Shir Tikvah Congregation announced in a statement that Senior Rabbi Michael Latz would be leaving the synagogue effective immediately, after nearly 13 years at the synagogue.
In a letter from the synagogue’s executive committee, Latz’s departure “follows a months’-long process (during which we engaged external consultants), that revealed long-standing, significant issues with his interactions with staff.”
The synagogue would not divulge the details of the personnel matters but said – as it did in a statement to TC Jewfolk in December – that there were no allegations of sexual misconduct or financial impropriety.
“Our hope is that this transition will create the conditions for Shir Tikvah’s work environment to be more in alignment with our core values,” the statement said.
The synagogue said that there would be an opportunity to say goodbye to Latz in the coming months.
“It has been an honor beyond words to have been your rabbi these past years; to stand beneath the chuppah in moments of joy and at the graveside in moments of unspeakable sorrow; to bestow names upon your newborns and rise with your children as they read Torah; to wrestle with the meaning of prayer and Torah in our day as we strived to marry our prayers in the sanctuary with our justice work on the streets,” Latz wrote in a letter to the congregation. “I leave with a grateful heart. I will pray for the outstanding lay leadership and inspiring professional team led by Rabbi [Arielle] Lekach-Rosenberg and Alison Olig. It has been an honor to be their colleague in this holy work.”
The decision comes six weeks after he was granted a leave of absence by the executive committee of the synagogue’s board of directors. That leave was scheduled for three months. In a letter the congregation sent out on Dec. 12, Latz acknowledged the burnout that the previous two years have caused led to the decision but indicated that he has a need to undergo some personal teshuvah.
In December, the executive committee said that Latz was “not facing any kind of life-threatening physical condition, but … he recognizes the need for time and space to rest, as well as to do some critical, internal work and teshuvah,” the executive committee wrote.
Latz has been the senior rabbi at the Reform synagogue in South Minneapolis since 2009 when he moved here from Seattle after serving as the founding rabbi of Kol HaNeshamah. He is also a former co-chair of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute.
Latz’s departure is part of a significant transition that was already underway at the Minneapolis Reform congregation. Rabbi Debra Rappaport left her post on Oct. 29, 2021, and former Board President Bruce Manning stepped down from his position on Jan. 14, where he was replaced by Amy Funk.
Rabbi Lekach-Rosenberg, who joined Shir Tikvah in 2017, will handle the duties previously held by Rabbi Latz. The board said it would be assembling a “Rabbinic Leadership Discernment Team … that will facilitate conversations and solicit feedback to help shape the vision for our rabbinic leadership. We anticipate this first phase of discernment will take approximately the next six months.” The synagogue is hosting a number of community conversations facilitated by Rabbi Lekach-Rosenberg and by Rabbi David Teutsch, the consultant who has helped Shir Tikvah with this transition.
Note: The mother of TC Jewfolk’s editor and the writer of this story is on the Shir Tikvah executive committee.