As the committee has shared in earlier communications, we need to know your thoughts and concerns about the characteristics, skills, and interests that you would like to see in our next Rabbi, as they are central to our success.  We invite you to give us your feedback about how we are doing and, again, heartily encourage you to attend and participate in our interview weekends.

If you have comments or questions, please contact the committee at RabbiSearch@bethelphoenix.com.


Ben Cooper & Greg Harris

Rabbi Search Update August 16, 2018

Dear Fellow Congregants:

The Rabbinic Search Committee is delighted to announce that Rabbi Joshua Katzan will join Beth El Congregation for the High Holidays and, together with Cantor Angress and Cantor Emeritus Goldman, to lead services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as we begin 5779.

Rabbi Katzan joins us from his regular duties as a Lecturer in Rabbinic Literature at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, part of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles.  The Ziegler School is, with the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, one of the Conservative Movement’s rabbinical seminaries. Before joining the faculty of the Ziegler School, Rabbi Katzan served for eight years as the Senior Rabbi at Congregation Habonim in New York, and before that worked for five years as the associate rabbi at Congregation Hebrew Educational Alliance in Denver.  We are pleased to have the opportunity to share our holiday experience with Rabbi Katzan, who also will be with us for the Shabbat that immediately precedes Rosh Hashanah. His involvement in our celebration of the holidays should be especially sweet and rewarding as we come together as a congregation with renewed commitment and energy for a productive, healthy and happy new year.

Meanwhile, the Rabbinic Search Committee’s work continues in earnest with respect to identifying and retaining interim and permanent rabbis beyond the High Holidays. Many of you had the opportunity to meet with and learn from Rabbi William Gershon during his weekend with us in mid-July, but he has declined our offer in favor of taking an interim position near one of his children in New Jersey. We remain in active contact with the Rabbinical Assembly, which is supporting our identification of candidates. Our good fortune in having Rabbi Katzan, an experienced pulpit rabbi and educator, help lead us in prayer will provide an additional opportunity for our congregation to show its strength and unite in support of this common effort.

Please contact us at RabbiSearch@bethelphoenix.com with your comments, suggestions, and questions.

On behalf of the Rabbinic Search Committee, we wish everyone Shanah Tovah–a sweet new year!  We look forward to seeing you during the holidays, on Shabbat, at Minyan, and on other occasions at Beth El in the new year!


Ben Cooper & Greg Harris

Rabbinic Search Co-Chairs

Rabbi Search Update July 20, 2018

Dear Fellow Congregants:

This past Shabbat, Beth El hosted Rabbi Bill Gershon. During his time with us, Rabbi Gershon joined us in prayer for Erev Shabbat, ate with us on Friday night, led services on Saturday, addressed the Congregation both in his d’var Torah and Q&A following Kiddush, Saturday evening which included services and a special study session, led minyan on Sunday morning, and concluded with a two-hour session with the Board and Rabbinic Search Committee. We thank those in the Congregation who accepted the offer to meet Rabbi Gershon and to share their views about his potential service as Beth El’s interim Rabbi – a position that Rabbi Gershon stressed would be a temporary position and one from which he would not seek or accept a permanent position, and instead stated that he would direct his efforts to helping Beth El find that candidate.

Following the close of the final meeting, Rabbi Gershon left the building, giving the board the chance for frank and candid dialogue about the needs of the Congregation and whether Rabbi Gershon would be a positive force in the future of the Congregation, albeit for only a brief period. Members spoke at length about what they had each seen and heard, including from their families, members of the Congregation, and from Rabbi Gershon. Based on the recommendation of the Rabbinic Search Committee, the board debated and then voted to extend Rabbi Gershon an offer for an interim position with the Congregation.

The Board acted with full knowledge of the need to secure a rabbi to serve as the Congregation’s spiritual leader, particularly with the holidays approaching. Only with the input it received over the weekend from members of the Congregation, was it possible for the Board to have the confidence to act. Whether Rabbi Gershon will accept remains to be determined. We will keep you informed of our progress. We also need the Congregation to remain actively engaged in our spiritual journey and our search for a permanent Rabbi.

We owe a special thanks to Zachary Hoffman, Alicia Moskowitz and the entire Beth El staff for making it possible for the congregation to celebrate Shabbat and to use this time to meet Rabbi Gershon.

If you have comments or questions, please contact rabbisearch@bethelphoenix.com – or speak to any member of the search committee.


Ben Cooper & Greg Harris
Rabbinic Search Co-Chairs

Letter to Congregation 3/21/18

March 21, 2018

Dear Fellow Congregants,

The Rabbinical Search Committee is up and running. Please feel free to talk to any of our Committee members regarding your questions, concerns, thoughts, and hopes about the selection of Beth El Congregation’s next rabbi:

Brian Alpert

Linda Barzilai, Co-President

Barbara Becker, Membership Vice President

Ben Cooper, Co-Chair, Ritual Vice President

Greg Harris, Co-Chair, Board Member

Rebecca Karlin

Allyn Kluger

Zachary Kramer, Board Member

Daniel Rosen, Ritual Committee Member

David Segal

Gail Ulan, Board Member

Sara Ziskin

As announced in the March 17 Beth El Billboard email, Rabbi Lavinsky and Beth El have agreed that the Rabbi will conclude his professional duties at Beth El as of March 23. With this development, Beth El will work through the Rabbinical Assembly to conduct our search.

The Committee has concluded that it is in the congregation’s best interest to retain an interim rabbi to serve the congregation while we conduct our search for a permanent rabbi. We expect this process to take six months to a year. We feel that retention of an interim rabbi best promotes the congregation’s continuity and also secures us the time for the thoughtful and open selection process we all want. Beth El followed just this approach when Rabbi Moshe Tutnauer (of blessed memory) rejoined us for  year while we conducted the successful search that brought Rabbi Lavinsky to Beth El for fifteen years. Our recent experience with the selection of a new cantor showed us the benefits of a patient and thorough search to find the right person, which may take two or more rounds of applications, interviews, and negotiations. You may recall that in our first wave we invited three cantorial candidates without choosing to retain any of them. It was only by reopening the application process to new candidates that we found, to our delight, Cantor Jonathan Angress.

As part of the process of understanding your thoughts and concerns, answering your questions, and identifying the characteristics, skills, and interests that you would like to see in our next rabbi, the Committee will hold four open houses, with the last open house coinciding with the congregation’s annual meeting. We chose a variety of days and time in order to accommodate the schedules and transportation needs of as many congregants as possible:

Sunday, March 25, 9:15am        Open meeting for Talmud Torah and Preschool parents

Tuesday, April 10, 6:30 p.m.     Open meeting after Minyan

Saturday, April 14, 12:15 p.m.   Open meeting after Shabbat kiddush

Sunday, April 29, 10:00 a.m.     Open meeting after Annual Meeting

We heartily encourage you to attend and participate as we look forward to a successful search for our next Rabbi.



Ben Cooper                                         Greg Harris

Ritual Vice-President                        Member, Board of Directors

bencooper8386@gmail.com           palmlane1@msn.com

602-909-1566                                     602-741-7897