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Rabbinic Transition 2023

September 2023

Dear CBI community,

Rabbi Steven Folberg, the beloved senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel since 1991, will transition out of his role at the end of June 2024. 

That means we’ll be seeking a new senior rabbi as we embark on a new phase of our congregation’s history, entering our 150th year serving the Reform Jewish community of Central Texas – a year that will include reimagining our campus while continuing to honor our past.

This is an enormous change for Congregation Beth Israel, and we will be transparent with our community about the process of selecting a new senior rabbi. We’ll keep this page updated with details about the transition. 

Sarah Holland
CBI board president

Corrie MacLaggan
CBI board president-elect and chair, rabbinic transition committee
transition@bethisrael.org


 

TRANSITION TIMELINE

May 2023: Transition team begins meeting.

June 2023: Interim rabbi search committee begins meeting.

Fall 2023: Interim rabbi job posted.

January through June 2024: Events to honor Rabbi Folberg.

Spring 2024: Permanent senior rabbi search committee begins meeting.

June 2024: Rabbi Folberg wraps up his time as senior rabbi at the end of the month.

July 2024: Interim rabbi joins CBI.

Fall 2024: Search for permanent senior rabbi continues.

Spring 2025: New senior rabbi selected.

June 2025: Interim rabbi wraps up time at CBI.

July 2025: New senior rabbi begins.

COMMITTEES SUPPORTING THE RABBINIC TRANSITION

 

TRANSITION COMMITTEE

This committee is dedicated to helping the congregation through the transition from Rabbi Folberg’s final year as senior rabbi to the arrival of an interim rabbi to the settling in of a new senior rabbi.
This group will coordinate with the committee to honor Rabbi Folberg as well as the interim and senior rabbi search committees. The group will also communicate with the congregation and seek input from our members about what we need in our next senior rabbi.

Chair: Corrie MacLaggan

Members: Beber Helburn, Allen Kaplan, Abby Kenigsberg, Jonathan Lass, David Mann, Melissa Scheinfeld, Paula Fisher, Marsha Wilson and Dan Yahiel

 

INTERIM RABBI SEARCH COMMITTEE

Committee Chair: Ed Grauman, transition@bethisrael.org
Vice Chair: Beber Helburn

Members: Allen Kaplan, Abby Kenigsberg, David Mann, Kaitlyn Newell, Sarah Orman and Dan Yahiel.

 

COMMITTEE TO HONOR RABBI FOLBERG

Rabbi Folberg has inspired us, taught us and stood with us at pivotal moments in our lives. Now, we’re working to make sure he knows how much he means to us.

Chair: Jan Soifer, jsoifer@oconnellsoifer.com 

Members: Amy Goodwin, Amy Greenspan, Anna Barkin, Dan Yahiel, Ellen Muskin, Ellie Levine, Esther Teller, Jill May, Jo Kallison, Julia Mickenberg, Lara Zent, Leslie Rosner, Mae Daniller, Marsha Wilson, Mimi Rosenthal, Ruth Pool, Sally Grant, Sally Monroe, Sandi Mann, Sherri Greenberg, Stephanie Solomon, Stephen Portnoy, Susan Floyd, Theressa Lyons, Wendie Abramson, Rachel Slaton, Shelley Silverblatt, Rebecca Silverblatt.

Answers to questions you may have

WHY ARE WE HIRING AN INTERIM RABBI?

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, a Reform leadership organization, recommends bringing on an interim rabbi to help a congregation through the period of transition following the departure of a rabbi.

This interim period is especially important when a rabbi has served a congregation for a long time, as has Rabbi Folberg. Interim rabbis are specially trained to help a congregation process change.

The interim period will give us time to reflect together on what qualities are important for a new senior rabbi. The interim rabbi will not be a candidate for the senior rabbi position.

 

WHAT ARE SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF RABBI FOLBERG’S TENURE?

Four years into his tenure, with CBI experiencing unprecedented growth, Rabbi Folberg oversaw the hiring of Congregation Beth Israel’s first assistant rabbi, Elizabeth Dunsker. Rabbi Dunsker was also the first woman ever to serve an Austin congregation. Under his mentorship, a series of gifted associate rabbis, including Rabbi Benjamin Sternman, Rabbi Cookie Lea Olshein, Rabbi Rebecca Epstein, and Rabbi Sam Rose launched their rabbinic careers and served CBI with distinction. All have gone on to serve at their own congregations across the United States. In that lineage, Rabbi Kelly Levy brings her own unique gifts to our community.

Rabbi Folberg encouraged the creation of CBI’s Alzheimer’s Respite group, Circle of Friends, and spearheaded CBI’s program hosting unhoused families in our building through the Interfaith Hospitality Network (CBI was the only Jewish congregation in Austin to participate). He also provided a steady hand through the expansion of our campus in the late 1990s, including the addition of the Shirley Barish Learning Center and the remodeling of Smith Auditorium and the Koen Foyer. He has been a community leader in connecting Judaism to the protection of the environment, advocating for the installation of solar panels on our Barish Learning Center.

Rabbi Folberg has long been a voice for LGBTQ inclusion at CBI and other Jewish communal spaces. Some of you will remember his Yom Kippur sermon on this subject in 1996 that elicited a standing ovation from the congregation. Today, CBI is recognized throughout Austin as a safe and welcoming space for all, regardless of sexuality or gender identity.

Most recently, we counted on Rabbi Folberg and his CBI colleagues to carry the congregation through the fear and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the arson attack on our sanctuary. Remarkably, even during the COVID-19 lockdown, Congregation Beth Israel managed to thrive and grow.

Beyond his long list of accomplishments, Rabbi Folberg means an enormous amount to each of us personally. He has conducted our weddings, told wise and funny stories to our children, comforted us in times of loss, and inspired us with his teachings. His sermons are legendary, filled with truth, Torah, vulnerability, and humor. And in millions of one-on-one moments over the years, he has given us the gift of deep listening, compassion, and love.

WILL RABBI FOLBERG CONTINUE DOING EVERYTHING HE’S DOING THROUGH JUNE 2024?

Yes!

 

WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENS AFTER RABBI FOLBERG STEPS DOWN?

Rabbi Folberg will become rabbi emeritus of CBI. 

 

WHAT DOES A RABBI EMERITUS DO?

Rabbi emeritus is not a formal job description. It is an honorary title that a congregation may bestow upon a rabbi, in appreciation for their past service, when their term of service to the congregation has come to a close. The ongoing involvement of the rabbi emeritus in the life of the congregation, if any, is typically worked out in conversations between the rabbi emeritus and their successor. The Central Conference of American Rabbis recommends that, when possible, the newly named rabbi emeritus take an extended leave of absence from the community to give their successor time to establish themselves with their new congregation.   

 

CAN RABBI LEVY BE OUR INTERIM OR NEXT SENIOR RABBI?

Because of the important work the interim rabbi must do to help the congregation transition to a new senior rabbi, hiring an interim rabbi from outside the community, without a vested interest in who is hired next, is crucial.

We welcome Rabbi Levy to apply for the senior rabbi position if she chooses to do so. 

 

WHAT DOES THIS TRANSITION MEAN FOR MY CHILD’S BAT MITZVAH IN AUGUST 2024?

We want to make sure that your family’s life cycle event gets the care and attention you deserve. The clergy team will work closely with you to decide who will support you on your important day. We expect to have an interim rabbi in place by summer 2024. 

 

HOW CAN I PLAY A ROLE IN THE SELECTION OF THE INTERIM RABBI OR THE NEW SENIOR RABBI?

We will be providing opportunities for the congregation to share feedback about what they want in our next rabbi. Stay tuned. 

Wed, February 21 2024 12 Adar I 5784