The committee searching for a new College rabbi selected Rabbi Philip Posner to serve for six months while it continues to look for a permanent replacement.
The original search began in February of last year, a month after Rabbi Daniel Siegel announced his resignation. But in November, the committee started a new search when it could not reach a unanimous consensus regarding the four finalists.
None of the candidates in the first search completely satisfied all the committee’s requirements, including the requirement that he or she be flexible enough to deal with the diversity of the views of students and members of the community.
Rebecca Gottesman, who represents the local community on the committee, said in November that the rabbi’s sect is not the major consideration, but added that a problem with one of the finalists was that he was “too conservative.”
A candidate to fill the full-time position of College rabbi will be chosen in February. Posner is also one of approximately 25 applicants for the full-time position.
Tucker Foundation Dean Scott Brown, who chairs the search committee, said Posner was “clearly the leading candidate for the [interim] position.”
“From a student point of view, he had a lot of experience,” Brown said. “From an Upper Valley community point of view, he had been a senior rabbi at two congregations, and he had a lot of experience and maturity in that role.”
Justin Mandel ’00, who was one of the students who interviewed Posner, said some Jews who belong to the Conservative movement were unhappy with the fact that Posner is a member of the Progressive Reform branch of Judaism.
Noah Phillips ’00, who also interviewed Posner, said, “I’m fine with the choice because it’s for the interim and because of the rush circumstances under which he had to be chosen, but he was not a rabbi that suits my needs jewishly. I would have preferred a less adamant reform rabbi.”
But Mandel said Posner “was really spunky. He didn’t act his age — he acted like he really connected with college-aged students.”
“He’s very willing to listen … and he puts out his own opinions,” Mandel said. “He’s very willing to bring everyone together.”
Upper Valley Jewish Community President Morton Wise said Posner “came across as being good humored, informed, interested and enthusiastic.”
Posner has spent the past two years as rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom in Aukland, New Zealand.
He has also served for 23 years as rabbi of Temple Beth El in Riverside, California. For 10 of those years, he was a Hillel advisor at the University of California at Riverside.
The committee who selected Posner consisted of College administrators, members of the UVJC and one student, Shirley Sperling ’98.