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Rabbi Rob Cabelli leaves Grinnell College

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Mayu sakae Rabbi Rob Cabelli prior to his departure from the College this summer. Photo by Mary Zheng.
Rabbi Rob Cabelli prior to his departure from the College this summer. Photo by Mary Zheng.

Over the summer, students learned that Rabbi Robert Cabelli would not be returning to the College. This information was disseminated through word of mouth amongst students. Unlike most employees of the College, there was no statement on the GrinnellShare “Employees on the Move” page over the summer, nor an announcement detailing the specifics of Cabelli’s departure.

Cabelli’s college email sends an automated response when one attempts to send it a message, saying “Thank you for your message. I am no longer with Grinnell College,” and requesting all Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice (CRSSJ) requests be directed to his former colleague Reverend Deanna Shorb.

Cabelli was known on campus as a highly-involved and respected figure. His since-deleted personnel page on the College site outlined his significant role in campus religious life and activism. The College switched software architecture over the summer, and many other pages have been lost as well.

Cabelli was involved in campus social justice and outreach efforts through the CRSSJ in his role as Associate Chaplain, including a role as campus advisor for Chalutzim, and more generally, campus Jewish life.

Cabelli was known on campus for his willingness and skill for confidential counseling and conversation, which were also listed as part of his duties on his personnel page.

Cabelli also served an important role as an advisor for Grinnell Advocates, the on-campus group that provides confidential support for victims of sexual assault and other forms of intimate partner violence.

In 2017, The S&B reported that in their roles as advisors for Advocates, Cabelli and Reverend Shorb “serve[d] to assist the advocates in planning events and informing the campus community about dynamics surrounding sexual assault to create a greater awareness about these issues.”

Cabelli put his multiple roles into perspective with his decision in an e-mail to The S&B. He wrote, “I’ve also known in my heart for some time that the breadth of activities with which I’ve been engaged while at the college and my commitment to them, even while tied together under my spiritual framework of chaplaincy, was not truly sustainable.”

Cabelli identified his wide array of responsibilities as key to his decision to depart, writing, “Just as importantly, though, through this gift of being able to pursue such varied and eclectic interests and passions, my understanding of how I need to be in the world and what I ought to be doing in order to be in most harmony with myself and others has evolved considerably.”

Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Sarah Moschenross was unable to divulge the specific reasons for Cabelli’s departure. According to the Moschenross, the College does not allow administrators in her position to share the specifics of personnel matters and she was thus unable to address questions on the matter.

In his interview, Cabelli also emphasized this inability to comment, saying “ … while I cannot share more details I am now beginning to pursue things in keeping with that evolving perspective.”

According to his former College site, Cabelli joined the College staff after working in Asheville, North Carolina, having been ordained a Rabbi in 2006. In his interview with The S&B, Cabelli described his surprise at staying at Grinnell, saying “I never expected to be here even so long as I have been.”

With Cabelli’s departure, gaps in his varied and multiple roles on campus were immediately obvious. The process of searching for a replacement has begun. Moschenross stated that Shorb “has already launched a search to fill the position. She has contracted with a Rabbi to be here during high holy days and hopes to have the positioned filled permanently by a Rabbi as soon as possible[.]”

Shorb later wrote an email to The S&B in which she confirmed that the search for a new Associate Chaplain and Rabbi had started.

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