Rabbi David Wolpe has removed himself from consideration for the job of leading the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York. Wolpe, of Sinai Temple in Westwood, had been widely considered a frontrunner for chancellor at JTS, the central institution in Conservative Judaism.
But on Tuesday, Wolpe told Sinai's board of directors that he would remain with the temple, effectively shortening the rumored short list of JTS finalists.
Although there have been no "official" interviews of candidates for chancellor, Wolpe's speech last month at the seminary and meetings with officials there had insiders and media reports speculating that he had to viewed among the front-runners.
Rabbi Ismar Shorsh, the chancellor for 20 years, will retire in June. A search committee is quietly and secretly feeling out potential replacements. The JTS chancellor is generally regarded as the leader of the Conservative movement and the next one must confront the challenge of dwindling membership and divisive issues, such as the movement's policy on not ordaining openly gay or lesbian rabbis.
Wolpe, 47, told The Journal that he made his announcement because he didn't want to create unease among his congregants.
"This is our centennial year and we have tremendous plans for the future to see through what we've started together," Wolpe said.
Wolpe has been leader of the synagogue for the last eight and a half years. With another one and a half years on his contract, he has already begun negotiating his next term.
"To be the chancellor of the Seminary is a tremendous opportunity, but it's not the right opportunity for me and my family at this time of my life," he said. As for the next chancellor of JTS, Wolpe said, "I hope they will find someone who represents the movement as well as the institutions."