About three years into her tenure as senior rabbi at Har Sinai Congregation in Owings Mills, Rabbi Linda Joseph will not extend her contract that expires next summer, according to congregation president Anne Berman.
“Rabbi Linda Joseph has informed the leadership of our congregation that she will not be extending her current contract beyond its expiration date of June 30, 2019,” Berman said on Oct. 4.
Berman said the Har Sinai board was involved in the early stages of contract negotiations with Joseph, when the board received an email from Joseph’s lawyer informing them of her decision.
Joseph, who came to Har Sinai as senior rabbi in 2016, is a native of Melbourne, Australia, and came to the U.S. to study at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where she was ordained in 1994.
Berman described Joseph as “a wonderful addition to the Reform Jewish clergy community in the greater Baltimore area.”
“Rabbi Joseph is a born storyteller and has walked Har Sinai congregants through many doors with her story sermons, which both entertain and teach timeless lessons of Jewish values,” Berman said. “And she has used grant money to expand access of preschool Jewish children in the Towson/Lutherville area to Jewish activities.”
Joseph declined to comment for this story.
This has been a year of ups and down, during which the historic synagogue — the oldest continuously Reform shul in the country — was involved in extensive and optimistic explorations of a merger with Temple Oheb Shalom in Baltimore. But talks were put on hold when Oheb Shalom’s Rabbi Steven Fink was accused of sexual impropriety and suspended from the rabbinate by the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
The merger process was suspended by Oheb Shalom in May. Subsequently, Joseph wrote in the congregation’s newsletter that in July, Har Sinai’s board of trustees “made a turning-point decision, to cease exploration of a merger with Temple Oheb Shalom, and to concentrate our efforts in finding a viable road map for Har Sinai Congregation in the future.”
Berman said the board is embarking on a search process for a new rabbi, which will entail forming a search committee and contacting the Union of Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, through which the congregation will receive a formal search packet, advice on the process and information on rabbis who are looking for a pulpit.
Berman said the congregation will most likely look for an interim rabbi, as interim rabbis are trained to work with congregations in transition and usually serve up to two-year terms.
“Rabbi Joseph has indicated that she is interested in helping us create a smooth transition and I certainly take her at her word,” Berman said, adding she was surprised and sad to learn of Joseph’s decision, but wishes her well in any future pursuits and is grateful for the fresh spirit that she brought to the |congregation.
“Whatever she decides to do and whatever path her rabbinate takes, I hope that it’s wonderful because she’s very inventive. She frequently tells a story as a sermon that is a beautiful story within itself, but expresses Jewish ethics, Jewish values and leaves you thinking,” she said. “It’s different from how things have been done in the past, but the people who are coming up through the ranks now, Gen X, Gen Y, the millennials, don’t want the same-old same-old.”
“Our congregation wishes Rabbi Joseph all of God’s blessings as she completes her time with us and moves on to the next phase of her rabbinate,” Berman added. “I regret that it came to this, but whatever she chooses to do next, I hope it’s meaningful and I hope it’s everything she wants it to be.”