Rabbi Jon Konheim will step down as spiritual leader of Beth Am Synagogue next year after eight years with the Conservative Jewish congregation and 41 years as a pulpit rabbi, he announced in a letter on Wednesday.
Beth Am will launch a nationwide search to find a successor. Below is Konheim's letter, followed by another from executive board member Julian L. Lapides to the congregation.
October 14, 2009
You and I will be undergoing a transition and transitions are filled with challenges. As of July 1, 2010 I will become Rabbi Emeritus of Beth Am.
I have been continuously in the pulpit since my first student position 1969. Forty-one years as a pulpit rabbi are a long time. They have been rewarding, and fulfilling, but time and the profession have taken their toll. I have been slowing down and there are medical issues that concern me. I have worked out the transition with Beth Am’s leadership and they have been supportive and more than generous. Should this year’s search not produce a successor who fits your needs I will try to do whatever is asked of me. It is important that your new Rabbi find a fully functioning congregation.I cannot imagine a better congregation from which to retire than Beth Am. The eight years have been stimulating, entertaining, and deeply rewarding. I have been privileged to share your moments of joy and your moments of sadness. I have had the opportunity to remain young by teaching seventh graders. Because of the close relationships I have had with the students b’nai mitzvah celebrations have never been a chore. Working with BAYITT has taught me that friendships can transcend generations. Saturday mornings in the Chapel have permitted me to be challenged by some of the finest minds in America and to challenge them in turn. Rena and I have been enriched by our moving to Reservoir Hill. I have benefited from a highly committed and efficient staff, none of whom take themselves too seriously. We have had laughter when we needed it most.
No rabbi leaves the job completed, and there are many things I will miss; the life cycle moments of my students, the fun of Chapel Saturdays, and unexpected moments of transcendence. I will have many, many wonderful memories and new opportunities made possible by my time with you.
October 14, 2009
As we begin the New Year, I write to wish you health and happiness in the months ahead. I am also writing to let you know of upcoming changes in Beth Am's senior staff. Rabbi Jon Konheim has asked to conclude his term as Rabbi and take on a new role as Rabbi Emeritus. Rabbi Konheim, who joined us more than seven years ago, will complete his full-time rabbinic duties next year in June 2010, and will then take on his new role as Rabbi Emeritus. Concurrently, the Board of Trustees, with the assistance of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly, will launch a nationwide search for the next generation of rabbinic leadership, with our new rabbi to assume full-time responsibility for all rabbinical duties on July 1, 2010.
Rabbi Konheim joined us in July 2002. His depth of Jewish knowledge and his love for teaching have continued to build on Beth Am's traditional strengths. His warm, informal services in the chapel have become a crucial part of the Beth Am experience. And he has provided much-needed leadership and stability to our senior staff. At the request of the President, Rabbi Konheim may be available to assist congregants with life-cycle events. His new role at Beth Am will begin on July 1, 2010 and continue through June 2012.
Rabbi Konheim's decision to take on an emeritus role, which was approved by the Board at its October 13 meeting, leaves us with an important choice going forward about the next rabbi to lead this community so beloved to all of us. Fortunately, his decision also leaves us with the time and the calendar necessary to make a considered decision that will point to Beth Am's future. USCJ has advised us that rabbinic candidates generally make themselves available for interview and hiring in the fall following the High Holidays. We believe that this year offers a particularly rich pool of choices for our next rabbi.
Beth Am has always been a participatory, "do it yourself" synagogue. And so in closing I make two requests. The first is that you join me in thanking Rabbi Konheim for his work and leadership over the past seven years, and in wishing him success and much nachas in his new role. The second is that you feel free to contact me, or any other member of the Executive Committee (see below) if you have any questions, or to offer any suggestions regarding the upcoming rabbinic search process. We fully expect to have that process underway by the end of this month.
L'shana tovah to you and your family.
Julian L. Lapides