Rabbi’s Recent Letter to Our Am HaYam Family

Rabbi’s Recent Letter to Our Am HaYam Family

Dear Am HaYam Family,

On a recent Shabbat, we read in the Torah, Parashat Va-Et-chanan, the following:

וָאֶתְחַנַּ֖ן אֶל־יְהֹוָ֑ה בָּעֵ֥ת הַהִ֖וא לֵאמֹֽר׃

I [Moses] sought out myself to G!d at that time.

 Rabbi Israel Salanter, the great 19th-century figure, posed the question, “When was ba-eit ha-hi, “at that time”? The question remains unanswered, with the implication that Moses and, by extension, all of us, will discover the right time for decisions when we ponder ourselves before G!d.

I myself have spent time in prayer and reflection before G!d and with my family.

This is my thirteenth year with Am HaYam. I have decided to retire from my position as Rabbi.

In our time together, we have achieved so much together:

  • We have expanded the tenor, depth, and musicality of our prayers.
  • We have instituted exciting, new classes–whether holiday seminars or long-term explorations.
  • We have had exciting events, programs, and lecture series.
  • We have applied for and received grants from the Pacific Southwest Region of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism for technology, which enabled us to move forward with our wonderful new website, and programming, which enabled us to bring gifted scholars and teachers.
  • We met the challenges of the pandemic–and soared above them.
  • We have created our first Mission Statement and redone our by-laws.
  • We have grown into a community of substance, spirituality, and justice.
  • We have renewed our strong commitment to the principles of the Conservative Movement and provided a wealth of exceptional educational programs, both in person and online.

We should all be proud.

I have traveled with so many of you the road of learning, praying, and experiencing joyous life moments and sad ones. I am grateful to each of you, for enabling me to serve as your rabbi, for allowing me to be on this journey with you, and for all the kindness, warmth, and support you have given.

This is not an easy decision, and one I take with many deep feelings. I love CAH and all of you. CAH will forever be a part of me.

I am choosing to publicly announce my departure now so that our CAH leaders, particularly the Board of Directors, can actively begin the necessary behind-the-scenes leadership transition work that goes with finding a new rabbi. I have pledged my support and willingness to support a smooth, anxiety-free period of transition.

Much time remains until my departure. We don’t need to start saying our goodbyes now. There is still a lot of work to be done during my tenure with you, and I plan to remain actively engaged as your rabbi. And having time will help us all to absorb this change in all of our lives and chart a healthy way into the next chapter.

As we all prepare for the upcoming High Holy Days, let’s ensure that this will be an especially good year by all of us sensing that we are apples of deep substance, oozing with the sweetness of honey.

I have often taught that the biblical verse, “May my prayer to you be at an auspicious time” (Psalms 69:13) has especially deep meaning during a time of transition, when we all are more cognizant of deep feelings which we can harness to great effect. The verse connects this possibility to G!d’s chesed, loving kindness.

So, I pray that this time of transition will be one of deep sharing between us, a time of love and of kindness.

With gratitude and humility,

Rabbi J.B. Sacks