CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013 - 10

The Community Rabbi
Mike Comins

My life as an independent, teaching
rabbi has been exciting. Sometimes
people commend me for not taking a
“safe” path, but, truth be told, it never
felt like a choice. Some people are
simply driven to do what they do.
Here are a few things that might be of
interest to others considering an
“independent” rabbinate:
Follow Your Passion and Find Your Voice
I learned for three years in a yeshiva, went
on five Vision Quests with different teachers,
and participated in four- and six-week silent
meditation retreats, the Mindfulness Leadership
training at Elat Chayyim, the first rabbinic
cohort of the IJS, Shefa Gold’s chant leadership
training, and more. It took a lot of study and
practice to learn what connects me to God
and how to articulate it to others.
Listen Well
After you have developed your Torah, don’t get
attached. Students have their own agendas.
If you are teaching, put yourself in the shoes of

your students; if you are writing, your potential
readers. This changes everything, and makes
your Torah better.
It’s a Business
Whether for-profit or not-for-profit, get good
advice and, like any head of a start-up, be
ready to learn whatever it takes. I was reluctant
to accept this until the last few years. I have
learned much from “Adventure Rabbi” Jamie
Perseverance Matters
It gets easier as time goes on, and people
respect your commitment to your passion.
As an independent rabbi, I have earned
a fraction of what I might have made in a
more conventional rabbinate, and I have no
congregation to contribute to the pension
plan. Also, I have had to learn on-the-job
skills such as videography and business and
website design. The biggest problem is
isolation and loneliness in the workplace,
as there is no Chamber of Commerce for
entrepreneurial rabbis.

I am living my passion, and teaching spirituality
connects me to the core of my students’ being.
In our various rabbinates, we are all changing
people’s lives. I have the good fortune of getting
immediate feedback, and lots of it. Hearing
from others that I am helping them connect to
God, do the work of t’shuvah, and lead a life of
service means everything. While I doubt I have
experienced less stress than other rabbis, I do
think I’m happier than I would have been doing
anything else.
While the CCAR and other organizations,
understandably, do not build their programs
solely around the needs of independents
rabbis, it is clear that we are growing in
numbers. I have enjoyed periodic support
from the URJ, consistent support from the
CCAR, and the support of many colleagues,
for which I am very grateful. It is my hope that
we can continue to find ways to support all
colleagues, regardless of path, and seek to
learn from one another.

(Continued from page 9) The Central Address for Continuing Education for All Reform Rabbis

The CCAR supports its members personally
as well as professionally. Colleagues help
colleagues in a number of ways, as do CCAR
Rabbinic Staff and lay leadership:
• Would you like to speak to a colleague about
a professional issue? Our carefully selected
and trained CCAR Colleagues on Call, listed at
the CCAR website, are available to assist you.
• Need help in a personal or professional crisis?
For the Rapid Response Hotline, please call
Seth Bernstein at 508-340-0951.
• Facing unemployment or/underemployment?
A number of resources are available to you at
the CCAR website. Or call a member of the
CCAR Rabbinic Staff.
• Are you or someone you know struggling with
addiction? CCAR’s Alcoholism and Addiction
Response and Recovery Team may be
reached through the chair, Susan Stone, at or 216-509-2779.
• Share news about you and your family with
other colleagues? Information may be sent to

• Seeking news about colleagues and their
families? You may find the listing of such
information in the CCAR Newsletter, at
CCAR’s Facebook page, and at the
CCAR website.
• Hoping to learn from colleagues who have
prevailed over an illness or other personal
hardship such as divorce? Contact
• Interested in talking about transitions?
Contracts? Difficult issues? Contact: Steve
Fox at, Alan Henkin at, Debbie Prinz at
• Wish to assist colleagues or spouses
of deceased rabbis in emergency
circumstances? Make a contribution to the
Hesed Fund and/or the Mitzvah Fund at
• Want to discuss topics with colleagues or
query them? Check out CCAR’s Facebook
page, RavKav and RavBlog.
Please know that all conversations with
a colleague through any of these support

opportunities will be completely confidential,
unless you disclose communications of
imminent danger to yourself or others, or of
harm to minors or incapacitated persons. No
ethical violations will be reported, though each
of us is encouraged to self-report a direct
breach of the CCAR Ethics Code.
• Resources for Recently Ordained Rabbis
• Sermon Seeds for High Holy Days
• LGBT Resources, including Gay
and Lesbian Marriage
• Sharing Sabbatical Experiences
• Creative Yom Kippur Afternoon Services
• Resources on Interfaith Marriage, including
CCAR webinar for temple presidents

CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013

CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013 - 1
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013 - 2
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013 - 3
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013 - 4
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013 - 5
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013 - 6
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013 - 7
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013 - 8
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013 - 9
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013 - 10
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013 - 11
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2013 - 12