Exterior of Temple Israel Long Beach


Steve Gordon

Transition and Change

March 5, 2021

There’s a joke/truth out there that says death and taxes are the only certainties in life. When I’m feeling somewhat playful, I also add having to take out the trash as another inevitability. We all know, however, that the other absolute in our lives is change. Try as we might, there is no getting around the fact that change is going to happen, whether we want it to or not.

A great philosopher once said, “You can’t have progress without change, but not all change is progress.” This speaks to the need for the concept of change to improve our lives. Technology, medical advances, and industrial innovation are all ways that change can lead to the betterment of our existence. It happens, we choose to accept or reject it, we adapt, and then we get on with our lives, hopefully in a better place than we were prior to the change. Be that as it may, there is still no escaping the fact that change can be disruptive, as well as anxiety provoking. I get upset when the box of breakfast cereal I typically eat each morning is empty and I have to eat something else. But that’s another story for another day.

As if we haven’t had enough change over the last few years, we are now experiencing another significant event, that is, the process of searching for a new cantor. I fully get that this happens. It would be naïve and unrealistic to expect the status quo to remain in place indefinitely. But after two Rabbinic searches, and a Pandemic that has fundamentally changed just about everything we do and how we do it, the thought of another major happening at temple is a bit daunting.

Despite the formidable nature of the task at hand, I take solace in knowing the strength of our congregation will allow us to do what we need to do, to get through it, and to successfully come out the other side. These are words I am writing in regard to the current cantorial search, but they equally apply to the other challenges we have faced and will continue to face.

The search for our Interim Rabbi was conducted during a time of stress, and resulted in a wonderful year with Rabbi Simon. And our most recent search has brought us Rabbi Fox, who has become a wonderful and invaluable part of our community. Anxiety and concern were present with each of those searches, but we did what we needed to do, we did it well, and we are thriving as a result.

The Pandemic, of course, has also turned our community, not to mention the entire world, upside down. But through the amazing dedication and innovation of our staff, in addition to the resiliency and support of our congregation, we are getting through this as well.

I would love to say, enough already, stop it! But I can’t, and I won’t. We are going to give this search the full effort, dedication, and attention it deserves. I say that because you, our faithful and loyal congregants deserve it. There can be no other way.
When this article is published at the beginning of March, you will have had the opportunity to participate in a survey as to what you would like to see in our new cantor. I hope you all took advantage of that opportunity. The search committee, as well as the board, represent you, our constituents. We don’t make decisions based on what we want, we make decisions based on what all of you want.

Now here’s the tricky part. With a congregation of nearly 600 families, unanimity is virtually impossible. Over the last several years, I have had the pleasure of numerous conversations with many people. I encourage and welcome these interactions. It gives me the opportunity to hear and understand what people want, what they are looking for, and what their preferences are. I find the conversations to be sincere, genuine, and often quite stimulating. And, as expected, I find many differences of opinion. That’s the reality, and is essentially impossible to be any different.

Striving for diversity, as we do, is a noble endeavor. But diversity also comes with conflicting desires, and, at times, desires that are significantly conflicting. A natural consequence of diversity is the inevitability of disappointment and/or dissatisfaction. It would be wonderful to please everyone in every way, all the time. Sadly, that cannot happen. But please know every effort is being made to make the best possible decisions, not only with our current search, but with all temple business.

You are the heart and soul of our congregation. Without you, Temple Israel does not exist. It is always the intention and desire among the professional staff and lay leadership alike, to hear you, represent you, and act accordingly, for the best interests of our beloved synagogue.

Death, taxes, taking out the garbage, and change. We cannot prevent them. But what we can do is pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and move on down the road, which, by the way, is a pretty terrific road. Now if you will excuse me, I need to check on my cereal supply.

Stay safe.