Barnert Temple Rabbinic Transition

December 22, 2017

From Rebecca McKinnon:

Dear Friends,

I am delighted to announce Rabbi Rachel Steiner as Barnert Temple’s new Senior Rabbi. 

Rabbi Steiner's intelligence and insight, creativity and compassion, warmth and dedication are precious gifts.  How fortunate we are as a congregation to have her continue to share these gifts with us.

Our comprehensive Rabbinic search identified and evaluated an impressive field of qualified and accomplished candidates. From my perspective, one of the best parts of the process was to observe the caliber within the pool of talent from which Rabbi Steiner clearly rose to the top.  Her scope of knowledge, innovative ideas, ability to form deep connections, and love for the Barnert community are highly valued and deeply appreciated.

Barnert Temple was incorporated exactly 170 years ago today.  As we begin our congregation's next chapter, I look forward to discovering the many ways we will evolve and benefit from Rabbi Steiner's wisdom and leadership.  Together, we will embrace new opportunities, inspired by her unique vision. 

With joy in my heart and confidence in our shared bright future, I invite you to join me in welcoming and celebrating Rabbi Steiner as our new Senior Rabbi.

May we all go from strength to strength together.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rebecca McKinnon


August 8, 2017

Enjoy our Welcome To Barnert Temple video:


March 15, 2017

From Rebecca McKinnon:

Dear Friends;

I am delighted to share with you that our Search Committee and Board of Trustees have selected our Interim Rabbi for the coming year.

Rabbi Don Rossoff comes to us most recently from Framingham, MA where he has been serving as an Interim Rabbi. We are blessed by his having been Senior Rabbi for 25 years at Temple B'nai Or in Morristown and as such, he is very familiar with life in suburban NJ! Following his retirement there, he chose to shift into interim work and pursue a graduate degree in marriage and family counseling. We are very lucky to gain his skill and expertise for this coming year.

Rabbi Rossoff is also an accomplished musician, and will bring his extensive musical experience to further enrich our celebrations and worship. He and his wife Fran have been married for almost 33 years. They have 4 grown children: Marc (31), (Dr.) Jenna (29), Ilana (27) and Nathaniel (26).

We hope to have Rabbi Rossoff and his wife Fran visit us together this spring, so you'll have an opportunity to meet them before his tenure with us formally begins. We'll let you know that event date soon.

Once again, you might ask: what is the role of an Interim Rabbi?   Interim Rabbis are trained specifically in change and transition management. The Interim succeeds a very successful, long-term Rabbi and works with the congregation for one year, helping navigate the emotional and practical issues that lie ahead. This Rabbi works with the professional team, Board of Trustees and community to help them prepare for a successful future with their new Senior Rabbi. We pursued this path under the strong advice of the CCAR Rabbinic Placement Commission. 

Rabbi Rossoff is committed to joining Barnert with a solid understanding of our culture and expectations. Over the next few months Rabbi Frishman, Rabbi Steiner, Sara Losch and Vicky Farhi will meet with Rabbi Rossoff to plan for the coming year. Our shared goal is to ensure that all spiritual, educational and pastoral needs are met next year, and our community is best prepared for the transition to a new Senior Rabbi. 

I offer my profound thanks to our Search Committee and Board of Trustees for all their dedication, devotion and investment of time. While their work will continue into the coming year as we search for our next Senior Rabbi, we are grateful for all they have done to bring us to this point.

We welcome Rabbi Rossoff and his family with much anticipation and joy!

Rebecca McKinnon


October 30, 2016

From Julie Kagan:

Senior Rabbi Search Update

We're pleased to share an update with the congregation regarding the search for our new Senior Rabbi.  It has been an honor for each of us on the committee to be entrusted to work on this search process on behalf of the congregation.  

Our committee began its work this summer.  We started by developing a comprehensive job description that was informed by the congregational study and conversation regarding rabbinic transformation, with our strategic plan.  We listened closely to the congregation's input on what we want most in our next Senior Rabbi, and we benefited from input from our Board of Trustees.  

As a reminder, in forming our committee, we worked to ensure that our committee reflected the many constituencies within our congregation from young families to not so young, families with kids in the religious school or the pre-school and those without, long term members and some newer members, etc.

In July, the Barnert Senior Rabbi position was posted with the CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis - the Reform Movement's rabbinic organization) and we commenced our search in accordance with CCAR guidelines.  The process is fairly straightforward - the CCAR lists the position and interested rabbis submit their resumes and a personal statement in support of their candidacy.

To date, the committee has evaluated 25 Rabbis for the position.  We established some minimum criteria to help guide us in our evaluation of the candidates.  Overall, we have been impressed with the quality of the applicants and we're excited about the possibilities. Applicants have included rabbis with extensive pulpit experience, those newer in the role and many in between; all have been interesting and their personal statements have been especially meaningful.

After we receive a resume, the committee evaluates the candidate based on the materials submitted.  We also research the candidates online and can often find videos of sermons, written blog entries and articles, and a variety of other information that helps us evaluate the likelihood of a 'connection' with our search criteria.  The committee then decides which candidates to interview via Skype.    

Now that the High Holy Days are behind us, the search process is gearing up.  We continue to receive resumes and have preliminary Skype interviews with suitable applicants. During November and December we expect to begin to meet with our top candidates in person.  As we further narrow down the group of applicants, committee members will visit the top candidates at their congregations to see them 'in action', and as the process continues we will invite our top candidates back to Barnert to meet with a broader group.

Again, we have been impressed at the quality of the rabbis we have met.  Our congregation and the Senior Rabbi position here at Barnert are highly regarded within the Reform Movement, and Rabbi Frishman's reputation only furthers our appeal.

We will continue to update the congregation periodically.  We expect to finalize our choices and present our recommendations to the Board of Trustees in early 2017.  Please let us know if you have any thoughts or questions.  We have a special email set-up for our committee: [email protected].

The members of the Senior Rabbi Search Committee are: Rachel Dewan, Harvey Feldman, Jeff Gerstel, Julie Good, Bob Gutenstein, Roberta Hong, Julie Kagan, Andrew Kanter, Elisabeth LaForgia, Liz Louizides and Stacey Rappaport.  In addition, our President, Rebecca McKinnon, has been able to join many of our meetings, for which we are appreciative.


May 23, 2016

From Kathy Hecht:

Dear Friends,

I want to introduce you to the newly formed Rabbinical Search Committee and give you an update on the Rabbinical transition process thus far.

Two wonderful congregants, Jeff Gerstel and Julie Kagan, have stepped up to co-chair this effort. Both individuals have significant experience at Barnert as congregants and in leadership.

At Barnert, Jeff has served as a Vice President on the Executive Committee, a Board of Trustee member, served as co-chair of Leadership Development, and most recently co-chaired the Strategic Planning Committee. He has led social action, and helped shape our Vision and Mission Statements. Jeff lives in Ridgewood with his wife, Karen, and their two children, Dylan and Alexandra, became B'nai Mitzvah here at Barnert; they've been members since 2007.

Julie has also served as a Vice President on the Executive Committee and a Board of Trustee member. She has been chair of Barnert's Human Resources Committee for the last 21 years and participated on the last Clergy Search Committee. She was chair of our Youth Committee. More recently, she has joined the Leadership Development Task Force. Julie lives in Allendale with her husband, Jeff, who has greeted many of you every year as part of the ushering team on the High Holidays. They have two grown sons, Rob and Matt, both of who became B'nai Mitzvah and were very active in our high school youth group, BarTY. Rob also attended Barnert's pre-school. They've been members since 1995.

The committee overall consists of a cross section of the Barnert Community, representing young families, empty nesters, new and long-standing members; people involved in ritual lifelong learning, in social action and auxiliary groups, and in key leadership positions over the years.

I'm pleased to introduce to you the full committee:

  • Jeff Gerstel, co-chair
  • Julie Kagan, co-chair
  • Rachel Dewan, children in pre-school and religious school, leads Saturday Shabbat yoga, member Women of Barnert, active in adult education, member since 2012
  • Harvey Feldman, active Shabbat participant, worship band, member 2015
  • Julie Good, VP and Chair, Ritual Committee, children in religious school, member since 2004
  • Bob Gutenstein, Past President, on Rabbinical Search Committee that hired Rabbi Frishman, member of Men's Club, member since 1969
  • Roberta Hong, Executive Vice President, co-chair Strategic Planning Committee, Finance Committee, past Membership Chair, children post-college and raised at Barnert from pre-school, member since 2000
  • Andrew Kanter, three generation Barnert family with grandchild in preschool, former Board of Trustees member, Fundraising Committee, member since 1999
  • Beth LaForgia, children in pre-school, three-generation Barnert family, raised at Barnert (Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation), member since 1986
  • Liz Louizides, former Secretary of Executive Committee and Board of Trustees member, active in Barnert social action, high school and college-age daughters, both active in Barnert youth programs, member since 2003
  • Stacey Rappaport, Strategic Planning Committee member, children attended pre-school and are currently in religious school, member since 2011

The committee is just beginning its work. Its first step is to finalize the job description/application that will be posted on the CCAR job website (Central Conference of American Rabbis, the North American Reform rabbinical organization). The committee will then begin the task of sorting through resumes, which will take place throughout the summer and into the fall. At that point, it will narrow down the pool and begin the interview process. Eventually the finalists will be brought to Barnert.

I am so grateful to the Barnert members on the committee. Their work is truly sacred and important-and will be time-consuming! You will hear more about their work and progress later this year.

In the meantime, the Rabbinic Transition Steering Committee has begun its work. The co-chairs are Marian Filan and Stacey Bradford-Greenberg. They are planning a range of programs to involve all constituencies in the congregation. For now, mark your calendar for Thursday evening, April 27th, 2017, when we honor Rabbi Frishman.

Attached is a list of FAQs to provide you with more information. As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions.

My best wishes to you and your family,

Kathy Hecht, President


March 14, 2016

The Self-Study portion of our Rabbinic Transition concluded with a Town Hall meeting on March 13.  The purpose of the meeting was to share the findings of the self study, to ascertain whether any key issues or themes were overlooked,  and to provide a forum to answer questions.  Fifty people attended the meeting.   Others who couldn't be there were able to participate via live streaming.  The power point presentation is available by contacting the Temple office.  The report of the self-study committee will be submitted to the Executive Committee and forwarded to the Search Committee when it is formed.

The Self Study Committee is grateful to all the volunteers and staff who assisted with the survey, led Cafe Conversations, and served as recorders. We were inspired by the thoughtful, constructive input of all Barnert members who participated in the process.  The high level of participation and care demonstrates our community's commitment to shaping its future.


February 29, 2016

The Rabbinic Transition Self-Study Committee concluded its “Café Conversation” series this week.   Small group discussions were held with the Preschool teachers, Preschool parents, the Office staff, and the BarTy youth group board.  In addition, one-to-one conversations took place with Associate Rabbi Rachel Steiner, Lifelong Learning Director Sara Losch, and Executive Director Vicky Farhi.   In all, 100 Barnert members and 18 staff members engaged in these thoughtful and informative conversations about what we value at Barnert and what we seek in a new Senior Rabbi.

The Self-Study Committee is now preparing a presentation for a Town Hall meeting on March 13, from 9-11 at Barnert.  The purpose of this meeting is to share the Self-Study findings from the congregational survey and Café Conversations with our membership.


February 22, 2016

The first Cafe Conversation was help on February 21 at a joint breakfast meeting of the Women of Barnert and Men's Club.  Forty-five members participated in a candid and wide-ranging discussion.  Three more conversations are scheduled for this week.


February 11, 2016

The first phase of the Rabbinic Transition Self-Study drew to a close on February 10, the deadline for the Congregational Survey.  The Self-Study Committee received 157 complete surveys via online and paper formats.  The results will be tabulated and analyzed by the Self-Study Committee in the coming week.

The process continues with a series of "Cafe Conversations" which are open to all congregants.  They will be held from February 21 to February 28 at Barnert and in congregants' homes.  We'll discuss what Barnert means to our members, our thoughts about the future of our congregation, and our views on our future Rabbinic Leader.  Invitations were sent via email on February 9.  The conversations will also be publicized via the announcement board at Barnert, Shabbat announcements, and other means.  A special Cafe Conversation for Preschool families is scheduled for February 23.

Mark the calendar and Make Your Reservation:

Continue our exploration of the Barnert Community and our future in a more informal, conversational way at the Café Conversations.  Please RSVP to Natalie at [email protected] to reserve your space in one of the following:

February 21, 9 - 11 am, joint meeting of the Women of Barnert and Mens’ Club, at Barnert

February 21, 4 - 6 pm, open to all members, held at Barnert

February 23, 7 - 9 pm, open to all members, held in Ridgewood

February 24, 7 - 9 pm, open to all members, held in Franklin Lakes

February 28, 9 - 11 am, open to all members, held at Barnert


February 8, 2016

Your voice matters – and we want to learn what Barnert Temple means to you.

For some it’s an exceptional Preschool, Religious School, Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience.  For others, it’s about repairing the world or refreshing the spirit on Shabbat.  It’s a place where people make friends and deepen connections, draw meaning from Jewish study, and elevate their lives in so many ways.

Looking toward Rabbi Frishman’s retirement, we are turning to you for your thoughts and insights as we navigate the process of choosing our new rabbinic leader.

We want to hear from you!  The deadline for the congregational self-study survey is Wednesday, February 10.  Paper copies of the survey can be dropped off at Barnert Temple or mailed in.  Please check the mailing you received for the return envelope.

Be part of the conversation to shape the future of Barnert Temple.