Monday, May 21, 2012

The Freedom to Choose Your Own Rabbi - Blessing or Curse?

In addition to my day job, I am privileged to be a part of a Nebraska based congregational consulting group called Noah's Dove Consulting. 

Founded Patrick McNamara, renowned expert in conflict resolution and mediation, Noah's Dove helps congregations get through difficult changes. 

Through Noah's Dove I have had the opportunity to meet and work with Clergy from a variety of religions and denominations.  Some of the Churches that we have worked with belong to structured systems that assign the clergy to congregations rather than allow congregations to hire their own pastor.  The congregation is consulted, but ultimately the final say belongs to the regional religious office.

This is very foreign from anything that I have ever encountered in my own professional experience.  The Rabbi business is a free market.  When I first started, almost 10 years ago, the market was very good for the Rabbis.  Today the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction and congregations now have the upper hand. 

Though the market shifts, the concept is always the same.  Supply and demand.  There are many obvious advantages to this. 
  • Congregations have total control over the hiring process
  • Congregations have total control over the firing process
The down side is
  • Congregations have control over the hiring process
  • Congregations have control over the firing process
If the congregation can hire their own rabbi it seems that they will be more likely to choose a candidate that will suit their needs.  On the other hand, sometimes it is hard to distinguish among candidates.  Some rabbis are able to present well on an interview but do not perform well once hired, alternatively there are others who may not interview well but will be great rabbis for that congregation.  Having a professional body with experience may be a useful resource to a congregation.

As for firing, many Rabbis have been subject to the whims of boards of directors made up of a few disgruntled individuals with a personal axe to grind. 
Other times, congregations have sought to rid themselves of an ill suited Rabbi but can not muster up the necessary gumption to fire a Rabbi.  In that case having a regional body from above to be the bad guy may be a good thing for the congregation.

In the end of the day, I think I am happy with the free market system and I think that ultimately it serves the best interest of Rabbis and congregations.