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FAQs about Changes to Clergy Staffing

To Our Temple Sinai Congregation, Since our announcement about the board’s decision not to renew Cantor Berman’s contract, we have received several calls and emails with a variety of questions. We hope that you will take the time to read the following information. As we get new questions, we will continue to answer and update. We want to help our spiritual community through this time of change and transition and avoid rumors or wrong information. [Read the FAQs…]

Rabbinic transition Research Committee Executive Summary, Aug. 2020

Thank you for all of the thoughts, comments, and time you gave to the Rabbinic Transition Research Committee (RTRC). 63 congregants participated in nine (9) focus groups and 434 (45%) of you completed the survey. Our work has concluded, and the valuable information has been shared with the Temple Sinai Board and Senior Rabbi Search Committee (SRSC) chairpersons. The full report is being used to develop a detailed job description and interview questions in order to find our next Senior Rabbi who will lead us into the decade ahead with the guidance and spirituality we want. [Read the entire summary…]

Senior Rabbinic Transition

Click to read the Rabbi Transition FAQ.

Rabbi Darryl Crystal is our new Interim Senior Rabbi starting July 1, 2020.

For the past 15 years, Rabbi Crystal has worked as an interim rabbi in a variety of synagogues around the country, including several large congregations in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Omaha, Nebraska, and Madison, Wisconsin. His background includes working with congregations that are making a transition after decades of successful and beloved leadership from a retiring senior rabbi; leadership development; and mentoring. Prior to embarking on his current path, Rabbi Crystal was the senior rabbi at North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, New York.


December 13, 2019

It is with great pleasure that I can announce that Temple Sinai has hired Rabbi Darryl P. Crystal to be our interim senior rabbi beginning on July 1, 2020.  

For the past 15 years, Rabbi Crystal has had a distinguished career in the role of interim rabbi. In his capacity as an interim rabbi, Rabbi Crystal has worked in a variety of synagogues around the country, including several large congregations in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Omaha, Nebraska, and Madison, Wisconsin. His background includes working with congregations that are making a transition after decades of successful and beloved leadership from a retiring senior rabbi; leadership development; and mentoring. Prior to embarking on his current path, Rabbi Crystal was the senior rabbi at North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, New York. 

Rabbi Crystal is currently the interim rabbi at Temple B’nai Shalom in northern Virginia where he worked with the congregation on their transition to new rabbinic leadership following the retirement of their rabbi of 32 years. In this capacity, he assisted the congregation in their self-study to help them envision their future under new rabbinic leadership, provided adult Jewish learning opportunities to the congregation, and engaged Cantor Rosalie Will, Director of Worship for the Union for Reform Judaism, to work with the congregation on the synagogues music program. 

Please know that during Rabbi Crystal’s engagement with Temple Sinai, Rabbi Gorban and Cantor Berman will continue in their current roles. Rabbi Crystal looks forward to working with them in partnership over the next year. 

Rabbi Crystal is excited to begin meeting with Temple Sinai’s congregants. The plan is for him to visit in late January or early February and to meet, as Rabbi Gibson fondly refers to us, our “family of families.” Please stay tuned for more information about this opportunity. 

I would like to thank Alison Yazer, Josh Breslau, and the interim search committee for their work and for bringing us Rabbi Crystal. 

Saul Straussman


From November 2019 ChaiLights

One of the aspects of this major transition I am committed to is transparency and keeping the congregation informed as we move through the rabbinic search process. With this in mind, I am happy to announce two critical steps have recently been accomplished. 

Co-chairs Alison Yazer and Josh Breslau have been putting together an eleven-person search committee (including them) that represents a broad cross-section of our Temple family. With the final “yes” in place, I am thrilled to announce the Interim Rabbi Search Committee includes Morgan Faeder, Laura Fehl, Art Goldberg, Joe Goldston, Darcy Gordon, Christopher Hart, Rita Pollock, Samantha Skobel, and Katie Whitlatch. The committee will begin meeting soon to discuss criteria for considering the interim rabbi applications in advance of the first applications. Please know that these meetings will not be open to the congregation to protect the applicant’s confidentiality as well as the committee’s deliberations. However, where appropriate, they will provide updates to the process. 

In addition to the formation of the committee, the synagogue’s application for an interim rabbi has been formally approved by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). What this means is that rabbis interested in applying for the position can now view our application and the type of person we are interested in working with through this all-important transitional year. 

The CCAR is the professional rabbinic organization of the Reform movement. They, along with the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ) have established a set of procedures for Reform synagogues to follow when they are looking to engage a new rabbi. During this period of transition, we will be partnering with both the CCAR’s head of rabbinic placement and the URJ to ensure that we are following best practices to ensure a good fit with our prospective candidate. 

The next steps will be for the committee to review applications, set up interviews, and select finalists for 
the congregation to meet. As the process moves forward, we will be sure to keep the congregation updated and involved. 

From June-July 2019 ChaiLights

Our Jewish texts are replete with turning points and transitions. Abraham takes Isaac to the mountain. Moses leads us across the Red Sea. Ecclesiastes tells us that to everything there is a season.

In our own lives, too, we find turning points, happy and not. At this time, Temple Sinai is about to embark on a congregational turning point. As you are most likely aware, Rabbi Jamie Gibson recently announced that he will retire as our Senior Rabbi at the end of June 2020. By then he will have completed more than 32 years of being with all of us through turning points and transitions. Over the course of the next year there will be ample opportunity to talk with Rabbi Gibson to reminisce, say thank you, and l’hitraot.

Initial planning has begun for this significant transition for Temple Sinai, which includes plans for an Interim Senior Rabbi for 2020–2021, followed by a search for a “settled” Senior Rabbi to begin the next chapter in our story on July 1, 2021. This transition is very much a community process—one of introspection as we reflect on who we are as a congregation, and one of looking outward to reexamine and understand our place in our greater community, the Reform Movement, and the world.

There will be many opportunities for each of us to participate in this community conversation. As a first step, we again invite you to join us for the Temple Sinai Annual Meeting on Wednesday, June 5, at 7 PM, at Temple Sinai, where we will discuss the process as currently envisioned and answer questions.

Of course, we are not the first to undergo a senior rabbinic transition. Rest assured that we are able to draw on the expertise and guidance of others, including from the Union for Reform Judaism (

Also, the two of us are in our own transition as a team. As of the Annual Meeting, Philip will step down as President of Temple Sinai, where it has been a great privilege to work, play, celebrate, and mourn with all of you (including October 27). During the last two years as president, Philip 
has learned an enormous amount, most importantly reinforcing that everything we do at Temple Sinai is about community and that we—our clergy, staff, and lay leadership—are there for each other.

Saul will step into that role at the Annual Meeting and has already been active at Temple Sinai for many years, including as teacher, bassist, and leader. He looks forward to working with all of you on the opportunities and challenges ahead.  We have been working together, and with other leadership, on next steps. We encourage you to get in touch with us about your thoughts, beginning with the Annual Meeting on Wednesday, June 5.

Finally, while perhaps not as momentous as crossing the Red Sea, our steps forward are also about community, continuity, and marching forward together.

L’ Shalom,
Philip L. Lehman & Saul Straussman

April 11, 2019
6 Nisan 5779

Dear Friends:
It is with bittersweet emotions that we write to inform you that Rabbi Jamie Gibson is announcing his retirement next year from the position of Senior Rabbi at Temple Sinai.

Rabbi Gibson’s retirement will take effect on June 30, 2020. His last Shabbat on the pulpit will be June 19-20.

By next June, Rabbi Gibson will have completed thirty-two years of service to our synagogue and community and we are happy for him to set down his labors even as we are sad to see him leave as our Rabbi.

For so many of us, it has been an amazing journey together with Rabbi Gibson, who has named our children, led their Bar and Bat Mitzvah services and Confirmations, has supported us in illness and health, and has helped us bury our beloved friends and family. This announcement begins the next phase of that journey together, one that will certainly be filled with laughter and tears. We look forward to a year of celebration—with all of YOU—of this extraordinary journey (including participation in a project to write a new Torah for Temple Sinai in Rabbi Gibson’s honor).

Even though Rabbi Gibson’s retirement is more than a year away, there is much for us to do as a community as we prepare to usher in a new era of rabbinic leadership.

With that in mind, we invite you to take part in our congregational Annual Meeting, which will take place on Thursday, May 30, 2019, at 7 PM. A formal notice is enclosed. We urge you to be there as we present plans for the coming year and the transition period to follow.

We look forward to seeing you at the Annual Meeting. Meanwhile, if you have questions, please feel free to call us at (412) 421-9729, via the office of Drew Barkley, our Executive Director.

Kol tuv (all good things),

Philip L. Lehman

Saul Straussman
First Vice President

James A. Gibson
Senior Rabbi

Keren Gorban
Associate Rabbi

Laura Berman

Drew Barkley
Executive Director

Mon, September 27 2021 21 Tishrei 5782