Erev Pesach, 5774
April 14, 2014
Announcement from the Temple Board
Re: Senior Rabbi Appointment
Dear Fellow Congregants:
It is my great pleasure to inform you that Holy Blossom Temple’s Board of Directors has appointed Rabbi Yael Splansky as our congregation’s next Senior Rabbi.
From the start of our search process, we were committed to identifying a Senior Rabbi who sets high standards for congregational life and inspires us to pursue them. Rabbi Splansky stands for intellectual rigour, shows personal warmth and magnetism and connects with people at every stage of life. She motivates the Holy Blossom team of lay and professional leadership and can proudly represent our congregation beyond the 1950 Bathurst Street address. Our Board wholeheartedly believes that Rabbi Splansky is the right person to lead Holy Blossom Temple forward into the future.
Rabbi Splansky has a great appreciation for Holy Blossom’s past and a deep understanding of our unique place in the Canadian landscape and in the Reform Movement. As a fourth generation Reform Rabbi, she knows how to strike the delicate balance between innovation and tradition. As a mother of three with her eyes on the future, she believes large congregations, like Holy Blossom Temple, are best equipped to craft a bold vision and to captivate the imagination of the next generation.
The Right Leader for Holy Blossom Temple Now
Rabbi Splansky has led our congregation through a trying time of transition. She has provided stability, attracted additional professionals who bring their own strengths to the table and reinvigorated our commitment to Renewal of Space and Spirit. Thanks to the many volunteers and professionals who have joined her, Holy Blossom Temple is now poised to embrace its future. She says: “My recent work has been to stabilize the congregation. Now my task is to mobilize.”
As our thirteenth Senior Rabbi in our 158-year history, we are extremely proud that Rabbi Splansky is one of our own. Brought to Holy Blossom sixteen years ago, Rabbi Splansky has served our congregation steadfastly and always with distinction. She constantly reminds us that the sacred task of a synagogue is to bring meaning, relevance and joy to Jewish life. She has brought leadership and wisdom to nearly every area of Temple life. She has earned the trust of our families as she has stood with us at the chuppah, at the graveside, at the Torah, at the sick bed, in the classroom, at camp, and in Israel. We have come to appreciate that these relationships are what animates meaningful congregational life.
Rabbi Daniel Freelander, Senior Vice-President, Union for Reform Judaism, who has been an ongoing advisor to the Temple’s leadership, echoes those sentiments:
“As the current Acting Senior Rabbi, you already know Rabbi Splansky as an attentive and caring Rabbinic Pastor. Now you’ll get to see her reshape Holy Blossom in that image. You know Rabbi Splansky as a clear and brilliant speaker. Now you’ll get to watch her place her imprint on our larger Temple community. You know Rabbi Splansky as an inspiring teacher of the Torah. Now you’ll get to watch her as a designer of new Jewish learning initiatives. You know Rabbi Splansky as an incredible human being. Now you’ll get to know her as an incredible leader.”
This is a historic move on the part of Holy Blossom Temple. Rabbi Freelander has, in fact, noted that this appointment contributes to a tipping point within the Reform Jewish Movement where, in the past year alone, congregations have chosen women in more than half of all the openings for high-profile Senior Rabbi positions.
With Rabbi Splansky as our spiritual leader, we look forward to writing the next chapter of Holy Blossom’s story, together. Let us continue to deepen our commitments to one another and to Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto’s first synagogue.
Please join me in warmly welcoming Rabbi Splansky to her new role.
Wishing you a Chag Sameach,
Dr. Harvey Schipper
President, Board of Directors
Holy Blossom Temple
[toggle title=”Q: How was the search process managed?”]
A: A thorough and thoughtful process has brought us to this exciting moment. The Search Committee underwent a comprehensive search process, in accordance with URJ’s recommendations, received many applications and interviewed a number of candidates. Throughout the process, the Search Committee and the Temple Board have acted with a level of insight, seriousness and integrity that our congregation expects and deserves. We thank each and every one of them for devoting so much time and care for Holy Blossom Temple.
When we announced that we would be conducting a search for a new Senior Rabbi, many congregants wondered why we’d do such a thing with Rabbi Splansky in our midst. Others – including Rabbi Splansky herself – understood the benefits of undertaking a thorough search. Now that the process is concluded, the Board is confident that Rabbi Splansky is the right Senior Rabbi for Holy Blossom Temple today.
We are delighted by how many voices were heard from within our congregation over the course of this process. Our congregational survey, on-line dialogue, multiple congregational meetings, countless letters and conversations over coffee garnered many impassioned and thoughtful responses, which clarified the qualities we collectively value in a Senior Rabbi. We sought out advice and guidance from the top leadership of the URJ and the CCAR too and we are very grateful for their support.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Q: Why was Rabbi Splansky chosen for this position?”]
A: Rabbi Splansky is a person of action. So many areas of Temple life have her stamp. She initiated the recent expansion our Early Childhood Centre; she established our weekday morning minyan, our Bikur Cholim Committee, our Monday program for seniors, our Generation Aleph outreach initiative for young professionals and emerging leaders, our Holy Sprouts CSA, Beyond the Chuppah for newlywed couples, and Shaarei Kehillah, the centerpiece of our Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program. The publication of our exquisite 600-page prayerbook, Siddur Pirchei Kodesh, is the finest example of Rabbi Splansky’s scholarship. Her written and spoken words – in sermons, eulogies, addressing those called to the bima — are savoured as she speaks with knowledge and love of the tradition. Rabbi Splansky has also proven to be a gifted fundraiser by personalizing the contributions, such as Jacob’s Tower.
Rabbi Splansky is a person of integrity. Having earned the admiration of her colleagues, Rabbi Splansky is known locally as the immediate past chair of the Reform Rabbis of Greater Toronto, nationally as a monthly columnist for the Canadian Jewish News and, internationally, as a contributing writer to the Union for Reform Judaism’s “10-minutes of Torah,” reaching a readership of 40,000. She has been selected by her colleagues to serve on multiple committees of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR); and by Hebrew Union College (HUC-JIR) to be a mentor to rabbinical students and young rabbis across North America. Rabbi Splansky is recognized far and wide as one of the shining lights of the Reform Movement. We are fortunate to be able to call her our rabbi.
Rabbi Splansky is a person who pursues personal growth and lifelong learning. She is often invited to join in the finest learning initiatives like the Hartman Institute, the Lola Stein Institute, the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management for Renewed Jewish Leaders, which she will attend this fall in partnership with our new Executive Director, Russ Joseph.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Q: How many other candidates were considered and can you tell us who applied?”]
A: The Search Committee received many applications. In order to respect the privacy of candidates and the integrity of the search process, the names of candidates and the deliberations of the Search committee were kept confidential.
While it would be inappropriate for us to publicly share information about other candidates, we can share that the search was fulsome and that the number of applicants was consistent with recent Senior Rabbi searches at other large urban congregations. [/toggle]
[toggle title=”Q: When does the appointment take place?”]
A: Rabbi Splansky will take the position immediately. Her official title will be “Senior Rabbi Designate” until June 30, 2015 as Rabbi Moscowitz carries the title of “Senior Rabbi” until then. On July 1, 2015, Rabbi Moscowitz will become our Rabbi Emeritus and Rabbi Splansky will receive the title of “Senior Rabbi.”
Currently, there are a number of transition activities being undertaken, including launching integration efforts to welcome Rabbi Splansky to her new role as our Senior Rabbi. [/toggle]
[toggle title=”Q: How long is the term of her appointment?”]
A: Holy Blossom Temple has adopted the URJ/CCAR framework of term contracts for Rabbinic appointments and, as such, with this appointment Rabbi Splansky has accepted a 4-year renewable term.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Q: Who will be our next Associate Rabbi?”]
A: Past President, Morris Cooper is the chair of the Assistant/Associate Rabbi Search Committee. Together with Rabbi Splansky, the committee is working with the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) to meet a number of candidates and recommend the finest talent to the board.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Q: Is this the first time a woman leads such a large congregation?”]
A: In 1980, Holy Blossom Temple broke new ground by bringing Rabbi Joan Friedman to be the first woman rabbi in Canada; and now Rabbi Splansky will be the first woman to hold the Senior Rabbinic position at Holy Blossom. However, this is not new. Today many women are leading congregations – small, medium, and large — throughout the Jewish world. In fact, Rabbi Freelander has noted that Rabbi Splansky’s appointment marks a tipping point within the Reform Movement where in the past year congregations have chosen women for more than half of all the high-profile Senior Rabbi positions.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Q: How is the exciting news being communicated?”]
A: On Monday morning we are meeting with the Temple Staff in person and emailing the entire congregation. An announcement will be launched on the Holy Blossom website before Pesach, but the wider community and media will be notified after Yom Tov. There will be many opportunities to celebrate, including a springtime Holy Blossom Open House Meeting.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Q: How can we show our support?”]
A: Come around. Join Rabbi Splansky on Shabbat and Yom Tov, for Torah study, and the wide array of offerings Holy Blossom Temple is known for. And bring a friend! The word is out that Holy Blossom Temple is embracing its future by launching its Renewal Project. Bring a friend, relative, or neighbour to join us and be a part of it. One good thing leads to another.
Volunteer. Let Rabbi Splansky and/or our Hineini Committee know of your unique talents and interests. Everyone has a gift to bring to strengthen our congregational life.
Contribute. In order to reach our aspirations for the coming year, our annual congregational appeal must be successful. Please show Rabbi Splansky your enthusiasm for the good things to come and be generous.[/toggle][clear]