Search for new rabbi starts over

by Mike Bern | 11/5/97 6:00am

The committee searching for the next College rabbi has started a completely new search, after rejecting all 30 original applicants when they couldn't reach a consensus, members of the committee said yesterday.

None of the four finalists interviewed at the end of the search process received the unanimous approval of the committee of Dartmouth students and faculty and members of the Upper Valley Jewish Community. The committee hopes to name a rabbi with every member's approval.

The committee hopes to announce a new rabbi at the beginning of Spring term. The new rabbi would begin work at the start of summer.

None of the candidates in the first search completely satisfied all the committee's requirements, including the requirement that he or she be flexible enough to deal with the diversity of the views of students and members of the community.

"The committee is looking for a rabbi to meet the needs and be sensitive to Jewish students on campus, and to deal with the diversity of the Upper Valley," said Shirley Sperling '98, the only student on the six-member committee.

Another committee member, Computer Science Professor Clifford Stein agreed. "It would be a major plus if a candidate had experience with diverse communities," he said.

To find new candidates, the search committee has placed ads in rabbinical publications and major Jewish magazines asking for new applicants. Members of the committee are optimistic that their search will yield more candidates this time, because last year's search began almost two months after many rabbis had already accepted new positions.

Although the advertisements state that applicants from any of the four major sects of Judaism -- Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist -- may apply, many members of the committee feel that an Orthodox rabbi would probably be the wrong person for the job.

Rebecca Gottesman, who represents the local community on the committee, said the rabbis' sect is not the major consideration, but the committee is seeking a "flexible, all-embracing, and unexclusive rabbi that would be able to move the community forward." She said a problem with one of the finalists was that he was "too conservative."

The committee has been searching for a new rabbi ever since College Rabbi Daniel Siegel announced he would be step down on Jan 1, 1998. Siegel has accepted a position as executive director of the Alliance for Jewish Renewal in Boston.

Because the committee did not find a replacement, the College will be without a full-time rabbi for at least the first six months of 1998. A part-time rabbi will lead services during the interim.

The lack of a full-time Jewish chaplain comes at a time when the Jewish community is moving into the new Roth Center for Jewish Life, scheduled to open officially on Friday.