A well-regarded leader of a religious movement surprisingly announced his resignation, prompting speculation over who will succeed him.
The Feb. 27 announcement didn’t involve Rome or Pope Benedict XVI but came much closer to home, and involved a religious movement many times smaller than the Catholic church.
Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz announced in an email that he is stepping down as president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, an organization he has led since 2002.
Ehrenkrantz was the first graduate of the school, which was founded in 1968, to serve as its president. He won’t be stepping down right away and is expected to still lead the college as the search for his replacement is conducted.
In many ways, the announcement was a surprise, coming just six months after the movement completed a major overhaul that placed Ehrenkrantz squarely in the driver’s seat.
Last June, the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation officially merged with the rabbinical college, with Ehrenkrantz overseeing the functions of both.
In a recent interview with the Jewish Exponent, Ehrenkrantz gave no indication he was planning to resign and said that he expected to lead an internal process in which the movement would be critically examined. He even suggested that a name change was even a possibility.
The email sent out by the college offered no reason for the departure. Ehrenkrantz was not immediately available for comment.
In the email, the onetime congregational rabbi said, “As I look at RRC today, I see an organization uniquely poised to lead and guide the Jewish community. I am proud of what we have accomplished.”
During his tenure, Ehrenkrantz oversaw a $50 million fundraising drive and instituted RRC’s first strategic plan.
Though the Reconstructionist movement is small, it exerts an outsized influence in Philadelphia since so many of RRC's graduates remain here, working in both congregational and other types of Jewish settings.
Rabbi David Teutsch, who preceded Ehrenkrantz as RRC president and still teaches at the school, said he told Ehrenkrantz that he hoped he’d last a decade in the job, which he did.
“It’s such exhausting work nobody could stand it really long,” Teutsch said, noting the fundraising demands on college presidents increased greatly in recent decades. “He has exceeded the hope for what you could expect from a small college president these days. He steered the college through a big recession, which is a really huge accomplishment.
“He got us through the merger and got us ready for the next stage,” he said.
Several movement leaders said they were surprised by the developments but were appreciative of the rabbi’s accomplishments.
Reacting to the news, Rabbi Avi Winokur, religious leader of Society Hill Synagogue and a member of RRC’s board of governors, said he was surprised but not “shocked or taken aback. I haven't had a whole lot of time to reflect on it. All I can really say for now is that I’m deeply grateful for Dan’s vision, dedication and hard work. Now comes the business of looking for a successor.”