on the cover:
Concerned that the East Coast and New York City in particular were becoming too densely Jewish, and that this might stimulate antisemitic and anti-immigrant agitation, in 1907 a group of Jewish leaders led by Jacob Schiff and Israel Zangwill established a plan to route Jewish Immigrants to the port of Galveston, Texas, from where they hoped to spread them through the American heartland. Only about 10,000 Jews benefitted from the “Galveston movement,” which ended in 1914.
With the financial assistance of the Baron de Hirsch Fund in 1891, a Jewish agricultural colony bought 5200 acres of land in Woodbine, New Jersey, which proved to be one of the more successful Jewish agricultural colonies in the U.S.
Judah P. Benjamin, a Senator from Louisiana prior to the Civil War, eventually became the Secretary of State for the Confederacy, making him third in the Confederate hierarchy. Benjamin, one of the most accomplished Jews of the nineteenth century, was a perennial subject of interest in Southern circles, as this cover of a late 19th-century journal dedicated to the history of the Civil War demonstrates.
Stained glass window in tribute to the alumni and students of Hebrew Union College who served their country in the two World Wars, in the S.H. and Helen R. Sheuer Chapel, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion/Cincinnati.
After Hitler came to power in Germany (January 1933), Albert Einstein moved permanently to the U.S. Here he is giving a press conference (December 28, 1934) after reading an address at a joint meeting in Pittsburgh of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Mathematical Society.
The title page of the Pinkas (record book) of the Orthodox Old Age Home of Cincinnati, Ohio. Hand drawn by Joseph Magrill, who sat on the Home's board in the early 1920's, it demonstrates a fascinating synergy between American and Jewish symbols: the American flag sits atop a Jewish star with the word Zion in Hebrew inscribed within and Cincinnati is spelled phonetically in Hebrew in the middle of the page.
The Rose Brothers store in St. Paul, Minnesota, was visited by members of the Blackfoot tribe in the early 20th century during a winter festival. Legend has it that the man standing in the front (with his arm extended) is “Two Guns White Calf,” whose likeness appeared on the “Indian Head” nickel.
This ornate document celebrates the founding of the Isaac M. Wise Alumnal Professorship in June 1899. Timed to coincide with Wise’s eightieth birthday, the money was raised by the alumni of HUC in conjunction with the Board of Governors. The first holders of the Chair were Isaac Mayer Wise and Louis Grossmann.
This first day cover commemorates the sinking of the troop ship U.S.S. Dorchester, which was torpedoed in the North Atlantic in 1943. Rabbi Alexander Goode was one of four chaplains – Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic – who gave their lifevests to other soldiers in order to save them. All four men died when the ship sank. Subsequently, they became a symbol of interfaith cooperation.
Program for the 1946 play by Ben Hecht, presented by the American League for a Free Palestine, an interfaith group that advocated for Holocaust survivors’ rights to immigrate to Eretz Israel, the Jewish homeland. (Theater Special Collection, Klau Library, HUC/JIR Cincinnati)
All images are from HUC-JIR’s Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, unless otherwise indicated.
The Chronicle is published by the National Office of Public Affairs.
Editor: Jean Bloch Rosensaft Assistant Editor: Rachel Litcofsky
Contributors: Ruth Friedman, Gerda Klein, Dr. Frederic Krome, Amy Lehr, Scott Minkow, Cathy Weinberger, Laurel Wolfson
Design: Tabak Design (www.tabakdesign.com)
Photo Credits: Richard Lobell, Janine M. Spang, Marvin Steindler
As I write this message to introduce this issue of The Chronicle, summer is winding down and the month of Tishri and the Yamim Noraim approach. At this time, our Massoret calls upon us both as individuals and as members of the Jewish people to pause from our normal rounds of activity and asks us to engage in an annual process of introspection and self-assessment.
For my family and for me, this process has been especially intense this year. A family member and a number of persons quite close to our family and to the College-Institute have passed away. All this causes me to reflect all the more on the direction and purpose of life, and the words of the Untaneh Tokef, “Who shall live, and who shall die,” resonate within me with a special force this year.
The search for meaning is so elusive. At the same time, a sense of purpose and hope is so crucial for us as individuals and as a community. In Paul Tillich’s felicitous phrase, how do we determine the “ultimate concerns” that are going to guide our lives and grant meaning to our existence?
These questions are hardly given to a single response or simple answers. However, as I reflect at this season of the year, two literary sources – one drawn from Jewish tradition, the other from English literature – instruct me as I think about these matters of existential import and challenge.
The Jewish source is found in the legal writings of the famed nineteenth-century Frankfurt Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, and in this year where we celebrate 350 years of Jewish life in America it is particularly appropriate to recall his words. Rabbi Hirsch reports that in 1860, the Touro Monument Association in New Orleans proposed to pay tribute to the “deceased philanthropist” Judah Touro by erecting a statue or monument in his memory. The Association was unsure whether such a statue or monument was in accord with Jewish tradition or law, and the President of the Association turned to a number of distinguished European rabbis to receive their answers to the question. Each one of the rabbis they approached responded negatively to this proposal, maintaining – based on the prohibition found in the Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashanah 24b – that Judaism prohibited the erection of any statue of a human figure.
However, Rabbi Hirsch of Frankfurt was not content to cite this Talmudic rule as sufficient cause for prohibiting the erection of a statue or monument in honor of Touro. Instead, Rabbi Hirsch observed that the Talmud contains the rule “that one does not erect monuments for the righteous – ein ‘o’sin nefashot l’tzadikim” because “divreihem heim zichronam — their words and their deeds constitute their memorial.” Rabbi Hirsch pointed out to the Jewish proper homage to the memory of a righteous man or woman. Rather, he maintained that kindness to another – “bestowing a moral benefit upon the living” – most properly graces the course as well as the memory of a human life. He therefore recommended that the Touro Monument Association invest the moneys that would have been used to erect the statue and designate them to aid some charitable cause that would “bestow benefit” upon the living.
At the same time that Rabbi Hirsch offered this advice to the Jews of New Orleans, George Elliot – whose real name was Marian Evans – expressed similar sentiments and offered parallel advice in her wonderful novel Middlemarch. One of my favorite authors, Elliot wrote, “Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot out the glory of the world, and leave only a margin by which we see the blot? I know no speck so troublesome as self.” In so doing, Elliot reminded us that the “self ” is called to what Professor Timothy W. Pelatson of Wellesley College has rightfully labeled the “morally enlarging activity of recognizing other persons.”
Rabbi Hirsch and George Elliot both teach us that “a fuller and clearer relationship with the world” can emerge only if we understand that each individual life finds enduring meaning only through an acknowledgement that we are irreducibly social beings who are bound to one another through the performance of acts of kindness and compassion to one another. These good deeds grant enduring meaning to life and sustain and renew our souls. These mitzvot allow for the renewal of the world, whose creation we Jews celebrate on Rosh Hashanah.
The “words and deeds” reported in the pages that follow display our efforts at HUC-JIR to celebrate that renewal. The passion of the intellect is displayed in these pages. The devotion of our seminary and its teachers to educating religious-communal-academic leaders who will understand the challenges of the day and who will seek to mend the world and the human condition is here revealed. Each article represents one of the myriad ways in which HUC-JIR strives to act in accord with the “ultimate concerns” that most properly animate and inspire us as human beings and as Jews. They testify to the essence of what the College-Institute is and they indicate that goodness and hope are enduring and indomitable elements of our institutional character.
As the New Year arrives, I remain grateful that HUC-JIR contributes to the human and Jewish condition in these ways. Jackie, Ruth, Robert, Micah, Hannah, Naomi, and Rafi join me in the hope that each of you is inscribed for a sweet and healthy New Year – l’shanah tovah tikateivu v’teihateimu.
by Jean Bloch Rosensaft
When I first began my work as Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives in 1998,” Dr. Gary P. Zola recalls, “I came across archival files detailing Dr. Jacob Rader Marcus’s leadership role in the Tercentenary – the celebration of 300 years of American Jewish life, which took place in 19541955.” As he read those files, he also recalled from his studies that a number of prominent Jewish leaders associated with HUC – including HUC’s president, Dr. Kaufmann Kohler, had played a leading role in the very first commemoration of Jewish communal settlement in America marking the 250th anniversary in 1905. “I realized that in a few short years the 350th would be dawning and that the College-Institute would again have a special opportunity and responsibility to assume a leading role in this upcoming landmark commemoration.”
Spurred by a commitment to uphold HUC-JIR’s tradition of national leadership, Zola enlisted the partnership of the American Jewish Historical Society, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives and Records Administration.
Zola’s catalytic effort led to the creation of a unique “Commission for Commemorating 350 Years of American Jewish History” linking HUC-JIR’s American Jewish Archives and its three partners. The Commission, which he chairs, has received U.S. congressional recognition and, unlike the earlier anniversaries when Jewish organizations alone celebrated the occasions, it represents the first time in history that national American institutions have partnered with Jewish institutions to nationally celebrate the Jewish contribution to the fabric of this nation, thus heralding a significant statement about where the Jew is in America today.
The Commission’s most important initiative is the mounting of a national exhibition, which will be the first time that these four research centers will have pooled resources to show communities across the country some of the precious documents relating to the history of American Jewry. Treasured documents will include General Grant’s Order Number 11, issued in 1862, which expelled Jews from the Military Department of the Tennessee (areas in Kentucky, Tennessee, and northern Mississippi) during the Civil War, as well as President Lincoln’s order revoking Grant’s order.
The AJA will contribute several key artifacts: the 1942 Gerhard Riegner telegram (the first document confirming the final solution of European Jewry to be received by Jewish leaders in America), the so-called Treifa Banquet menu from 1883 (the HUC graduation dinner whose non-kosher menu highlighted the growing divisions that drove a wedge between radical and conservative reformers in the 1880s), one of the very first congressional medals of honor awarded to a Jew in America
for heroism during the Civil War, rare recordings of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise’s sermons at Carnegie Hall, and more. The exhibition opened September 8th at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, and will travel to Cincinnati’s Museum Center in December, followed by New York’s Center for Jewish History in the spring and HUC-JIR’s Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles in the fall of 2005.
HUC-JIR is also participating in Celebrate 350, the national organizing umbrella for more than 100 Jewish organizations advancing the commemoration throughout the North American Jewish community. Rabbi David Ellenson serves on Celebrate 350’s board. The College-Institute will be marking the anniversary by presenting exhibitions (see pages 33 and 41) and public programs throughout the stateside campuses and in South Florida.
The AJA’s leadership of this milestone occasion reflects its national and international renown as the largest catalogued collection of documentary evidence on the history of American Jewry.
“It is literally impossible to write a major historical work, or to explore the historical experience of North American Jewry, without relying on the AJA’s extraordinarily rich collection,” Zola explains.
The AJA’s website at huc.edu/aja proves his point. It offers an extraordinary listing of materials in the AJA’s inventory collection, which represents only 30% of the AJA’s holdings. Through the Internet, the AJA’s reach is global, as is the scope of its collections. It is the official archival repository of all of the institutions of Reform Judaism in America: the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Women of Reform Judaism, the Brotherhoods of Reform Judaism and, of course, HUC-JIR. It includes synagogue archives and rabbis’ papers from throughout North America, relating to all denominations of American Judaism.
The AJA is also the repository of the World Jewish Congress’s papers (thousands of boxes of materials, which document how American Jewry sought to respond to the destruction of European Jewry prior to, during, and after World War II) – one of the largest single inventory collections available online in the world. The AJA includes rare early American, Central American, and Dutch documents of the 1400s and 1500s, which were copied by Dr. Marcus when he journeyed to the Caribbean during the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the originals of these papers have subsequently been destroyed by adverse climate conditions in their original venues.
“Preservation, access, publication, and scholarship are the essence of the AJA’s mission,” Zola explains. Dedicated professional archivists maintain the collection, preserving it for future centuries. Fellowships enable scholars from around the globe to come to Cincinnati and research the holdings, while synagogue archivists attend biennial conferences at the AJA to hone their skills in preserving their congregational archives.
The American Jewish Archives Journal is a semi-annual publication that disseminates academic articles exploring the vast panorama of American Jewish experience. Occasional stand-alone publications include a forthcoming volume, The Life and Times of Aaron Rabinowitz, a memoir about a leading philanthropist and business leader of New York by his daughter, Susan Malloy. The AJA develops educational materials and outreach programs for congregational schools and educators as well.
Genealogists have cited the AJA website as the most important site for Jewish genealogy in America. Anyone seeking genealogical information can contact the AJA, and the research request will receive a personal response. Dr. Malcolm H. Stern’s landmark book, First American Jewish Families, 600 Genealogies, 1654-1977 is but one of the many resources online.
The expansion of the AJA with the forthcoming dedication of the Edwin A. Malloy Education Building, established by the Malloy family in memory of this beloved leader of HUC-JIR’s Board of Governors, provides enlarged facilities for collection, storage, preservation, an education center, and exhibition gallery.
The Malloy Education Building will also feature “The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati’s Electronic Learning Center,” made possible by the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati. This remarkable facility will provide a global learning environment for students, faculty, and the community at large and will make the school’s scholarly resources (both faculty and research materials) available to colleges, universities, and other institutions throughout the world.
“Historian Jonathan D. Sarna has pointed out that the biggest archives in America is still in the attics and basements of American Jewry,” notes Zola. “We have to look into our own homes and find these treasures and bring them to the AJA, where they can be preserved and made available to those who will write and perpetuate Jewish history.”
If you would like to donate archival material to the AJA, please contact Kevin Proffitt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 513-221-1875, ext. 304
by Dr. Eitan Fishbane, Assistant Professor of Jewish Religious Thought, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles
We are in the midst of an exciting new development in the curriculum of the College-Institute. For the first time in the history of our institution, Jewish mystical literature (in particular, Kabbalah and Hasidism) has begun to be deeply integrated into the studies of our rabbinical students, substantiating the precedent established by Rabbi Lawrence S. Kushner’s courses at HUC-JIR/New York. Through both core and elective courses at the Los Angeles School of HUC-JIR, the texts and ideas of Jewish mysticism will now take their proper historical place alongside the other streams of religious thought and creativity in the development of Judaism.
The importance of this shift should not be underestimated, for mysticism has been central to Jewish religion in virtually every major stage of its historical development. Contrary to the stereotype, Kabbalah (literally ‘received tradition’) was never peripheral to Jewish religious thought and practice. Quite the opposite: mysticism was considered by many of the greatest figures of Jewish intellectual culture to be the heart of religious truth, the ultimate aim of all spiritual knowledge. The reason why medieval Kabbalah did not become ‘mainstream’ in the social history of Jewish learning was more a reflection of the elite nature of its society and the esoteric character of its contents than of any peripheralization of the phenomenon of mysticism per se. Keepers of this wisdom were concerned to transmit the teachings only to those who passed certain prerequisites of worthiness, and great emphasis was placed on the character of the recipient. Towering pillars of Jewish culture (who were often simultaneously masters of halakhah and talmudic studies as well), including the likes of Moses Nahmanides (RaMBaN), Solomon Ibn Adret (RaShBA), and Joseph Karo (to mention only a few), conceived of Kabbalah as the core meaning of the tradition, as the deepest layer to be uncovered within the Torah. They were only cautious in the degree to which such hidden matters should be taught in public.
Thus, for our students to be broadly educated in the history of Jewish religion, they must be exposed to the great intellectual variety and polyphony that has always marked our tradition. Judaism was never monolithic and essentialist, and divergent trends were in perennial dialogue with one another. The medieval period in particular was a time awash with many different ideas and approaches to theology and ritual. One cannot understand the religious discourse of the day without comprehending the ongoing conversation between biblical exegetes, talmudists, philosophers, and kabbalists on a wide range of issues.
It was Gershom Scholem who first made this essential point in the process of laying the foundations for the modern critical study of Jewish mystical literature. Responding to the historical work of Heinrich Graetz (the giant of Jewish historiogr©hy in the 19th century), in which Kabbalah was ridiculed as nonsense and foolishness in contrast to the bright light of Maimonidean rationalism, Scholem painstakingly demonstrated the immense degree to which Kabbalah has been an integral dimension of Jewish religious creativity throughout the history of the Jewish people. Moreover, Scholem began the ongoing process of elucidating the major contributions of kabbalists to the history of religious ideas, unpacking the profundity and nuance of kabbalistic thought.
The legacy of Gershom Scholem and his scholarship is reflected in the fact that the critical study of Kabbalah has become one of the largest and most productive fields of inquiry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem today, with scholars also working at universities and centers of research across Israel, Europe, and the United States. In the wake of Scholem and his students, the study of Jewish mysticism has evolved into one of the primary frontiers and foundational pillars of Jewish Studies research worldwide. Seen in this comparative light, the addition of this field of research to the community of scholars at HUC-JIR serves a long-awaited need.
For our students, we must seek to uncover and explain the rich varieties of the tradition in a manner that reflects a broad and inclusive vision of the Jewish textual canon. The treasures of Jewish religious literature in all of its forms are the spiritual heritage of all Jews, and it is our responsibility to empower the next generation of leaders to be serious and capable interpreters of that variety.
The fact that the study of Jewish mystical sources has now begun to be integrated into the curriculum of the College-Institute represents a profound new openness on the part of administration, faculty, and students that promises to have a major impact upon the intellectual and spiritual life of the Reform Movement at large. A great number of the next generation of Reform rabbis and educators will now be able to speak in an informed way about Kabbalah as a cultural force in Jewish history. It is our hope that this process will further develop the spiritual vocabulary and sources of inspiration that are tapped and employed in the context of teaching and preaching.
At this point it may be helpful to reflect briefly on exactly what we mean by ‘Jewish mysticism.’ How is the phenomenon to be defined? What are its historical and thematic features?
In my view, the term ‘mysticism’ as it applies to Jewish religion may be best understood first and foremost as a particular mentality, a way of looking at the world and the religious life. The Jewish mystic encounters Nature, the human form, the ritual life, and above all, the sacred text of Torah, with an eye to deeper hidden meanings that lie beneath the surface of ordinary perception. Nothing is just as it seems at first view; everything contains a glimpse of the Infinite divine life. Trees, rivers, the sun and the moon, as well as the fingers of the hand, the mark of circumcision, and the soul that animates the physical body, all reflect profound mysteries of the cosmic divine order, of the deepest truths of all existence.
The performance of ritual action, whose legal structure was historically inextricable from the mystical life, is understood to be imbued with symbolic meaning, such that all ritual acts – from the recitation of specific benedictions to the observance of all daily commandments – are believed to reflect deep meaning about the divine realm and to have the power to maintain the harmony of the cosmos. So it is with the words and images of Torah, every piece of which is viewed to be an allusion to some secret divine reality.
The Jewish mystic (and here I refer to the dominant trends in medieval Kabbalah and early modern Hasidism) expresses the fundamental intuition that all Being pulses with the energy of complete Oneness. All existence, from the highest dimension of God to the lowest particle of physicality, is united in one great continuum of divine Reality, and the living force of Divinity flows forth through the cosmos, giving vitality to the world like blood sustains the life of the body.
Thus, one of the great insights that the Jewish mystic offers (though this will often vary from one thinker to the next) is that despite the appearance of multiplicity in the cosmos, despite the fact that we perceive the world to be rife with division, separateness, and particularity, the veil of illusions must ultimately be lifted, and then all that will appear is the undivided One that is God. This is the true secret of existence. It is in and through this process of reaching deeper perception, greater awareness of the mysteries of Being, that the Jewish mystic expresses a desire for ultimate intimacy with the Divine, for an encounter with the hidden God that reaches beyond the manifest boundaries of cosmos and mind. Like his counterparts in other religions, the Jewish mystic yearns for unmediated illumination, even absorption into the flowing river of divine Oneness.
Also contrary to stereotype, the mystical life is (in the vast majority of cases) deeply bound to the life of action and mitzvot in this world – an orientation that led many kabbalists to construct powerful syntheses between ethical concern for the other and the personal yearning for the heights of divine revelation. From the masters of medieval Kabbalah, through the famous moral piety of Rabbi Avraham Kook in the twentieth century, many mystics argued that the quest for divine illumination, for that river of Oneness, could never be separated from the ethical responsibilities toward the human other, from deep engagement with matters of communal concern.
In many cases, Jewish mystics asserted that the yearning for divine encounter was to be embodied in an ethical posture toward other people. A life of mystical quest without grounding in moral discipline was perceived to be an inauthentic life of piety. There is, therefore, no legitimate basis for the generalized judgment that mysticism somehow precludes the moral life. Indeed, I would argue that (for the great majority of thinkers) just the opposite is true.
As our rabbinical alumni and students can attest, there is a great hunger among congregants for deeper understanding of, and engagement with, the mystical dimensions of our religious heritage. People want to learn from the spiritual wisdom of the Jewish tradition, and they too often assume that such spirituality can only be found in other religions, and not within Judaism itself. It is our duty to help Jews realize that there is deep spiritual wisdom to be tapped within their own religious heritage (even as we learn from, and indeed integrate, the spiritual insights of our brothers and sisters in other religions), and we must educate religious leaders who are able to speak knowledgeably and responsibly about this vast landscape of ideas and insights.
The next generation of Reform rabbis must be able to offer their congregants a spiritually serious and historically grounded alternative to the trivialization and superficial presentation of Kabbalah that is rampant in the popular realm. Several of my students have already remarked to me that they consider this to be one of the great responsibilities and challenges that they will face as rabbis in the field. And how else will the Reform rabbis of tomorrow be able to fulfill this task if we do not train them and educate them to do so?
I have thus far addressed the importance of mysticism and spiritual questions for the academic and the professional dimensions of the education we offer at HUC-JIR. But let me now turn briefly to the implications for the third intersecting circle of our broader curricular aims: that of the personal religious development of our students. It has become clear to me that a great majority care deeply about the ways in which the mystical traditions of Judaism can impact and shape their own spiritual lives and imaginations. And I have no doubt that strong engagement with the texts and ideas of Kabbalah and Hasidism will offer tremendous enrichment to the spiritual quests and concerns of our students. We have before us one of the richest treasures in the entire panorama of spiritual wisdom, and it is our sacred imperative to transmit this wisdom to the emerging religious leaders of liberal Judaism.
It has been a special pleasure for me to be a part of this remarkable transformation, and to watch my students integrate these new ideas into the various dimensions of their intellectual and religious lives. We are blessed with students who are spiritually sensitive and intellectually curious, and it is their passion that continues to inspire me as a teacher. Let our shared purpose continue to grow and develop in the time ahead.
Dr. William Cutter, Director of the Lee and Irving Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health, and Professor of Education and Modern Hebrew Literature, Named the Inaugural Steinberg Distinguished Professor
The Dr. Paul M. and Trudy Steinberg Distinguished Professorship in Human Relations and Counseling has been established through a generous gift from the Irma L. and Abram S. Croll Charitable Trust and its Trustees, Edward S. Schlesinger, Esq., longtime advisor and attorney to the Crolls and partner of Hofheimer, Gartlir and Gross, and Joseph E. Collins III, Senior Vice President of Neuberger Berman Trust Companies, N.A. The Steinberg Distinguished Professorship honors Dr. Paul M. and Trudy Steinberg, whose association with the College-Institute dates back more than fifty years.
In announcing the establishment of the Steinberg Distinguished Professorship, Rabbi Ellenson said, “We pay tribute to Dr. Paul and Trudy Steinberg for more than fifty years of devotion to the College-Institute, and for Dr. Steinberg's enormous contribution to the College-Institute in his over half-century of administration, teaching, and mentorship of generations of students now serving the Reform Movement and the Jewish community worldwide. We are grateful to the trustees of the Irma L. and Abram S. Croll Charitable Trust, for their generosity, which has made this Chair possible. It is especially appropriate that this Chair honors the visionary research, scholarship, and teaching of Dr. William Cutter, founder of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education and the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles. Dr. Cutter has been a force for innovation, training, and new research in the areas of Hebrew literature, Jewish education, chaplaincy and pastoral counseling, and publicpolicyandeducationontherelationshipbetweenreligionandhealing.”
Rabbi, teacher, mentor, Dean, and Vice President of the College-Institute, Dr. Paul Steinberg has served HUC-JIR for decades with dedication, passion and skill. Dr. Steinberg's service to the College-Institute began in 1955. At HUC-JIR/New York, he served as Dean of the Rabbinical School, the School of Education, the School of Sacred Music, and as Dean of the New York School where he served the longest tenure of a Dean in the history of the College-Institute. He also assumed responsibilities for the development of the Jerusalem School and was appointed its first Executive Dean.
Dr. Steinberg currently serves as Eleanor Sinsheimer Distinguished Service Professor of Education in Human Relations, Vice President for Communal Development, and Chairman of Faculty of the NY School. He also serves on the Boards of the Jewish Braille Institute, the Albright Institute of Archaeology in Jerusalem, the Hospital for Joint Diseases, and Dorot. He is President of the Gimprich Foundation.
Dr. Steinberg earned his B.S. in Social Science with Honors at the College of the City of New York and the M.S. in Educational Psychology at the School of Education at City College. He was ordained and received the Master of Hebrew Literature Degree from the Jewish Institute of Religion in 1949. He received his Doctorate in Psychological Services from Columbia University and has taught at Hebrew University, New York University, Baruch College, the Department of Defense and the Army Management School.
Rabbi Stephen S. Wise officiated at the marriage of Trudy and Paul Steinberg at the Jewish Institute of Religion. Trudy Steinberg has taught at Hunter College Elementary School, and at schools in Brooklyn and Berkeley, California, and served as a social worker. In 1949, she administered a project for Hadassah Hospital in Israel. Trudy worked as a key facilitator with Youth Aliyah, concerned with the integration of young people into Israeli society. She is a founding member of the National Council for Jewish Women in Berkeley, California. During more than fifty years of marriage, Trudy has been at Paul's side in the creation and implementation of the College-Institute programs in the United States and overseas.
Trudy and Paul Steinberg take special pride in their children, Alana Steinberg Wittenberg,amemberoftheScreenDirectorsGuild,andDr.AlanL.Steinberg, a geriatric psychiatrist, and their seven granchildren, Lindsay, Michael, Alex, Haley, Joshua, Arielle, and Natalie.
The Steinberg Distinguished Professorship recognizes the accomplishments of Dr. William Cutter, Professor of Education and Modern Hebrew Literature at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, and Director of the Lee and Irving Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health, a national center for public discourse on health, religion, and public policy.A dedicated member of the College-Institute since 1965, Dr. William Cutter has served as both the Assistant Dean and Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, which he helped found in 1970. Rabbi Cutter received his degree from Yale University in 1959, was ordained at HUC-JIR/ Cincinnati
in 1965 and earned his P.h. D. in Modern Hebrew Literature at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1971. His current research concentrates on the development of Modern Hebrew literature at the turn of the century and the ideological place of the Hebrew language in modern Judaism. Dr. Cutter has published over 150 scholarly articles on Hebrew culture, education, and health and has edited over 30 textbooks and collections of educations material. In addition to directing the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health, Dr. Cutter serves on the advisory board to the UCLA Medical Center Department of Spiritual Care and supervises the chaplaincy training of the students at HUC-JIR/LA.
by Dr. William Cutter, Dr. Paul M. and Trudy Steinberg Distinguished Professor, and Director, Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles
In the morning service, some of us utter what looks like a simple piety in a prater called by its lead word, Nishmat. "Every living soul shall praise you," it opens and includes a remarkable flourish: “Tho’ our mouths were full of song as the sea, our tongues full of melody as the roaring waves, our lips with praise as the heaven’s expanse, we still could not fully thank God....” This hyperbole is an upbeat tribute to the Creator and the Spirit of all. But it is, in addition, an assertion of the limits of language; a caution to those who try, through the excesses of speech, to capture transcendent sentiments about love and loss, pain and gratification, indeed, one’s surpassing spiritual ties. In different ways, poets have warned of the inadequacy of language even as they use language as their most basic tool. Our mouths are not as full of song as the sea, so we are even less adequate than the imagined people in the Nishmat prayer.
I want to tell you about how I deal with the insufficiency of language that is acknowledged in that prayer; and how I address it in my work with students at the College-Institute and in my work with patients in the hospital.
It is not easy to think about language and the relationship of language to healing in the same framework. Post-modern critics have insisted that language is a shifty medium always compromising what someone wants to say. The simple inadequacy noted in our opening prayer really reflects the idea that we cannot easily translate from some pure notion of what one wants to say to a point where an expression meets its audience. As Yehuda Amichai said, more specifically, even the lover and the astronaut cannot find words, and so are left with poor expressions like, “Wow! or Great!” Or even the inevitable: “I couldn’t find words to capture what it was like to be in outer space, or what it was like to make love.” The musical Baby offers a challenge by referring to the terrible, unbearable, unshareable pain of family rearing, but the notion of language limits is the same.
Sometimes in our effort to find words, we seek an excess of adjectives and adverbs, but the effort inevitably fails. I have urged my students not to use adjectives or adverbs to reach for that perfect expression of experience. When a rabbi says to a couple about to be married, “This is a very special day,”
I fear they haven’t thought enough about what it is that makes the day special, and what words might force an encounter between the listener and the speaker and the subject. Words like “very” or “incredible” or “special” ought not be in the vocabulary of anyone who wants to communicate deeply. And I sense that this is most important when it comes to talking about the mysteries of health and illness. Let me then say that learning to narrate a tale, learning to pick an appropriate figure of speech is a step in getting closer to conveying these mysteries. It is a flawed way, as I shall discuss further on, but the flaws have their own charm.
I urge our students not to use adjectives or adverbs for convenience. If they don’t want to be trite, they have to find a colorful metaphor or a brief narrative to enliven what they want to say. I make them narrate their message, briefly but forcefully, and I require that metaphors organize their statements.
I will save my examples for later.
I instruct our students in two fields that would be quite separate in most schools: Modern Literature and the Pastoral Rabbinate. Modern Hebrew Literature belongs to classic academic domains along with other great Jewish texts, but it is just sub-canonical for a rabbinical school. Its prose contains the stories of rebellious men and women who wanted to heal a tired Jewish people of its dark wounds, and its poems capture metaphors of the suffering and triumph of the Jewish nation or most often the strivings of individuals who understood themselves as having value outside of their status as members of that nation.
Modern literature, both its prose and poetry, is studied according to the scholastic patterns of the Western literary canon. It is an academic subject. Its light is of the Enlightenment, that great movement that had such faith in intellect and research. The pastoral rabbinate, on the other hand, brings practical and clinical things to Jewish life: caring, warmth and relief from pain. Its light is about hope and perhaps courage to face the dark.
In literature study (even when the themes are about spirit), one does homework, struggles with this new Hebrew language, and has to think conceptually. At the bedside of patients, our student draws a bit more on instinct and character, and, if we are lucky, a little of that tough learning that went on in the classroom. But in the Jewish professional academy, the connections between practice and text learning are not consistently developed. The amount of knowledge that is required to become a good teacher and researcher in literature conquers most aspirants to scholarship, and few are the people who bring it off. You certainly can’t achieve it with instinct and character.
I shall enumerate the facts to you, for nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.
- Holmes to Watson
The world of professional practice has its own demands in our mastery-oriented world. The expertise we have developed for each phase of professional practice is filled with sophisticated masteries. The Ph.D. publishing whiz may not be the kind of person who sits comfortably at the bedside of a hopeless, lonesome patient. There is, like it or not, a functional gap between scholarship and clinical practice even if, most recently, a feisty group of physicians and professional helpers have tried to bridge the gap. (Of this, more later.) HUC-JIR occasionally makes a gesture to close it as well, as in our procedurally systematic curriculum revision, or the more fanciful proposal of Liz Swados that what we really need on our faculty is a couple of clowns.
HUC-JIR was born into the idea of separation of humanistic study and practice, in spite of our prayer book’s hopeful afterthought that “Talmud Torah leads to practice.” The fact is that it sometimes does, and it sometimes does not; but it always takes a lot of work to bring the textual gaze to the clinical function. For some of us, the interplay between practice and scholarly fields may begin to illuminate each. This interplay may snag just a little more light and place it in new containers – vessels of experience and vessels of knowledge, which are enriched by the discourse of each.
Although I am no Kabbalist, the idea of vessels which retain light – a primary kabbalistic notion – continues to enrich my own thinking. That is how I have understood the ideas that John Dewey developed in his essays about Art and Experience. It is what I have tried to do in my teaching at the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, which remains one of the experiments of which I am most proud. But I have made compromises on the way, and these compromises, moral, intellectual and spiritual, are the ground for my comments this evening. Those compromises in experience are related, for me, to the compromises we make as we try to describe our experiences in convincing ways.
Our students are an occasion, and an audience, for testing our effort at practical and intellectual reciprocities. They are a pretty sophisticated lot, but they usually come to us with limited personal or professional experience. With a few exceptions, they are certainly beginners in the journey of Jewish study, and sometimes innocent of life’s brutality. It is difficult for many of them to understand the importance of their tasks in life. They are sometimes a bit grandiose about their professional destinies, and they are just as often unable to get their minds around the enormity of what it means to help people. But for purposes of this speech, there is an even more important way in which they are not yet seasoned. They are unschooled in the language to express their experience. I work that territory; the territory between language and experience. That has been my art, and it is in that art that I draw on the stories and poems of classic writers.
The educated American Jewish person may know those writers by such names as Tolstoy and Thomas Mann, Virginia Woolf, George Eliot, or Jane Austen. All of these writers not only have helped me learn how to speak and teach, but they have written of illness and healing. If you are a modernist, perhaps you know better the work of Toni Morrison, or Jumpa Lahiri, or maybe Philip Roth, and Saul Bellow, where aging and infirmity are frequent themes.
Around HUC-JIR, in work that I share with colleagues Wendy Zierler, Stanley Nash, and Susan Einbinder, we know them as Hayim Nachman Bialik and Lea Goldberg, Amos Oz, S. Y. Agnon, and Zelda the great religious poet, or surely Yehuda Amichai, whose last volume is in the knapsack of thousands of Israeli and American readers. I have joined these storytellers and poets to the newly emerging narrative doctors like Oliver Sacks, Jerome Groopman, Sherwin Nuland, and Danielle Ofri; the curriculum innovator Rita Charon at Columbia and the spiritually urgent Rachel Naomi Remen, one of our Kalsman Institute partners and a physician who has enlivened the clinical routines of many of her lonely and emotionally spent colleagues.
I supervise our students who work at UCLA Medical Center, among other hospitals in the Los Angeles area. I would describe the hospital as huge. Invariably my students tell me about getting lost in the web of its floors. When they write or tell of their experiences, I want them to find vivid pictures, pictures that show rather than tell, in the formula of the great Wayne Booth of the University of Chicago. I would even urge them to picture the size of the place, as the Israeli poet Abba Kovner did for Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York:
Sloan Kettering (its full name: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center)
is a large and growing building
and all those who come within its walls
jointly and separately,
suddenly find themselves in a cage, captive and exposed
...at the entrance to a triple elevator
that has not yet
opened its maw
like a desert
beginning to take shape
And when they see a patient within that hugeness, bring us into their experience with imagery and not adjectives: “I was as nervous as Mr. Schwartz when I entered his room where he was being prepped for surgery.” Not a bad piece of narration when all is said and done. But if my student can help us reexperience the energy in that nervous hospital room, we who are hearing his story have a better chance of sensing what was really going on with all that nervous energy. So, find a metaphor, and place it in a story.
“I wasn’t ready to visit patients yet last Monday morning, but there was Schwartz needing a visit a few hours before surgery. I had forgotten my rabbis’ manual, and couldn’t remember the third line of the mi-she-berach prayer, but there was his door, and it was 6:45, and the nurses had told me that Schwartz wanted a prayer and a visit.”
The student has now “shown” us rather than told us. Once in the room, my student told of the patient’s jumbled sheets, wet and tangled with the concerns of the night, and only then did he notice that a button on his own sport coat had fallen off. But something happened when this story was told that I will never forget. Suddenly Schwartz said to my student: “I’m so glad you have come, rabbi. Thanks for taking the time.” I remember how that simple quotation relieved all the pressure in my classroom. Thank God, my students seemed to be saying, the patient wanted the visit after all.
In that one moment, we saw Schwartz’s nerves, our student’s anxiety, his classmates’ anxiety in hearing the story, and my own pleasure that I was teaching something useful. Showing was definitely better than telling, but something else was gained. The storyteller himself revisited the experience, and gained insight and immediacy as he re-visited his visit. Once one has to narrate an experience, the common everyday ruminations of the storyteller are elevated for reflection, adaptation and, important for my classes, sharing.
The story of Mr. Schwartz did its job. But, by showing, we also introduce an element of ambiguity, as the tale moves us from direct empirical description into the richness of imagination and the dangers of over elaboration or over narration. We can put people to sleep by telling too little; and we can put people to sleep by telling too much. We can find metaphors that enliven the discourse, and we can find metaphors that help us lie, as readers of USA Today, The New Republic and The New York Times have learned in recent years.
So what is a literature teacher pastor supposed to do? Is writing really a cure, as The New York Times Magazine of April 18 suggested? Not a cure, perhaps, but a big deal, nonetheless.
What I propose to my students is that they take their cue from the great writers of modernity: Balzac, for whom a building’s architecture reflects something of the story to be told; Flaubert’s Mme. Bovary, who nervously draws on the place mat with the edge of her knife – communicating to us her ennui and her husband’s dullness for not noticing the knife. Yehuda Amichai, for whom shoes by the side of the bed can sing Hallel to the lovers under the sheets. And Agnon, who is incessantly asking, “To what may the matter be compared,” duping his readers into thinking that they are reading midrash, where in fact they are reading stories of terrifying modernity – in one of which it is a psychiatrist who tells his story to the patient. Agnon created one of the great coups of story telling, as his psychiatrist, Langsam in German, “Dr. Slowly” in English, narrates his own youth to the suffering Hirshl Horowitz, who is trying to locate himself on the bridge between modern middle class values and intense erotic experience.
These writers can’t be imitated easily, of course. But they can show the way, and by showing us how to show, we can get two for the price of one: my student’s description of his or her patient is enriched, and I learn something about my student as well. Good storytellers always tell something about themselves. It is not their life history, as more banal readers try to figure out from a novel, for example, but rather the real inside expressive art of the storyteller. But we also get that ambiguity, which then has to be used for interpretive purposes and not for lying.
My students – our students – rise to the occasion. They have, each year, brought images and metaphors and narratives to their work in the hospital: the breathless climbs up UCLA’S ten flights of stairs, instead of clichés about their fatigue and confusion (we can match Sloan Kettering for the large-mouthed elevators); a jigsaw puzzle of diversity in which each piece of the puzzle is a patient united with other patients only once the puzzle is completed.
Once a student donned a Superman cape to suggest her own fantasy about the chaplain’s magical ability to save souls with a single bound. And recently one of our students had us put on our shirts backwards to let us know what it felt like to have your life turned inside out. This reminded me of the only time a student noticed that his fine chaplain’s outfit might have made the patient feel unarmed and inadequate. In my bag of mementos, I have a Magritte picture of the famous pipe which isn’t a pipe, after all, which a student recently used to demonstrate that not everyone who looks ill is really so sick, and not everyone in the cancer ward who looks well has a good prognosis. In the outpatient chemotherapy ward, “Ceci n’est pas un patient” is a charming metaphor to ponder.
I have probed the work of Israeli novelist A. B. Yehoshua who has used health and illness, fantasies of illness, and sensitivity to the immigrant and related outsiders to convey the human drama within the reborn Jewish state. I thank him for his metaphors frequently, and for reminding me of the way in which illness and marginality inform people’s anxieties.
I believe that such writing can help us better understand Mrs. Lopez who is having lifegiving surgery tomorrow, but whose family does not quite understand all of the procedures she will be going through at UCLA Medical Center.
“Mrs. Lopez’s family had driven down from Fresno, beginning at 3 in the morning. They arrived at 8 in a kind of immigrant disarray in the midst of this tonnage of hi-tech, with its ten floors, its ten corridors on every floor, and its ten thousand nurses.”
Can this student help these frightened and possibly not entirely legal farm workers? Their car had broken down on the way to Los Angeles, and wishing for some Divine symmetry, our HUC-JIR student wished that his car, too, had broken down between his home street and the UCLA campus.
“My kippah weighed a ton, a lot of good it was going to do me; and there the family was arguing about who would represent the family’s spiritual wishes to the medical staff. Thank God for my mentor chaplain who helped me figure all this out. She didn’t know Spanish, but she definitely spoke hospital. My kippah turned out to reassure the family that I was a religious person, and that they could trust me.”
Mrs. Lopez’s story feels unique to my student, a fifth-generation American with a lot of good old American ways and considerable intermarriage in his background. Mrs. Lopez is more simply a member of her ethnic community, a working-class lady of the first immigrant generation, with degenerative hip disease and a serious infection. Her family worries that they may lose her; our student is the hope that they will gain something spiritual from this awful adventure. He will help them know what is going on, at some level. At least HE is the interpreter of their maladies.
So, literature and the life of healing. The link between healing and story may have sprung from Sigmund Freud’s imagination, but we in the healing world have given narrative bounce to that spring. Once you think about it, a vast amount of Western literature is about stories of regaining health, of the unraveling of life, or the heroes and the snakes of the medical Garden of Eden. That literature is the official formation of what by now has become a remarkable scholarly field: understanding the stories of patients in terms of certain patterns and archetypes.
Mrs. Lopez’s story, for example, had the potential to be a story of overcoming and of finding one’s place in society. My student’s story becomes one of achievement and competence and even gratefulness. And this leads us into a classification of healing stories that has become the work of a new breed of literary theorists, among whom the great Israeli critic Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan is prominent. Like so many of us in this work, Professor Kenan has herself taken the journey of literature and illness.
Surely now you might think of Death in Venice and The Magic Mountain. Of The Death of Ivan Illyich and Death in the Family. Of Faulkner’s As I lay Dying and Willa Cather’s short novel, Death Comes to the Archbishop. Of Shirley Jackson’s macabre “Lottery” and Camus’s rumination in The Fall as to when his mother really died. In Modern Hebrew Literature it is The Times My Father Died and The Death of the Old Man. It may be Yehuda Amichai’s poignant memorial ruminations (“O God, full of compassion, perhaps because you are so full of compassion there is none left in the world”), or those Lovely Bones that sold so many copies.
And now, thanks to story-telling physicians like Rita Charon and the medically obsessed story readers like me, we are finding ways to bring stories into the healing chamber. The patient has a story, her doctor has a story, our culture has its stories – and so, to my students I say, tell us your story about their story, and do it knowing that you will never capture it perfectly. But please avoid adverbs and adjectives.
My colleague Simkha Weintraub has said, “You need medicine to cure, but you need a metaphor to heal.” For me the enrichment of literature makes the embrace of turbulent reality more meaningful. It is only when Aristotle’s sense of plot meets Freud’s sense of cure, set against Balzac’s understanding of setting which then meets Walter Benjamin’s notion of the ‘generative’ possibilities in story telling, and finally roosts in Rachel Naomi Remen’s narrative healing that we fully understand how it works.
I want each student to take the following from story: an idea of metaphor, so that she takes better aim with her understanding, even though she risks the fib of the figure of speech; a story or narration over time in order to capture the sense of the ‘duré’ the endurance of an event; and the presence of an author to embrace a point of view.
Permit me to begin with point of view. Who gets the right perspective on what is happening in the sick room? Is it the doctor, who must at least describe the basic and empirical facts before taking us into relevant, but more ambiguous issues of background? The patient? The social worker? Can it be the chaplain? And which of these stories has a future, for future is the all-time controversial subject when it comes to literature. What happens to the characters after the book is closed? Is that a corny question? A legitimate question? In the stories of patients, there is no doubt. The doctor must move on; the rest of us hold on to the story.
To some physicians our patient is a 46-yearold male with severe asthma, admitted to the hospital after a car accident, with high fever and increased difficulty breathing. Now who is that patient to the social worker or the chaplain? Perhaps he is a father whose asthma has always made him feel inadequate, and whose wife doubts his ability to secure the family’s financial future. She tells us that his driving has never been responsible, and here he was reaching for his ventilator. This patient has a fairly straightforward clinical presentation, and a background story of nearly infinite complexity. It is a story made for a chaplain, and for that chaplain or social worker, there will be a future.
It happens to you more frequently than you realize, perhaps. Let us say that you call your plumber in the morning, and you are told that the dispatcher who is also the bookkeeper won’t be in this morning because she is having some medical tests. All right, you can wait until tomorrow to settle your bill, and she won’t be able to nudge you up the line so that your plumbing can get fixed today. Her absence may be an inconvenience to your plumbing situation, and in my case, she holds the key to the Dodgers tickets. But her doctor knows that she may have a tumor, and that is what that shadow showed last week. We chaplains know it as a story: of worry about her children, or her husband’s fear that, if she is truly ill, there may be no one to take care of him. Perhaps she was a smoker and the family is angry, perhaps there is the memory of a parent who died young. And then there may be regret that she and her husband squander precious time in futile argument. Is there some anxiety that friends will abandon her?
All of this is the business of the chaplain, of the rabbi or minister or social worker. Or even the occasional doctor who does find time to hear that patient’s story. That undercurrent, and that anxiety, remains the great strength of our great stories, from the narrator of King David’s old age to the Yiddish and Hebrew poets who played with the image. To the towns of Camus’s The Plague and Ibsen’s Enemy of the People where disease has taken over, to the stories of the disenfranchised.
My short visit to South Africa a few years ago brought Camus and Ibsen to my mind, just as thinking about Ibsen and Camus gave me background to the real plague that I saw in a new way. As vivid as the realities of the AIDS pandemic there are, these great works of literature hover behind the events on the ground as mythic forces warning us of the price of negligence.
Here’s an example of one use of story in regard to public policy. To say that our nation does not attend to the health of the impoverished ill is to state a fact. It is a bland and somewhat abstract fact like the report of so many people lost in a battle abroad. The 43 million uninsured Americans is only a number, like so many statistics we use. But narrate the reality of that fact with a story and a strong metaphor and it becomes a little more difficult to treat the fact so matter-of-factly.
Live with a family on a certain kind of budget with illness in the family. Hear their story about the day-to-day anxiety that grips them every time someone coughs, and it might not be so easy to withhold their medical treatment. America has its narrative of business and economic progress that dominates our storyboards. We have industries that are rewriting the stories of American economics. I suspect we could use some competing stories of caring, to balance our go-go spirit.
I am sorry to introduce something as uncomfortable as my own institution’s role in caring and precarious questions of continuity. But my personal story includes an institution that believes in its employees, and has given me the peace of mind to live with illness and continue to make a contribution. Please share that story with others and extend it into our future. I hope that we as a nation find the proper narratives of duration to make the intimate stories more real, and the proper metaphors to make this American social reality unbearable.
So, for me, literature and the projects of human relations have gotten along compatibly. What I have learned from stories and from poems, from the story of Jewish nation-building, and from the art of literature, has not been so far from what I have had to bring to that other half of my life: the half that is the teacher of pastors.
I accept this Steinberg Chair in Human Relations proudly. I permit myself the very adverbs and adjectives I forbid to my students. I am very touched by this honor, and very honored by the touch of people who have cared for me. Art and Human Relations are not a bad combination. My thanks to President Ellenson for his faith in me, and to my Dean Lewis Barth who seems to think that whatever I touch will work out. To Paul and Trudy Steinberg who continue to gesture towards me with kindness and affection. And to Georgie, my wife, and our son Ben, who graciously share this happiness, but who have also shared the pain that brought me to it. To our Governors and the Croll Estate and Mr. Schlesinger for this burst of sunlight at a sunset time of life.
This opportunity, which I take on, has already added a little glitter to a career where I have found mostly brightness, even when I have been staggered. There is an infinity of light behind all the darkness we experience, and I want to continue to shed some of it on what we do at the College-Institute. That light in some mystical traditions, is the source of story, the source of words that tell that story, and the balm for the illnesses of the stories I have talked about. While my work as professor is separate from my work at the Kalsman Institute, I cannot be here this evening without thanking Mark and Peachy Levy – the Levy-Kalsmans – who believe in that light and give a lot of it to support those whom they believe are its vessels.
I must add here that most details of this presentation are absolutely true, in the narrow enlightened sense of that idea, but that all reports of individual patients are composites. That is part of the ethic in my work. I try to use the art of narrative in that effective way; for studying story and poem has helped me look for the truth in interesting ways, with a minimum of adjectives and adverbs to push my stories along. I hope, then, that you will permit me the following farewell thoughts.
The art of narrative has much to do with illuminating the tragic condition of the human family. Tolstoy’s narrator’s suggestion in Anna Karenina that happy families do not make interesting literature is not a bad frame for understanding the relationship between art and the realities of illness and death. Both art and life’s finitude make us painfully aware of the limitations of human experience, and of the limits of language for expression of these very large events in people’s lives and emotions.
We have an infinite desire for wholeness, and thus are often disappointed. Our language is necessary to describe that disappointment, and we must even be disappointed at its inadequacy. But we do achieve some satisfactions in the little dramas we create in our lives, and in the rituals of wholeness we celebrate as holiday or life-cycle. We find it in little moments, and we even get it at a favorite restaurant where we go for its hints of perfection. And I like to think that we can be fulfilled in ceremonies like tonight and in friendships so many of you here tonight have given me; and in associations with folks like the Steinbergs.
When we were children, we expected a kind of security and steady reward. So, as we matured, the turbulent reality of the world took a little getting used to. Our sheets, in fact, are often twisted; our status is always as undocumented alien in God’s world. Stories, my faith and my academic work tell me, help us grasp our reality in a context that may even suggest strategies for coping. They also contain analogies for our lives. I have learned much of this from my wife, Georgianne, whose role as a school social worker yields much rich narrative satisfaction, and the fact that children in our world learn life’s turbulence a bit earlier than we would have wished. We have managed to remove innocence from the rich as well as the poor.
Literature, then, is the story or the lyric expression of the reality in which our HUC-JIR students function. Its satisfactions are not found in problem solving alone, but rather in narrating the way in which an individual family, a pair of lovers, a single person finds her or their way through the maze of events that interrupt what we think of as the desired steady state. This is the story of Schwartz and Lopez, of the Snopses and of Hans Castorp. It is the libretto sung by Mimi in La Boheme. It is Camus’s Dr. Rioux, and Agnon’s Hirshl Horowitz. It is Franz Rosenzweig and Lou Gehrig.
Do you recognize yourselves in the literature of great health and illness? I suspect so. Surely you have moments of a peaceful steady state, when the story isn’t interesting, but life is terrific. You might never have a story without your pain, however, as Yehuda Amichai reminds us in his poem, “From the Blurriness of Happiness and the Precision of Pain.” Even the early astronaut who floated in outer space could only say, “Great, wonderful, there are no words.” For the poet, the ambiguity of joy meets the precision of pain. “I want to describe,” he says, “with a sharp pain’s precision, happiness and ambiguous joy. I learned to speak from my pain.”
So tonight, while I speak from joy, I remember some pain. Your ritual of wholeness is most appreciated. Thanks go to President Ellenson, Paul and Trudy Steinberg, Norman Cohen, Lewis Barth, my teachers, George Isaac Brown, Arnold Band, Ezra Spicehandler, Ellis Rivkin and a host of people who are gone. Thanks go to the donors of this great institution, and personally to Alfred Gottschalk who trusted me before I deserved it.
Why is it that one at 67 and the very peak of his life can’t share that peak with the people who gave him life? Well, that is God’s way. But my mother and father would want me to celebrate for sure.
They might not have understood my own little literary perversity, however, in watching Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries just two weeks ago. I needed to remind myself about Yakov Borg in that film. On his long drive to Lund to receive the highest academic honor in his land, he meets his past, his secrets, and his private self. He is old and young at the same time; his sins are not hidden by the trumpet flourishes at the provincial Swedish university, they are, rather, folded into it. So I have my own secret stories not to share, and my own private self, covered over with adjectives and adverbs that I permit myself but forbid my students. The greatest thing about tonight, I suppose, is that I get to violate my own rules. It is not only words that are inadequate to capture feelings. Even narratives and poems fall short, or fall long, or fall too richly on the ears of those who seek simplicity. I seek complexity for my students. I know they find it in the patients to whom they bring comfort in this turbulent world. I hope you understand. And they must take that complexity and share it in simple form, as they try to help others heal.
Today I speak from the blur of happiness. But tomorrow, I return to the clarity of the reality of our work together. And so I conclude on a note of linguistic hypocrisy – with adjectives and adverbs and enthusiasm. This is an incredible honor; it has been a very special night. Thank you very much.
by Jean Bloch Rosensaft
"The Hebrew Union College Annual (HUCA) serves as the primary face of the College-Institute to the academic world,” says Rabbi David Ellenson. Having published 73 volumes and 5 supplements during its 80 fruitful years, HUCA provides a setting in which the leading Judaica scholars in the world can display the fruits of their academic research. “The pursuit of scholarship, shorn of its absolutist claims, remains a vital part of the heritage that HUCA has bequeathed to the College-Institute in particular and modern Judaism in general,” he adds. This internationally renowned publication represents the fulfillment of its earliest advocates’ intellectual mission and sustains their vision into the 21st century.
It was in January 1919 that a new quarterly journal first appeared on the American intellectual scene: the Journal of Jewish Lore and Philosophy, the first incarnation of what would later become the HUCA. Edited and published by Dr. David Neumark, Professor of Philosophy at Hebrew Union College, the Journal announced its purpose to cultivate higher Jewish learning and the dissemination of knowledge of Judaism and to serve Jewry as a whole by “paying equal attention to all disciplines of the vast field of Jewish knowledge from a purely and objectively scientific viewpoint.”
Conceiving his journal as a clearing-house for Jewish scholarship, Neumark proposed that it serve as a medium of communication not only between scholar and scholar, but also between scholar and lay leader. Furthermore, he hoped that this publication’s function would be the “reawakening of the old spirit of Jewish scholarship among the Rabbis,” and would provide them with a forum in which they could discuss “scientific questions” and “scientific views” at a time when no such “Jewish scientific periodical” existed, other than those “avowedly conservative, barring certain views and the discussion of certain questions from publication." Neumark’s Journal was to be a “watchful educator,” guiding the younger generation of rabbis to higher Jewish learning beyond their student years at the College, keeping them in contact with scholarly specialists, and inspiring their “zeal for Jewish wisdom.”
The lay leader, too, was in Neumark’s sights: “The average intelligent Jewish reader with the right Jewish heart in his bosom will receive great benefit not only from popular scientific articles, but even from such as will contain text-investigations and technical details, most, or even all, of which he may miss. The very contact with higher Jewish learning in the modern sense of the term may still ennoble the life of the modern Jews as the old spirit for the Torah ennobled the life of the Jews in by-gone days.”
Neumark, a Galician-born Talmud prodigy and theologian, had come to HUC from Berlin. According to Dr. Jacob Rader Marcus, his seventeen years on the HUC faculty “symbolized the transference of rabbinic scholarship to the American frontier. Neumark brought his wealth of Hebraic tradition, knowledge, and aspiration. He may be said, in many respects, to have helped American Jewry prepare itself for the cultural role in World Jewry – and this, a generation before the European center was to perish in the German crematoria.” Neumark’s pioneering work was reflected in his Journal, whose seminal four issues provided the foundation for the HUC Annual.
In 1920 HUC’s Board of Governors accepted Neumark’s proposal that it take over the publication as an activity of the College, which it renamed and designated as an annual. A Board of Editors was appointed, consisting of three members of the faculty – Dr. Jacob Z. Lauterbach, Dr. Julian Morgenstern (under whose Presidency HUCA would be launched in 1924), and Dr. David Neumark and three members of the Board of Governors – Dr. Joseph Krauskopf of Philadelphia, Dr. William Rosenau of Baltimore, and Dr. David Philipson of Cincinnati – with the College’s then president, Dr. Kaufmann Kohler, as an ex officio member.
Dr. Philipson, Chairman of the Board of Editors, noted in his foreword to HUCA’s inaugural issue of 1924 that they were “determined to make it a medium through which scholars might be enabled to give to the world studies on subjects in the various branches of Jewish learning. The cooperation of Jewish scholars, not only members of the faculties of rabbinical seminaries, but also professors in secular institutions of learning as well as scholars without institutional connection, was invited.” The first volume numbered 639 pages and was divided into Biblical Studies, Hellenistic Studies, Talmudic Studies, Philosophical Studies, Poetic Studies, Historical Studies, and Modern Studies. In featuring scholars from the United States and Europe and sustaining Neumark’s non-sectarian stance, Philipson explained that the Annual offered “convincing testimony to the universality of Jewish learning. Here all divisions of opinion and party merge in the friendly fellowship of true scholarly endeavor, and all geographical and national lines are obliterated....Although issued by the Hebrew Union College, the Annual will become a mouthpiece of Jewish scholarship everywhere.”
Rabbi Ellenson points out that HUCA, as one of the very first Jewish academic journals to be published in the United States, should be viewed in the context of its historical and intellectual antecedents, as a successor to the firstand second-generation Jewish scholarly journals of 19th-century Europe. “For almost two centuries, the academic study of the Jewish past and the course and direction of modern Judaism have been intertwined,” he explains. “The earliest practitioners of Wissenschaft des Judentums (the ‘scientific,’ academic study of Judaism) in Berlin in the 1820s as well as the 19th-century luminaries, ranging from the foremost leaders of Liberal Judaism such as Abraham Geiger and Zacharias Frankel to the Orthodox Esriel Hildesheimer, did not regard the scholarly study of Judaism as a mere tool to unlock the heritage of the Jewish past. They viewed an academic approach to Judaism as a means to direct the path of Judaism in the present.”
Thus, the Liberal Berlin Hochschule as well as the Positive-Historical Breslau Seminary and the Orthodox Berlin Rabbinerseminar that were headed by each of these men annually published erudite academic investigations into the Jewish past and routinely employed the results of those essays and articles to buttress their own approaches to Judaism. “These 19th-century scholars believed that the ‘objective study’ of the Jewish past would yield normative conclusions and guidance as to how Judaism should be practiced in the present,” he adds.
“Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise was determined to make HUC the academic equivalent of these German-language bastions of modern Jewish learning; one way he did this was by routinely including academic articles in the yearly reports on the state of his institution.” The Annual became the successor to such scholarly annual reports, which would extend Jewish learning and, at the same time, provide direction for contemporary Judaism.
The founding of an academic Jewish journal, HUCA, under the auspices of a modern rabbinical seminary also was due to the fact that, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, no scholar of Judaism could hold a university position in Europe, and virtually none could in America, because of anti-Jewish prejudice and the location of religious studies in Christian theological faculties within the university. In those years, almost all scholars of Judaism with institutional appointments were located in the rabbinical seminaries. Thus faculty needs as well as aspirations for the student body and alumni helped motivate the founding of the Annual at Hebrew Union College.
HUCA is currently headed by Dr. Edward A. Goldman, Editor, and Dr. Richard S. Sarason, Associate Editor, who succeeded Dr. Herbert Paper’s and Dr. Sheldon Blank’s distinguished leadership of this periodical. Goldman and Sarason affirm the enormous sense of responsibility and the weighty legacy they are sustaining. They have contributed their own personal imprint on HUCA by seeking out those scholars who are doing the kind of work that would be of interest to the Annual ’s readership and encouraging them to submit articles, albeit with no guarantee of acceptance for publication.
“When we attend the Society for Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and Association for Jewish Studies annual meetings, for example, we make it our business to go to as many different sessions as possible,” Goldman notes. “We listen to those scholars who we think are doing important work in various fields and, when we hear a promising presentation, we suggest that they consider developing it into a full-fledged article for publication, always trying to make the Annual balanced and exciting.” Sarason adds, “A lot of time and energy is spent on communication with the authors. We aspire to emulate Dr. Blank’s tradition of professional courtesy in the way in which we communicate with those who submit articles. If an article is not accepted, we make certain to be encouraging, in the hopes of being able to publish another piece by that scholar in the future.” Goldman and Sarason are guided by an Editorial Board, comprised of faculty from all four campuses and representing expertise in all of the disciplines covered in the Annual, so as to ensure its encyclopedic scope: Dr. Ellenson, Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought; Dr. Reuven Firestone, Professor of Medieval Jewish Studies; Dr. Nili Fox, Associate Professor of Bible; Dr. Alyssa Gray, Assistant Professor of Codes and Responsa Literature; Dr. Samuel Greengus, Morgenstern Professor of Bible and Near Eastern Literature; Dr. Adam Kamesar, Professor of Judaeo-Hellenistic Literature; Dr. Barry Kogan, Efroymson Professor of Jewish Thought; Dr. Michael Meyer, Ochs Professor of Jewish History; Dr. Stanley Nash, Professor of Hebrew Literature; and Dr. David Sperling, Professor of Bible. They assist Goldman and Sarason by actively reaching out to colleagues around the world for submissions. Each volume prominently features an invitation for “submission for consideration of scholarly essays in Jewish and Cognate Studies, Ancient and Modern: Bible, Rabbinics, Language and Literature, History, Philosophy, Religion.” Thus, articles that are unsolicited come over the transom door as well.
Academic excellence is the standard against which all submissions are judged. “When an article is submitted, it is assigned to a field and we circulate its title and field to our Editorial Board,” Goldman explains. “An Editorial Board member, or other HUC-JIR faculty member, will generally become one of the readers. We then send out this information to prospective readers from outside of HUC-JIR who are experts in that field. An outside scholar offers to be a reader, and the full article is sent out for review without the author’s identification, so that it is evaluated on its own academic terms. The readers, scholars of all faiths just as the authors of submissions are of all faiths, do not know who the writer is, and they apply to the work their own standard of academic excellence.”
Readers’ reviews are comprehensive. “They generally do a detailed evaluation, not just a recommendation to publish or not,” says Goldman. “Articles may be accepted provisionally, with the provision that the author should incorporate the concerns of the reader, without author or reader ever knowing each other’s identity. In the case of a split decision, a third reader is found to review the submission. We work very hard to make the process as fair as possible. The readers we select are chosen because we know them to be fair and open-minded individuals. We do not ask them ever to determine whether they agree with the author. That’s irrelevant. The important thing is that the author makes a good, solid case for his or her position.”
Authors range from prominent academics and emerging scholars to young graduate students. The age and/or reputation of the scholar are usually irrelevant, because the reader doesn’t know who the author is. When an article is accepted, it is because it says something that is new and contributes to the discipline in which it is being submitted. From the submission of an article to its actual publication takes about one to one and a half years.
The non-sectarianism and academic inclusiveness of HUCA’s founders continue to this day, as HUCA publishes scholars who cross the board in terms of their affiliation with Jewish institutions. “There are no litmus tests in terms of who can publish or who can’t,” Sarason adds. “In fact, we’ve been receiving numerous submissions these days from Bar-Ilan University, a modern Orthodox institution in Israel, in addition to articles from Yeshiva University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Tel Aviv University, and many secular American universities.”
HUCA is not a Reform publication, an interesting fact when one considers that HUC-JIR is generally more widely known as the Reform Movement’s seminary. HUCA reinforces the other aspect of HUC-JIR’s identity as a preeminent academic institution advancing Jewish scholarship and research. In fact, HUCA’s prominence significantly enhances HUC-JIR’s visibility and prestige in the international academic world.
Sarason recalls his studies at Hebrew University in the early 1970s, when “HUCA was a name that was spoken with reverence. Indeed, one of the strategies for the Reform Movement’s entrée into Israel in the early years was through the academic reputation of HUC-JIR, particularly as reflected by HUCA. Before the Movement’s current, growing involvement in Israeli life, Israeli intellectuals knew the College as the Hebrew Union College Annual. Furthermore, HUC-JIR continues to need allies in the larger world, and our support from the nonReform and non-Jewish segments of the community is on the basis of our scholarship, library resources, and academic publications. HUCA provides a face to the world that has no connection to the Reform Movement. The good will that the Annual garners, in this regard, is important.”
The reputation of HUCA in the scholarly world is of great value in recruiting students to HUC-JIR’s graduate programs. “Young scholars throughout the world who are interested in doing research know that we are one of the serious places where they can do solid graduate and doctoral work,” says Goldman. Dr. Adam Kamesar, Director of the School of Graduate Studies in Cincinnati, elaborates: “We play an important role in the academic study of Judaism. The setting of the seminary offers many advantages to those who would pursue an advanced degree in Bible and/or Jewish Studies. Among these is the fact that our curriculum is built and coordinated in conjunction with a rabbinical curriculum rather than an undergraduate curriculum in general Judaica. This means that many foundational courses, in which graduate students may study or serve as TAs, tend to focus on source texts in the original language rather than on survey-type material in English translation. For if there is one thing that we continue to share with our 19th-century predecessors, it is the belief that there is no substitute for rigorous philological study and knowledge of the original texts.”
Graduate students at HUC-JIR may have their research published in the Annual. An article co-written by Dr. Nili Fox and graduate student Angela R. Roskop, on an anthropomorphic rattle from the Nelson Glueck Collection at the Cincinnati Art Museum, appears in volume 70-71, published in conjunction with HUC-JIR’s 125th anniversary.
The HUCA office receives subscriptions and mail from throughout the world. “If you have a credible library, which deals with any of the fields that we cover, you must have a subscription to the Annual,” Goldman says. Fan mail from subscribers affirms the editorial achievement and scholarly excellence of this publication. A recent email from Father Luis Stadelmann, SJ, of Florianópolis, Brazil, lauds HUCA’s volume 73: “The information available in articles and references to themes dealt with in areas of research is quite inspiring not only for my teaching and writings but also for suggestions to students in their work on doctoral theses. While other journals offer many good ideas there is no doubt that HUCA offers something more, which is the use of appropriate methodology.” Goldman and Sarason express appreciation for the devotion of Shirley Schreiner, HUCA’s secretary/ administrative assistant since 1982, and Kelby Bowers, graphic designer and compositor, for the production and dissemination of HUCA.
Free subscriptions to all HUC-JIR rabbinical alumni sustain Neumark’s goal of a learned rabbinate, now expanded to graduate alumni as well. Sarason notes that “HUC -JIR has always upheld the 19th-century European Reform ideal of the scholarly rabbi who would mediate the fruits of modern scholarship and thought to the larger Jewish world, imparting a committed yet modern critical perspective on Jewish tradition, religion, and history that differs from the traditional, orthodox perspective. That remains a goal of HUC-JIR’s rabbinical program to this day.
“In the 19th century, there was less of a professional distance between rabbis and scholars, and the scholars were working in the rabbinical seminaries,” he adds. Today, as Jewish professionals and scholars may be less connected than in the past, Sarason wants to sustain the connection between the two. “The College-Institute remains committed to the importance of academic Jewish literacy for our rabbis. Even, and especially, with the turn toward spirituality and emotion in the American Jewish community, critical knowledge and judgment must remain crucial elements in Jewish education. People often fear the ‘corrosive’ effects of critical study on religious faith; the Reform position historically has been to wrestle with both, to work through one to the other – and that remains HUC-JIR’s position today – not an easy one, but an honest one. We want our alumni to continue their educations and academic pursuits, just like doctors and lawyers and other professionals are required to, and are delighted to distribute the Annual to sustain their lifelong learning.”
The Annual ’s reach exceeds its subscription base of 2200 copies per volume. It has been selected as one of the 100 theological journals from throughout the world to be part of the American Theological Library Association online project. Thus, all volumes of the Annual up to the past five years are now digitized and available electronically to subscribers to the Association’s online service – reaching many additional readers. The past five years’ issues are only available in hard copy, so that the online version won’t compete with the printed journal.
Reviewing the tables of contents over the decades, it is clear that HUCA has published core articles covering the broad spectrum of Jewish scholarship that have immeasurably broadened the scope of Jewish learning and teaching. These articles continue to be referenced by contemporary scholars who are delving into Jewish philosophy, literature, Bible, archaeology, rabbinics, the sociology of religion, law, history, and more. Indeed, Dr. Julian Morgenstern, President of HUC from 1921 to 1947, published an article each year from the first volume in 1924 through the fortyfirst in 1969-70. The authors continue to include HUC-JIR faculty and alumni.
An abstract – a short paragraph – introduces each article to the reader, inviting both scholar and lay reader into new discoveries. Goldman explains, “If people are looking for a given subject and want to get a sense of what’s in the article, they can read the précis and then delve deeper into the ones that look interesting.” HUCA also publishes monographs as separate volumes. “When we get a submission that is too long to be an article in the journal, but is shorter than an ordinary book, we place it in our monograph series,” says Goldman. The submission goes through the same vetting process as articles in the Annual.
HUCA stands alone in the world of Jewish studies. No other Jewish seminary publishes a comparable publication, and the Israeli universities, while they publish journals, do so in Hebrew, which limits their readership. HUCA is monitoring the cutting-edge of scholarship and shaping it as well, by advancing the publication of innovative works. As the public face of HUC-JIR to the world academic community, HUCA sustains its founders’ mission: to cultivate higher Jewish learning and the dissemination of knowledge about Jewish culture, religion, and history. Looking to the future, Rabbi Ellenson says, “May the task of this journal to illuminate the Jewish heritage continue to leave its imprint on our community and contribute to the spiritual growth of our people for years to come.”
The Canonization of a Myth, Portugal’s “Jewish Problem” and the Assembly of Tomar 1629, by Dr. Martin A. Cohen, Professor of Jewish History at HUC-JIR/New York is HUCA’s latest monograph. According to Cohen, “This study examines a critical document hitherto unfamiliar to the world of scholarship of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition. It provides a synopsis of the contents of the document’s lengthy text, and offers an analysis in relation to its time and place context – a unique gathering, designated with papal permission as an assembly (junta), composed of some twenty ecclesiastical dignitaries and professors of theology and canon law, convened at the Convent of Christ in the city of Tomar, northeast of Lisbon, in the spring and early summer of 1629. Its purpose was to ponder a solution to Portugal’s problem – the descendants of converts (conversos), or New Christians, who were collectively suspected of harboring Jewish beliefs and engaging in Jewish religious practices. As canonical Christians, who were presumed to have been baptized, such religious behavior was heresy.”
The analysis of this document reinforces Cohen’s frequently published thesis that the Portuguese Inquisition, like the Spanish, was primarily an instrument of state. “It was intended to intimidate large segments of the population who in one way or another were regarded as threatening to the political establishment (‘the old regime’) through the perpetuation of the myth that anyone with any Jewish ancestry (and large segments of the population, especially in the higher classes, had some) had a genetic predisposition to a Jewish identity and the practice of Judaism, especiallyinsecret,”Cohenexplains.“The myth gave the establishment the opportunity to subordinate just about anyone it wanted by calling that person a secret Jew.”
Alan Cooper (Jewish Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary) and Bernard R. Goldstein (University of Pittsburgh), “The Development of the Priestly Calendars (1): The Daily Sacrifice and the Sabbath”
John C. Crutchfield (Columbia International University), “The Redactional Agenda of the Book of Psalms”
Yaron Z. Eliav (University of Michigan), “The Temple Mount, the Rabbis, and the Poetics of Memory”
Meir Hildesheimer and Yehoshua Lieberman (Bar-Ilan University), “The Controversy Surrounding Machine-Made Matzot: Halakhic, Social, and Economic Repercussions”
Motti Inbari (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), “The Oslo Accords and the Temple Mount — A Case Study: The Movement for the Establishment of the Temple”
Jenny R. Labendz (Jerusalem, Israel), “Know WhattoAnswertheEpicurean: ADiachronic Study of the Apikoros in Rabbinic Literature”
Jonathan W. Schofer (University of Wisconsin), “Protest or Pedagogy?: Trivial Sin and Divine Justice in Rabbinic Narrative”
Avishai Yorav (Halakhic Manuscripts Research Institute), Dan Grauer (Tel Aviv University), and Tal Dagan (Tel Aviv University), “ ‘Go to the Ant...’: Phylogenic Algorithm as an Aid in Forming a Manuscript Tradition Stemmata (Feasibility Study)”
2001 NJPS Overview
Dr. Bruce A. Phillips
Professor of Jewish Comunal Service, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles
In this presentation I share with you some findings from the 2001 National Jewish Population Survey, which are essential for understanding the Reform Movement in the context of the sociological reality of American Jewry in the 21st century. I cannot present anything even close to an exhaustive presentation, but I have chosen a cross section of findings that delineate a context for understanding our Movement and perhaps some new ways to think about it as well.
The Decline of Judaism among American Jews
Table 1: CURRENT RELIGIOUS IDENTIFICATION OF ALL ADULT JEWS
|Current Religions Identification Adult Jews||% of # of Adult Jews||Estimated|
|Born Jewish, religion Jewish||60.1%||2,933,581|
|Jewish without conversion||0.7%||34,389|
|Secular Jew-“No religion”||15.8%||771,891|
|Jew practicing Eastern religion||5.7%||279,277|
Table 1 presents the religious identification of all adult Jews. It used to be that there was a near seamless convergence between Jewish ethnicity and Judaism. That is no longer the case, as is apparent in the first category, “born Jewish, religion Jewish.” Only 63% of Jewish adults are Jewish by religion. The remaining 37% of Jewish adults are Jewish only by ethnicity. They identify either as completely secular (meaning that they have rejected any religious identification) or as a Christian Jew. Christian Jews are the offspring or descendents of mixed-marriages and are Jewish by ethnicity but are at least nominally Christian. They were not counted as part of the Jewish population in the report of findings of the National Jewish Population Study issued by the United Jewish Communities (UJC). I include them in my analysis because they are essential for an understanding of the long range implications of intermarriage in the landscape of American Jewry in the 21st century.
This disengagement of Jews from Judaism through intermarriage is further in evidence in how children are being raised. The number of adherents to Judaism will decline as the 21st century progresses. This numerical decline can be anticipated from the parental answers to how their children were being raised, for fewer than half of all Jewish children in the NJPS were being raised as Jews.
Table 2: HOW CHILDREN ARE BEING RAISED IN JEWISH HOUSEHOLDS
|Religion in Which Child is Being Raised||% of all “Jewish” Children||Estimated # of “Jewish” Children|
|In Judaism exclusively||43.0||1,875,084|
|As a Jew and a Christian||2.2||97,421|
|As a Jew and in an Eastern religion||.1||4,316|
|In no religion (including atheist)||18.6||813,227|
|In an Eastern religion||4.1||177,924|
|As a Christian only||32.0||1,395,507|
Table 2 reports how children are being raised in Jewish households, and I emphasize again that I have used the most inclusive definition of who is a Jew. There were almost as many ‘Jewish’ children being raised in a religion other than Judaism than in Judaism itself. There are sociologists and communal leaders who argue that children being raised exclusively as Christians are not Jews and should not be counted as such, and they are not included in the NJPS report published by the UJC. I include them in this analysis because to ignore them is to miss the long range impact of intermarriage on the size and composition of the American Jewish population.
Children being raised outside of Judaism were living in an intermarried or single-parent household. Table 3 shows how children were being raised according to the religious composition of the family. In-married couples almost universally raise their children as Jews, but mixed-married couples do not. Among the mixed-married couples, Jews married to secular non-Jews were the most likely to raise their children in Judaism, but less than two-thirds did so (61%). Mixed-married couples, in which both the Jewish and non-Jewish parents were completely secular, predominantly raised their children in no religion at all (79%). A dual-religion couple is made up of a Jew by religion married to a Christian. Only a quarter of the children in dual-religion couples were being raised as Jews, and just under a third of the children were being raised as Christians. Although the parents identify with two different religions, less than a tenth of the children were being raised in two religions. Christian Jews overwhelmingly were raising their children as Christians.
I should note that the official NJPS report shows that onethird of the children of mixed marriages are being raised as Jews. Why the huge discrepancy between my analysis and the official report? The official report excluded Christian Jews from the analysis. Since almost all of them were married to nonJews, excluding them reduces the percentage of children being raised as Christians. Rather than deal with percentages, let’s look again at the numbers in Table 2. There are 1.4 million children of Jewish ancestry being raised as Christians. Of these, 400,000 are being raised by Christian Jews who themselves are the products of intermarriages. An equal number are being raised as Christians by conventional Jews married to Christians. What we are seeing here, and what we do not see in the UJC report, is the long range impact of intermarriage.
Based on the Jewish lineage of parents of the child, Table 4 projects adherence to Judaism into the future. Almost all (98%) of the children with two Jewish parents are being raised as Jews. If one of the Jewish parents is only “half-Jewish” (i.e. one of the two Jewish parents was raised in a mixed-marriage) the percentage of the children raised as Jews drops to 67%. Well less than half (39%) of the ‘halfJewish’ children (one Jewish and one non-Jewish parent) are being raised as Jews. Children who are one-quarter Jewish show the results of two generations of mixed-marriage. When one Jewish parent is “half-Jewish” (raised in a mixed-marriage) and the other is non-Jewish, only 4% of the children are raised as Jews. Among children raised in single parent families we do not know about the absent parent. However, the same pattern is apparent based on the Jewish lineage of the parent: children of a fully Jewish single parent are three times as likely to be raised as a Jew than children of a “half-Jewish” single parent. Even if the rate of mixed-marriage remains steady, the number of adherents to Judaism will decline as the children become adults. The number of Jews, however probably will not, because the children and grandchildren of mixedmarriages still tend to identify ethnically as Jews. It is doubtful however, that they will be participants in Jewish communal life.
Table 3 HOW CHILDREN ARE BEING RAISED BY RELIGIOUS IDENTIFICATION OF PARENTS
|__________________Parents are Mixed Married__________________|
|How Child is Being Raised||Parents are In-Married||Jew by Religion & Secular NJ||Both Jew & NJ are Secular||Jew by Religion & Christian||Christian Jew||
Jewish Parent is Single parent
|In Judaism exclusively||95.7%||60.5%||6.4%||25.9%||1.4%||52.1%||43.0%|
|In no religion||1.7%||26.0%||78.6%||34.9%||13.9%||35.4%||22.7%|
|In two religions||.2%||9.5%||9.0%||1.3%||2.0%||2.3%|
|As a Christian||2.4%||3.9%||15.0%||30.2%||83.4%||10.5%||32.0%|
Within the scope of this seachange in adherence to Judaism there is one consistency with decades past: children with mixed-married Jewish mothers are more likely to be raised as Jews than children with mixedmarried Jewish fathers (Table 5). The children of mixed-married Jewish mothers are twice as likely to be raised in Judaism as the children of mixed-married Jewish fathers (62% vs. 31%). The gender gap is also evident among the children of Jewish single parents. Secular Jewish single parent mothers are almost four times as likely to raise Jewish children as are secular Jewish single parent fathers (11% vs. 3%). Almost all the children of single parent mothers who converted to Judaism are being raised as Jews (95%) as compared with less than two-thirds (61%) of the children whose single parent fathers converted to Judaism.
Put more bluntly, if all American Jews were to intermarry, it would take two generations for American Judaism to disappear. I say Judaism because such persons might still identify as Jews in some way, but they would not be practicing Judaism, which is the focus of our interest. In that vein, let us turn to the denominational changes taking place among American Jews.
Table 4 LONG RANGE IMPACT OF INTERMARRIAGE ON CHILDREN
|Jewish Lineage of Child||% Raised as Jewish by Religion|
|Jewish Ancestry only*****||1.7%|
|Fully Jewish single parent||70.2%|
|Half Jewish single parent||28.3%|
|Single Parent of Jewish Ancestry||9.3%|
* Fully Jewish = Jewish parents & grandparents
** 3/4 Jewish=Jewish parent of Jewish parentage married to Jew of partial parentage
*** Half Jewish=Jew of Jewish parentage married to non-Jew
**** 1/4 Jewish=Jewish parent of partial parentage married to non-Jew
*****Only a grandparent is Jewish
Table 5 CHILDREN RAISED JEWISH BY INTERMARRIAGE OF JEWISH PARENT
|__________The Parent of the Child is_________|
|Gender and Jewish Status of Parents||In-Married||Mixed-Married||Single Parent|
|Mother is Jewish by religion||98.4%||61.8%||82.8%|
|Father is Jewish by religion||98.2%||31.2%||81.81|
|Mother is Jew by Choice(1)||97.1%||100.0%||95.0%|
|Father is Jew by Choice||100.0%||.00%||60.5%|
|Mother is secular Jew||28.0%||2.0%||10.8%|
|Father is secular Jew||27.7%||3.1%||3.1%|
|1 Here a Jew By Choice means a formal conversion to Judaism. Individuals who said their religion was Judaism but had not formally con- verted were counted as non-Jews for this table.|
Of great interest to all four American Jewish movements is the question of future growth or decline. The basic way to understand denominational change is to compare the movements in which individuals were raised with the movement of current identification. Table 6 compares the denomination in which the respondent was raised with his or her denomination of current identification. Table 6 does this in the all important context of Jewish parentage. Let us look first at respondents with two Jewish parents. Here we see a finding reported in the 1990 NJPS and in every community level Jewish demographic survey: more Jews were raised Orthodox or Conservative than identify as Orthodox or Conservative now. For example, looking at the first row in Table 6: 18.5% of respondents with two Jewish parents were raised Orthodox, but only 8.3% currently identify as Orthodox. Similarly, 31% of respondents were raised Conservative, but only 22% identify that way now. Only in the Reform and Reconstructionist movements do we see more people identifying with these two movements than were raised in them. The most dramatic trend among respondents with two Jewish parents is not the shift to the Reform Movement, but the shift to no denomination at all. Only 15% of respondents with two Jewish parents were raised in no denomination, but 30% of them do not identify with a denomination now. Two thirds of these non-denominational Jews identified their religion as Judaism, but they did not identify with a specific denomination. The remaining third said they were purely secular (i.e. “Just Jewish,” agnostic, or atheist).
Table 6 CURRENT DENOMINATION AND DENOMINATION RAISED FOR RESPONDENT, CONTROLLING FOR JEWISH PARENTAGE
Both Parents Jewish
|One Parent Jewish||
Grandparents or Ancestory
|Orthodox Traditional Sephardic||8.3%||18.5%||1.0%||2.0%||.5%||1.7%|
|Jewish by Religion, but has no denominational identification||20.4%||14.7%||7.8%||6.2%||1.4%||11.1%|
|Secular (ethnic, atheist, etc.)||10.1%||29.5%||26.6%|
|Post-Denominational Jew, Jewish Renewal, Jewish Spiritual Movement, etc.||1.1%||.1%||8.1%||
|Jew + Eastern Religion or Eastern Religion only||.4%||3.2%||1.2%||13.2%||.6%||14.5%|
Table 7 PERCENT OF RESPONDENTS WHO DROPPED ALL DENOMINATIONAL IDENTIFICATION AS AN ADULT BY JEWISH EDUCATION AND INTERMARRIAGE (% OF RESPONDENTS WHO WERE RAISED IN A DENOMINATION, BUT HAVE NO DENOMINATION NOW).
|Marital Status of Respondent||None||Up to Age 13||Tutor after age 13||Supplementary after age 13||Day School after age 13|
|Single, never married||41%||35%||23%||16%||27%|
Among Jews with only one Jewish parent, and even Jews with only Jewish grandparents there is a parallel shift toward nondenominationalism, but from the opposite direction. For them it is a shift away from Christian identification. The majority of respondents raised in mixedmarriages were raised as Christians (64%) or in an Eastern religion (13%); only 6% were raised in no religion. As adults however, 38% identify as either secular or non-denominational Jews. In other words, they have moved to neutral territory, which is “good news” in the context of the very pessimistic picture of intermarriage presented earlier. I would suggest that this shift has important implications for those interested in outreach. A similar pattern is evident among respondents of Jewish ancestry who reported that neither parent was Jewish. The Jewish Renewal movement is of much greater interest to them than it is to Jews with two Jewish parents.
Table 8 DENOMINATIONAL RETENTION: PERCENTAGE OF RESPONDENTS WHO IDENTIFY WITH THE DENOMINATION IN WHICH THEY WERE RAISED BY AGE (% OF RESPONDENTS WHO REMAINED IN THE DENOMINATION OF ORIGIN)
|Age of Respondent||Orthodox||Conservative||Reform||Reconstructionist||None|
The move away from denominational identification among respondents raised in a denomination is explained by two factors. The first is marriage. In-married Jews are less likely to drop identification with a denomination than mixed-married Jews and even single Jews. The second factor is Jewish education, particularly into the teenage years. My preliminary analysis suggests that Jewish education, particularly in the teenage years, may be the single most important factor creating strong Jewish identification as an adult (Table 7).
PROFILE OF REFORM CONGREGANTS
Gen X & Y
HS or Less
Depends on Issue
No data on Prev Spse
Currently Mixed Married
Attachment to Israel
Not at all
Another way to understand denominational shifts is what I call “denominational retention,” or the percentage of respondents who remained in the denomination of their parents. This is shown in Table 8 controlling for age. The most striking revelation is the increase in retention rates among younger respondents raised as Orthodox: 72.3% of the respondents under age 40 who were raised Orthodox continue to identify as Orthodox as contrasted with only 22.9% of the oldest respondents who were raised as Orthodox. In all age groups, respondents raised Reform were more likely to remain in their denomination of origin than respondents raised as Conservative. Taken together, this suggests that the 21st century will see an affiliated community divided between Orthodox and Liberal Judaism, with a shrinking number of Conservative Jews. But this will be experienced most acutely in the Northeast. Orthodox Jewish households are becoming more concentrated in this region, even as other Jews are moving to the South and West.
Understanding the Reform Movement
In the foregoing analysis I have defined a Reform Jew as someone who simply identifies as Reform. I conclude with an analysis of respondents who reported belonging to a Reform congregation, as reported in Tables 8 and 9. Demographically, Reform Jews are a highly educated group: 70% of respondents who reported belonging to a Reform congregation had graduated college. Politically, Reform congregants are liberal: 63% identified either as slightly, extremely, or mainstream liberal.
Although in the past the Reform movement worried that synagogues catered primarily to families, 44% of the Reform synagogue households in the NJPS were single. This suggests that the Reform movement has become more open to non-family households. The numerical impact of mixed-married couples on Reform synagogues is also important. Although only 15% of all Reform affiliated households in the NJPS were currently mixed married, 28% of Reform affiliated married couples were mixed-married. Although 87% of mixed married couples do not belong to a synagogue, the 13% who do predominantly belong to a Reform synagogue.
The connection to Israel among Reform congregants is somewhat puzzling. In contrast with the 45% of respondents who said that “caring about Israel” was “a lot involved” in how they are Jewish, only 25% reported that they are “very attached” to Israel. I do not have time to address this issue more fully, but I end with it to show how much more the Reform Movement has to learn about itself from the 2001 NJPS.
Table10 HOW REFORM CONGREGANTS ARE JEWISH (% WHO ANSWERED “A LOT”) FOR YOU PERSONALLY, HOW MUCH DOES BEING JEWISH INVOLVE.....
|Countering Anti-Semitism||67.8%||Learning about Jewish history & culture||51.2%|
|Making the world a better place||62.2%||Being part of a Jewish Community||45.5%|
|Connecting to your family’s heritage||62.8%||Caring about Israel||45.4%|
|Celebrating Jewish holidays||60.2%||Having a rich spiritual life||43.4%|
|Believing in God||58.6%||Attending synagogue||22.6%|
Dr. David Kaufman
Associate Professor of American Jewish Studies,
Before we get to the practical implications of the National Jewish Population Survey, I’d like to offer some historical context, the “big picture,” if you will. Briefly, I’d like to make two points.
The first is simply that this is an historic turn of events. The 2001 NJPS portrays a moment in time that will go down in history as a watershed in the modern experience of Jews. The survey’s principal finding–that the sharp rise in intermarriage over the past quarter century has created a radically new demographic profile of American Jews – poses an unprecedented challenge that will reverberate throughout the next century.
It would not be too much of an exaggeration to compare this moment to the period two hundred years ago when European Jewry faced a radically new situation as well. I refer to the onset of the modern age, when for the first time the Jews of western Europe were offered full membership as citizens in an open society–it was our “emancipation” from the restrictive life of the medieval ghetto. In response, Jews sought various ways to adapt themselves to their new situation. One of the most lasting and significant of these was the reconceptualizing and reconfiguring of Jewish religion–the trend was the origin of our movement of “Reform Judaism.” Allow me to be provocative here by suggesting that the current situation will entail no less a rethinking and retooling of Judaism–a change that will come whether we consciously intend it or not.
Though intermarriage has now been identified as an impediment to Jewish continuity, it would be foolhardy to attempt to fight against the tide of intermarriage – nevertheless we can, indeed we must, fight for Judaism. But then the question remains: what will that Judaism look like? How will the Judaism of the future respond to the demographic revolution of today?
Which brings me to my second point. Bruce Phillips begins his cogent analysis by confirming a common observation of recent years – that Jewish ethnicity is on the wane. In an earlier time, as Dr. Phillips puts it, “American Judaism was a special case of the ‘ethnic church’ in which all members of the ethnic group (Jews) professed the same religion (Judaism) and all members of the religion shared the same ethnicity. This is no longer the case.” As many thus conclude, Jewish ethnic culture – of the bagels and lox variety – is a vestige of the past and can no longer guarantee our survival. But let us not fall into a common trap and confuse ethnicity with other forms of Jewish particularism; for ethnicity is but one form of group expression. The more lasting, more meaningful brand of Jewish particularism is an identification with the Jewish people, that is to say, a deep bond with all Jews throughout history and around the world – this is the concept of peoplehood, as opposed to the more limited notion of ethnicity. In the 19th-century, modernizing Jews responded to the promise of political equality by rejecting their own peoplehood in favor of European or American national identity. Hence the early Reformers attempted to universalize Judaism; in effect, they Christianized it by abandoning all forms of religious particularism such as Jewish ritual, rabbinic text, Hebrew language, and peoplehood. We Reform Jews have spent the better part of the twentieth century attempting to reverse this universalist thrust and recapture the particularism of Jewish peoplehood. But now we are faced with another historic challenge to Jewish particularism – intermarriage. Will we, once again, respond by moving away from this essential aspect of Judaism? Or will we instead find ways to both open our hearts (and our communities) to nonJews, and, at the same time, to assert the primacy of peoplehood in Judaism? We have succeeded thus far in creating an outreach program, welcoming the intermarried to our midst; we have not, as yet, articulated a Reform theology of Jewish peoplehood, a new approach to Jewish identity that will make sense in a multicultural world and will carry us through the twenty-first century.
Hence we have an historic challenge and an historic opportunity. The phenomenon of intermarriage has challenged us to rethink the nature of Jewish identification, prompted us to reconsider the very idea of Jewish peoplehood. I believe that Reform Judaism is up to the task; unquestionably, it is the American Jewish religious movement best situated to move us forward.
Professor Sara S. Lee
Director, Rhea Hirsch School of Education
In contemporary Jewish life the publication of the National Jewish Population Study both in 1990 and 2001 was eagerly awaited. In both cases many interpretations were offered as to what the study revealed. Probably an equal number of leaders of the Jewish community had strong opinions as to what we should do as institutions and as a community in light of these findings. Does the 2001 NJPS reveal many surprises for us? Is it confirmation of insights we have had about Jews, Jewish identification, and the trends in Jewish life for some time? Should the findings serve as the basis for a blueprint for setting priorities? Should the 2001 NJPS findings challenge us to ask hard questions about how our institutions and community have been functioning? It seems to me that there is no clear direction for how we as a community should go forward in light of this recent quantitative portrait of American Jews just based on these findings. Something more is required.
Without underestimating the importance of this newest demographic study, I regard the 2001 NJPS as confirmation of trends that have been emerging in our American Jewish community for some time. Without appearing to be comprehensive I would point to the following:
All this having been said, how can we think about the implications of this most recent snapshot (and I do emphasize it is a snapshot) of American Jews?
As one strategy, I would like to suggest that we need many more qualitative studies of Jews and Jewish identity such as The Jew Within by Cohen and Eisen or Connections and Journeys: Shifting Identities Among American Jews by Bethamie Horowitz. Such studies challenge the assumption that we can measure or describe Jewish identity by quantifying conventional Jewish behaviors, and they are important as a complement to studies such as the NJPS. The contemporary American Jew constructs her/his identity in a more complex way, which we need to understand if our professionals and institutions want to provide gateways to deeper Jewish knowledge and commitments. These Jews reflect the larger social and religious trends in American society, and it behooves our professionals and lay leaders to understand deeply what those trends are.
While it is tempting to speculate as to what the official Jewish community and its leaders might do in response to the 2001 NJPS, I prefer to focus on its implications for the mission of HUC-JIR in preparing the next generation of professional leaders for American Jewish life. I believe it is our responsibility to not only prepare our rabbis, cantors, educators, and communal professionals to serve American Jewry as they are described in this study, but equally important to help them to develop visions for Jewish life and Jewish communities that will move contemporary American Jews to deeper engagement with Jewish life as individuals and as communities.
This is important because we see in the 2001 NJPS study that deep engagement with Judaism and Jewish life in one generation has great influence on the next generation in a family, and weak engagement leads to only steady diminishing connection to Jewish life. How can the institutions our graduates lead provide more opportunities for deep engagement with Judaism that both speak to where Jews are in their journey and open new doors to Judaism yet undiscovered?
The 2001 NJPS study also tells us that Jewish education really matters. The absence of Jewish education is a factor in intermarriage, lack of affiliation, and general disconnection from the Jewish community. We also learn that Jewish education that does not extend beyond Bar Mitzvah has less impact on continuing connection to Jewish life. If Jewish education is so crucial, what do our graduates need to be able to do in order to create, together with lay leaders, visionary programs and institutions of Jewish learning?
The study tells us that the family is the most important connection to Judaism for American Jews. In many institutions where our graduates serve there is greater awareness of the importance of the family, yet we need to be far more knowledgeable and creative in engaging families on multiple levels if we are to support them in their all important socializing function.
The findings on the number of self-identified Jews who do not claim Judaism as their religion raises yet another challenge for our graduates. In a society of religious pluralism, which often celebrates that which we share in common, religious differences are often regarded as not very significant. In America we share so many common values, especially in the ethical realm, that particularism in religious traditions at best seems secondary and at worst appears problematic. There is a powerful urge for harmonization. This often leads to an eagerness to show how Judaism is compatible with American norms without also showing how Jewish values and the values of the larger society are different. There is also the tendency to present the practices of Judaism as cultural artifacts rather than deeply religious expressions of a particular theology. Thus, it is not surprising that Jews in this study can declare that they are Jews although they have no relationship to Judaism as a religion.
It is a challenge for our graduates to help contemporary Jews living in this open society to affirm both the particularism of Judaism as the core of their Jewishness and to participate fully in a religiously pluralistic society. To do so they will need to find ways to illuminate the interdependence of Judaism as a religion, Jewishness as the historical and cultural experiences of the Jewish people as they live out their Judaism, and Jewry as the way in which Jews express their unique identity. This assertion seems to fly in the face of trends revealed in the 2001 NJPS, where Jews represent so many diverse ways of identifying themselves as Jews. Indeed I am arguing that it is important to affirm this interdependence and to be able to embody it in the culture and activities of the institutions of Jewish life. By so doing it is my hope that we can move Jews from a fragmented understanding of what it means to be Jewish, very much locked in current social and cultural norms, to a more integrated sense of Jewish identification that connects to the past and the future of our people.
All of these challenges facing our graduates seem daunting. We should remember that they themselves are part of the same culture impacting the Jews in the 2001 NJPS study. That is potentially a great advantage. Our students and graduates, if they can step back and analyze the larger cultural context, can find a way to build bridges between the concerns that Jews bring to them and the profound insights that Judaism has to offer. The task requires that our students master many things: the historical and textual legacy of Judaism; a deep understanding of the American social, cultural and religious context; the skills and insights to be both maintainers of Jewish institutional life and change agents; the capacity to meet contemporary Jews where they are but to guide them to another place of deeper engagement with Judaism; and finally, but most importantantly, the confidence to guide Jewish life toward a vision.
In the Torah portion Beshalach, the children of Israel have fled Egypt and are beginning their journey to the promised land. The portion opens, “Now when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer.” What enabled the children of Israel and their leaders to endure such a long and difficult journey? It was ultimately the vision of their future, their destiny, that sustained them. What will sustain the Jewish community and the leadership of our graduates is a vision for Jewish life. If they have it they will be able to best respond to the challenges of the 2001 NJPS study.
Dr. Steven F. Windmueller
Director, School of Jewish Communal Service,
The NJPS study reminds us that community building today is about touching one individual at a time, as we are encountering a generation of Jews on personal journeys who build individualized connections to religion, often outside of community or synagogue. This concept of religious seekers has become a primary element in the study of the sociology of religion.(1) Arnold M. Eisen and Steven M. Cohen, in their research, The Jew Within, and earlier the work of Robert Bellah(2) speak to the notions of personal connections and individual discovery as essential features of contemporary religion.
The research on Jewish practices suggests as well that personal Jewish engagement has shifted from the public domain to the private sphere, from organizations to the family and in some instances from denominational orientation to a self-defined form of Jewish expression. This concept follows Wade Clark Roof’s idea of religion as reflecting the “sovereign self.” Similarly, it confirms the findings and insights of two new research inquiries on religion(3) in America that confirm the emerging focus on the blending of religious practices and the growth in religious experimentation can be found both within and among religious traditions.
Hayim Herring and Barry Shrage have noted that many Jews have constructed rich Jewish lives outside of the institutional frameworks that the “organized” Jewish community has created. Correspondingly, demographer Gary Tobin has suggested, “Affiliation is not tantamount to religiosity.” These findings combined with the data extracted from the 2001 NJPS report would suggest that communal leadership will need to identify ways to attract and engage those “Jewish voices” that have created alternative avenues of expression and participation.
Realizing that all people carry multiple identities, one of the principle challenges will be to make the “Jewish” component of the lives of Jews as welcoming, distinctive, and engaging as possible. For example, Jews in this generation ask very different questions of themselves and of their community. While our grandparents would ask: “is it good for the Jews,” some of us might ask: “is it good for our society?” Today, many of those less connected to religious or communal networks are likely to ask: “is it good for me?” Our communal and religious systems will need to be able to address these inquiring concerns, as they speak to each of these different constituencies.
Devoid of a specific connection to peoplehood or denominational loyalties, Judaism in its current context represents a negotiable item. In lieu of these institutional linkages, religion represents for many individuals the culture of feeling good and a point of social connection. In line with these notions, we are in reality all “Jews by choice.”(4) How do our synagogues and communal institutions respond to these fluid conditions of identity and these new patterns of selective engagement?
Crisis situations drive minority communities to create institutional and social constructs to meet such challenges. American Jewish life in the 20th century was built in part around institutions being responsive to the crisis environment; as a result the focus both on mission and message was directed toward our being responsive to the external threats confronting the Jewish people. Employing a different paradigm, can the community in this new century uncover both new ways of speaking to our constituencies and organizing itself?
In Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam develops a theory of society suggesting that “social capital” is the glue – of connections, networks and reciprocal obligations – that holds society together. A community with high social capital, as shown in the quality of its social relationships, will be healthier. Putnam and others speak both of “bonding capital” (social ties within a particular community or group) and “bridging capital” (ties between different groups).5 Historically, we defined community in terms of “institutional silos” and employed “language of exclusivity.” Jewish social engagement and connection occurred in the past century through a set of interlocking leadership networks and organizational linkages among elite sectors of this enterprise, according to Daniel Elazar. This model allowed a generation of Jews to create a shared agenda, to offer clear and compelling messages that engaged and rallied key constituencies, while also enabling this system to deliver basic human services. But in light of the significant social and generational changes, this model of organizing must give way to a different construct for building social capital.
Thomas Petzinger in his book The New Pioneers describes the contemporary business world’s transformation in these terms: “It is the frontier of technologies, ideas, and values. The pioneers celebrate individuality over conformity... they distribute rather than consolidate authority...they compete through resilience instead of resistance, through adaptation instead of control, they realize that tightly drawn strategies become brittle while shared purpose endures.”(6) The same challenges now confront the Jewish enterprise. Can our communal and synagogue structures adapt to these concepts?
Moving from the experience of American business to the principles of community building, we might identify with Jonathan Sarna’s four conditions for defining the framework of the 21st century Jewish community:7
Proscriptions for Reinventing the Jewish Enterprise: The “M” Game
Listed below are ten core principles extracted from the current literature addressing the challenges facing 21st-century Jewish life:
Market: Today, the Jewish community must be seen in terms of market share, competitive advantage, in part reflecting the same core principles of the corporate sector. The Engaging Question for us: How do we identify our market and serve it? But marketing is also about developing relationships with those we hope to serve. In order to accomplish this objective, we need to understand their Jewish needs.(8)
Midrash: This is about journeys as each person has their own “midrash” (personal journeys); we may not be able to share each person’s “torah” (beliefs and practices), but we can find connection by sharing and learning from each other’s stories. The Engaging Question here may be: How do these stories inform and shape our work in building community and in training future Jewish professionals?
Meaning: This is about developing measures of meaning: what touches people in their lives and why? Religious inquiry challenges us to unpack the richness of our tradition. Rosenzweig’s ideas have challenged us to ask: “What is the salience of Jewish law and how may we internalize it as modern Jews?” The Engaging Question for us: What from our tradition might provide new measures of meaning for 21st century Jews?
Memory: Memory represents an essential ingredient, as religious institutions must serve as gateways both to unlocking one’s past and assisting individuals to build their personal religious faith platforms. The Engaging Notion: For many within our community there is no Jewish memory, how do we bring alive the Jewish tradition?
Mitzvot: For many the essential engagement with religion has been identified through mitzvot. The Engaging Question here suggests: What are the ways we might create such opportunities for touching and activating such Jewish energies?
Magnet Judaism: The traditional notion of community building has been framed around the idea of “Magnet Judaism” (Elazar/ Wertheimer, et. al.), constructing community around core constituencies and basic institutions; the evolving model for American Judaism may be about “Network Judaism.”
The Engaging Question ought to be: How do we move from “Magnet” Judaism to “Network” Judaism?
“Middles”: Steven M. Cohen suggests that communal initiatives ought to be directed to the “middles” of Jewish life, those who demonstrate a minimal or marginal commitment to the Jewish community with a message that focuses on the “beauties of the Jewish heritage and demonstrates how it can reach our private and public lives.”(9) The Engaging Question asks: If we focus our limited energies and resources on the “edge” what is the impact on our “core” populations?
Managing: The community and religious organizational systems we constructed in the 20th century may not serve our needs in this new century. Managing institutional change is an essential piece in being responsive to these new demographic challenges. The Engaging Question demands: How might we reinvent ourselves?
Mediating: In Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point we are introduced to three mediating factors, “the law of the few,” “the stickiness factor,” and “the power of context,” which all provide a framework for change, demonstrating that the slightest push can result in creative organizational and social change.(10) The Engaging Question should be: What is the core “move” we need to engineer: rally the key players to impact change; identify the essential “stickiness” features of Judaism; or figure out how to place Judaism “in the middle” of the life-style systems of those we are seeking to reach?
Mentoring: The focus must be centered on leadership, namely how we mentor leaders and the new roles our rabbis, educators, cantors, and communal professionals and the changing roles of our lay persons will play in creating institutional practice. This is a shift from the authority-based model to a collective form of decision-making. The Engaging Question remains: What will be required of us in preparing our leadership, both lay and professional, in being responsive to these new generational and social characteristics?
This is an experiment in the reenvisioning of the American Jewish community, and in the process seeking to apply both the principles extracted from within our historical journey and those core ideas that today shape the market place of ideas and the management of institutions.
As with all of Jewish history, the unfolding of the American Jewish experience continues!
Ruth Langer, C ’86, Ph.D., C ’94
Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, Theology Department
Associate Director, Center for Christian-Jewish Learning
Do you really think that I would attack Jews?” was the insulted response of a Catholic Boston College undergraduate to my raising concerns about Mel Gibson’s then forthcoming film, The Passion of the Christ. When, on national television, Diane Sawyer asked Mel Gibson, “Are you an anti-Semite?” he too recoiled in horror. Contemporary Catholics have indeed learned that anti-Semitism is a grave sin, to be avoided at all costs. The Vatican’s official teshuvah for the role of Christians in the Holocaust is their teshuvah too. A Catholic who spent his youth terrorizing Jewish kids on Boston streets generously expressed his teshuvah by endowing the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, a center that I was instrumental in founding.
Our center was thus able to be a major player in the responses to Gibson’s film. Its director, Philip Cunningham, was one of the Catholic scholars who, with Michael Cook, reviewed a script of the film in April 2003. Our website (www.bc.edu/cjlearning) quickly became a primary national and international address for information, educational materials, and study guides. We sponsored programs for the university and the greater Boston community before the film’s release, spent untold hours with reporters, wrote, dialogued, and spoke broadly.
We made a deliberate decision, though, to treat Gibson’s film as an inner-Christian issue. Catholics could address the issues in the film without its being perceived, so quickly, as an attack on Christianity itself.
Dialogue with Jews has helped Christians to understand where the problems lie, but the work of actual change must come from within. We hoped that this film would trigger widespread inner-Christian discussions about issues that had become second nature to those involved in dialogue, like employing historical-critical methods of Bible study and being sensitive to the presence of inherited anti-Jewish motifs in Christian tradition. Such an inner-Christian dialogue could spread the fruits of the Jewish-Christian dialogue more broadly and deeply. In retrospect, trying to cast the discussion this way was the right decision – but one that I probably would not have made had I been a Jewish New Testament scholar and among those asked to review the script. As indeed happened, Jewish public criticisms generated more anti-Semitic responses than the film itself.
Months later, what did we learn from this experience? First, religion is not theology. Academicians and religious leaders can and must provide a basis for the work of repair, but ultimately, their theology is powerless if it does not translate into something that can be integrated into the religious outlook of every Jew and Christian, something that effortlessly informs the shaping of sermons, grade-school textbooks, and art, including films. This is as true for Jews as it is for Christians. The Catholic Church can generate documents on the portrayal of the Passion or on the proper interpretation of Scripture, but until these begin to shape the popular religious imagination of the faithful, they are just words. And word-oriented people need to learn that our world often fails to integrate the content of plain print, that the visual and oral dimensions strongly influence religious imagination too. We can criticize Gibson’s interpretation of the Passion, but can we generate an artistically and spiritually compelling, theologically sound alternative?
The educational task is immense and complex. My student was deeply affronted when he thought that I was accusing him of being anti-Semitic. He and his classmates had never learned that all Jews of all time were, until the Second Vatican Council, understood to be guilty of deicide; they find the accusation illogical and incredible. This far we have indeed come. But they come into class thinking that anti-Semitism begins and ends with gas chambers and swastikas.
A semester or two of reading Scripture or asking theological questions through the lens of Jewish-Christian relations and in the presence of the “other” challenges them deeply, both to know their own tradition better and also to begin to confront its problems. It is not just Christians who need to confront their traditions either. Jewish students, and their Jewish professors, find themselves trying to articulate new Jewish answers to old questions, and to new questions too. The work of dialogue is intellectually stimulating and ultimately transforming. Would that Mel Gibson had participated in it.
Michael A. Signer, C ’70
Abrams Professor of Jewish Thought and Culture
Department of Theology University of Notre Dame
My wife and I attended a showing of The Passion on opening night. It was not my first exposure to the story of the Passion. I have read Passion Plays – medieval and modern; I have attended Christian worship – Catholic and Protestant. I have engaged in deep reflection with Christians and Jews in Germany and Poland. In the thirty years that I have engaged in the study of medieval Christianity and in conversation with contemporary Christians, I have never had a more painful experience of isolation and alienation from that tradition and community.
The Passion has surpassed all predictions that it would create “crisis” in Jewish-Christian relations. Surely, it has done that and more. Yet when we continue to ask the question, “Will the film set back the ‘progress’ in relations between Jews and Christians that have been so carefully cultivated over the past forty years?” The answer depends upon the ability of both communities to engage in conversation rather than disputation, and to develop strategies for the restoration of normal discourse.
The window of opportunity is narrower than we who engage in this dialogue might think. Jews and Christians in antiquity might have had two centuries to formulate the Mishnah or the Creeds of the Councils. In the era of mass communications and media that can even enter the papal DVD player, our own “deadline” is October 2005, the 40th anniversary of the end of the II Vatican Council and its document Nostra Aetate. Both Christians and Jews will be looking to their leaders, their teachers, for guidance. We surely owe them more than a statement of “look how far we have come.” There is a sense of disappointment about the concrete results of our dialogue within even the most committed circles of the Jewish and Christian communities. If these results were less than we expected, then we surely owe our communities a Heshbon Nefesh, an examination of conscience, and a return to the correct path.
There is an emerging consensus that “the controversy over The Passion of the Christ is both a crisis and a teachable moment.” It is surely the teachable moment, but how can we move toward a deeper dialogue when the film calls for precisely the opposite: a resistance to dialogue and questioning? As tempting as it is to abandon the dialogue and to return to a posture of disputation [that has been the “default mode” for nearly two millennia], the frightening state of our world impels us toward aspirations of “Shalom.”
So the question is, “Le’an? Whither?” It seems to me that a return to dialogue begins with an examination of the challenge that Pope John Paul II enjoined upon Christians and Jews, “to become a blessing to one another, and then a blessing to all humankind.”
What would it mean for our communities to be a “blessing?” A blessing requires both an inner piety and a formulation of public speech that is followed by an action that brings the blessing into the world where we reside. For Jews and Christians we can find the resources to be a blessing by returning to the documents that have brought us to this point. Neither community can sincerely reach out to the other when it focuses so exclusively on matters internal. They are then left with only a defensive religious approach to the intrinsic value of the religious life of communities that surround them. It is not a matter of either internal cohesion or endlessly reaching toward a theological approach to the other. Neither community can be a blessing without an inner life. However, the inner life must lead us back toward others who inhabit this planet with us.
The words of Archbishop Rembert Weakland may strengthen our resolve. He argues,
It is important in any dialogue to remember that no group is static and no group is monolithic. Each group is changing according to the demands of the times. Catholicism today does not look like it did before Vatican Council II. Within both the Jewish community and the Catholic community there are differences of opinions and views. One is never dialoging with an immovable object that looks the same from all angles. The pluralism within each body must also be respected because one is dialoging with a richness that should not be reduced to easy accessibility.(1)
We Jews have surely learned during the past year that Nostra Aetate and the sections about “dialogue” in the II Vatican document Gadium et Spes (On the Church in the Modern World) [section II, ch. 27-28] are not well-known by Christians. The role of biblical studies in the development of the theological life of the Church can be more carefully tended – with the full support of those charged with the task of catechesis and preaching. In the Jewish community we need to redouble our efforts to find language to focus on the theological value of Christianity. To learn more about the religious beliefs of those who journey through these frightening times should bring us to deeper appreciation of their variety and profundity. In the realm of piety we focus on realms beyond words. But we also need to come to a translation of those deep emotions which assures each side that we stand firmly on a foundation of dialogue that is grounded on respect and friendship, and that we are not slipping back into bursts of disputation where there is only victory or defeat. If we can work toward this kind of conversation, we could share thoughts with one another about the death of Jesus that constitute alternatives to what the film has offered us.
By Amy Lehr
There is no greater interfaith cooperation than that which arises from people who study together,” says Dr. Carol Ochs, Director of Graduate Studies at HUC-JIR/New York. This philosophy informs HUC-JIR’s Doctor of Ministry Program, whose mission is to offer advanced training in pastoral care and counseling to spiritual leaders and to promote a clergy that embraces interfaith and multiethnic understanding.
Organized in partnership with the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health (PCMH), HUC-JIR’s Doctor of Ministry Program is the only faith-based initiative combined with advanced psychological training to be established within a Jewish seminary.
“Ordained clergy of all faiths, representing a diversity of cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, share a unique learning experience that allows them to examine the theological background and religious applications of their counseling work,” explains Ochs. “The Program is based on the belief that learning from other religious groups encourages clergy to address their own theological assumptions, spurs a crosscultural exchange, deepens individual faiths and results in the formation of friendships that go beyond interfaith tolerance.”
Since its inception in 1990, the Program has granted the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree to 47 graduates and 33 students are currently enrolled. Students are affiliated with a wide range of faiths and denominations, including Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Judaism, Presbyterian, Quaker, Seventh Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Nazarene, and Ethical Culture. Among the countries represented are Nigeria, the Philippines, Korea, Jamaica, India, Canada, and the United States.
“One of the first things that students learn in the program is that faiths are ways to God but that they’re not God, and that there are many different paths to God,” says Ochs. “Interfaith tolerance is practiced in a nurturing environment where students learn from each other. At HUC-JIR, we are committed to combining freedom of thought and openness of expression with intellectual rigor, mutuality of respect and trust, and collegial commitment to one another.” This dialogue has helped students understand techniques and principles of other faiths and has resulted in long-term friendships.
The Program is structured to accommodate full-time professionals. All classes meet on Mondays, when clergy can usually make themselves free. The curriculum includes courses on counseling, group experience, psychodynamic principles, clinical case discussion, psychology of faith, dynamics of the liturgical experience, psychopathology, theology and pastoral care, and spiritual guidance. Intensive June seminars focus on marriage counseling and substance abuse. The two-year course of study provides a broad base of counseling skills, in-depth knowledge of psychological paradigms and their uses, facility in using the case study method to synthesize the psychosocial approach within the students’ faith tradition, and training to apply counseling skills to specific pastoral care settings. Upon completion, students have attained the basic educational requirements for professional certification in pastoral counseling and for membership in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.
“There is no better way to define one’s theology than to articulate it clearly to someone else,” says Rabbi Shira Stern, Director of The Jewish Institute for Pastoral Care at The HealthCare Chaplaincy in New York City. “Had I gone through this program earlier, I would most certainly have been a different – and more effective – congregational rabbi: the psychological and theological training we were given highlighted both the communal and individual aspects of congregational life. Seeing my temple as a family system was particularly important for me to deal with group dynamics.” Furthermore, she stresses that rabbinical and cantorial alumni should not become complacent about the need for continual study. “HUC-JIR graduates need to refresh their pastoral skills in the context of their congregational experiences. Most of us could not have anticipated the variety of pastoral needs our congregants demanded of us; addressing these issues in a safe place, with appropriate supervision, was extraordinarily valuable. Beyond helping us identify and help congregants in crisis, the D.Min. Program also highlights our own emotional and spiritual needs. Self-care is a welcome by-product of the training.”
“Many Jewish seminaries lack a strong pastoral care component of study, which is very important,” explains Rabbi Laurence Bazer of Temple Beth Sholom, a Conservative synagogue in Framingham, Massachusetts. “Every rabbinical student needs to be able to draw upon studies in the theology of pastoral care. My class with Dr. Eugene Borowitz in the Doctor of Ministry Program helped me shape my own theology and nurture my pastoral care skills, which are my strongest skills as a rabbi. I am grateful to my Christian classmates in this Program for teaching me about the ministry of presence, where God is present in the moment, and for the high level of discussion about congregational issues of faith. As a Conservative rabbi, I value the opportunity to study at HUC-JIR and learn about the Reform Movement.”
“The courses offered in this Program are exactly what I was looking for,” notes Sister Donna Conroy, a Roman Catholic nun, member of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, and a chaplain in the hospice program of Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, New York, where she is charged with visiting patients and families in their homes. “We enjoy a lively and impassioned exchange of ideas, beliefs, disbeliefs, hopes, and fears. It is exciting for me to discover, as we share our pastoral experiences and challenges, that I am not alone in the struggle and the delight of my call to ministry.
I am humbled to discover how our ‘theology’ has been used to wound in the past, and how it is simultaneously a source of healing. I am profoundly respectful of our differences and deeply touched when our spirits converge.”
A culminating demonstration project helps students integrate their counseling and spiritual development skills. Topics may be chosen from the entire range of pastoral care duties and are based on the students’ interests, needs, and experiences. Demonstration projects have focused on a broad array of subjects, such as care for infertile couples, bereavement rituals, identity re-formation after divorce, faith development among converts, ministry for institutionalized elderly, faith and identity development programs for African-American youths, the use of sacred stories for patients with HIV/AIDS, mediation and support group programs in prisons, and seminarians and sexual ethics. The results of these projects find direct application not only in the students’ professional work environments but in other communities whose clergy have researched the projects in HUC-JIR/New York’s Klau Library.
Reverend Alesander Iheonunekwu’s project explored how divorce is experienced by Nigerian Americans. Integrating his studies in group psychotherapy and family systems, his personal knowledge of the traditional ways of viewing marriage in the Ibo tribe, and his Christian theology of God as the Shepherd who never abandons any of God’s sheep, he created a group within his parish of people who had been divorced. After eight sessions they all commented on how the group experience made them feel hopeful, less alone, and more accepted by their co-religionists. His project will now be exported back to Nigeria as well as to other communities in the United States.
A recent demonstration project examines the breakdown in trust in the Seventh Day Adventist congregations as a consequence of sexual abuse. This study, the first of its kind in this denomination, asks the elders of the community to define sexual abuse, understand all of its ramifications, and plan the healing of the community. Supported by work in this area by other faith traditions, this project will, in turn, serve faiths that are not as far along in considering their policies on sexual abuse.
Reverend H. Hugh MaynardReid, Director of Pastoral Care Service at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn, New York, applies his D.Min. training as the supervisor of staff chaplains, including a Roman Catholic priest and nun, a Reform rabbi, a Muslim chaplain, and a Baptist-Pentecostal Protestant minister, and 40 pastoral care volunteers. It informs his new staff training in “Managing Psychosocial, Cultural, and Spiritual Diversity in Patient Care,” new nursing staff training in “Ministering to Dying Patients, Patients Rights, and Ethics,” and his seminars in “Grief and Loss Recovery” for the entire staff of 3,200. In addition, his D.Min. expertise filters into his role as a member of the Center’s ethics committee and its oversight of clinical and nonclinical ethical issues. “We developed the skill of evaluating our own assumptions and that of others. We shared information about our different religious traditions – their rites, rituals, and polity. We bonded in a manner that will be helpful and will last beyond our graduation. The theological as well as clinical and psychodynamic components proved most valuable also for self-understanding.”
While students enter the program seeking personal and intellectual growth, many also succeed in moving on to significant leadership roles in their denomination. D.Min. student Anne Klaeysen, for example, was recently installed as the leader of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. In describing this attribute of the program, Dr. Carol Ochs explains that “it puts students in touch with inner strengths that they already have and enables students to help people serve God best by being the best they can be.”
D.Min. alumni attest to the ways in which the program enables students to pursue the common goal of serving others by assisting them to develop fuller, richer lives through their religious commitments. As Rabbi Shira Stern says, “I found that those of us with 10 or more years in pulpit life were particularly grateful for the insights gleaned. The program helped us become better counselors, better preachers, better teachers, and even better administrators, because it concentrated on developing our interpersonal skills, improving our listening abilities, and helping us become a therapeutic presence for staff and congregants alike.”
How to Apply:
HUC-JIR rabbinical and cantorial alumni and their clergy colleagues are encouraged to enter the Program. Prospective students must be ordained clergy who hold, in addition, a Master of Divinity, Master of Hebrew Letters, or Master of Sacred Music degree from an accredited theological seminary. Candidates who cannot be ordained or invested by their denomination must show their certification for ministry from their sect’s governing body or their religious order. Prospective students must also be engaged in some form of ministry endorsed by their denominational administration. Advanced standing is available for students with extensive pastoral counseling backgrounds. For further information, please contact: Dr. Carol Ochs, 212-824-2267 or email@example.com.
Serving the Reform Movement and klal yisrael
Until HUC-JIR launched the Doctor of Ministry Program in 1990, Jewish clergy seeking advanced training in counseling were obliged to study at Christian or non-denominational institutions.
Typically, ordained rabbis and cantors discover a need for additional professional education in this area once they have been working with congregations and communities for several years. As they encounter congregants’ issues that are usually referred to mental health professionals such as marriage counseling, substance abuse, job loss, intergenerational relationships, anxiety about terrorism, and intermarriage, they seek to acquire the skills and training offered by the Doctor of Ministry Program.
The Program provides the Reform Movement’s clergy with the advanced pastoral skills that enable them to enrich and extend their pulpit into hospitals and homes for the aged, where rabbis and cantors provide care to congregants of all ages facing emotional, physical, and spiritual crises.
by Rachel Litcofsky
Jewish university students around the world present a global opportunity to sustain Jewish continuity — with Jewish renaissance in the Former Soviet Union an essential part of Hillel’s mission. Spearheaded by Charles Schusterman, of beloved memory, and his wife, Lynn Schusterman, Hillel is a catalyst for Jewish identity formation among university students in the FSU. The College-Institute is collaborating with Hillel in rebuilding Jewish life there. With the support of the Schusterman Foundation, “HUC-JIR is sending both Russianspeaking Israeli Reform rabbis and rabbinical students from our Jerusalem campus to serve in the summer Hillel seminars, where they participate in panel discussions with other denominational representatives, and present lectures and presentations on Jewish pluralism, Reform ideology, Reform liturgy, Jewish pluralism in Israel, Shabbat observance in Israel, human rights issues in Israel, and issues of Jewish status in Israel“ says Rabbi Na’amah Kelman, Director of the Year-In-Israel Program and Educational Initiatives at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem.
In the early 1920’s, Benjamin Frankel, C ‘23, a newly ordained rabbi from Hebrew Union College, had a vision for an organization that would offer Jewish college students a place to participate in student-run programs and educational and social opportunities. His organization would not only educate the students about Judaism but it would also train its members to become leaders in the Jewish community.
In 1923, Frankel and his board of lay leaders adopted the name Hillel for his young organization. Since its establishment hundreds of HUC-JIR’s rabbinical, cantorial, education, and Jewish communal service alumni have been and continue to be counted among Hillel’s professional leaders; they have contributed to its growth as the largest Jewish campus organization in the world. “Hillel offers the last easy connection for Jewish people to the Jewish organizational world. It plays a vital role in defining the leadership for the future,” says Rabbi Jonathan Klein, N ’97, Executive Director, Hillel at the University of Southern California.
Hillel - The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life continues to foster the creative expression of Jewish identity on college campuses worldwide. As Hillel leaders, HUC-JIR alumni have helped students raise their level of social action, identify with Israel, participate in informal Jewish learning experiences, and attend social events and religious services with other Jews. To quote Richard Joel, former Hillel President and now President of Yeshiva University, they have helped “maximize the number of Jews doing Jewish with other Jews.” Today there are 28 HUC-JIR alumni on college campuses serving as Hillel directors, rabbis, coordinators, and faculty members, and many more serving as Hillel chaplains and advisors.
A college education is a significant common denominator among most North American Jews. It is the time when many Jewish young adults begin to establish their own independent identities and values. The 2001 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) data (see page 10), released by the United Jewish Communities, offers some challenging trends that support an ever greater need for Hillel’s college programming: Jewish college students have less intense feelings about Jewish peoplehood than all other U.S. Jews, and 21% of Jewish college students “strongly agree” with the statement that they have a special responsibility to take care of Jews in need as compared to 31% for all adult Jews.
The NJPS results fuel Hillel’s mission to intensify efforts to reach out to these young Jews. “We are learning more and more how to raise the bar as we develop and implement high profile educational and social action initiatives where students can see the best of what a Jewish community has to offer. Our hope is that these students will continue these meaningful experiences, affiliate, and add their voices to Jewish communities once they graduate from college,” says Jeffrey Summit, C ‘79, Executive Director of Hillel at Tufts University.
Rabbi Peter Tarlow, N’ 74, Executive Director of the Texas A&M Hillel, describes the narrow window of opportunity for uninvolved students to connect with their Jewish identity. “I get to help people shape their lives at the time when they are most open to shaping their own lives...all the high school youth group activities mean nothing, if in the end we lose our youth in college,” he explains.
“As a college student, Hillel kept me involved and thinking about Judaism and the Jewish community,” affirms Rabbi Dan Bridge, C ’85, MAJCS ’81, who served as the rabbinical intern at UCLA’s Hillel while attending HUC-JIR/LA, and has been professionally associated with Hillel at the University of Washington for the past 16 years. “I was in three HUC-JIR programs: communal service, rabbinical, and education, and that combination has helped me to organize, teach, and ‘minister’ to the diverse student population that I have encountered on campus.”
Rabbi Amy Idit Jacques, L ’04, explains, “My interest in working with young adults was my motivation for attending rabbinical school.” Rabbi Jacques held a Hillel internship last year at Occidental College and now serves as the Campus Rabbi at the Hillel at Ohio State University.
Deborah Shapiro, MAJCS ’04, adds, “HUC-JIR allowed me to guide my previous knowledge of Hillel and grow it academically.” Now the Assistant Director of Human Resource Development at Hillel’s Schusterman International Center in Washington, D.C., Shapiro actively recruits and interviews potential new professionals, works on curriculum for international conferences, and interacts with the professionals in the field regarding training, professional development, and counseling.
Many HUC-JIR alumni trace their Hillel professional paths to their experience of working or studying with HUC-JIR faculty. As the founder of the Hillel at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Paul M. Steinberg, the Eleanor Sinsheimer Distinguished Service Professor of Jewish Religious Education and Human Relations (see page 6), brought inspiring experiences as a Hillel professional to his teaching at HUC-JIR. “My desire to help guide and serve young American Jews carried with me from my days at Hillel to my days as Dean at HUC-JIR/ New York,” he recalls.
Marcie Shoenberg Lee, MAJCS ’75, credits HUC-JIR’s network of teachers and mentors, including Professor Gerald Bubis, Founding Director of the School of Jewish Communal Service, for being the source of intellectual inspiration and creativity in her Hillel work today. Lee is the Director of the Hillel Teaching Scholars program, training undergraduates to be religious school educators.
Hillel professionals recruit prospective students to HUC-JIR’s programs, as well. Prior to becoming the Director of the School of Rabbinical Studies at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, Rabbi Richard Levy spent thirty years working with Hillel, where among other positions he was the Executive Director of Los Angeles Hillel Council. He encountered many undergraduates who went on to become HUC-JIR students and, ultimately, Hillel professionals themselves. Rabbi Levy says, “HUC-JIR is an extension of my Hillel work where students are the center.”
Dr. Shaul Feinberg, Associate Dean of HUC-JIR Jerusalem, served for 18 years as Chair of the Hillel Foundation at the Hebrew University, and continues to serve on its Board. He points to Hillel as a forum for strengthening the connections between HUC-JIR in Jerusalem and the many overseas undergraduates on Year Abroad programs at Hebrew University and for recruiting them for HUC-JIR's graduate programs. He also takes pride in the HUC-JIR faculty, Israeli rabbinical students, and other members of the Israel Progressive Movement who are teaching in the Human Rights Beit Midrash at Hebrew University's Hillel.
HUC-JIR alumni transmit to college youths the values, responsibilities, and texts of Jewish tradition they learned at the CollegeInstitute as well as the pluralistic spirit of the Reform Movement. “The study of Jewish texts is the most valuable part of a Jewish education and turns out to be the most useful tool in my position as a Hillel Rabbi,” says Rabbi Barton G. Lee, C ’70, Executive Director of the Arizona State University Hillel. Rabbi Lee annually leads his students to the rim of the Grand Canyon on Sukkot where they read from Genesis.
“I reach out to students through their area of interest, providing a Jewish component and a positive touch point to Jewish life,” notes Ed Rosenthal, C ’87, Hillel Rabbi at Cornell University. Rabbi Lisa Goldstein, N ‘93, Executive Director at Hillel of San Diego is currently working on developing a webbased, student-controlled Jewish community, where students can “meet” online and explore interests before meeting in person. “This idea is based on the observation that not having personal connections is the biggest obstacle to participating in the Jewish community.”
At a time of anti-Israel sentiment, Holocaust revisionism, and interfaith tensions on campus, Hillel professionals are at the forefront in developing resources and programs to support students’ needs. Rabbi Mona Alfi, N ’98, at the University of California, Davis, sees Hillel as a more dynamic venue than when she was involved as an undergraduate student over ten years ago. “The philosophy is now more studentdirected and initiated. In these times especially, students come to Hillel as a safe haven, a place to learn how to deal with anti-Israel propaganda on campus.”
“We have done a lot of work with the Muslim community at Tufts, through a Jewish-Arab dialogue group and co-sponsored educational programs that make it possible to build trust and connections between Jewish, Arab, and Muslim students,” says Rabbi Jeffrey Summit. In addition, the work we have been able to do with the African-American community and the evangelistic Christian community on campus has been very important. When Mel Gibson’s movie came out, we did a lot of work with both the Catholic and Protestant communities on campus to examine the meaning and impact of the film as seen through Christian and Jewish eyes. On a university campus we have the opportunity to initiate discussions that continue throughout the day and long into the night.”
Since the diversity of Jewish students active with Hillel varies from campus to campus, the challenge many of these professionals face is how to reach out to the Reform students within an organization committed to pluralism. Rabbi Marc Israel, N ’98, directs the Union for Reform Judaism’s KESHER College Department, based in Washington, D.C. at Hillel’s Schusterman International Center, where he serves as the liaison between the Reform Movement and its constituent agencies and Hillel. KESHER, a campus-based program, serves Reform Jewish students through Reform chavurot on campus, annual conventions, trips to Israel (through birthright israel), and leadership training events. “We have created the KESHER Leadership Council, with seven representatives from across North America that will come together at Hillel’s Charles Schusterman International Student Leader’s Assembly, an intensive, six-day conference for campus Hillel leaders and prospective leaders from around the world, with sessions that focus on leadership skills, Jewish learning, program sharing and networking to help transform campuses into vibrant Jewish communities.”
The future of American Jewish identity depends, in great measure, on the work of HUC-JIR alumni in Hillel. As they provide college youths with a positive, creative, and contemporary connection with Jewish heritage, mentor future Jewish community activists, recruit students for HUC-JIR’s graduate and professional programs, and model Jewish leadership, they are sustaining Rabbi Benjamin Frankel’s dream and ensuring a vital Jewish future.
HUC-JIR Alumni and Hillel (list in formation)
Please note that there are many additional HUC-JIR alumni who work with Hillel as chaplains, program coordinators, advisors, and faculty
Rabbi Mona Alfi, N ‘98
Executive Director, Hillel at Davis and Sacramento
Rabbi Leslie P. Bergson, N ‘95
Director, Hillels at Claremont Colleges
Rabbi Daniel E. Bridge, C ‘85
Director, Hillel at University of Washington
Rabbi P. Edward J. Boraz, C ‘93
Executive Director, Dartmouth Hillel, Roth Center for Jewish Life
Sheri Diamond Ginis, MAJCS ‘89
Development Director, Hillels of Metro Detroit
Lonee Frailich, MAJCS ‘01
Director of Engagement and Regional Programs, Los Angeles Hillel Council
Rabbi Lisa L. Goldstein, N ‘93/ MAJE ‘91
Executive Director, Hillel of San Diego
Rabbi Rachel Hertzman, C ‘85
Campus Rabbi, Hillel of Greater Baltimore
Rabbi Abie Ingber, C ‘77
Executive Director, Hillel Jewish Student Center, University of Cincinnati
Rabbi Amy Idit Jacques, L‘04/MAJE‘02
Campus Rabbi, Ohio State University Hillel Foundation
Rabbi David M. Kessel, N ‘98
Executive Director, Texas Hillel Foundation
Rabbi Jonathan Daniel Klein, N ‘97
Executive Director, Hillel at University of Southern California
Rabbi Barton G. Lee, C ‘70
Executive Director, Hillel Jewish Student Center, Arizona State University
Marcie Schoenberg Lee, MAJCS ‘75,
Director of the Hillel Teaching Scholars
Leah Levine, MAJCS ‘02
Jewish Student Life Coordinator at Hillel Foundation of Orange County
David R. Levy, MAJCS/MSW ‘87
Executive Director, Los Angeles Hillel Council
Or Mars, MAJCS/MSW ‘95
Executive Director, North Carolina Hillel
Rabbi Sharon Joelle Mars, N ‘98,
Campus Rabbi for North Carolina Hillel in Chapel Hill, NC
Samuel I. Mendales, MAJCS ‘77
Executive Director, Hillel Council of New England
Rabbi Robert S. Morais, C ‘97
Executive Director, Hillel of Rochester Area Colleges
Rabbi James E. Ponet, C ‘73
Director, Hillel at Yale
Rabbi Edward Rosenthal, C ‘87
Director, Cornell Hillel
Rabbi Paul Saiger, N ‘74
Executive Director of the Hillels of Illinois
Deborah E. Shapiro, MAJCS/MPA ‘04
Assistant Director, Human Resource Development at Hillel
Rabbi Andrea Steinberger, C ‘97
Campus Rabbi, Hillel Foundation at the University of Wisconsin
Rabbi Jeffrey A. Summit, C ‘79
Executive Director, Hillel Foundation at Tufts University
Rabbi Peter E. Tarlow, N ‘74
Campus Rabbi, Hillel at Texas A&M
Rabbi Kenneth S. Weiss, N ‘93
Director, Houston Hillel
Miriam M. Zimmerman, MAJCS ‘92
Special Projects Coordinator, University of South Florida Hillel
When a Wyoming librarian remodeling her bathroom recently discovered three monumental marble plaques, inscribed with Jewish names, city and state designations, and monetary amounts ranging from $100 to $1000, whom did she call? Rabbi Abie Ingber, C ’77, Executive Director of the Hillel Jewish Student Center at the University of Cincinnati.
As the moving force behind his Hillel’s museum of 400 unique artifacts of American Jewish experience, Ingber and his students at UC’s Hillel have ventured far and wide to rescue Jewish material culture. Indeed, these three donor plaques, each measuring about seven feet tall, weighing several hundred pounds, and linking individuals from throughout the United States and Germany, are exceptional artifacts of American Jewish history. “With the listings of donors from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, New York, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and Arkansas – there was only one event in the 19th century that could have linked people from so many places,” says Ingber. “That event was the founding of Hebrew Union College in 1875.”
The donors match a 1901 Union of American Hebrew Congregations report, found at HUC-JIR’s American Jewish Archives, in which the names, cities, and donations appear in the exact same order, with the text “In Memory of the Departed Benefactors of the Hebrew Union College.” The plaques were evidently lost in 1912 when HUC moved from its 6th Street location to its current campus in the Clifton area of Cincinnati. How they fell into the hands of a contractor who set their blank sides facing out remains a mystery.
For the past 27 years, Ingber has not only engaged his Hillel students with Jewish educational, cultural, and spiritual programs, he has provided them with hands-on opportunities to document the Jewish past and vitalize the Jewish present and future. He and his students locate and rescue Jewish artifacts and identify benefactors to underwrite their conservation and installation in the Hillel museum, where they enrich the students’ appreciation for Jewish history and heritage. The collection, which grows each year, has attracted the attention of the Smithsonian Institute, National Public Radio, and even the AAA tour book.
Rabbi Ingber reflects on his motivation to seek out these artifacts: the influences of his personal history as a son of Holocaust survivors, together with his relationship with Rabbi Jacob Rader Marcus, founder of HUC-JIR’s American Jewish Archives. The elder scholar who was passionate about saving history befriended and inspired the young rabbinical student who was passionate about finding history. This is what drives Ingber to continue his work today and to give his students a sense of belonging. “I want them to taste history and what it means to encounter history. This is CSI (the number one crime scene investigation program on television) where the C stands for chutzpah – it leads us to discover many significant pieces of Jewish history.”
Several Hillel fraternity men with a van helped Ingber retrieve these plaques. Now, Hillel students have launched a national search to locate the descendants of the original HUC donors. Records at the American Jewish Archives suggest that there are more donor plaques out there. “When you are remodeling your home, look closely,” suggests Ingber. “History could be written on the backs of those walls.”
Ruth Hirschberg, esteemed member of the HUC-JIR/NY Dean’s Council, advocate for social justice and world Jewry, and beloved wife of Rabbi Gunther Hirschberg, z”l, with whom she shared over a half century of commitment to the vitality of Congregation Rodeph Sholom.
Peggy Koch, cherished mother of Rabbi Jaqueline Koch Ellenson, mother-in-law of Rabbi David Ellenson, and dedicated member of the HUC-JIR/NY Museum Advisory Committee, whose love of family, zest for life, and indomitable spirit endure as a source of inspiration.
Aaron Levine, devoted advisor to HUC-JIR’s President, Business Office Controller, and member of the Cincinnati Board of Overseers, whose devotion to the American Jewish Archives perpetuated the vision of its founder, Dr. Jacob Rader Marcus.
Rabbi Alfred Wolf, C ‘41, one of the rabbinical students rescued out of Nazi Germany by HUC and a distinguished alumnus who served on the HUC-JIR faculty, was Senior Rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple and the founder of American summer camps for Jewish youngsters and the interfaith movement in California.
"Soul.” Above all else Albert was a man of soul, deep, sensitive, caring and fine. He was an able congregational rabbi and college chaplain; a thoughtful scholar whose work on Leo Baeck remains standard; a preacher and writer whose poetic touch enlarged our understanding. For over a decade he influenced the students and faculty of the Leo Baeck College as its Director of Studies and in recent years served as Dean of its Centre for Jewish Education. Strong in his Jewish belief, he pursued interfaith understanding; unforgetful of his Berlin origin, he passionately pursued international-interfaith rapprochement. And the consummately serious rav was also everyone’s mischievously humorous friend. He did all this and more by reaching out to us with his exquisite soul. No wonder that when now we remember him, we feel ourselves blessed to have known him. His life freshly validates our old wisdom: zekher tzadik livrakhah.
Dr. David Ellenson, After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity (HUC Press) (see page 25).
Dr. Haya Gavish, We Were Zionists, The Jewish Community of Zakho, Kurdistan: A Story and a Document (Ben-Zvi Institute and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem). A study, through folkloric memoirs and historical records, of this community’s attachment to the Land of Israel, the effects of Zionist activity, and immigration to Palestine/Israel from the end of the Ottoman period until the disappearance of the community through aliyah in 1951.
Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman with Dr. Ron Wolfson, What You Will See Inside a Synagogue (Sky Light Paths). A children’s book that is colorful as well as fun to read, with an introduction that explains the ways and whys of Jewish worship and religious life.
Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, ed., My People’s Prayerbook Kabbalat Shabbat (Welcoming Shabbat in the Synagogue), Vol. 8 (Jewish Lights). An exploration of the synagogue liturgy for greeting Shabbat. Contributors include Dr. David Ellenson, Dr. Alyssa Gray, Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, with two introductory essays by Dr. Wendy Zierler and Dr. Sharon Koren.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner with Rabbi Nehemia Polen, Filling Words with Light, Hasidic and Mystical Reflections on Jewish Prayer (Jewish Lights). A journey through the traditional prayer book, offering fresh insights and meditations that provide a window into the liturgy for worshipers.
Dr. Amira Meir, ed. Beit Mikra, Demut Ha’isha Ba’ mikra U’vamidrash The Image of the Woman in the Bible and in the Midrash, Vol. 177 (World Jewish Bible Center/Jerusalem) Presentations by scholars of various disciplines, at Beit Berl College in 2002 in honor of Prof. Yosef Rotem, which describe biblical and midrashic feminine heroines from different perspectives.
Dr. Michael A. Meyer, Braun Lectures In the History of the Jews of Prussia #11, “Without Wissenschaft There Is No Judaism, The Life and Thought of the Jewish Historian Ismar Elbogen” (Bar Ilan University). The first major study of Elbogen, a central personality in modern Jewish studies during the first half of the 20th century, important for his pathbreaking work on Jewish liturgy, his reconceptualization of Wissenschaft des Judentums, and his role within German Liberal Judaism.
Joyce Rosenzweig (pianist and arranger) and Caroline Chanin (mezzo-soprano), Eybike Lider (Eternal Songs). A 19-track CD of many of the great Yiddish folk, art and theater songs in contemporay arrangements.
Michael Zeldin, ed., Method and Meaning: How We Know What We Know About Jewish Education, Journal of Jewish Education, Vol. 70, No.1-2. Papers illustrating the various ways in which we come to know what we know about Jewish education and its role in guiding Jews in their search for meaning and identity.
Books may be purchased at the HUC-JIR College Bookstore – (513) 221-4651, by contacting the publishers directly, or by visiting our faculty and administration web-pages at www.huc.edu/faculty/faculty
by Rabbi David Ellenson
In his newly published collection of twenty-three essays, Rabbi David Ellenson demonstrates that “the reality of Jewish cultural and social integration into the larger world after Emancipation did not signal the demise of Judaism. Instead, the modern setting has provided a challenging context where the ongoing creativity and adaptability of Jewish religious leaders of all stripes has been tested and displayed.”
Ellenson prefaces this anthology with a remarkably candid account of his intellectual journey from boyhood in Virginia to the scholarly immersions in the history, thought, and literature of the Jewish people that have informed his research interests in a long and distinguished academic career. He has been particularly intrigued by the attempts of religious leaders in all denominations of Judaism – from Liberal to Neo-Orthodox – to redefine and re-conceptualize themselves and their traditions in the modern period as both the Jewish community and individual Jews entered radically new realms of possibility and change.
Organized in five thematic sections, Ellenson begins with reflections on the expression of Jewish values and Jewish identity in contemporary America, explains his debt to Jacob Katz’s socio-religious approach to Jewish history, and shows how the works of non-Jewish social historian Max Weber highlight the tensions between the universalism of western thought and Jewish demands for a particularistic identity. In the ensuing sections, he indicates how Jewish religious leaders in 19th-century Europe labored to demonstrate that the Jewish religion and Jewish culture were worthy of respect by the larger gentile world; describes how the leaders of Liberal and Orthodox branches of Judaism in Central Europe constructed novel parameters for their communities through prayer books, legal writings, sermons, and journal articles; and takes a close look at 20th-century Jewish legal decisions on new issues such as the status of women, fertility treatments, and even the obligations of the Israeli government towards its minority populations. The book concludes with review essays that analyze a few landmark contemporary works of legal and liturgical creativity: the new Israeli Masorti prayer book, David Hartman’s works on covenantal theology, and Marcia Falk’s Book of Blessings.
Arnold Eisen, Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University, notes that “After Emancipation is a masterful achievement by one of Amercan Jewry’s most inspiring and beloved mentors. Scholars in the field of modern Judaism will want to read it (and own it, for future reference); rabbis, educators, and thoughtful congregants and community leaders will want to mine Ellenson’s words for wisdom on a host of pressing Jewish issues.”
“I can think of few scholars in the field of Jewish studies who possess such a unique blend of erudition. As he moves from one field or time period to another, he never loses sight of the core confrontation between the weight of tradition and the freedom afforded by modernity that stands at the center of this (and his other) work,” comments David N. Myers, Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles.
After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity is available through the HUC-JIR College Bookstore – (513) 221-4651 or through Wayne State University Press – (800) WSU-READ (800) 978-7323.
Lisa D. Grant, Diane Tickton Schuster, Meredith Woocher, and Steven M. Cohen The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 2004
Over the last 20 years, the Jewish communal system has invested considerable hopes and substantial resources in the burgeoning phenomenon of Jewish education for adults. Once considered a sidelight, this “industry” has grown to encompass thousands of Jews studying in diverse learning environments. What has been the impact of this investment? How are Jewish adults changing as a result of this welcome phenomenon in Jewish life? A Journey of Heart and Mind: Transformative Jewish Learning in Adulthood reports on a pioneering study of the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School, a highly successful, text-based adult Jewish learning program with more than 15,000 alumni. This research constitutes the first systematic inquiry about the conceptual frameworks and personnel that shape contemporary adult Jewish learning activities, as well as an analysis of how learning “transforms” the lives of learners.
“The Impact of Jewish Learning and Its Impact on Jewish Identity”
How does an intensive experience of adult Jewish learning affect the hearts and minds of its students? To what extent and in what ways does this learning experience deepen and enrich their Jewish identities? How are they different, as Jews, than when they started this learning process two or more years prior to our survey and interviews? These questions go to the very heart of this study. As seen by its founders, leaders, and supporters, the mission of the Melton Mini-School is to provide thousands of Jews worldwide with access to comprehensive Jewish literacy through the study of classic Jewish texts. They tacitly assume that through study, students will grapple with the meaning of being Jewish.
As we shall see, the evidence – from the in-person interviews, the survey responses, and the answers to the open-end survey questions – points to diverse areas of change, varying in terms of nature, extent, and pace.
Sociological investigations of religious commitment often distinguish three dimensions: belief, behavior, and belonging. The adult Jewish learning experience apparently engenders effects that cut across these dimensions, even if it may do little to effect profound change in religious beliefs, or large modifications of behavior, or significant expansion of ties to Jewish community, both organized and informal.
Rather, as we shall demonstrate, learning at the Mini-School appears to influence beliefs about behavior, that is, the meaning that learners attach to their ritual practice, prayer, and learning, as well as the Jewish lens through which they view their everyday life. Additionally, learners come to a new understanding of their relationship with other Jews – whether family members, friends, classmates, Jewish organizations (including synagogues), or the broader Jewish community. Thus, it is not beliefs alone, or behavior alone, or belonging alone that undergoes change. Rather, it is in the nexus of all three.
In this chapter, we review seven dimensions of impact reported in varying degrees by the MiniSchool learners we surveyed and interviewed:
Later we will review some less evident patterns of behavioral change, the challenges inherent in measuring such change, and the social constraints that may inhibit how contemporary Jewish adults manifest changes in their “practice.” We also consider the kinds of impacts that may occur subtly, over time – changes that sometimes are more immediately evident to teachers than learners or changes in perspective that learners note only gradually as their lives take new turns. Finally, we explore how the experience of making new meaning and forming new connections through learning at the Mini-School appears to strengthen adult Jewish identity.
1. Making New Meaning of Preexisting Jewish Activity
As we noted in the introduction, many American Jews, like other Americans, have embarked upon a search for enhanced meaning in their lives. Contemporary adults feel freer to choose their religious denomination, their level of involvement, and the nature of their involvement. Jews have been feeling and behaving in similar fashion.
As “sovereign selves” who pick and choose their religious options and practices rather than accommodate to conventional patterns of observance and affiliation, they seek to understand in highly personal ways whatever religious traditions they pursue. Hence, it follows that the core impact of the Mini-School upon learners’ Jewish identities centers on “meaning-making,” the enhanced ability to derive sense and purpose from one’s everyday Jewish activities (activities already existing in one’s life). We believe that here, the main story of the impact is to be told. As we shall see, while the extent to which Mini-School learners reported changes in behavior were relatively limited, the extent to which they indicated the acquisition of a more meaningful understanding of their Jewish practices was widespread and significant.
Therefore, even when these adults reported little or no change in practice or communal involvement, they expressed pleasure in how their learning provided them with greater understanding and meaning connected with their preexisting Jewish activities. For example, Sharon, a homemaker and budding artist, commented on the greater meaningfulness of lighting Sabbath candles, which, we have every reason to suspect, was something she had been doing well before enrolling in the two-year program of study:
“The practical suddenly has more emotion to it. There are more feelings with it.... Lighting the candles like that is not as routine as ‘Oh, I know why I do it. I know why I cover my eys. I know why I cover my head and sing.’ Knowing enhances the practical application, and I think it facilitates it, too.”
For Sharon, her studies probably made little difference with respect to the likelihood of her lighting Sabbath candles (according to our survey, 67% of the sample lit Shabbat candles before attending the Mini-School, and just 6% more did so when they were graduating). But the experience was important for enhancing her appreciation of a preexisting and continuing ritual practice.
In like fashion, Marina, a retired Jewish communal worker raised in an Orthodox home, only hinted at more attendance at religious services; but she was very explicit in crediting the Mini-School with enhancing the meaningfulness of her experience with services: “I’m a Shabbes shul-goer. I get so much more out of the service because of Melton. Everything has so much more meaning.”
Leslie, the Jewish community leader we met in chapter 1, was clearer about attending synagogue more often, and was also quite explicit about the benefit of obtaining more meaning from her service attendance:
“Everything seemed much more meaningful. Melton helped me get over that feeling of inferiority I had when I spoke with my rabbi sixteen years ago. We as a family go to synagogue much more often now. ... part of what happened is that we finally found a synagogue that met our needs. ... at our Reform synagogue, I feel I can participate and know what is going on.”
In these comments, Leslie also intertwined references about how learning had affected her beliefs, her sense of belonging, and her behaviors:
“I am involved in many Jewish organizations. It used to be so meaningless for me to sit in so many meetings and listen to a dvar Torah. It was meaningless because I didn’t make a connection. ... I was always thinking, ‘Come on, hurry up, we have things to do.’ Melton pulls so much of it together. There is so much more to learn, but now I have pieces of understanding. I can participate in many more conversations. I can celebrate with my family. I really feel a connection.”
LISA D. GRANT
Dr. Lisa D. Grant is Associate Professor of Jewish Education at HUC-JIR/New York, where her research and teaching interests include adult learning and religious development, organizational change, and the role Israel plays in American Jewish life. Dr. Grant holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan and M.B.A. in public management from the University of Massachusetts. She earned her Ph.D. in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. In addition to A Journey of Heart and Mind (excerpted here), her publications include The Impact of Adult Jewish Learning in Today’s Jewish Community (with Diane Tickton Schuster) and Eytz Chaim Hi: She is a Tree of Life – An Adult Bat Mitzvah Curriculum Guide, as well as articles published in books and journals, including Education and Professional Training, Religious Education, Journal of Jewish Education, The New Jewish Teachers Handbook, Conservative Judaism, Journal of Jewish Communal Service, Courtyard, and Jewish Education News.
DIANE TICKTON SCHUSTER
Dr. Diane Tickton Schuster is Director of the Institute for Teaching Jewish Adults (ITJA) at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles. The ITJA’s goals are to explore the needs of adult learners, promote innovative teaching strategies, and develop a cadre of Jewish professionals specially trained to create vibrant learning communities. A member of the Visiting Faculty of HUC-JIR, she received a B.A. from the University of Michigan, master’s in social welfare from the University of California, Berkeley, and Ph.D. in education and human development from Claremont Graduate University. She has conducted research for the Experiment in Congregational Education, the Institute for Informal Jewish Education, the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, and the Union for Reform Judaism. Her publications include A Journey of Heart and Mind (excerpted here), The Impact of Adult Jewish Learning in Today’s Jewish Community (with Lisa D. Grant), Jewish Lives, Jewish Learning: Adult Jewish Learning in Theory and Practice, and Women’s Lives Through Time: Educated American Women of the Twentieth Century.
Great Scholars Series at Florida Atlantic University
Florida residents and snowbirds are cordially invited to participate in HUC-JIR's 4th Great Scholars Series, presented through the Lifelong Learning Society at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and Jupiter, Florida.
“A CELEBRATION OF 350 YEARS OF JEWISH HISTORY IN OUR NATION”
Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, HUC-JIR
The Sacred Sound of Prayer: How Music Identifies Our Spiritual Community
Rabbi Bruce Warshal, FAU
Anti-Semitism and the American Jewish Experience
Dr. Frederick Greenspahn, FAU
Diversity and Convergence: Jewish Religious Movements
Dr. Henry Abramson, FAU
Two Jews, Three Opinions: The Shtetl Origins of American Jewish Politics, 1881-1918
Dr. Terryl Lawrence, FAU
Contemporary Jewish Artists
Dr. Wendy Zierler, HUC-JIR
The Representation of the Rabbi in Jewish American Literature
Dr. Gary P. Zola, HUC-JIR
An Inspiring Voice of American Judaism: Rare Recordings of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise in Carnegie Hall
Dr. David Kaufman, HUC-JIR
Jews and American Popular Culture: The Case of the Early 60’s
Boca Raton Campus
Tuesdays/1:30-3:15 p.m. Barry and Florence Friedberg Lifelong Learning Center
MacArthur Campus, Jupiter
Wednesdays/2:30-4:15 p.m. Administration Building Auditorium
$55 Lifelong Learning Society members
Students are encouraged to become LLS members for a $30 annual fee. Members receive priority registration, thus making it likely that non-members will not be registered for popular classes. Membership is valid for one year.
To register, please call FAU/Boca Raton at (561) 297-3171 or FAU/Jupiter at (561) 799-8667 to request the Lifelong Learning Society winter catalogue and registration materials.
For more information about HUC-JIR’s programs in South Florida, please contact: Gerda Klein, Director of Development, South Florida at (561) 738-2806 firstname.lastname@example.org
In celebration of the 350th anniversary, the HUC-JIR Museum in New York will present special exhibitions featuring contemporary Jewish artists at the Nathan D. Rosen Museum at the Adolph and Rose Levis Jewish Community Center, 9801 Donna Klein Boulevard, Boca Raton, Florida
The Art of Aging
November 7 - December 19, 2004
Acclaimed American and Israeli artists invite us to explore the lifelong journey of growing up and growing older through the Jewish values and attributes of creativity, vitality, memory, wisdom, intergenerational relationships, and optimism. Aging is portrayed as an empowering and beautiful process through painting, sculpture, photography, mixed media, and video works.
Joyous Celebrations: Contemporary Judaic Objects
March 13 - April 17, 2005
The beautification of the fulfillment of the commandments of the Torah, hiddur mitzvah, is intrinsic to the celebration of all Jewish holidays, rituals, and events. Linking the past to the present with the thread of spirituality, contemporary artists have created celebratory objects that reflect the very moment in which we live. Here you will find exquisite items with which you can celebrate weddings, observe Passover, rejoice in the Sabbath. The long tradition of superb Jewish craftsmanship continues with the excellence of modern workmanship, a diversity of materials, and rich sylistic verve.
HUC-JIR Museum/New York
One West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 9 am - 5 pm; Fri., 9 am - 3 pm;
Selected Sun., 10 am - 2 pm, Oct. 3, 17; Nov. 7, 21;
Dec. 5, 19; Jan. 9; Feb. 13, 27; Mar. 6; Apr. 3, 17
Information/Tours: (212) 824-2205
Admission: Free; photo ID required for entrance.
Archie Rand: The 19 Diaspora Paintings
October 14, 2004 - January 12, 2005
Archie Rand explores the complexity of moral, spiritual, and physical heroism to ensure survival by depicting decisive moments encountered by the Jewish people in the ancient past. His works present a new lexicon of contemporary Jewish identity.
This exhibition and catalogue have been made possible by the generosity of the Gimprich Foundation and Rabbi Louis Frishman and Cantor Mimi Frishman.
The Mikvah Project: Janice Rubin and Leah Lax
September 8, 2004 - January 12, 2005
Photographs and interviews evoke the resurgence of Jewish ritual immersion, mikvah, which has been observed continuously since Biblical times and offers an intimate form of prayer and celebration through the transformative power of water.
Promised Land: Photographs by Chanan Getraide
October 21, 2004 - January 14, 2005
Inspired by the land of Israel, Chanan Getraide's photographs explore the living landscape, alive with the changing seasons, hours of the day, and shifting light, subtly touched by the occa- sional addition of man-made modifications.
Living in the Moment: Contemporary Artists Celebrate Jewish Time
Unique and limited edition works of contemporary Jewish ceremonial art, created by internationally recognized artists, are available for sale so that they can enter into the lives of families and communities.
These exhibitions are under the auspices of the Irma L. and Abram S. Croll Center for Jewish Learning and Culture at HUC-JIR/New York.
HUC-JIR Skirball Museum/Cincinnati
3101 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45220
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 11 am - 4 pm; Sun., 2 - 5 pm
Information/Tours: (513) 221-1875, ext. 358
An Eternal People: The Jewish Experience
The museum’s permanent exhibition focuses on the cultural heritage of the Jewish people as conveyed through seven thematic galleries: Immigration, Cincinnati Jewry, Archaeology, Torah, Jewish Festivals and Life Cycles, the Holocaust, and Israel.
Mapping Our Tears
An interactive, multi-media environmental exhibition highlighting eyewitness testimonies of WWII and Holocaust survivors, liberators, and refugees. Through personal stories, visitors learn about love, loss, justice, and courage.
The Archaeology Center at the Skirball Museum
A hands-on learning and research facility for the study of Archaeology and Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern history and culture. The artifacts, spanning the 2nd to 1st millennia B.C.E., were discovered at HUC- JIR’s excavations in Israel.
Skirball Museum of Biblical Archaeology/Jerusalem
13 King David Street, Jerusalem, Israel 94101
Hours: Sun., Tues., Thurs., 10 am – 4 pm
Information: (02) 620-3257
Highlighting the research and the archaeological expeditions of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology, the museum tells the story of three ancient cities: Laish/Dan, Gezer and Aroer. A special exhibit on Ancient Inscription from the Nelson Glueck School excavations is on display in the Administration Building.
HUC-JIR Skirball Cultural Center/LA
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049
Hours: Tues.-Sat., 12 - 5 pm; Sun., 11 am – 5 pm
Information: (310) 440-4500
Tours: (310) 440-4564
A Sweet Year: A Taste Of The Jewish Holidays
Through October 31, 2004
A celebration of the culinary customs of the Jewish holidays by artist Mark Podwal.
Through May 29, 2005
Original manuscripts and personal treasures, most never before exhibited to the general public, with interactive exhibits that illuminate Einstein's most revolutionary theories.
Funded by Jack and Susan Rudin and the Skirball Foundation, the Corporate Tour Sponsor, TIAA-CREF, and numerous local supporters.
Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America
Featuring works from HUC-JIR’s permanent collection, this exhibition traces the history, accomplishments, and values of the Jewish people.
Los Angeles, May 17, 2004
“The Love of Learning and the Desire for God”
Sister Mary C. Boys, Ed.D.
Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology, Union Theological Seminary
I have been privileged to be part of several generations of Christians who have been engaged in the turning again and again of our New Testament texts and subsequent tradition. When turned one way, we see divine disclosure. When turned another, we see polemical language of antiquity. When turned still another, we see our ancestors in faith using these texts to rationalize hostility and violence against Jews. When turned yet again, we see the imperative of contextual interpretations that will counter such sacrilegious uses of out texts. From this last turning we must not – and will not – turn back. In this turning and turning our texts, many in the Christian churches are themselves making that turning that is teshuvah. To be sure, this turning will not be accomplished in our time, nor can it alone stem the tide of anti-Semitism that once again threatens the Jewish people. But the church is indeed changing its posture toward Judaism...One desire I have for the Class of 2004: form relationships with your Christian counterparts. To say the obvious, Christians cannot have “real relationships with Jews” without reciprocity. Our traditions are not symmetrical. The differences between them are real and profound. But we have much to learn from those differences, not only about the other, but about ourselves...real relationships with the other result in deepened knowledge of our own tradition as well as a new angle of vision on it.
Cincinnati, June 3, 2004
“Lessons from Babel and Ground Zero”
Dr. Bill T. Arnold
Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, Asbury Theological Seminary
Every time we rely on our own intellect, our own resources, and latest technology to grasp for significance and meaning, we are no better than those ancestors standing before their great tower at Babel.... My writing, my teaching, and preaching are only permanent or lasting to the degree that they contribute to building God’s kingdom, to building a monument to God’s greatness and to God’s enduring covenant and love. Everything else we do will someday stand – like Babylon’s ancient ziggurats stand today, strewn across the barren landscape of Iraq – as monuments to our own futility and vainness.... As tragic as recent events in our country have been, we need to come away clearly focused on our tasks as servants of God’s people in the world. Graduates, God has gifted you to learn, to proclaim, to instruct, to write...be grateful for the talents, gifts, and graces God has lavished upon you. Remember it is an honor to enter into a career of service, based on your readings of ancient texts and exhortation. Learn to recognize and eschew those moments when you incline to vain towerbuilding, when you tend to the old and worn-out habits of humanity, of grasping for name, recognition, and power. Find significance, find enduring permanence, in God and in service to God, while enjoying the work God places in your hands.
New York, May 20, 2004
Rabbi David Hartman
Founder, Shalom Hartman Institute
We now live in the age of liberation – the age of the Zionist revolution – where the Jewish people made a decision that the exile is going to end not when the Messiah will come, not when we’ll go to say psalms and prayers, but when we gather a shovel, learn the art of self-defense, and go to Israel and irrigate the desert and make it bloom.... Israel is a creation of a people who said not only is Torah not in heaven, history is not in heaven. And we now are the carriers of that future. We are now responsible for the future destiny of our people. We can’t walk around with simple Messianic hope.... I believe with a perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. But I don’t build my country on that idea. I don’t build my life on that idea.... Even though Israel has not built a perfect society, I still wait as Jews waited for the Messiah. I wait for my people to resurrect their strength and wisdom to build a just and decent society, in which Christian, Jew, and Muslim would say to each other, ‘I don’t have to reject you in order to affirm what I am.’ To live in Jerusalem is to live with the music of the mosque calling for prayer at four o’clock in the morning, the church bells calling people to worship, and the Hasidim singing to welcome the Sabbath. We’ve come back there, not to be heroic soldiers, necessarily, but to be people who want to celebrate the music of everyone’s faith.... Celebrate your Jewishness. Celebrate the joy of living in an age where Jews have liberated their lives from exile. We’re not a wandering people anymore. We’ve come home, and in coming home, we have to have the strength to sustain it.
Los Angeles, May 16, 2004
Dr. Alfred Gottschalk
Chancellor Emeritus, HUC-JIR
When we began on Appian Way in the Hollywood Hills in the most modest of circumstances, the idea of a school whose rabbinical program culminated in ordination was but a dream. Today it is a reality. Los Angeles was a midbar (desert), but our small campus was a midbar Sinai, and our devoted students, faculty, and staff made what was considered in many ways a desert into a desert about to bloom with Torah. The lure of Sinai made that midbar a special place of learning, compassion, and unusual promise. Amidst an extraordinary faculty, there was a rabbi who stood out because of his great intellectual and spiritual qualities – Jacob Sonderling. One day he arrived at HUC-JIR and handed over a thin, tall scroll wrapped in an antique, frayed mantle. It was a parchment scroll of the Prophets, a rarity he had discovered while serving as a Jewish chaplain in Kaiser Wilhelm’s army on the eastern front during the First World War. One night he had found himself in a shtetl, where he entered the synagogue and, in the dim light, saw a man cowering in a corner, who said, “I am the shames of the shul and the guardian of the scroll that is left in the ark.” Sonderling replied, “I am a rabbi and will become the guardian of the scroll in your stead.” He took the scroll, which he preserved in his own synagogue’s ark for over forty years, and then gave it to the College-Institute to preserve. It resides to this day in our ark in the Walter Hillborn Synagogue at our Los Angeles School. Sonderling found his midbar in his service in the army, he found his Sinai in a little shul and in the hundreds like it throughout Eastern Europe. Every rabbi, whatever midbar he or she inhabits, can find Sinai in rare, precious, and unforgettable moments. As heirs to Sinai and to the generations of Sonderlings since then, let us accept the Torah given to us. You newly ordained rabbis are the shomrim (guardians) of the future. It is you who will make the midbar, midbar Sinai, for you are now the guardians of the sacred scroll.
Cincinnati June 5, 2004
“Would That All the Lord’s People were Prophets!”
Dr. Jonathan Sarna
Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University
I want to focus on a fascinating coda to the story of how God appointed 70 elders to assist Moses. We are taught in our biblical portion that in addition to those elders whom God specifically invested with the Divine spirit, God’s spirit also came to rest upon two other men, Eldad and Medad, who had not, so to speak, been properly ordained.... This is a remarkable, even a revolutionary idea. Instead of prophecy being limited to a spiritual elite, Moses is opening it up to anyone upon whom God’s spirit falls. We can hear, in Moses’ declaration, the anticipation of a modernday democratic ideal....
Democratic ideals such as these, though certainly found in our tradition, took a very long time to become rooted in Judaism. Living as Jews did for most of their history among peoples who deeply believed in hierarchies and social stratifications, it comes as no surprise that Jews too developed hierarchies of various sorts – some based on ancestry, some based on wealth, and some based on learning...The hierarchies did not magically disappear in 1654 when the first Jews came to America. But it is fascinating to see how, from the American Revolution onward, many traditional hierarchies were called into question.... The 1869 Philadelphia Conference of Reform Rabbis declared that “every distinction between Aaronides (meaning priests) and non-Aaronides, as far as religious rites and duties are concerned...is entirely inadmissible, in worship as in life.” Just as Moses had wished all the Lord’s people to be prophets, Reform Jews, influenced by the Bible’s Holiness Code, insisted that all Jews could be Priests – mamlechet kohanim vegoy kadosh (a kingdom of priests and a holy nation). Traditional distinctions between Priests, Levites, and Israelites were abolished.... In this 350th year of Jewish communal life in America, as you now take up the mantle of Moses, I hope that you can approach Jewish life with the same open-minded, broadly democratic, and allembracing inclusiveness that he displayed...strive for the day when all Jews, men and women alike, may stand fully equal to one another: as priests and as prophets, as rabbis and as teachers; without heed to wealth or ancestry; and above all, as Jews united in the quest for Jewish learning and for Jewish living.
Graduation/Ordination Addresses can be found at:
The Rabbinical Class of 2004, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, at Plum Street Temple
The Rabbinical Class of 2004, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, at Wilshire Boulevard Temple
The Rabbinical Class of 2004, HUC-JIR/New York, at Congregation Emanu-El
The School of Graduate Studies, Doctor of Philosophy Class of 2004, Cincinnati
The Doctor of Ministry Class of 2004, New York (see page 18)
The Rhea Hirsch School of Education Class of 2004, Los Angeles
The School of Jewish Communal Service Class of 2004, Los Angeles
The New York School of Education Class of 2004
The School of Sacred Music, Master of Sacred Music Degree Recipients of 2004, New York
Honorary degree recipients Alan Bennett, Executive Vice President Emeritus, Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, and Sister Mary C. Boys, Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology, Union Theological Seminary.
Honorary degree recipients Sam E. Bloch, Zionist Leader and Guardian of Holocaust Memory; Rabbi David Hartman, Founder, The Shalom Hartman Institute; Ellen Y. Rosenberg, Executive Director Emerita, Women of Reform Judaism.
The 2004 American Jewish Distinguished Service Award recipients Robert Bildner and Elisa Spungen Bildner.
Rabbi Ellenson with honorary degree recipient Edwin J. Rigaud, President of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
President’s Medal recipient, Dr. John L. Withers, sustainer of Holocaust survivors immediately after liberation.
Rabbi Ellenson with honorary degree recipient Marge Piercy, novelist.