I am looking for resources about how to evaluate our Rabbi's performance for our synagogue. It is time for her performance review.
I am not an expert in the professional evaluation of rabbis per se. But I can offer a few suggestions based upon my understanding of the role of a rabbi in a congregation and from personal experience.
As I see it, the objective of an evaluation should be to provide the rabbi with a better understanding of aspects of the job that the board believes are being carried out well and those aspects that require additional attention and fine-tuning. It should be an instrument of communication between the board and the rabbi that clarifies their common goals, vision and partnership - not an opportunity to criticize or complain to the rabbi on behalf of a small number of outspoken, disgruntled members. Otherwise, rather than strengthen and focus the rabbi, it will be a demoralizing and counterproductive exercise.
The most fundamental aspect of a rabbi's qualification for leadership is knowledge of Judaism. Does the rabbi exhibit a fluency and expertise in the Torah and Rabbinic Literature? This can be a difficult question for a committee of laypersons to answer since they usually don't have the extensive background in Jewish studies that would enable them to pass judgment on their rabbi in this respect. However, they can approach the issue fairly and reasonably by considering questions like the following:
What are the Rabbi's formal academic credentials, in terms of Jewish and secular studies?
Does the Rabbi seem to have a ready answer to basic queries that are posed by congregants?
Is the Rabbi comfortable interacting with Jewish texts in their original languages and drawing from ancient and modern commentaries to elucidate their meaning and clarify their relevance for our lives?
Most importantly, in my view - does the Rabbi love Jewish learning passionately and continue to engage in it regularly for its own sake? If not, how is the congregation expected to fall in love with it and want to support and perpetuate it?
The next issue to be explored is that of character. This is somewhat easier for the average person to evaluate, although we should be cautious in this regard as well. One congregant who feels neglected or slighted by the rabbi may interpret the actions of that rabbi in a consistently negative light, and generate lots of "bad karma" in the congregation.
Upstanding rabbis deserve the benefit of the doubt and the presumption that they act with the best interests of their constituents, not to mention their understanding of Torah values, in mind. I would recommend being wary of the potential biases that may crop up in this respect. Focus on issues like the following:
Does the Rabbi greet people personally, warmly and enthusiastically?
Is the Rabbi kindhearted and sensitive, taking the necessary time to address personal and communal concerns with full attention?
Does the Rabbi know how to help congregants deal with emotionally difficult situations, such as bereavement, separation, divorce, etc., with tact, tenderness and fairness?
Does the Rabbi reach out to assist such people out of genuine empathy, or is an air of distance maintained?
Does the Rabbi exhibit honesty and integrity in all aspects of life, personal, intellectual and professional? Is the Rabbi a good role model - would I want my child to emulate such an individual?
Does the Rabbi remain calm and cool under pressure, dealing even with difficult congregants without getting flustered or losing control?
Details about how Rabbis manage time, what portion of their schedule is devoted to teaching, program development, outreach, counseling, visiting the sick, etc., are very much dependent upon the specific needs of your community, to which I am not privy. However, from a general pragmatic standpoint, these elements should all be incorporated into the Rabbi's agenda to some extent or another.
Overall, ensuring that the Rabbi is available to, and serving the needs of, every cohort in your community - young and old, sick and well, one-time-a-year attendees and daily service participants, married and single - is vital to congregational stability and growth. Is the Rabbi introducing new and innovative programs to address each of these groups? Are any of them being unduly neglected, and, if so, what can be done to correct this? Does your demographic need to be expanded in any particular way? What can the Rabbi do to contribute to this process?
Bear in mind that a Rabbi is often expected to be all things to all people, and it is inevitable that some members of your congregation will be dissatisfied with some aspect of your Rabbi's performance. Rabbis are also human beings with feelings and needs that ought to be respected. They are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and even the most dedicated and charismatic rabbis need to enjoy lives of their own as well. Otherwise, their job satisfaction will decline and their enthusiasm for the profession will dissipate. It is important to think about the fact that an unhappy and stressed-out rabbi is of little use to any synagogue, and may not stick around for the long haul if less stressful opportunities become available.
Although all rabbis have areas in which they can and should be expected to improve, there are limits on the demands a synagogue can reasonably make of its rabbi, and these should be carefully considered in the context of the evaluation. An evaluation that is based upon unrealistic standards will be off-putting and depressing for your rabbi, and will not achieve the intended goal of more effective and inspiring congregational leadership.
I hope you find this general outline of talking points to be helpful. If I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to email me a follow-up message.