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A Sacred Time: The Rabbis' Transition

Rabbi Alan Freedman and Rabbi Eleanor Steinman (David Finkel Photography)

May 10, 2023

Dear Members of Temple Beth Shalom, 
The passing of communal leadership is a sacred moment for a rabbi and for a congregation. One such transition is found in Torah, that being the passing of leadership from Moses to Joshua. The Torah teaches that Moses charged Joshua to be "strong and resolute" (Deut. 31:7) to carry forth this holy people, our people. This leadership transition was done before the people. One can only imagine how the Israelites felt after so many years of Moses’ faithful and tireless leadership. All we are told is that Moses passed on the leadership with his blessing and God’s blessing. 
We are writing to you as the transition of Rabbi Steinman to senior rabbi and Rabbi Freedman to rabbi emeritus draws ever closer. This is a sacred time for our congregation, and we want you to know that our focus is on the well-being of our congregation during this period of transition and beyond. Guided by Jewish values, the guidelines of our Reform Movement, and a love for Temple Beth Shalom, we are committed to honoring one another as we each take on new roles in your lives. 
You should know that we share a personal sense of blessing at this time of transition. We have developed a strong professional and personal relationship in the last several years, particularly as we have worked closely to effectuate this transition over the past year for you, our beloved congregation. We are blessed to have grounded our relationship in the value of kavod ha-rav, respect for each other, as rabbis, always mindful of putting all of you first and foremost. We are also blessed that Temple Beth Shalom is a community that has a long tradition of honoring, respecting, and loving its rabbis. We are grateful that you show us kavod ha-rav every day. 
We have chosen to recognize the sacred nature of this transition, Jewishly and rabbinically, by entering into a Brit (Covenant) containing the basic principles that will guide our ongoing relationship with one another and with this congregation we so deeply love. We also know that transitions can be hard and confusing. Our Brit is designed to facilitate our transition of roles with the utmost respect for one another, and with the greatest clarity for our congregation.   
As Moses passed on the leadership of our people to Joshua, as of July 1, Rabbi Freedman will pass on the leadership of our holy congregation to Rabbi Steinman with full support and blessing that she be "strong and resolute." This means that Rabbi Steinman will fully assume all of the privileges and responsibilities of the position of senior rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom. As such, she will be solely responsible for rabbinic decision-making in regard to ritual and temple policies as well as management of the clergy team and congregation. Rabbi Steinman will also, with the assistance of all current or future associate or assistant rabbis, cantors, educators, and staff, be responsible for all the programming, education, services, and life cycle events going forward. In the spirit of covenant, Rabbi Steinman is committed to ensuring the well-being of Rabbi and Lori Freedman as rabbi and rebbetzin emeritus, offering them kavod/honor at appropriate times and events as they continue to live in our community.   
We are relying on the Board of Trustees, clergy, staff, and members of our congregation to be our partners in ensuring a smooth and respectful transition. As your rabbis, we commit to full compliance in our ongoing relationship according to the CCAR Code of Ethics Section II (b)(2) and informed by the CCAR Retiree-Successor Handbook (2021).   
As rabbi emeritus, Rabbi Freedman will retire from all rabbinic work at Temple Beth Shalom and will no longer provide input into temple policy or ritual practices, as Rabbi Steinman will now be the full and sole authority as senior rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom. On occasion, particularly after the first year of transition, Rabbi Freedman may teach, lead services, or join Rabbi Steinman in officiating at lifecycle events or in pastoral roles as Rabbi Steinman invites him and as his personal retirement schedule allows. We know this is the most difficult part of a rabbinic transition and trust all of our members will respect this and will use the established protocol of contacting the temple office to schedule lifecycle events instead of communicating with Rabbi Freedman directly. 
The Central Conference of American Rabbis, and best practices, recommend that to accomplish a successful transition, and to serve the best interests of the congregation, Rabbi Freedman will be practicing what is known in tradition as "tzimtzum," a purposeful withdrawal from most elements of temple life in order to help facilitate Rabbi Steinman’s occupancy of the position of senior rabbi in full, especially for the first year. Temple Beth Shalom will always remain the spiritual home of Rabbi Freedman and Lori as well as four generations of their family, and Rabbi Freedman will always be a beloved, honored, and treasured rabbi emeritus of our congregation.  
As “Beth Shalom,” we pray that the peaceful transition from one senior rabbi to the other will be guided by our covenant of friendship and mutual respect in partnership with you, our temple family. As Moses and Joshua modeled for us, a new leader can take our people into the future with the blessing of the old, even as the retired leader continues to be loved, admired, and honored. With resolute strength we will do all we can to help you through this time of transition. 
Faithfully yours, 
Rabbi Alan R. Freedman  
Rabbi Eleanor Steinman 

Thu, June 13 2024 7 Sivan 5784