Announcement of Change

Shalom, Dear Congregants of Beth El Congregation,, and Friends, 

I am writing to make an announcement. It is not easy for me to write this, but I am not comfortable delaying, and it is unthinkable to me that I would not tell you – I believe that my relationship with you is far more than simply ‘business’, and you deserve to hear this from me directly. I have spoken with the Board, and we have agreed that this is the right way to proceed.

By informing everyone in this fashion using this venue, I hope to forestall any miscommunications, misunderstandings, or sense of a desire to engage in lashon hara (gossip). I hope also neither to leave anyone out, nor to fail to inform all at once.

Essentially, what I am telling you is that as of June 30, 2018, when my current contract to serve Beth El Congregation will be concluded, and all services and tasks that I am to provide will be done, I will not be continuing to serve as Rabbi to this community. I will not be entering into another contract with the congregation. I was looking forward to doing so, but circumstances have changed, and now are such that I have had to make the choice to take this step.

Let me hasten to say that it was nothing that came about and no one at Beth El that brought this about; until very recently, my expectation was that I would be staying on for an additional period of years, as the Board and I were discussing. External factors entered the picture and necessitated this change of plans. The board agreed with me that this was the best choice given the circumstances.

The upshot is that I will be going elsewhere to serve. As you can imagine, this is, for me, a mixed emotional event. On the one hand, I am excited to be engaging in new challenges and opportunities, while on the other I am saddened by the prospect of not seeing and working with so many of you. Over these years I have come to know and care deeply about and for those in this community. Beth El is a very special Jewish home, and Harrisonburg is a very special place to live and work.

At the same time, I know that all things end; change is inevitable. It is said that the only verities are death, taxes, and change.

After fifteen years of serving and leading this congregation, and working widely in the community, I know that Beth El is healthy, vibrant, and in the hands of strong and caring lay leadership. I am confident that the congregation, and the community, will continue to thrive. The rabbi who will come to replace me is fortunate, indeed, and will be coming into a strong, well-grounded Jewish community, full of truly good people. I hope you will support that rabbi and make them feel as welcomed and cared for as you did me.

As I leave, I wish the congregation and the community well, and hope for a rich, positive, and stable future for you, collectively and individually.

I will be continuing to lead services and do other tasks as I have in past, right up until the end of June. If you wish to meet or speak to me, it would be my pleasure, so please feel free to be in touch. And beyond that date, the miracle of technology allows continued communication.

I will save any farewells for closer to June. For now, I close by offering you many blessings.

B’virkat shalom,


Rabbi Joe