The Council of Alumni Associations of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion was formed in the 1994 - 1995 academic year. Representatives of the Schools of Graduate Studies, Jewish Communal Service, Rabbinic Studies, Sacred Music, and the Rhea Hirsch School of Education served on the Council. In 2003 the Council added seats for representatives of the New York School of Education. The Council’s mission from its inception until today is to foster a mutually supportive and collaborative relationship between the College-Institute and its alumni.
Dr. Gary Zola guided the formation of the group in its initial years. The first meeting of the Council was held in spring 1995 at HUC-JIR in New York. In July 2002 the College-Institute engaged the first full-time National Director of Alumni Affairs, Joy Wasserman, an alumna of the RHSOE. She supports the work of all the HUC-JIR Alumni Associations and the Alumni Council. The Alumni Council’s first program was an alumni lunch at the 1995 UAHC Biennial in Atlanta. The Alumni Breakfast at the URJ Biennial in Toronto in November 2009 was the eighth Biennial alumni event.
The existence of the Alumni Council both reflects and contributes to many of the innovations at the College-Institute. The chairperson of the Council represents the Council on the HUC-JIR Board of Governors. A representative of the Council served on the Presidential Search Committee. The Alumni Council participated in the discussions that led to the awarding of honorary doctorates as early as 1999 to alumni of the Schools of Education, Jewish Communal Service, and Sacred Music. For the first time, at graduation in 2006, meritorious alumni of the School of Graduate Studies were awarded a medallion in honor of their twenty-five years of service.
In July 2003 the Council changed its name from the Alumni Council to the Council of Alumni Associations. Council members believed that this new name more accurately described its membership and purpose. The Council continues to be a place where all matters concerning alumni and their involvement in and connection to the College-Institute are discussed.
Recent agenda items have included: the role of Alumni Governors, continuing alumni education, alumni participation in recruitment of students, mentoring students and recent graduates, grant development, alumni giving, alumni communication, and the strategic planning process of the College-Institute. Meetings of the Council include sharing of “best practices”, to encourage each Association to best reach out to its members and encourage the involvement of all alumni.