On February 1, I will begin six months of sabbatical. Though the provision for a sabbatical has been part of my agreement with the congregation for five years, scheduling reflected the immediate needs of the synagogue and of my family. As I announced two years ago, the time is arriving.
A diligent committee has been planning for the period of my absence. Rabbinic resources are being engaged for necessary functions and lay involvement is being planned for those aspects of my job – which are most aspects of my job – which do not require rabbinic ordination. Both Hazzan Tasat and Rabbi Klirs will continue their own full-time responsibilities.
What will I be doing? Initially, I had expected to devote time to a single project on behalf of the Conservative movement. The priorities of the movement are different than mine, and the project will not come to fruition. However, I have a list of shorter-term objectives waiting for my attention. I will be reading, writing, consulting, teaching and traveling. I expect to maintain a regular (if less hectic) schedule. My base will be my basement where I will have an office and a comfortable chair for reading.
What will I not be doing? I will not be functioning as the rabbi of Agudas Achim at all. I expect there will be no exceptions, including the inevitable emergencies which will present themselves during the course of the six months. Unlike my weekly day off which often falls casualty to life cycle demands and frantic congregants, I will not be officiating, teaching, counseling or advising. Members, committees and the congregation at large will be without my involvement as rabbi during those six months (and will thrive)! I request that you not ask me to make an exception; I will politely turn you down if you do. (And if you persist, I will not be so polite.)
Where will I be? I will be living in my home, as always. The demands of school and activities on my children are great. Uprooting them for a semester would not be in their interest. As such, we will likely be Jews in the pews at Agudas Achim regularly, and glad to see all of our friends on a social basis.
Why am I doing this? First and foremost, my resources are depleted. After almost twelve years as your rabbi, I need time to reflect, learn intensively and gain some perspective on how I function in the pulpit. I need time to rediscover my interests outside the congregation which (used to) sustain me in this high-stress position. I need to recover emotionally from the demands of the rabbinate, attending to the frayed edges and healing the strains and bruises of exertion. Second, and no less important, I need to reintegrate with my family. They need to see how it is for their own schedules and considerations to have first priority. Finally, the congregation needs this separation. Our growth together has been remarkable, but I hear too many people ascribe our success to my efforts. Agudas Achim is a partnership in which everyone is important but no one is essential – including the rabbi.
I don’t leave until February 1, and I will be back August 1. And I will be back, for absolutely certain. In between, let’s all have wonderful experiences to share with each other.