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Message to Congregation Emanu-El Leadership

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We join together to send a Message to the leaders of Congregation Emanu-El...

Our community has experienced the loss of one of the central spiritual and ethical pillars of Congregation Emanu-El.  For many of us, Rabbi Peretz has been front and center in our educational and spiritual involvement with the congregation, which makes the loss even harder. 

Peretz's departure alone would have led many Congregants with close ties to him to naturally reassess their relationship to Emanu-El.  The manner in which he was dismissed, however, has contributed to a broader level of concern and questioning as to the direction and leadership of Emanu-El.  We feel a need to understand how someone who has given so much of himself to so many over so many years was asked to leave under still unexplained and troubling circumstances.

We believe that the circumstances as we understand them are relevant to our concerns about the current and future leadership of our Congregation.  We understand that it was the Senior Rabbi's recommendation that Rabbi Peretz soon leave the synagogue and that the Board supported the Senior Rabbi's recommendation with insufficient review of Peretz's performance or assessment of the broader impact on the Congregation.  Our understanding is that the Senior Rabbi's recommendation may have been motivated by tension, both professional and personal, among clergy and particularly between the Senior Rabbi and Rabbi Peretz.  If true, we are struggling to accept that the Senior Rabbi was allowed to take this action by the Lay Leadership, allowing interpersonal struggles and internal management challenges to trump the deeper and broader needs of the Congregation.

We know that change is often difficult and we understand that you believe your actions were in the best interest of the Congregation.  We think it is premature and unreasonable, however, to ask the Congregation to simply accept this decision and move on to business as usual without some more substantive dialogue.  We also think that this development prompts broader questions related to the need for greater disclosure and transparency in how this and other far reaching decisions are made. We think it is timely and appropriate to ask if the current organizational and governance structure brings out the best in the Clergy, the Staff and the Board.  Is it truly effective in achieving what is just and right and in the interests of the broader membership?

In the same spirit, we challenge ourselves.  This event has made clear that some of us have been too passive.  This is not the fault of the Clergy or the Board.  We own this error and need to correct it.  Many of us need to ask ourselves how we can become a community of engaged participants.

We want to heal.  But to do that experience teaches that certain steps will need to be taken.  This letter is the first step.  Stating in public what has been lost and acknowledging that mistakes were made.  The next step is a recognition that some things must change.  In order for positive change to occur - change that accounts for the broad interests of our wonderful congregation - a dialogue must begin.  We have now begun this dialogue and we respectfully hope that the Board hears our call and responds.


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