Temple Judea to hire Rabbi Joshua Aaronson

[UPDATE: Jan. 18] Members of Temple Judea in Tarzana concluded a yearlong search for a new senior rabbi by voting to hire Rabbi Joshua Aaronson on Jan. 16. The spiritual leader of Temple Har Shalom in Park City, Utah, Aaronson will join Judea, a 1,000-member-family Reform congregation, on July 1, replacing Rabbi Donald Goor.

Those who took part in the vote were given three choices: yes, no or abstain. Aaronson received 333 votes in favor and 46 against, according to Ellen Franklin, the synagogue’s executive director. There were 34 abstentions.

“I am honored to join this sacred community which for 60 years has been a beacon of vibrant, Jewish life in the San Fernando Valley,” Aaronson said in a statement released by the congregation. “Rabbi Goor has built Temple Judea’s reputation as a cutting-edge community of Jewish living, known throughout the country for dynamic educational and social justice programming, among other things. In fact, it is this reputation that draws me to Judea. In the months ahead, I look forward to forging lasting relationships with the members and staff of this warm congregation.”

Goor announced his plans last January to make aliyah along with his partner, Cantor Evan Kent, of Temple Isaiah in West Los Angeles. One of Judea’s associate rabbis, Dan Moskovitz, has announced that he is leaving for a pulpit at Temple Sholom in Vancouver. Associate Rabbi Karen Bender will be staying at Judea, Franklin said.

[Jan. 7] Rabbi Joshua Aaronson, of Temple Har Shalom in Park City, Utah, has emerged as the frontrunner to replace Rabbi Donald Goor as the senior rabbi at Temple Judea, a Reform congregation in the San Fernando Valley.

On Dec. 20, the synagogue’s board of trustees voted to approve Aaronson for the position. Now, in accordance with the Tarzana synagogue’s bylaws, the 1,000-member-family congregation will vote on Jan. 16 to determine if Aaronson will get the job. If approved in the congregational vote, Aaronson will start at Judea this summer.

“Any institution needs a leader, and the senior rabbi is a spiritual and communal leader of an institution, the face of the institution and the person who helps set the vision and direction of our institution,” said Ellen Franklin, executive director at Temple Judea.

Aaronson was selected from a pool of candidates that included Judea’s associate rabbis, Karen Bender and Dan Moskovitz. He is set to replace Goor, the congregation’s longtime spiritual leader, who announced his plans last January to make aliyah along with his partner, Cantor Evan Kent, of Temple Isaiah in West Los Angeles.

Goor, who became senior rabbi in 1997, oversaw a merger with the struggling Temple Soleil in West Hills in 1999 and a $27 million reconstruction of the temple’s Tarzana campus.

Aaronson was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York and has served on pulpits in Buffalo, N.Y., Cleveland and Australia. He has been a rabbi at Har Shalom, a Reform congregation with 300 member families, for more than a decade.

Aaronson would bring “22 years of experience and leadership to our synagogue,” said Temple Judea board of trustees president Andy Keimach in a letter sent to the Judea community on Dec. 21.

A senior rabbi search committee presented the board with Aaronson as its choice after approximately 1 1/2-years of work, during which the committee followed a hiring process prescribed by the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Aaronson and the other final candidate — Rabbi Philip Rice from Congregation Micah in Nashville, Tenn., who ultimately withdrew his name from consideration, according to Judea’s Web site — spent weekends in December at the congregation, getting acquainted with the synagogue and allowing the congregation to get to know them. From Dec. 14-16, Aaronson met with congregants, studying, eating and schmoozing with them.

Congregants, Franklin said, were heavily involved in the hiring process, providing feedback on what kind of rabbi they were interested in having during focus groups, through surveys and during town hall-style meetings.