Farewell from Rabbi David Ellenson

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 31, 2013 / 28 Tevet 5774

Dear Members of the HUC-JIR Community,

As I write to you today, my tenure as President of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion comes to an end. This has been a remarkable and exciting – and surely challenging – 12 years. We have shared moments of joy and sadness and times of excitement and of apprehension. There is so much I recall as I step away from this position. To have served as President of this great institution is surely the singular privilege of my life.

The Hasidic master, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, in his Toldot Yaakov Yosef, taught that the degree of success a leader in Israel enjoys is only in accord with the capacity and greatness of those he leads.  On this day, I therefore think, more than anything, of you, the people involved in sustaining this College-Institute and allowing it to fulfill its mission each and every day. I am grateful to all of you – students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, supporters, Governors, and Overseers.  You have allowed me into your hearts and shared my passion for this school, and you have allowed it to achieve greatness. For this, I will always be thankful.

On this, my last day as President, I would recite the prayer that Rabbi Nehunya ben Hakaneh, as reported in Mishnah Berachot 4:2, offered on his departure from the Bet Midrash. He stated, “I give thanks for my portion – Ani notein ho-da’ah ‘al helki.”  His prayer is now my own.

May God bestow blessing upon you and our new President Aaron Panken, and may this College-Institute grow from strength to strength in service of the Jewish people and humankind. 

In gratitude,

David Ellenson


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu