AKSE's Cantor, Rabbi Joel Kessler opted to depart with one year still remaining on his contract. While I did not expect him to seek renewal, I also did not expect him to decline riding it out. His professional competence in his Cantorial role goes without question. His fulfillment of the expected requirements and then some leaves the congregation in some jeopardy when he is not longer available to do the many things that need to be done. Others can do most of these things, though not nearly as well and certainly not with the reliability that we have come to expect. His future plans have not been announced, though I suspect he will seek a pulpit of a small Orthodox congregation that can only support one clergyman.
Like the Federal Government, AKSE has been spending more money than it takes in. We borrow against the value of our building which is paid off due to a Capital Campaign that concluded last year. Instead of making mortgage payments, we pay interest on our line of credit which is much smaller. There really are not a lot of ways to spend $34K less each year other than eliminating the Hebrew School, which will probably not do it since it would be offset by membership loss, or eliminating one clergy salary. At the Board meeting in December there was unanimous support to retain the current Rabbi and widespread support to make a three year committment to him. If the money runs out before that, the Cantorial position would have to go, though the things the Cantor does has a good deal more direct economic value than the things the Rabbi does if individual tasks would have to be replaced. Rabbi Joel could run AKSE as a single individual, the current Mara D'Atra could not.
I suspect it has not been a happy experience for the Cantor. There is a gradient between his professional skill and the Rabbi's, where discussions always seem to focus more on affable than on capable. The Cantor moves more Orthodox in practice, where the congregation does not. Very few congregants really value the expertise that he brings but hold a great regard for things much more trivial like Sunday school classes and lowest common denominator sermons that an Am Ha-aretz could find uplifting even if devoid of serious Jewish content. In many ways he must feel like the experienced sergeant who owe's a salute to a new ROTC lieutanant.
As one of the skilled people I will be expected to pitch in more than I do now, though I have mixed feelings about taking up the slack.