Rabbinical Search updates

We’re in the process of a Rabbinical Search. You can view our updates as they come through below. 

Welcoming rabbi oren and family to cst!

may 10, 2021

On behalf of the Board of Directors and Rabbinic Search Committee, and following overwhelming positive feedback from our congregants, we are pleased to announce that Rabbi Gary Ezra Oren has accepted our offer to serve as Senior Rabbi of Congregation Shaarie Torah. Rabbi Gary, his wife Sharone, and their children, Ya’ara, Kiwi and Nadav, will join our community in stages over the next year, and he will be on the pulpit in time for the High Holy Days.
Rabbi Oren was a standout among the 10+ candidates we looked at over the course of the many months of this national search. Though our paths didn’t cross until late in the process, we are glad they did. All those involved – the Search Committee, the Board, the Staff, and the many affinity groups – feel like we found a very special rabbi who is just the right spiritual leader for our shul. Even more impressive than his outstanding pulpit and academic credentials is his keen interest in enriching and strengthening Shaarie Torah. Rabbi Oren is a person of depth and decency. In other words, a mensch,
“I feel incredibly blessed for the opportunity to serve as Congregation Shaarie Torah’s next rabbi,” says Rabbi Oren. “In addition to having the chance to work alongside amazing colleagues and committed lay leaders, and as someone who thrives by being in meaningful relationships with others, I’m excited to connect deeply with those who make up the CST family. I want to continue the long legacy of Shaarie Torah being a place for all to assemble; a place where all are included, and everyone feels valued. The Torah tells us that everyone is considered of equal importance in God’s eyes. Every person, irrespective of age, gender or status, matters.
I look forward to celebrating all of life’s ups and downs together as we strive to deepen our Torah learning–growing our souls through tefillah, and helping CST take an active role in bettering our local communities. Sharone, Ya’ara, Kiwi, Nadav, Tank, Lola, and I are so excited to join you all soon.” Rabbi Oren
Ordained in 2008 from Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, Rabbi Oren is currently serving as Chaplain Resident at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, CA. He has held pulpits at Temple Aliyah and Valley Beth Shalom in Southern California. He was also Vice President of Community Engagement at American Jewish University/Dean of the Whizin Center for Continuing Education and on faculty at Zeigler School of Rabbinic Studies.
We are so excited to have Rabbi Oren join us. We know that he will bring fresh energy and ideas, a commitment to our traditions, and the experience and vision needed to enrich and strengthen our congregation and help us position our shul for the future.
Please join us in welcoming the Orens to the Shaarie Torah family!

updates at our special meeting

February 7, 2021 | View Meeting

We came together for a special congregational meeting to discuss the budget and Rabbinic Search updates. Please watch the video of the recording to find out all about the committee’s recent updates. You can skip to minute: 25:40 to get right to the Rabbinic Search content. 


january 14, 2021 | View pdf

In the weeks since the last update a lot has happened with the ongoing work of the Rabbinic Search Committee. This tireless group completed the Pulpit Rabbinic Search Questionnaire. The mammoth document (32 pages!), which was thoughtfully written to reflect who we are as a congregation and what needs we have when it comes to selecting our next rabbi, was successfully submitted to the Rabbinic Assembly, and our job posting went live as the last few days of 2020 slipped away.

Happily, we’ve received CVs from four qualified candidates so far, and the committee is now deep into planning the interview process. In addition to speaking with these candidates, we will also be participating in Interview Week, which gives kehillot looking to hire a new rabbi the opportunity to interview the students graduating from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary. While our inclination is to hire a rabbi with prior pulpit experience, there may be some very viable candidates to be considered among the graduating seniors.

On a nice note, we’ve gotten positive feedback from both RA staff and the candidates that the questionnaire we submitted is really a master work. Comments include, “It looks great, and I can tell you did a very thorough job of filling it out,” and “Your rabbinic hiring questionnaire…describes a community passionately committed to prayer and learning, and a community that is confident in its ability to sing its own melody.” The many weeks of careful data dissemination, writing and editing to present the final questionnaire are paying off.

We will continue to update you about the search progress in regular messages, which will also be posted on our website. If you have specific questions about the committee’s work, please contact chair Anne LeVant: anne@prahls.com or Marje Jacobson: marjej2@gmail.com


december 17 2020 | View pdf

Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete the Congregation Shaarie Torah survey following this year’s High Holidays. We had a great response, with nearly 150 individuals sharing their hopes, concerns, and feedback on the future of the synagogue. This information has proven invaluable to the Search Committee as they’ve been preparing the candidate materials.

Chaired by Anne LeVant Prahl, the committee is comprised of members who represent the wide range of ages, stages and views of our congregation: Aaron Bloom, Eric Brown, Eva Celnik, Hannah Cohen-Cline, Annette Demsey, Allison Fowler, Marje Jacobson, Mylen Shenker, Michael Stokamer, Trudi Stone and Sara Sturtz, as well as Board President Daniel Petcher and Executive Director Jemi Kostiner Mansfield. The group has been meeting weekly to compile the massive (30+ page!) Pulpit Rabbinic Search Questionnaire required by USCJ and Rabbinical Assembly. This document is our opportunity to tell potential candidates who we are and what we are seeking in our next Rabbi. Our chance to put our best foot forward. That’s where the results of the recent survey come into play.

In going through the data, a few themes consistently emerged. First, the majority of respondents were satisfied with how CST is running. While this is always a great place to start, we paid attention to the fact that only one third of respondents were “very satisfied” with how things are going. We see this is a mandate to continue to improve the religious services and Judaic programming we offer. While there is a lot that continues to attract and keep people in our community (people highlighted our connection to the Conservative Movement and our Rabbi), we know there are areas where we can further innovate and deepen our impact. Given that two-thirds of survey respondents recommended we “allow for change while maintaining some tradition,” we feel that there is ample interest in finding those opportunities and further developing what we offer our kehillah (community).

Another theme that came across clearly in the survey data is how important and unique our community is. The number one response to “Why do you remain affiliated with CST?” was because people feel a sense of community. And when people shared the top priorities for the future of the synagogue, “community” was the #3 choice, coming in just behind creating a place to worship and finding a new Rabbi. In short, the survey data supports what we all know to be true: CST distinguishes itself because of its warm, hamish nature. This is something people across the board recognized as our greatest asset and something we will continue to prioritize.

As we look to take our next steps as a congregation and find the right Rabbi for us, we know that we have a great deal to offer him or her. We have an engaged congregation with a deep passion for Conservative Judaism, eager to deepen and expand our community and further enrich our spiritual lives. We look forward to sharing these truths with rabbinical candidates in the coming year. If you are interested in seeing the full results of the survey, which have been skillfully charted by Board Secretary Raphi Rosenblatt, please contact Jemi: executivedirector@shaarietorah.org.

The next steps for the Search Committee will be to submit the finalized questionnaire to the Rabbinical Assembly, officially putting us into the active search phase. This will happen before the end of December. In January the focus of the committee’s work will shift to interview preparation and planning for eventual virtual visits by the candidates. We will continue to update you about the search progress in regular messages, which will also be posted on our website. If you have specific questions about the committee’s work, please contact chair Anne LeVant: anne@prahls.com or Marje Jacobson: marjej2@gmail.com.

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