So, you want to hire a rabbi?
Well, there are some things you might want to know. Whether you are a community, individual or organization, you should have some idea of who you are looking for. Ask yourselves what is important to you? Are you looking for someone traditional, creative, serious, or touchy feely? What are the main things you want the rabbi to achieve in this job? The more clear you are about whom you are and what kinds of skill sets and personality you are looking for, the easier the search will be. Start your search by looking at yourself and asking important questions about your own goals and needs.
Next, write up a strong job description. Remember that at this point in the process you are selling yourself too. You want to attract the best candidates, so highlight why your position would be interesting and challenging to the right candidate. Be as clear as possible in describing who you are looking for and what qualifications that person has. Many of you have written job descriptions in your own places of employment. This is not that different.
Hopefully, you will get several candidates to choose from. Rabbinic backgrounds are getting more and more diverse. Here are some questions you might want to ask of candidates:
- What rabbinical school did you go to? Why did you choose that one? How long was your course of study?
- Are you a member of any rabbinical associations? Does the association have any code of ethics and are you bound by them?
- Have you ever been asked to leave a rabbinic association? Please explain the circumstances?
- What are you most passionate about as a rabbi? What do you want to achieve?
- What are you currently studying for your own professional development?
- How do you integrate Jewish thought and practice with the needs of people today?
- What would you like to achieve in this position/in this community?
- What is your leadership style? How do you best work with others?
- If the position is one that has not typically been held by a rabbi, ask what value add on, if any, they see being a rabbi brings to the position? How does this job fit in to their vision of their own rabbinate?
- What role, if any, does God play in their lives, and how will they speak about God with others?
The answers to these questions should give you a fairly clear idea of who this person is, what they are passionate about, what they want to achieve, and what they can bring to the position you are offering.
As with any hire, you need to fully vet the rabbi. Google him or her to see what comes up. Call references and any one you know at their last position. If they belong to a rabbinic organization, call the organization and confirm that the rabbi is in good standing. Confirm they graduated from the school they name on their resume. If this person is going to be working with children, it does not hurt to do a fingerprint background check. Do your due diligence! The vast majority of rabbis are incredibly caring, compassionate, ethical people. They will understand why you are seriously vetting them. In this day and age, it is a simply a necessity.
Finding the right match is exciting! Together you can transform a community, an organization, and impact individual lives. This is a sacred process, though it may not feel like it when you are dealing with the nitty gritty details. Be thoughtful, take your time, ask good questions, and you will find the right rabbi for you. Good luck!