Shaping Sacred Partnerships

May 30, 2024Rabbi Paula Winnig

“When two people sit together and there are words of Torah between them, the Shechinah (Divine Presence) dwells among them” (Pirkei Avot 3:2). 

These words from “Ethics of Our Ancestors” remind us of the essence of the sacred partnership and relationship between our senior/solo clergy members and the presidents who lead our communities. When working together on behalf of our sacred communities, clergy and congregational presidents help bring the Divine into their relationship and into the congregations they serve.  

The Shallat Clergy Transition Seminar assists senior/solo clergy in their first year at a congregation and their presidents as they create the foundations to build a sacred partnership. The seminar now includes cantors serving in senior/solo clergy roles. 
Recent participants shared their experiences:

“The Shallat Conference provided our team with a wonderful build [a] culture of teamwork, collaboration, and shared empowerment. We gained insight and tools that have helped us communicate with each other in a way that fosters a sacred partnership. We highly recommend this innovative and engaging program to all new clergy and lay leadership.”
-    Rabbi Ilana Baden (she/her) of Temple Sinai, Las Vegas, NV

“It was a wonderful opportunity, not only to learn from URJ staff but also to learn from my peers in other cities...We highly recommend the Shallat Conference for any congregation going through or just completing the rabbinical transition process.”
-    Co-President Terri Hirschfeld (she/her) of Temple Sinai, Las Vegas, NV

The Shallat Clergy Transition Seminar features workshops on building sacred partnerships, tools for understanding and differentiating roles in synagogue life, dealing with difficult conversations, mutual review processes, and so much more. Senior/solo clergy and congregational presidents learn to communicate in new ways and build processes to strengthen their working relationships and their congregations. Senior/solo clergy new to their pulpits and presidents working with new clergy create networks with their counterparts across the URJ gaining extra support for their work.

“The URJ Sacred Partnership Handbook” frames the relationship in these terms:

“Sacred partnerships are built and nurtured through the Jewish values of mutual respect, trust, honesty, listening and communication, transparency, confidentiality, flexibility, reflection, empathy, and vulnerability. These values are surrounded by a culture of accountability that affirms the partnership.”

The Shallat Clergy Transition Seminar helps bring these goals to life in six online sessions from May to March.  Throughout their first year of working and learning together, clergy and presidents build not just a task-oriented relationship, but one that truly reflects the sanctity of their commitment to their congregations.

This approach, which focuses on both the professional and sacred aspects of the partnership between congregational presidents and clergy members, also follows the phases of the transition process explained in the URJ’s “Rabbinic Transition Roadmap.” The transition process must be managed so that it leads to long-term stability and vibrancy for congregational communities. These sessions help attendees build communication pathways with each other that will carry over to communication with other key players such as congregational staff and lay leaders.

Rabbi Bart & Jane Shallat choose to continue to support this project so that clergy who are new to their congregations and congregational leadership are given time and guidance to build a strong, supportive, trusting, and sacred partnership. We are grateful for the Shallats’ support of this project. In addition to the Shallats’ donation, the Small Congregation Fund is also used to ensure that the Shallat Clergy Transition Seminar is affordable for all our congregations throughout North America. Rabbi Natalie Shribman (she/her) thanked the Shallats with these warm words:

“Thank you for your support and generosity in providing the Shallat Program through the Union for Reform Judaism. The seminar was very helpful. It is always great to learn from colleagues. I was especially glad to see that cantors were included in this year’s training...The Shallat seminar helped facilitate important conversations between me and my president that I don’t think would have happened otherwise.”

The 2024-2025 Shallat Senior/Solo Clergy Transition Seminar is being held on May 22, November 12,13,14, January 29, and March 4.  For questions about the Shallat Seminar, please reach out to Rabbi Paula Winnig, director of North American Congregational Consulting and Transition Services.

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