Reviewing the Rabbi

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Jews tend to be critical of High Holidays services, particularly when it comes to the performance of the rabbi. Quite a bit of pressure is put on the congregation’s leader to deliver the perfect sermon and meet everyone’s preferences in prayer. But I was unaware of the forums that some synagogues hold after the chaggim to evaluate the rabbi.

Rabbi Richard Hirsh, executive director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, recently wrote that lay committees frequently and unfairly try to assume the rabbi’s role in steering the holiday ritual. Instead of criticizing the rabbi him or herself, Hirsh suggests some questions that people can use to evaluate their experience:

“Given the diverse nature of our community, did our services manage to provide comfortable access for most people?�

“Given the need to balance personal reflection and prayer with communal participation and congregational singing, did our services allow enough time for both?�

“Given that many of our members are familiar with the liturgy while many others are not, did our services hit a reasonable balance between fidelity to the core structure and innovation?�

“Given that this year we decided to try a new innovation, do we have enough sense of the response to try it again, drop it, or modify it?�

“Given that we assign the final responsibility for shaping the Yamim Noraim services to the rabbi, are there suggestions you might want to offer to her for consideration for next year?�

“Given that there are many opportunities for spiritual enrichment, what was one moment during the services that you felt was particularly powerful for our community?� (MORE)

Posted on September 11, 2007

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