We are seeking a full time spiritual leader for a USCJ-affiliated Conservative synagogue with 125 membership units. Our spiritual leader is responsible for pastoral counseling and care, guiding individuals and family in lifecycle events, overseeing our youth education in partnership with our PT Director of Youth Education, teaching and inspiring adult learners on the bimah and in other settings, prayer leading, Torah reading.
Our leader is also visible and active in the broader community, given that Congregation Beth Shalom is the locus of the liberal Jewish community in Stanislaus County. In addition, our leader works in partnership with our Board of Directors and staff on lay leadership succession, setting a vision for the future of our community.
Our broader Jewish community - The Jewish community of the Sacramento region has grown to more than 25,000 residents in a thirteen-county area, which includes Stanislaus County. We are a part of the Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region, which sponsors key community programs and committees as Jewish Family Services, the Jewish Film Festival, the Jewish Community Relations Council, PJ Library, Women’s Philanthropy, OneTable. The Federation is also finalizing the 2023 community study which will yield updated Jewish population numbers.
We are in partnership with Lakewood Funeral Home and Memorial Park, where there is a Jewish section and we have a Hevra Kaddisha. We have access to kosher meat and hekhshered products at Trader Joe’s and other markets. The closest mikveh that serves non-Orthodox communities is located in Oakland, about 1.5 hours drive away. The closest community day school, the Shalom School, is in Sacramento.
Our general community - With a population of 220,000, Modesto is in the center of the Central Valley of California. A playground for families, foodies, outdoor enthusiasts, music lovers, and people seeking cultural experiences, there is boutique shopping, endless fun and entertainment, multi-ethnic dining. Home to the Gallo Center for the Arts, we have an active live music, art, and poetry scene. We are widely recognized as an agricultural super engine, providing much of the world's produce and ag products. Our Farmers Market is active twice a week February - December. We are home to the largest winery in the world - Gallo Family Vineyards. Our county is also home to the 1st community college, Modesto Junior College, and also California State University, Stanislaus.
We have many exciting cultural and artistic events throughout the year which have earned us the #1 ranking in “America’s Hidden Gems Live Music Scene.” International muralists annually add to the larger-than-life collection downtown during DoMo Walls. We have a 3rd Thursday Art Walk, Music in the Plaza. classic films at the historic State Theater, community theater, local festivals. Modesto is also known for its Graffiti car history which is closely tied to the car culture and cruising scene of the 1950s, which was popularized in George Lucas’ 1973 film “American Graffiti.” George Lucas grew up in Modesto and the movie’s title is derived from his own experience of cruising. Today, Modesto’s annual Graffiti Night event is celebrated by car enthusiasts and collectors around the world. Modesto The city has also supported the opening of a Graffiti Museum in downtown Modesto.
If you love the outdoors, you can easily find everything from fly fishing to river rafting, and from leisurely creek trails to competition mountain bike trails. There are several reservoirs, lakes and rivers where to raft, jet-ski, kayak, fish, and more. We also have over 70 public parks with playgrounds, splash parks, pools, and pickleball courts. The Modesto Marathon is a Boston and NY qualifier. Creekside Golf Course or Dryden Park Golf Course are beautiful municipal courses. We are home to the Modesto Nuts, our local Single-A baseball team. We are less than 90 miles away from Yosemite National Park.
Candidates for this position have or will have rabbinical or cantorial ordination by July 1, 2024. They are interested in and skilled in pastoral counseling and care, soulful prayer leading and being an inspiring community leader both inside and outside the synagogue. Here are some of the ways that we describe our top three essential skills for this position:
Pastoral Counseling and Care: During this past year, when we have not had a FT rabbi and have had a visiting rabbi coming only on Shabbat and some holidays, we see a big need for our members to connect with a pastor, whether it be dealing with a divorce, family illness and other hardships. Having a skillful pastor as a part of our community is a key part of ensuring that people feel cared for and connected to the community. While our lay leaders do engage in this time of care, we really need a rabbi who invests themselves in this important spiritual work.
Prayer Leader: While we have members who can lead prayer, we need a skilled prayer leader. This is a major role for the current visiting rabbi when she is with our community and the prior rabbi led services at times so that the lay leaders do not have the full responsibility of leading all the time. The community benefits from a capable rabbi modeling how to lead prayer so that members become better prayer leaders themselves. An intuitive rabbinic leader who loves prayer can curate an inspirational, joyful, creative, meditative and meaningful prayer experience and this is an important value to the community. We are a community that is filled with active participants in services; we want to sing with our leader. Our rabbi works in partnership with lay Torah readers to ensure that our 7-year Torah cycle (modified to be shorter than a triennial reading) is chanted each Shabbat. In the past, we have had a trained cantor join us for High Holy Days.
Larger Community Involvement (inside/outside): It is essential that our rabbi be active as the spiritual representative in our community and in the greater Stanislaus County, to be the face of our shul and the greater Jewish community. It is key to our community that our rabbi engages with outreach programs, such as our existing interfaith dialogue and services that are so much a part of our community. Whether attending city council meetings, cultivating and getting to know our mayor, or building relationships with the Islamic and our neighboring Catholic community down the street, our former rabbi opened many doors for us and we want that to continue.
Other essential skills for this position include engaging our community in lifecycle events, skillfully teaching adults in our community, and the ability to supervise our PT Director of Youth Education.
In addition, we seek a rabbi who is:
Interested in relationships- It is essential that our next spiritual leader be passionate about and deeply interested in cultivating relationships both within the shul community and in the broader Stanislaus county community. We are diverse with many interfaith families in our midst. We want our leader to continue the ethos of “Come as you are” as established by our former rabbi. We want our spiritual leader to meet people where they are. We are a socially egalitarian and unpretentious community.
Perceptive- we seek a socially aware spiritual leader who is “tuned in” to the many different people they will encounter in our community. It is an important quality for us that the leader gives the benefit of the doubt, and keeps a harmonious balance even receiving feedback from the community. Whether on the bimah, or at the coffee shop, a spiritual leader who keeps the individual and their needs first and foremost, will be greatly appreciated by our community.
Pension contribution: 9%
Kaiser coverage for spiritual leader and family: 100% of the premiums paid by CBS
FICA Coverage or Reimbursement
Convention Allowance/Continuing Education: $3000.00 annually
Payment of national Rabbinical or Cantorial Association Dues, and where applicable, membership dues for the Northern CA Board of Rabbis
Annual expense line to host congregants for coffee/meals out and in home and to cover other expenses incurred through leading the community: $2000.00
One-time moving expense stipend
Vacation: 4 weeks annually and 2 additional Shabbatot off per year
Family Leave: Two weeks over and above any state or federally mandated time - https://edd.ca.gov/en/disability/paid-family-leave/
On an informal basis in the past, several members have been generous to donate frequent flier miles for the rabbi to use to go to Israel or for travel related to personal bereavement reasons.
CBS Clergy Search Committee Co-Chairs
Eli Lester and Derick Roque
About Congregation Beth Shalom
Our history - We began in 1918 as a small Orthodox synagogue in downtown Modesto called the First Hebrew Congregation. In 1963 it relocated, changed affiliation and renamed itself. We want to preserve our historical connection to our region, both tangible and intangible. Given that we are over 100 years old as a community, this is important to us.
For more in depth historical information about our community and profiles of some of its members, click here: https://jweekly.com/2016/05/26/historic-modesto-shul-welcomes-new-latino-members/
Our members - Many of the descendants of the founding families are still involved in the synagogue and yet we have become more diverse in many ways than our founders could have ever imagined. In terms of religious observance, about half of our members identify as Reform, and few less than half identify as Conservative, with several members who identify as Orthodox. And we have many members who are Jews By Choice. We have a wide variety of member units from inter-faith, to single members, to LGBTQ couples, to single parents with children and family units with two parents. We also have a number of Latinx, Russian-speaking, Israeli, Black and Asian-American members.
In recent years, we have built an ethos of “come as you are,” welcoming people to show up wearing what they are wearing and being who they are. Our former rabbi helped us to pivot to this approach and we feel it is key to being open, especially to a younger generation and to all of us in a post-pandemic world. We want to continue to be a place where people who aren’t Jewish, are newly Jewish, or are “Jewish adjacent,” with a Jewish partner, can be in community alongside people who were born into this community.
Our community in context - For the past fifty years, we have been the sole hub for liberal Conservative Judaism in our region. We are the only USCJ-affiliated Conservative Synagogue within 70 miles or more in any direction. The closest USCJ synagogues are: Mosaic Law Congregation to the north in Sacramento, Congregation B’nai Shalom to the west in Walnut Creek and Congregation Beth Jacob to the south in Fresno.
We are seen as a community leader in the region and our doors are open to those who are Jewish, those who are interested in deeper Jewish learning and to people in the entire region who are simply curious about what Judaism is. This identity shapes who we are today, how we interact with each other and with the broader community of Stanislaus County. We continue to attract newcomers who are relocating to the area for a variety of reasons: to be close to family or because they have heard about the warmth of our community and chose to relocate here because of CBS.