Senior Rabbinic Transition

Click to read the Rabbi Transition FAQ.

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

Stay connected to our community!