On December 16, 2022, Senior Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum announced her intention to step down from her position to the CBST community.
Read the messages shared by Rabbi Kleinbaum and CBST President Sabrina Farber, and view replays of congregational talkbacks and Town Halls about the forthcoming rabbinic transition.
On September 11, 1992, I was installed as CBST’s first rabbi and CBST’s first full-time staff person.
The drash I gave that night quoted Isaiah from the haftarah for that week, of Parshat Ki Tetze:
“Enlarge the size of your tent,
Extend the site of your dwelling,
Do not stint! Lengthen the ropes and drive the pegs firm.”
In over three decades, I have devoted my heart, life and soul to these principles, expanding the size and scope of our community in content, impact, substance and depth. I have done this at the same time as making sure the pegs are firm – the foundations are strong and healthy. In that drash, I called on the Holy One for blessings and for strength. And I am so grateful for all that I have received.
This year is my 31st year as CBST’s senior rabbi. I have come to the decision that this is the right time to make room for a new senior rabbi for CBST.
And so, I will step down from my position at CBST in the summer of 2024.
I have prayed and thought and discussed this with close family and friends.
This is not an easy decision, and one I take with many deep feelings. I love CBST and all of you.
CBST is in a strong place for the next chapter, and I am confident in our future. CBST is a place of deep spirituality and a center of activism rooted in Jewish values, texts and justice. It will be spiritually meaningful for CBST to discover who it is without me as the senior rabbi and for me to discover who I am apart from CBST.
There are still many months until my departure. I am choosing to publicly announce my departure now so that your leaders can actively begin the necessary behind-the-scenes leadership transition work that goes with finding a new rabbi. 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 senior rabbi in the months to come.
I will forever be a part of CBST and CBST will forever be a part of me. There is room to discuss my role as Emerita, and there are many options for me to remain involved in a new way far into the future. The time for those discussions will come.
I have so many feelings, and I know you do too. We have 18 months to absorb this change in all of our lives and chart a healthy way into the next chapter.
I have worked with 12 presidents of the Board of Directors, and I am grateful to each for their partnerships through good times and deeply challenging ones. I am so grateful to CBST’s current president, Sabrina Farber. It is my great honor to work with her every day.
I have worked with more than 40 rabbinical students, cantorial students, rabbis and cantors and one music director. So many wonderful staff people, volunteers, congregants and Board members. I have traveled with so many of you the road of learning, praying, joyous life moments and sad ones. I am grateful to each of you. And I am so deeply grateful to The Holy One.
I am blessed to have Randi and my family and friends who are such a deep source of support to me.
I pray to the One who has created me to help me be your rabbi through this process of change and be with all of us as we face the future.
With love and blessing for a Chanukah full of light,
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
As you can see from the letter above, Rabbi Kleinbaum has informed the board that she will step down as Senior Rabbi of CBST as of July 31, 2024.
Wow. I can’t believe I just typed that sentence! In my head, I always knew that one day, Rabbi Kleinbaum would no longer be Senior Rabbi at CBST. However, in my heart I could never imagine that happening. I suspect that many of you feel similarly. This announcement signals a huge turning point, a turning point that we will navigate together as a community.
Rabbi Kleinbaum has been our visionary spiritual leader for over 30 years. She arrived at CBST at the height of the AIDS crisis and dove into leading this community with her whole being.
She is that extraordinary human who is deeply gifted intellectually, tremendously literate in all things Jewish, an inspiring teacher and a continual source of new ideas who brings passion and commitment to everything she touches. She has also been our fundraiser-in-chief.
At the same time, she is a hands-on leader who isn’t afraid of rolling up her sleeves and getting to work on the details. Rabbi Kleinbaum always tells us to dream big, which is exactly what she’s been doing for the past 30 years at CBST. It’s Rabbi Kleinbaum who is in large part responsible for the extraordinary community we are today.
As Rabbi Kleinbaum has taught us, gratitude is at the heart of our Judaism. At this pivotal moment, I am immensely grateful to Rabbi Kleinbaum for her transformational leadership at CBST and her outsize presence in the Jewish and LGBT communities and the larger world.
We are committed to a thoughtful and inclusive transition process. Over the next months the congregation will conduct a deep evaluation of who we are as a community and what we want in our next spiritual leader. This work will inform our wide-ranging search for our next senior rabbi.
We will also be planning how best to celebrate Rabbi Kleinbaum’s historic tenure as we move into our 50th anniversary year. Rabbi Kleinbaum will be an integral part of much of this.
It’s vital for CBST to acknowledge the magnitude of this news. Each of us will react differently and it’s important to provide space for the community to process these feelings.
In that spirit, immediate next steps include the following: a conversation with Rabbi Kleinbaum and me at tonight’s annual meeting, a discussion session with Rabbi Kleinbaum and me after Shabbat services this Friday, December 16, at which you can participate either in person or online, and a Town Hall on Zoom on Monday, January 9 at 6 p.m.
Of course, I welcome you to email me with your comments and questions.