Monthly Clergy Message - Rabbi Luxemburg
Our Ongoing Relationship
During my three years as Rabbi emeritus, I have appreciated every opportunity offered me to remain an active part of our congregational community. I enjoy every invitation to take part in a bar/bat mitzvah or other happy life-cycle event, as well as every class I am asked to teach or congregational trip I am asked to lead. It means a lot to me when a family in distress asks for my presence at a difficult moment, and when I can make joyous music with the Shabba-Tones. It’s gratifying when I am contacted by our clergy, professional staff or lay leaders in order to discuss what’s happening in the congregation, and to be greeted by Temple members when we meet, be it at the Temple or out and around in community. I even like being asked to write an occasional Rabbi’s Message!
One of the things I have learned is that my continuing relationship with Temple Beth Am, our clergy, professional staff, lay leaders and membership is nothing to be taken for granted. I learned this by becoming active with an organization called NAORRR – National Association of Retired Reform Rabbis. Yes, there is such a thing – a organization of retired rabbis! We even have a board of directors (to which I was recently elected) and an annual conference every January. Thankfully, it is always in a warm place. Barbara and I enjoy these meetings. We connect with classmates and friends, and get better acquainted with older colleagues whose rabbinates we have admired and from whose example we have learned. There is a warm camaraderie and a great deal of mutual respect.
What you might not expect is the number of retired rabbis who are disgruntled and disappointed with the relationship – or lack thereof – with the congregations that they served prior to retirement. Some feel cut off from both congregation and community, isolated professionally and personally. Others feel neglected and disrespected by successors and the new generation of Temple leaders and membership who do not recognize or even know of the contributions these colleagues made to their congregation over long and distinguished careers. It is sometimes hard to hear the pain voiced by these rabbis and their spouses. In some cases there is real and justifiable anger resulting from unfair treatment of rabbis by their congregation. It has become such a matter of concern within our entire Reform Movement, that a special committee has been created to address the issues of predecessor/successor relations, the proper role of retired rabbis and rabbis emeritus who remain in their communities, the relationships and obligations of such rabbis and their congregations to each other.
I choose to comment on this because I enjoy precisely the opposite and it saddens me that many of my colleagues do not enjoy the regard and status in their congregations that I do at Temple Beth Ami. After three years of my retirement into emeritus status, I think we can safely say that our congregation “did it right”. We found a wonderful and worthy new senior rabbi. Our clergy team continued to shine. Our lay leadership has charted new and innovative directions for the congregation, and Temple Beth Ami has remained a vital and important part of our own Jewish lives and in the life of our greater Jewish and general community.
This is not always the case. Transitions in rabbinic leadership which is a natural part of the life-cycle of congregations can result in turmoil and disruption. Our experience has been just the opposite. From where I sit, I think our congregation has been strengthened. And the fact is, there are many in our community and throughout our movement who look hold up Temple Beth Ami as “a good example” in this regard and long with the many other aspects of congregation life for which our congregation is respected.
Sometimes, it is necessary for us to stop, reflect and appreciate how our congregation has succeeded in its various aspects and efforts. It is important for us to celebrate the accomplishments that result from the thoughtfulness, support, generosity and general “menchlichkeit” (common decency) that characterizes our congregation and its membership — it something in which we should all take pride. I do and I am very grateful to remain a part of it.
As we turn out attention to vacation activities, Barbara and I wish everyone a happy and healthy summer. I hope all will return from summer renewed and refreshed, ready to enable our congregation to continue moving forward – in all respects – from strength to strength.