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February 2020 Rabbinic Search Committee Update

In December 2019, the Beth Am Board of Directors unanimously approved the recommendation of the Senior Rabbi Search Committee to offer the position of Senior Rabbi to Rabbi Jeremy S. Morrison, effective July 1, 2020. On Sunday, February 2, our congregation held a special meeting and, by a nearly unanimous vote of over 430 households present, Beth Am confirmed Rabbi Jeremy Morrison as our next Senior Rabbi, beginning July 1, 2020.

Who Is Rabbi Morrison?

Rabbi Morrison is an inspiring Jewish leader. Upon ordination at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 2001, he joined Temple Israel of Boston as the Founding Director of the “Riverway Project”, a revolutionary program established to engage young adults in their 20’s and 30’s. Over the past 19 years, that program has brought hundreds of new members to the temple and has served as a blueprint for similar efforts across North America.

During his tenure at Temple Israel, Rabbi Morrison led the education programs as well as served in pulpit and pastoral roles as an Assistant and then Associate Rabbi. He also earned his PhD in Bible and Ancient Near East Studies from Brandeis University.

In 2017, Rabbi Morrison moved to Berkeley to assume leadership of HAMAQOM I The Place (formerly Lehrhaus Judaica), a leader in adult Jewish education across the Bay Area.

Rabbi Morrison says that the common thread at the heart of his rabbinate is a deep commitment to personal relationships as the foundation of Jewish practice. A keen scholar and practitioner of text study, Rabbi Morrison is spiritually focused on one-on-one relationships as the sacred space where we can experience the divine. Many of his references also noted his ability to create a reflective space with those he encounters in order to foster spirituality.

People who met him enjoyed his easy manner and sense of humor. His profound commitment to Israel came through in both his leadership philosophy and his education strategy. Our clergy and program team were particularly enthusiastic about Rabbi Morrison. They were all deeply drawn to his leadership and mentorship skills, his vision for youth and adult education, and his extensive experience building initiatives to engage seniors, families and young adults in Jewish life. It was equally clear that Rabbi Morrison felt connected to the people he met at Beth Am and was eager to join our community. He is excited to partner with the program team, supporting their great work, past and future.

How Did We Get Here?

Rabbi Morrison was the unanimous recommendation of the Senior Rabbi Search Committee after a rigorous year-long search process. Last February, our Transition Committee began hosting listening sessions that engaged hundreds of congregants in a conversation about the future goals of Beth Am and the attributes we should seek in our next Senior Rabbi. We also sent out comprehensive survey also to the entire congregation and received feedback from hundreds of additional members.

The congregational input was passed to the Senior Rabbi Search Committee, a diverse group of 14 dedicated congregants (listed below) representing a broad cross-section of Beth Am, ably led by Board members Rachel Gibson and Bruce Ives. Their sacred task was to first distill the congregation’s feedback into a placement application that was filed with the Central Conference of American Rabbis just after Labor Day, and then to evaluate applicants based on their fit with Beth Am today, and in the future.

The Search Committee received 12 resumes, which was at the high end of the range for large congregations. Ten candidates were invited to participate in video conference interviews and from those sessions three finalists were invited for multi-day on-site visits. The candidates met with the Search Committee, past presidents, our clergy team and a variety of program leaders representing teens to adults. The candidates also led a worship service and a study session. The feedback from all of those interactions was combined with information received in the course of reference checks and independent due diligence. From this intensive process, Rabbi Morrison emerged as the clear choice to lead Beth Am as our next Senior Rabbi.

After our year of searching, Rabbi Morrison’s blend of scholarship, experience, and spirituality makes him the right Senior Rabbi to help Beth Am navigate the challenging journey ahead. We look forward to welcoming him, his wife Molly and children Ezekiel (13) and Poppy (10) to Beth Am. 

Rabbi Morrison will join us officially in July. We will plan many small and large group welcoming activities over the summer and fall for all of us to begin to forge relationships with him – stay tuned for details.

Mon, February 24 2020 29 Sh'vat 5780