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Rabbinic Evaluation Guidelines: Companion Suggestions to the Rabbi-Congregational Relationship Report Published by the Reconstructionist Movement

The following material comes from Part III of the Rabbi/Congregational Relationhsip report and from JRF's Sacred Trust Resource Book (section F- Lay/Staff Relations)

  1. An evaluation committee of 4 to 5 people should be formed. These should be veteran members, people who are seen as fair-minded and without any kind of axe to grind. Although the rabbi shouldn't name the committee, s/he should have input if s/he feels strongly that someone is not appropriate for the committee.
  2. The committee should look carefully at the rabbi's job description. The rabbi's job responsibilities should be ranked in terms of priority, and this prioritization should inform the rest of the process (that is, you don't want to spend most of the committee's time reviewing aspects of the rabbi's job that are not considered much of a priority).
  3. From this, they should decide which were the committees that the rabbi interacted with most. (Education, ritual and executive are usually good places to start.) The Evaluation Committee should speak to the chairs of each of these committees. The essential question is the rabbi's contributions vis-à-vis the goals of the committee. The basic questions to be addressed are:
    1. What were the goals of the committee coming into this year?
    2. What was the rabbi's contribution to those goals supposed to be?
    3. How effectively did the rabbi help the committee to fulfill those goals?
    4. Example of an objective question: Did the rabbi teach the four adult education classes that were in the job description?
    5. Example of subjective question: How well did the rabbi teach the courses?
    6. The experience of working with the rabbi. For instance: was the rabbi on time to the meetings? Did s/he work cooperatively with the committee members? etc. NOTE: It should be understood that this is limited to those aspects of the rabbi's job description that intersect with the work of the committee, and is not an ad hoc evaluation of the rabbi's total job by each committee or each committee chair.
  4. In addition, and as part of making this a mutual evaluation, it is worthwhile for the committee to take this opportunity to reassess its goals for the coming year.
  5. The Evaluation Committee should choose a sampling of people who have had pastoral interactions with the Rabbi (e.g. a wedding, funeral, or hospital stay) over the year and speak with them about their interactions with the rabbi. You can do the same thing with a selected number of people from the rabbi's other responsibilities, notably a couple of regular attendees at services.

    (You will notice that the interviews are targeted, a couple of people from each constituency, the idea being that a representative sampling of people is interviewed about interactions with the rabbi and his work. In this model, people are only speaking about their particular area of experience or expertise, and are not asked about the whole range of the rabbi's responsibilities, which they may not know about. In addition, we have determined that too wide a sampling can undermine the rabbi's place in the congregation.)

  6. The Committee puts together a preliminary report, which it shares with the rabbi. The rabbi is given the opportunity to comment on any areas that s/he may feel necessary.
  7. The Committee will then submit a final report, incorporating that rabbi's comments, to the board. Using the report, the board and the committee will draw up a new list of goals for the rabbi for the upcoming year, as well as any steps of strategies to that will support and sustain the rabbi-congregation relationship.


Important notes:

  • The rabbi's evaluation is confidential. The goals for the coming year can be published.
  • In addition to the committees' self-evaluation, it is useful for the board as a whole to take this opportunity to look at the work it's been doing, in terms of the goals it has set for itself previously and how it is or is not meeting those goals, and updating the goals for the coming year.
  • This process should take no longer than 4-6 weeks total. Any longer can undermine the relationship between the rabbi and the congregation and some or many of the individuals involved in the process.
  • The end of the program year/summer is the best time to do this, but not at the same time as contract negotiations.
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