Cantor Search Committee

Cantor Search Committee

cantorsearch@bethelsudbury.org

Judy Goldberg (co-chair)
Janet Strassman-Perlmutter (co-chair)
Jessica Baker
Janet Buchwald
Jim Billings
Dan Goodman
Nancy Silver
Marty Weiskoff

November 22, 2022 update

We’re pleased to report that this has been an incredibly busy few weeks in moving the cantor search forward. Earlier this month we posted the position with Hebrew College, Cantors Assembly, Academy of Jewish Religion, Guild of Temple Musicians, and at JewishJobs.com. We also reached out to each of the individuals who contacted Beth El this summer and early fall to inquire about the vacancy.

Resumes began arriving immediately. The Search Committee has logged, acknowledged, and reviewed 10 resumes, from ordained cantors, rabbis, cantorial soloists, and those studying towards ordination as cantors and/or rabbis. We promptly reached out to the candidates who seemed most promising and began scheduling interviews. The interviewing team, now expanded to include our Board President, Michelle Fineblum, had a rich and inspiring meeting with one candidate this past Sunday and have two more interviews scheduled over the next week. We will continue to assess the resumes and music samples received to consider who else to interview. We have been told by various referral sources that we can expect more resumes to arrive in the weeks to come. We are excited about the quality of the resumes we are receiving and feel positive about the candidates applying.

It is our goal to create a unifying process in assessing and selecting Beth El’s next cantor. Towards that end, we have been working in close contact with Rabbi Breindel and Michelle. We’re setting up a schedule of frequent meetings with the rabbi to ensure that we stay “on the same page” throughout this process. We’re grateful to Michelle for making time to join us in the interview process at this early stage. Further, we intend to keep the entire congregation apprised of our work through these updates as frequently as we have information to share.

On behalf of the Search Committee, we wish you a safe, connecting, and tasty Thanksgiving weekend.


October 26, 2022 update

Last week the Cantor Search Committee shared our proposal with the Board of Directors, asking them to approve our request to post the clergy vacancy as a full-time position. We are thrilled to report that their support was unanimous. The Search Committee is putting finishing touches on the job description, which we expect to post widely in the next couple of weeks. We’re pleased to share below the essence of our conversations with the Board.

Some have asked, What leads us to expect a different outcome this year from last? For starters, there truly have been lessons learned. We’ll be casting a broader net. In addition to Hebrew College, we’ll be posting the position with the two campuses of the Academy for Jewish Religion, the Conservative-based Cantor’s Assembly, the Guild of Temple Musicians (an organization of Reform cantorial soloists), and various Jewish job search websites.

The revised job description will specify that we primarily seek an energetic, spiritual prayer leader. We intend to consider candidates who may be ordained cantors, may come from a rabbinic background, or bring spiritual and musical leadership experience without any ordination.

Additionally, with time and experience, and continued conversations, we have a deeper understanding of this congregation’s needs and wants. It is clear to us that the Beth El community yearns for an energetic cantor; someone who conveys their spirit; who has the ability to draw in participants and bring us with them in song and prayer; who complements the rabbi; and, in time, will get to know us and help us get to know them–a connecting presence.

Further, we were advised by placement professionals from 3 different Jewish organizations that the salary we posted last year was very likely not high enough to recruit the vibrant, substantial full-time professional which this congregation wants and deserves.

Accordingly, we proposed to the Board a higher salary range than was requested last year. We are grateful to report that they resoundingly supported this investment in the future of Beth El.

Next steps include finalizing the job description, posting it and reviewing resumes as they arrive at our designated mailbox cantorsearch@bethelsudbury.org.

We are excited to be opening the mail soon! We will keep you posted.

Judy Goldberg and Janet Strassman-Perlmutter
Co-chairs, Cantor Search Committee


August 25, 2022 update

We’re writing to update you on the work of the Cantorial Search Committee over the last month. 

  • The committee held its first meeting on August 11th and began discussing the tasks ahead of us.
  • Judy and Janet are drafting a revised job description which will reflect the more clarified role of the cantorial leader we would like to recruit.
  • Committee members will be soliciting cantors’ salary data from nearby congregations. This information will help us establish a salary range appropriate to the role, necessary for posting the vacancy with various organizations.
  • We are preparing to go to the Board of Directors early this fall to elicit their support for the Cantor’s salary. We expect this will aid with recruiting candidates, allow us to communicate clearly with  those who apply, and pave the way for making an offer in the spring.

The early stages of the committee are really about setting the groundwork for posting the position this fall and screening and interviewing candidates this winter. We will continue to keep you informed all along the way.


July 26, 2022 update

We are pleased to share updates on the preliminary work towards identifying and hiring Beth El’s next cantor. Meeting more than weekly, we (Judy and Janet) feel like we’re off to a strong start, thanks to the groundwork laid by last year’s committee. The prior co-chairs, Howard Boles and Bonnie Jensen, and their dedicated and skillful committee, identified resources and designed a robust search process. We stand on their shoulders as we move forward with the new search. Gratitude goes out to all who participated in last year’s process as well as to Rabbi Breindel and our former and current presidents, Jim Billings and Michelle Fineblum, who have helped us get up to speed.

We offer abundant thanks to the many congregants who have been in touch to offer to serve on the committee and/or to share observations, suggestions, and support regarding the work ahead. We are a congregation blessed with many incredibly hardworking volunteers, and we are moved by how many who already give much time and talent to Beth El shared their eagerness to do so as part of the Search Committee. Ultimately, we had to choose a committee of a functional size, representative of the congregation in numerous ways, to share the tasks of the next 9 months or so. We regret that, as a result, many who could be terrific contributors will not be on the working committee. We want all congregants to know that your input is welcome, and towards that end, we have set up a dedicated email address at cantorsearch@bethelsudbury.org. On our end, we are committed to communicating regularly with Beth El congregants and leadership about the process and progress of the search.

We welcome the newly formed Cantorial Search Committee, a blend of those who served on the prior committee and those new to the process:

Jessica Baker
Janet Buchwald
Jim Billings
Dan Goodman
Nancy Silver
Emily Steinmann
Marty Weiskoff
Judy Goldberg, co-chair
Janet Strassman Perlmutter, co-chair

This committee, reflecting many years of tremendous dedication to Beth El as a spiritual home for ourselves, our families, and our community, will begin meeting in the next few weeks. We feel confident that the diverse talents, experiences, and backgrounds of this group, regarding music, prayer, Jewish life, leadership, and much more, will serve the community’s goals well. In addition, we will solicit input from our talented staff and lay leadership as the search proceeds.

A key task this summer has been identifying organizations that can send us candidates for the role of Beth El Cantor. Knowing that we are a congregation that defies easy definition, we intend to cast a wide net. We have already had valuable conversations with placement leadership at the Cantorial Assembly (Conservative-based) and the Guild of Temple Musicians (Reform-based), who represent a broad mix of cantorial candidates, both ordained and non-ordained, from wide-ranging backgrounds. We expect to resume our relationship with the placement staff at Hebrew College (non-denominational), as well as network with recent guest cantors and others. And we will post the position on relevant websites. Even though we have not yet posted the opening anywhere, we’ve begun receiving resumes; so clearly word is out that Beth El is looking for an engaging ritual leader for our music-loving congregation.

Please know that the timeline of a Cantor Search is shaped in part by the institutions who train and place cantorial candidates. This means that organizations such as the Cantorial Assembly will not send applicants our way until November at the earliest and that January is not particularly late to be hearing from candidates. So the crux of our work will take place this winter, with a goal of selecting our next cantor this spring, to start work next summer.

Given this year-long timeline, we are particularly grateful to the tenacious work of Carolyn Schwartz, Rabbi Breindel, and others who have created a robust, creative, and exciting plan for cantorial leadership in this interim year, including the upcoming High Holidays. Their efforts help pave the way for the long term cantorial leader we expect to welcome next summer.


June 1, 2022 update

We write today to update you on the clergy search process. Jim Billings, as Beth El president, has asked us, Judy Goldberg and Janet Strassman-Perlmutter, to chair the next phase of the search for Beth El’s next cantor, and we have begun our work.

We have met with outgoing chairs, Bonnie Jenson and Howard Boles, who have generously offered to continue to work as advisors to the process. Howard and Bonnie have debriefed us on the committee’s work of the past year and remain available to us. We are grateful for their tireless dedication to the search and the work of the past year’s committee. We look forward to building from their experience as we move ahead.

We’ve met with Rabbi Breindel, as we expect to do regularly until the search is complete, to exchange information with one another with the goal of finding the cantor who will be the best fit to meet the needs of this community.

We understand, with these meetings as background, that we have agreed to take on a holy task, embedded with an array of practical challenges. In the coming weeks we will be (in an order yet to be determined):

  • refining the job description for our cantorial professional
  • reassessing the most promising avenues for sourcing candidates appropriate to the role and to this community
  • ascertaining from our Board of Directors and the finance committee the salary our congregation can afford for our new hire
  • assembling a committee to join in this work
  • addressing the processes to bring us a leader to support and enhance joyful, innovative, participatory ritual life at Beth El

We intend to provide regular updates to the congregation as we complete these tasks and move forward with the search.

Please note, a separate group is working on recruiting an interim cantor. Stay tuned for separate communications on that front.