Rabbi SussmanAssistant Rabbi Announcement
Michael Halsted, President, and Rosie Zweiback, Chairman Assistant Rabbi Search Committee and President Elect
April 7, 2016
It is our pleasure to announce that Rabbi Deana Sussman has accepted our offer to be the Assistant Rabbi at Temple Israel, effective July 1.  We had a strong pool of applicants and the search committee worked diligently to review them all. Rabbi Sussman’s personal warmth, her professional experiences and her passion for Judaism and the Jewish people were very compelling.

Rabbi Sussman is a native of St. Louis, Missouri. For the past two years, she has served as the Rabbi Educator at Central Reform Congregation, a vibrant congregation of 780 households in the city of St. Louis. Her responsibilities included directing the adult education program, teaching in the religious school, working with conversion candidates, mentoring B’nai Mitzvah students, leading services and performing life cycle events. Rabbi Sussman also created a monthly musical Shabbat experience for young adults in their 20’s and 30’s in the St. Louis area.

Rabbi Sussman attended HUC-JIR in Los Angeles. She earned a Master of Arts in Jewish Education and was ordained in May of 2014. While at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Sussman explored many facets of the rabbinate. In addition to student pulpits at Temple Beth Torah, Temple Beth Shalom, Beth Knesset Bamidbar, and at the China Lake Naval Air and Weapons Station, Rabbi Sussman served as the Harold M. Schulweis Rabbinic Intern at Jewish World Watch, an organization that promotes education, advocacy and action around issues of genocide and mass atrocities.  She had a second rabbinic internship at Our House Grief Support Center, providing pastoral care to both children and adults. Prior to her enrollment in rabbinic school, Rabbi Sussman attended Indiana University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Jewish Studies and Religious Studies and a double minor in Hebrew and Psychology.  

Earlier this month, Deana married Jared Berezin and they will be in Omaha the week of April 25 to find a place to live.   Rabbi Sussman and Jared will join Rabbi Darryl Crystal, our Interim Senior Rabbi, at a reception immediately following the community conversation on Wednesday, April 27.  Please attend the community conversation to join in a conversation about the future of our congregation and the qualities we are looking for in our next spiritual leader which will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the reception for our new clergy will follow at 8 p.m. Please join us in welcoming Rabbi Crystal and Rabbi Sussman to Temple Israel.

Reflections on Senior Rabbi Search Process
by Susie Norton
March 31, 2016

I am honored to have been invited to serve on the Senior Rabbi Search Committee. Even though we are early in the process, I’ve been so impressed with the “homework” that Andie Gordman and Dan Gilbert, as co-chairs of the committee, have done before the committee had even met!

Already, the process has been organized and deliberative, focused on educating the committee members on the many steps we will go through to choose our next senior rabbi, and also on how we, as a committee, can involve the larger congregation in this important task.

Looking around the room at the twenty or so other committee members, I have been amazed at how diverse a group we are, yet how committed we all are to working hard to select the right spiritual leader for our Temple family.


Community Conversation April 27 and Insights from Rabbi Azriel
by Dan Gilbert and Andie Gordman Co-Chairs, Senior Rabbi Search Committee
March 24, 2016

The entire congregation is invited to join the Senior Rabbi Search Committee for a community conversation about the future of our congregation and the qualities we are looking for in our next spiritual leader. This event will be on Wednesday, April 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Temple Israel and dessert will be served. We all have a role to play in helping build on Rabbi Azriel’s 28 years of service and Temple Israel’s 145 years of history, we hope you will join us. 

At our last meeting, the committee heard Rabbi Azriel’s insights and reflections about his tenure and about parts of his job that most congregants don’t see. Rabbi Azriel shared specific experiences that will help us craft our job description and some bigger picture trends that will help us ask engaging, specific, and challenging questions of our candidates. One committee member shared that the conversation was,  “a real glimpse into his rabbinic soul and great direction and insight for our committee.” 

How Will Temple Israel Connect with Rabbinic Candidates? 
by Dan Gilbert and Andie Gordman Co-Chairs, Senior Rabbi Search Committee
March 17, 2016

One of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)’s critical functions is coordinating rabbinic searches across North America. The CCAR’s placement office acts as a broker between congregations searching for a rabbi and candidates looking for rabbinic jobs. 

Temple Israel’s Senior Rabbi Search Committee will submit an application to the CCAR and that office will then post the application to a list that potential candidates will review, along with the applications from other congregations looking for new clergy. The CCAR’s role ends when Temple Israel decides that we have enough applications and resumes to make up a strong pool of candidates. The CCAR is a partner for both the congregations and the rabbinic candidates and we have already learned a significant amount about the process from them.

Reflections on Hiring Rabbi Azriel
by Jane Rips
March 10, 2016
Last week was the kick off meeting for our search for a new Senior Rabbi for Temple Israel – our first senior search in over 28 years! Jimmy Farber and I both served (Jimmy as co-chair) on the search committee that selected Rabbi Azriel and now we are both members of the current committee.

Serving on a search committee is both exhilarating and daunting – 28 years ago we conducted 14 telephone interviews and 7 in person sessions. The group divided into breakfast, lunch and dinner attendees with all of us participating in an evening interview. (I can’t remember where our lunches took place, but I know that the place is closed….might be the same with the dinner restaurant.) 

One thing I remember clearly: after all the interviews we spent some time “debriefing.” As we took turns giving our impressions of the candidate, our mood often reflected the demeanor of the rabbi. Sometimes we were quiet and reflective; sometimes we were more talkative or engaged. Our debriefing after Aryeh was alive and spirited – we caught his infectious enthusiasm and joy. He was not the final candidate we saw, but, of course, ultimately he was the final candidate! 

May it be so with this search committee!

Save the Date: April 27 for Community Conversation about Senior Rabbi Search
by Dan Gilbert and Andie Gordman
March 3, 2016
Every member of Temple Israel has a part to play in selecting our next senior rabbi. As a congregation, we must answer: “What do we want Temple Israel to be?” and “What qualities do we need in our next leader?” The Senior Rabbi Search Committee is tasked with synthesizing all of our voices into a vision that connects us with the right person to lead us forward.

Please join us at Temple Israel on Wednesday, April 27, in the evening for a community conversation to share your voice as we start answering these questions. More details about this event will come in the next few weeks. We hope you are able to join us.

Rabbi Azriel’s Tribute Book… the clock is ticking…
by Mendy Halsted
February 25, 2016
Thank you to everyone who has submitted their tributes for Rabbi Azriel’s Tribute Book. Your contributions support the Rabbi Azriel Youth Engagement Fund and provide individual testimony to Rabbi’s 28 years of dedicated service to our congregation!  We encourage everyone to please submit your tributes as soon as possible. To ensure adequate time to complete the work and provide it to the printers, your tributes must be received by March 15.

Please send your form and image to Cassandra Hicks, or visit our online form. You may also mail or leave photographs and forms at the Temple Israel office in an envelope marked with your name.
If you have any questions, please contact Mendy Halsted, 402-680-9246, or Cassandra Hicks, 402-556-6536.

Senior Rabbi Search Process
by Rosie Zweiback, Chair
Februray 18, 2016
Over the next three weeks, three outstanding candidates for our Assistant Rabbi position will come to Omaha for formal interviews. Rabbi Crystal and I were very impressed with the candidates we met in New York City and narrowing the field was a challenge. Two of our candidates will be graduating from HUC this spring and one has served as a rabbi educator for two years.  During their whirlwind two-day visits, they will learn more about our congregation and our city, participate in religious school, meet with our staff and clergy, and tour the JCC and Child Development Center.  If you cross paths with our candidates when they are touring Temple Israel, please be sure to say hello.

Share Your Thoughts About Our Next Senior Rabbi
by Dan Gilbert and Andie Gordman, Co-Chairs Senior Rabbi Search Committee
March 7, 2016
What do you love about Temple Israel? What qualities are most important for our next senior rabbi? What would you ask the candidates? How would you describe Temple Israel to them?

Every voice is important as we build on Rabbi Azriel’s 28 years of service and Temple Israel’s 145 years of history. The Senior Rabbi Search Committee invites you to join in conversation about the future of our congregation and the qualities we are looking for in our next spiritual leader. Please join us:

Congregational Conversation
Wednesday, April 27, 6:30 – 8 p.m.
Temple Israel
Coffee and Dessert

This event is intended for adults. Our younger congregants and their families will have a chance to participate in this conversation during the summer.

Please contact Andie Gordman (andie.gordman@me.com)  or Dan Gilbert (dmgilbert@gmail.com) with any questions. We hope you can make it.

Senior Rabbi Search Process
by Dan Gilbert and Andie Gordman

February 11, 2016
The Senior Rabbi at Temple Israel is the best rabbinic job in the country and we are honored to co-chair the search committee that will find the person to fill this role. The committee will represent the broad diversity of Temple members and work to connect our congregation’s historical strengths with our hopes for the future.

Rabbi Azriel has made a remarkable impact to Temple Israel and our entire Omaha Jewish community; his contributions give us a strong foundation for our searchWe will begin working in March with guidance from the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the input from Temple’s interim rabbi Darryl Crystal. We will engage the entire congregation in this process and will communicate regularly about our progress.  Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions, concerns, or ideas, we are looking forward to this important work. 

A Message from Rosie Zweiback, Chair, Assistant Rabbi Search Committee
January 28, 2016
It is more than a bit surprising to find myself chairing a rabbi search committee twice in one year. While we were not planning to hire a new assistant rabbi at this time, we accept that life is unpredictable, change must be embraced and we move forward with hope.

The assistant rabbi search committee was formed in January and represents a broad cross-section of our membership. Our committee includes: Jessica Cohn, Rachel Dysico, Mike Halsted, Jill Idelman, Brandon Koom, Stan Krieger, Dan Marburg, Jeff Platt, Silvia Roffman and Cantor Wendy Shermet

We are working diligently to bring a wonderful assistant rabbi to Omaha to join our Temple Israel family. We have received eight applications, five from newly-ordained rabbis who will graduate from Hebrew Union College in the spring and three from rabbis already working in the field. In early February, our Interim Senior Rabbi Darryl Crystal and I will be attending “placement” at the New York City campus of HUC, where the 22 graduating students and the congregations that want to hire an assistant rabbi start the process of making a match. We will be interviewing the five students who applied to our position. The search committee will then determine which candidates to bring to Omaha for onsite interviews. Concurrently, we will be conducting phone interviews with our more seasoned applicants who may also be invited for a visit. It is our hope to have our next assistant rabbi hired by late spring and to join our staff in early summer.

If you have any questions or would like to volunteer to assist with hosting duties when our candidates come to interview, please contact me at rozback@cox.net or 402-669-2835.

Here are some questions I have received about hiring new clergy:  

Why don’t we just hire our new senior rabbi now?

There are several reasons we will not hire a senior rabbi at this time.

1.We have already committed to Rabbi Darryl Crystal to be our interim rabbi for one year. We would not break our contract with him nor would it be feasible to have two senior rabbis on staff at the same time.  Rabbi Crystal, with his years of congregational and interim experience, has already been an outstanding source of support to our staff and lay leadership as we navigate the unexpected departure of Rabbi Brown.

2.This is a terrible time to start a search for a senior rabbi. Senior rabbi positions post in late summer and are often filled by December.  If we sought to hire a senior rabbi now, we would find a fairly small applicant pool.  It is to our advantage to post our position this summer to attract the best applicants.

Why would a rabbi want to be our assistant without knowing who the senior rabbi will be?

The senior rabbi supervises and mentors the assistant so this is a fair question. However, being a rabbi at Temple Israel is an exciting opportunity regardless. Our interim, Rabbi Crystal is highly respected and experienced in mentoring young rabbis. Our cantor, with 15 years at Temple, will also be a valued colleague. With Rabbi Azriel in town, very strong clergy will actually surround our new assistant to provide support. Plus, for someone with passion and vision, this position offers an incredible opportunity to make his or her mark.

Why not wait and let the new senior rabbi help hire the next assistant rabbi?

We are a fairly large congregation and our clergy work very hard teaching, leading worship services and providing pastoral care.  If we wait until our next senior is hired to fill the assistant position, we would have only two clergy in place for all of next year.  Moreover, we are a congregation that values personal relationships with our clergy.  We will be very excited to welcome our new assistant this summer so we can start forming the connections to our rabbi that add meaning to our lives

rabbicrystalTemple Israel Hires Rabbi Darryl Crystal as Interim Rabbi
December 21, 2015
The Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that Rabbi Darryl Crystal will join Temple Israel as our interim rabbi next year.  Rabbi Crystal has been an interim rabbi for 11 years serving a wide variety of congregations, he is coming to us  from Temple Beth David in Westwood, Massachussetts.  He will start at Temple Israel on July 1, 2016 after spending the month of June studying in Israel. Rabbi Crystal will visit Temple Israel several times in the coming months. His first visit in January will be organized around meeting with our clergy and staff to begin planning for next year.

Rabbi Crystal has been an interim rabbi for 11 years, serving a variety  of congregations both large and small, you can read MySanAntonio’s profile about his work from 2012. He is the manager of the interim Rabbi Program for the Reform movement and a true lifelong learner who has availed himself of many Jewish  learning opportunities including study at Gratz College in Philadelphia and the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.  He has also pursued advanced training in the area of organizational development at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, the Hauser Institute at Harvard University, and the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western University. Prior to his work as an interim, Rabbi Crystal served as the assistant, associate and senior Rabbi at North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, NY for 18 years.

There will be more information about Rabbi Crystal in the coming months, including a visit in the spring when we will all have a chance to interact with him. As soon as the details come together, they will be announced to the congregation. Please feel free to contact any member of the transition committee with any questions.

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Cantor Shermet’s First Thoughts on A Year of Reflection and Celebration: Moving from Strength to Strength
November 3, 2015
Temple Israel has thrived for almost 150 years, successfully transitioning through prayer books, buildings, and significant changes to America in general and Omaha in particular. These changes have also included saying farewell to significant Temple personnel and then welcoming new clergy and staff.  Our community has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to be flexible and open.

The Board and staff have the best interests of the Temple Israel family at the heart of decisions.  Please continue to ask questions and share ideas; all of us are ready to engage in discussions and give updates when available.  The Torah scroll rolls from the beginning to the end and back again each year, even as our circumstances change.

Interim Rabbi Search Update
by Rosie Zweiback, Chair, Interim Rabbi Search Committee
October 7, 2015
Temple Israel’s Interim Rabbi Search Committee continues to meet regularly to review our applications and conduct phone interviews. We are pleased with the quality of the applicants and delighted to learn of their enthusiasm for the opportunity to work with our congregation. We are committed to finding an excellent candidate whose experience and temperament will be a terrific match for us. With the conclusion of the holiday season, we are planning SKYPE interviews for our top candidates. The most promising of these will be interviewed in person. We hope to have an announcement to share with the congregation before Chanukah. Please stay tuned to our transition website for updates. Thank you for your support. Please do not hesitate to contact me or anyone on the search committee with any questions.



Clarifying the Role of Our Interim Rabbi
by Temple Israel President Mike Halsted
July 20, 2015
As we move forward with our plan to hire an interim rabbi, I have heard from several congregants who are looking for more information about how our interim rabbi will serve Temple Israel and work with our strong team of clergy and staff.

The decision to engage an interim rabbi was unanimously supported by our Board of Trustees, executive staff and our clergy, including Rabbi Brown.  The interim will serve a one-year contract and will not be eligible to apply for the senior rabbi position. Rabbi Brown will continue to serve us with his outstanding dedication and work with the interim rabbi to help guide our congregation through the transition year following Rabbi Azriel’s retirement.

The decision to utilize an interim rabbi will not alter the search process for and selection of our next senior rabbi which will start in Spring 2016.

Please, if you have any questions, reach out to any of the members of the interim rabbi search committee: Rosie Zweiback, Sally Kaplan, Jane Rips, Dorothy Spizman, Louri Sullivan, Andie Gordman, Scott Goodman, Dan Gilbert, Dennis DePorte, and myself, or any member of the Board of Trustees and clergy.

For more information, please visit our FAQ page about this process.


Rabbi Brown’s First Thoughts on  A Year of Reflection and Celebration: Moving from Strength to Strength
July 2, 2015
Throughout the 2015-2016 year, Temple Israel’s clergy, leadership, staff and congregation will share reflections and updates about Temple Israel’s transition through Rabbi Azriel’s retirement and into our next era. Watch Rabbi Brown’s initial message about this coming year and share your thoughts on the transition comments page.


Rabbi Azriel’s First Thoughts on A Year of Reflection and Celebration: Moving from Strength to Strength
June 11, 2015
Throughout the 2015-2016 year, Temple Israel’s clergy, leadership, staff and congregation will share reflections and updates about Temple Israel’s transition through Rabbi Azriel’s retirement and into our next era. Watch Rabbi Azriel’s initial message about this coming year and share your thoughts on the transition comments page.


Temple Israel President’s PerpectiveHalsted-web
by Mike Halsted
June 3, 2015
Rabbi Azriel will be retiring in one year after an amazing tenure of almost 30 years as Temple Israel’s senior rabbi. His work and dedication to this congregation has been untiring and inspiring and he will undeniably be counted among the highly respected emeritus rabbis of Temple Israel and the reform movement.  His retirement however, leaves the Board of Trustees with the work of leading our congregation through the transition to his successor, our new senior rabbi.  

The Board of Trustees’ preparation for this transition actually started at the URJ Biennial that many of our current board members and I attended in San Diego in December of 2013.  Our delegates gained important insights in seminars about the transition process and shared other congregations’ transition experiences, both from the perspective of lay leaders but also from retiring and successor rabbis.

In April, Stephen Einstein, Founding Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation B’nai Tzedek, Fountain Valley, CA visited Temple and had the opportunity to meet individually with Rabbis Azriel and Brown, Cantor Shermet and our executive staff prior to meeting with the Board of Trustees for an extended evening retreat dedicated to education and discussion related to Temple Israel’s transition to Rabbi Azriel’s successor.  Rabbi Einstein led the Board of Trustees through an engaging and thoughtful conversation about our transition including the role of an interim rabbi.

At its May meeting, after much study, conversation and contemplation, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to proceed with the search for and selection of an interim rabbi, for a one-year contract starting on June 1, 2016.

Interim rabbis are specifically trained to help foster and mentor a congregation’s transition to a new senior rabbi.  Selection of an interim rabbi as part of the transition process to a successor senior rabbi is not uncommon within the Reform movement, and Rabbi Azriel, Rabbi Brown, Cantor Shermet and the executive staff all support the Board’s unanimous decision. 

The search committee for Temple Israel’s interim rabbi will be selected soon and will start the search process.  The Board of Trustees, our clergy and the executive staff feel that engaging an interim rabbi is an important step in Temple Israel’s successful transition to its next senior rabbi, the search for which will begin a year from now. 

Additionally, our congregation will embark this year on celebrating and recognizing Rabbi Azriel’s nearly three decades of service as Temple Israel’s senior rabbi.  More on this will be announced in the next few weeks and we look forward to many of you helping with this work.


Hiring an Interim Rabbi
May 27, 2015
The coming years will be filled with celebration, excitement, and certainly some trepidation as we prepare for Rabbi Aryeh Azriel’s retirement and the next chapter of our synagogue’s history.  At the 2015 Temple Israel Annual Meeting on May 26, Temple Israel President Mike Halsted announced that the Board of Trustees had voted unanimously to hire an interim rabbi for 2016-2017 (5776-5777) to give our congregation the opportunity to reflect on how we will build on Rabbi Azriel’s contributions and identify our congregation’s next longtime spiritual leader.  Temple Israel’s leadership and staff are working hard to keep the congregation informed about our transition with a process that is transparent and inclusive with the highest levels of integrity.  We will use this page to share regular updates with the congregation about this transition process.