...toldot as history and birth best captures the eternal sense of heritage and renewal that characterizes the Jewish story in all the places and times where our people has and will exist. Toldot captures and signifies the links that bind all past generations of Jews together with the present, and reminds and inspires us to fulfill our responsibility and commitment to future generations as well...
The insight that Rabbi Baeck offers regarding toldot aptly frames this issue of The Chronicle. In its pages, we witness the march of generations and the role that HUC-JIR strives to and does play in the ongoing story of our people and our religion. Several of the articles focus on the legacy and ongoing contributions of several persons who were and remain teachers and guides to so many of us.
Dr. Paul Steinberg, our Vice President for Communal Development and the former Dean of our New York campus in the longest tenure as Dean in the College-Institute’s history, has been and still is a moreh derekh and font of wisdom and guidance for our institution. Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg has been and continues to be a source of intellectual and moral vision for our people. His characteristically provocative inaugural Dr. Fritz Bamberger Memorial Lecture bespeaks the ongoing attempt to apply the insights of Jewish tradition to the complex political situation that confronts Israel and Palestine today.
It is no exaggeration to say that the contributions of Sara Lee to Jewish Education are by now legendary, and her work has justifiably earned her and the College-Institute worldwide fame. As Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education on our Los Angeles campus, Sara has been a mentor to hundreds of stu- dents and is truly beloved. Along with her colleagues at Rhea Hirsch, she has established new standards for Jewish educators and her influence has been felt far beyond the walls of HUC-JIR. The climax of her career was surely realized last February when President Katsav of Israel awarded her a President’s Medal for her distinguished record at his residence in Jerusalem before an overflow crowd including the membership of the Board of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Jean Bloch Rosensaft justifiably describes and highlights her life in a compelling article on Sara, and HUC-JIR is proud that we have been the institution she has called home.
Other articles in this issue focus on the role that our School of Jewish Communal Service and its alumni play in both the Jewish and larger worlds. Ron Astor is a brilliant scholar who has emerged from the SJCS. A Fulbright scholar at the Hebrew University and a former professor at the University of Michigan, Ron now serves as Professor of Education and Social Work at the University of Southern California. His recent book on School Violence in Context has garnered international attention, and the focus on Ron along with other distinguished alumni of the School of Jewish Communal Service indicates what a genuinely long shadow the SJCS casts upon the Jewish world.
That shadow is seen in the academy as well. HUC-JIR prides itself on the intellectual excellence of its faculty. An element of that excellence and the recognition that others accord our institution can be seen in the visiting positions and fellowships our professors are called to in universities and colleges throughout the world. Ruth Friedman describes a portion of the contributions our faculty has made and is making in institutions ranging from Harvard, Yale, Penn, and Princeton in the United States to universities throughout the world, ranging from Oxford to Hong Kong, and from Australia to Cairo. We rejoice in these contributions that our scholars make, and take special note of the current book that our New York Dean Aaron Panken has written, of which an excerpt is presented that will allow the reader to appreciate the novel contribution Aaron has made to the understanding of classical rabbinic literature.
Our involvements are not limited to scholarship nor are they bounded – as the faculty visiting professorships and fellowships indicated above – by North America and Israel. Our students and alumni recognize that they have world-wide religious commitments to fulfill. Rabbis David Wilfond and Alona Lisitsa describe an exciting new project that outlines the current efforts of HUC-JIR alumni, faculty, and staff to serve the Jews of the Former Soviet Union as that community seeks to recapture its Jewish identity and spirit.
A first-person piece by newly-ordained Rabbi Michelle Denker Pearlman presents her experiences in Warsaw, where a venerable Polish Jewish community is now experiencing a renascence, and Rachel Litcofsky indicates how the College-Institute and its student body works in partnership with the World Union for Progressive Judaism to serve Jewish congregations in locales from Denmark to Bombay.
There is a chain of tradition that links every generation of Jews in the vibrant toldot that is Jewish history and life. This issue of The Chronicle testifies to the joy and responsibility the College-Institute feels as our institution seeks to play its proper role in the never-ending cycle of birth and rebirth that is our legacy and task as Jews. With your help, we are confident we will continue to serve as partners with God in this holy quest.
Rabbi David Ellenson
Rabbi David Wilfond, C ‘97
Director of Outreach Projects,
Rabbi Alona Lisitsa, J ‘04
FSU Project Coordinator,
THE HUC-JIR RABBINICAL INFUSION TEAM HAS SERVED THE FOLLOWING COMMUNITIES SINCE SUMMER 2004:
Moscow, Tula, Ryazan, Lipetzk, Krasnodar, Omsk, Chelyabinsk, Ekatirinburg, St. Petersburg
Kiev, Harkov, Lvov, Lutsk
Simferopol, Sevastopol, Yivpatoria, Jankoy, Kerch, Feodosa
Minsk, Mogilev, Vitebsk, Slutzk, Polotsk, Lida, Baranovich, Brest
HUC-JIR's new Rabbinical Infusion Program in the Former Soviet Union (FSU) began in September 2003 with Rabbi David Ellenson’s participation in the JDC Mission to the FSU, headed by Lynn Schusterman, to witness the exciting rebirth of Jewish life in the FSU. A few weeks later, the HUC-JIR Jerusalem campus dispatched an exploratory team composed of Rabbi Na’amah Kelman, then Acting Dean, Rabbi Yehoyada Amir, Israeli Rabbinical Program Director, the World Union for Progressive Judaism’s Rabbi Joel Oseran, and Rabbi Alona Lisitsa. The HUC team landed at a very cold (-15 degrees Celsius) and snowy Moscow airport. Their goal was to meet with representatives of Jewish organizations and academic institutions to explore the possibility of creating a Rabbinical School in Moscow for the Russian-speaking Jewish community. The combined Jewish population of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine is estimated at more than 1 million, making it the second largest community in the Jewish Diaspora after the United States.
The trip was full of inspiring experiences, from praying Shacharit with the students of the Moscow Machon, a two-year para-rabbinical training program to meeting with young Reform Jewish leaders from all over the FSU who were so fluent and confident with their Hebrew prayers and so enthusiastic about Reform Jewish life.
For Rabbi Na’amah Kelman, an unforgettable moment was visiting Moscow’s Choral Synagogue. In 1968 during the height of the Cold War, Na’amah’s father, Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, in defiance of the Soviet Union’s oppression of Jews, traveled from America to Russia to meet Refuseniks. When he visited this synagogue he gave a sermon in Yiddish to inspire the Jews of Moscow in their fight for freedom. Now, 36 years later, his daughter found herself continuing the work her father had begin helping the Jews of Russia to live Jewishly.
Invigorated by the February 2004 Moscow expedition, the HUC-JIR “Rabbinical Infusion” Program was born. Since the summer of 2004, three Russian-speaking Israeli rabbinical students – Moshe Navon, Stas Vasichovich, and Ilana Baird – and three Russian-speaking rabbis – David Wilfond, Alona Lisitsa and Yelena Rubenstein – have been making regular visits to Reform congregations in the FSU. Their goal is to provide rabbinical leadership to Reform congregations without rabbis.
Today there are more than 80 Reform congregations in the FSU, but only six have rabbis. The need for rabbis in congregations is tremendous. The members of the Rabbinical Infusion team travel about every two months to lead Shabbat and holiday services and educational programs. It is a transformative experience for a Jewish community to “have a Rabbi,” even if the rabbi only visits bi-monthly. Two more Russian-speaking rabbinical students are expected to join the team in the next few months. The congregations in the FSU look eagerly to each visit by “their Rabbi.”
After each trip, the rabbis return home to Israel full of inspiring stories about the drama of the renaissance of Jewish life in the FSU. In Odessa, Rabbi Wilfond’s search for the grave of the famous Yiddish author Mendele Mocher Sforim (Mendel the Bookseller), yielded a revelation for the two young Reform Jews accompanying him. Sadly, today, this cemetery is an empty field, except for some people walking dogs. Why did the Soviets destroy this cemetery? Nothing was built here. Probably, it was just to destroy the Jewish heritage. Wilfond recalls, “I asked Igor and Yulya (two young leaders of the Odessa Reform Congregation) if they thought the Soviets had succeeded in destroying Judaism. They hemmed and hawed, a stuttered response of uncertainty. I told them, ‘I have proof that the Soviets did not succeed. What is my proof? The two of you – young Jewish leaders, building a new Jewish congregation. You are the proof that Jewish life and hope is alive here, and you are re-building the Jewish future!’”
For American-born Rabbi Wilfond, the Rabbinical Infusion Program is the fulfillment of a dream. “For two years, 1997-1999, I was the only Reform rabbi in the FSU. It is so inspiring today to see six native Russian-speaking Reform rabbis leading our movement. I am moved every time I travel to a Russian city and meet one of my former students from the Machon (our community leadership program) who are leading their native community with intelligence, spirit and conviction. We, the Reform Movement around the world, can be so proud of the growth and success of our nativeled Reform Movement in the FSU.”
The Rabbinical Infusion team also partners with HUC-JIR’s Year-In-Israel Program’s “Pesach Project.” This Passover, more than 42 first-year rabbinical, cantorial, and education students, and Israel Rabbinical Program students traveled to 29 cities in the FSU to lead Passover sedarim. This student-led initiative is in its third year.
The Rabbinical Infusion project has found many other enthusiastic partners. Rabbinical student Ilana Baird has taught at two Hillel summer camps and worked with Hillel groups in Ekatirinburg for the High Holy Days and Minsk for Hanukkah. Rabbis Alona Lisitsa and Yelena Rubenstein have collaborated with Kesher, a women’s educational organization, in Moscow and Charkiv.
Rabbi Wilfond has been teaming up with Netzer, the Reform Zionist Youth Movement, and led Hanukkah seminars in Riga and St. Petersburg. The team has also led leadership seminars for the World Union for Progressive Judaism in Moscow, Omsk and other cities in Russia.
With the help of the Rabbinical Infusion Program, more than 80 young Reform congregations in the Former Soviet Union are growing ever stronger. This program is made possible through an initiative of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation and by 186 gifts totalling $45,000 from students, alumni, congregations, families, and friends of HUC-JIR.
One of the largest and most important cities in Belarus in the Former Soviet Union (FSU), Mogilev has been home to a Jewish community from the 16th century on. During the 17th century, the tenuous relationship between the Jews and the host population was characterized by prohibitions, expulsion, pogroms, appropriation of property, and accusations of blood libel. In spite of these hardships, the Jewish community developed. By the 18th century, Jews were major traders in the region. They were granted judicial autonomy and their
beit din (religious court) was authorized to hear appeals against provincial legal decisions. Mogilev was a center of Habad Hassidism as well as the Haskalah during the 19th century, and later, in the 20th century, it was a vibrant center for the Bund as well as the Zionist movement. Tragically, the Nazis massacred most of Mogilev’s Jews during the Holocaust. By 1959, when the Soviet authorities closed the last synagogue and turned it into a sports gymnasium, it is estimated that only 7,000 – 10,000 Jews remained.
In 2005 there is a miraculous renaissance of Jewish life in Mogilev, with the help of HUC-JIR’s students and alumni who travel to Mogilev throughout the year and, particularly, for Passover. They strengthen this growing Reform Jewish community, with its synagogue, kindergarten, bnei mitzvah group, and Netzer Zionist youth programs.
Rabbi Grisha Abramovich, the only full-time Reform rabbi in the Republic of Belarus, writes, “I would like to express my gratitude to the HUC-JIR students. The efforts of rabbinical student Ilana Baird, who has visited our community twice, are highly appreciated by our community. One of the girls looked at Ilana as a role model exemplifying the great opportunity for a woman to study to become a rabbi. Her Shabbat services were so memorable that the congregants looked at the pages of the prayer book differently and found more meaning in the Jewish liturgy. The time she spent with the Mogilev Netzer group from the Bobruisk Sunday School, representing one of the strongest Jewish Zionist youth movements in Belarus, was unforgettable and made these young leaders feel the spiritual support of Reform rabbis. I hope that young but experienced rabbinical students like Ilana will continue this excellent job in Belarus.”
Ilana’s impact on Mogilev, while extraordinary, is not singular. Since the summer of 2004, three Russian-speaking graduates of HUC-JIR’s Israel Rabbinical Program, six Israeli rabbinical students, and one Americanborn, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati-ordained rabbi have been making regular visits to the more than 80 Reform congregations in the FSU, only six of which have rabbis [see previous article]. The members of this “Rabbinical Infusion” team travel every two months to lead Shabbat and holiday services and educational programs in the FSU, offering transformative experiences for scores of communities whose Jewish religious and cultural identities were eradicated by the succession of Nazi persecution and Soviet repression.
In addition, over 70 North American rabbinical, cantorial, and education students spending their first-year of study at HUC-JIR in Jerusalem have celebrated Passover in the FSU within the past three years. This past Passover, they traveled to 29 cities in four countries: Riga in Latvia; Mogilev, Bobruisk, Lida, Baronivich, Brest, Polotsk, Slutzk, and Vitebsk in Belarus; Kaluga, Tver, Lipetzk, Tambov, Perm, Chalbinsk, Raizen, and Tula in Russia; and Odessa, Zvinigorodka, Cherkasi, Poltava, Charkov, Chernovtsy, Lutsk, Lvov, Kerch, Jankoy, Evpatoria, and Simferopl in Ukraine. Celebrating Passover’s meaning – the freedom to live freely as Jews – they conducted sedarim, participated in programs with Reform Jewish youth groups, taught adults and children in Jewish kindergartens and Sunday Schools, visited the homebound and elderly, and fortified these communities’ ties to Israel and world Jewry.
Throughout their travels across Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, HUC-JIR’s students are transmitting their enthusiasm, knowledge, and commitment to the Jews of the FSU and offering hope for the Jewish future. The potential for Jewish revival and renewal in the FSU is truly unlimited. In turn, these students are internalizing a vital sense of Jewish peoplehood that will inspire and enrich their future careers as leaders of communities throughout North America.
Jewish life and learning in the Reform Movement’s North American congregations require gifted and motivated professional leaders who are builders of Jewish identity. The skills that are forged through their experiences invigorating Jewish life in the FSU, ultimately transform the Reform congregations, religious schools, and institutions of Jewish life throughout the United States and Canada.
Rabbi Michelle Denker Pearlman, NY ‘05
Will the lulav fit in the over head compartment? This crazy question is running through my mind as I rush to board a plane from Tel Aviv to Warsaw. I am the student rabbi for the High Holy Day season at Beit Warszawa, a progressive synagogue in the heart of the Polish capital. After a quick post-Yom Kippur visit to Tel Aviv, I am returning to Warsaw with only the most perfect Sukkot fruits and plants that I can find. I used to be amused that people would go to great lengths to search out flawless specimens of palm, myrtle, willow, and citron for the celebration of the festival. But this year
I found myself in the thick of the search. In Warsaw, religious freedom is a relatively new privilege and each festival is greeted with reverence. The people there put great emphasis on hiddur mitzvah, magnifying and adorning their celebration of Jewish rite and ritual. On this, their very first Sukkot, I wanted everything to be in place.
So, fragile lulav in hand, I enter the plane, which is already packed with noisy Israeli tourists finding their seats. Immediately, I’m greeted by the cacophonous sounds of Hebrew conversation. As I make my way up the aisle, the din of voices suddenly lowers a bit.
“Mah kara po?” a man calls out, “What’s going on?” Quizzical eyes are upon me.
“You are carrying a lulav? To Poland?”
“Yesh Yihudim b’Varsha? There are Jews in Warsaw?”
More eyes were on the lulav now, silently telegraphing the same question. In the wake of the Nazi atrocities which took place on Polish soil, after the years of religious oppression which accompanied Communist rule, what kind of Warsaw Jewish community is still in existence?
The stares are not surprising. It is not easy to be a Jew in Warsaw. Those who seek membership in a Polish religious organization like a church or a synagogue must be willing to declare their faith publicly. To date, 117 Beit Warszawa members have made the courageous choice to declare themselves Jewish, no small achievement against the historical backdrop of Polish religious intolerance. These members are joined by several hundred more participants who come to synagogue programs in order to contemplate a return to their Jewish roots. The leaders of Beit Warszawa suspect that there may be thousands of peoplewith Jewish heritage in Warsaw who could be brought back to Judaism, if they were convinced that their return would be rewarding and safe.
Many who identify themselves as Jews question their authenticity. It is true that by Orthodox standards, the legal status of the majority of the Warsaw Jewish community is questionable. Many families were forced to leave the country or convert to Christianity to survive the war. Still others became atheists under Communism. Few of the people I met there were raised in Jewish homes. Perhaps a handful could trace their Jewish bloodline through their mother’s side. In Poland, Jewish heritage is often a family secret, and intermarriage is the rule, not the exception.
Standing in the aisle of the plane, feeling Israeli eyes upon me, I wished that I could answer the gentleman’s question with some of the powerful family histories from members of the Warsaw community. One such characteristic story concerns a young university professor. This new father approached me following Yom Kippur services to ask about conversion. Confiding in me that he had always known of his Jewish heritage, he told me that he was raised as an atheist. After the birth of his first child, he began to seek out a spiritual and cultural identity for himself and his new family. When he began to talk to his wife about his spiritual yearnings, he realized that she too came from a Jewish family. The couple had been married for years, never knowing that they shared the same veiled religious past.
This young father’s Jewish search did not start with the liberal synagogue. He first went to the Orthodox rabbi in Warsaw. But, like most young people I met there, he wants to be part of a progressive congregation. The affiliation of Beit Warszawa with the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the organization for worldwide Reform Judaism, means that the congregation has a lifeline of support as they develop policies of openness and inclusivity. Through the efforts of Beit Warszawa, the Jews of Warsaw are beginning to understand that there is more than one way to be Jewish. Intermarried families are welcomed, and the congregation is committed to issues of egalitarianism.
I can’t tell the personal stories of Beit Warsawa, so I contemplate, just for a moment, inviting all of these staring faces, the entire planeload of people, to the synagogue. There they would witness something incredible. They would see how a congregation develops their own traditions, songs, and customs, from a largely blank slate.
The Jews of Beit Warszawa are working each day to gain access to the Jewish treasury of collective memory. Jewish ritual, Torah, music, and a shared legal tradition help us to remain united as Jews across national boundaries. In Poland, numerous historical forces have conspired to wipe out this Jewish collective memory. But Beit Warszawa helps people to begin to reclaim what was lost. People there are building ties to Jewish tradition day by day, ritual by ritual.
Beit Warszawa attracts many educated people. Though they are skilled professionals, scientists, business owners, and the like, many are self-conscious because they are new to Judaism. The prayers and tunes that are second nature to so many of us are foreign to them. Instead of giving into embarrassment, however, the congregants of Beit Warszawa celebrate by engaging in hiddur mitzvah. Each ritual celebration, each time they gather to study Torah, each time they engage in mitzvah, the experience is rich and elaborate.
Shabbat at Beit Warszawa is a happening. The synagogue is often crowded on Friday evenings, at least forty or more people may be in attendance. This is an impressive number for a small congregation. Because there is no Polish Hebrew prayer book, the congregation has created their own siddur. They are revising it as they develop their own ritual traditions, and hope someday to have it published. Discussion of the weekly Parasha can easily get out of hand because people are so engaged in the experience. They are a rabbinical student’s delight, asking numerous questions and often debating the answers amongst themselves. After services, the delicious Shabbat dinners feature homemade Ashkenazi specialties, and are followed by dessert and the raucous singing of zmirot, Shabbat melodies. Sure, Hebrew seems foreign in the mouths of most of the congregants. But you can the feel the room shake as they pound on the tables as they sing. The evening can continue for hours after the meal when the many young people in attendance linger over coffee late into the night telling Hassidic stories.
But I do not have time to invite all of the Israeli passengers to the congregation. I realize that I am blocking the aisle. People are lined up behind me waiting to pass. And I still have this lulav in my hand, green and strong, but fragile too, like the Warsaw congregation. The man who had questioned me rose to help. He took the plants from my hand and found an empty overhead. He deposited the lulav and carefully closed the door.
“G’veret, Yeish Y’hudim B’Varsha” he asked again? “Are there Jews in Warsaw?”
“Ken,” I replied, “Yesh harebeh Y’hudim b’Varsha.” “There are many Jews in Warsaw, and we will celebrate Sukkot tonight, as will other Jews across the world. Warsaw is a place where Judaism lives.”
"For decades, students with an interest in connecting with the worldwide Jewish community have sought out placement opportunities with the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ),” says Rabbi Joel Oseran, Associate Director at the WUPJ. “Exposure to the World Union communities and broadening the contact with world Jewry allow them to see the workings of a congregation in which the Diaspora is very different.”
Over the years, during the High Holy Days and Passover, rabbinical students have chosen to serve as student rabbis for congregations around the world. For each of these students, working with congregations abroad provided an additional level of leadership training beyond the fulfillment of the College-Institute’s field work requirements. Jessica Oleon (LA ‘07) Stephen Wise (NY ‘05), and Carey Brown (NY ‘05) have traveled to congregations in the Netherlands, Japan, and India, respectively.
The spiritual and religious experience of traveling to Belarus, on a joint program between HUC-JIR and WUPJ during Passover of 2003, was in part what prompted Jessica Oleon to serve as the rabbi for Congregation B’nai Okinawa in Japan. In addition to leading a multi-denominational community during High Holy Day services, Oleon spent much of her time getting to know the Jewish community of servicemen, women, and their families living on the U.S. military base. She recalls one of the many highlights of her trip was the opportunity to lead Tashlich services in the East China Sea, an exotic locale for the symbolic casting away of sins.
“The strong connection I made with the Jewish community there reminded me how important it is for us as rabbinical students to recognize other Jewish communities,” explains Oleon. “I will take this experience with me throughout my career.” Remaining true to her support for world Jewry and commitment to her newfound community, she returned to Congregation B’nai Okinawa in March to officiate at a Bar Mitzvah.
Working with Hillel in the Jewish communinities in and around Moscow during Passover while a first-year rabbinical student in the Year-in-Israel program, as well as a classmate’s remark that serving with one of the WUPJ pulpits was a most transformative experience for a student rabbi, are what compelled Stephen Wise to inquire about leading a pulpit abroad. Stephen traveled to Copenhagen for the High Holy Days to lead Denmark’s Congregation Shir Hatzafon, a community whose Jewish identity is strongly shaped by the Holocaust. A congregant took him to a village were the Jews of Denmark were rescued from the Nazis in 1943 by fishermen who transported them by boat to Sweden in secrecy. “The whole trip was an intense experience and it inspired me to be ready to enter the New Year with a greater appreciation for the multitude of ties that connect Jews to one another around the world,” adds Wise.
Carey Brown sought out a High Holy Day position through the WUPJ because of conversations with her classmate, Stephen Wise, memories of her work as a first-year rabbinical student celebrating Passover with renascent Jewish communities in the FSU, and a trip to Poland during her fourth year to participate in an interfaith dialogue conference on JewishChristian relations in a post-Vatican II world. In Bombay, Carey served as rabbi to the Jewish Religious Union (JRU), also known as Rodeph Shalom. In addition to leading High Holy Day services, Carey taught adult education sessions and met with various Jewish communal organizations in India.
She recalls fondly her experience of learning and interacting with the two Jewish communities in Bombay: the Bene Israel and the Baghdadi Jews. Carey recalls how the entire Bene Israel community gathered together at a wharf to participate inTashlich services, where she witnessed the Bombay Jewish community praying together, including many of the women dressed in brightly colored saris.
“The WUPJ provides students with an understanding of world Jewry in different parts of the world not known in their stateside communities,” explains Oseran. “When they return from these trips it helps communicate the reality of a Jewish world that is different from what they know in North America.”
Serving these Jewish communities provides a first-hand look at how Reform Judaism is faring outside of the U.S. and Israel. The seventy-five-member Bombay Reform congregation that Carey Brown served for the High Holy Days emphasized to her their need to be more connected with the Progressive Movement. “These liberal Jews are a minority within a minority and are so hungry for support from the rest of the progressive Jewish world,” explains Brown. In Denmark, Stephen Wise witnessed the “ongoing struggle for liberal Judaism to grow in communities where there is a strong Orthodox presence, sometimes the only Jewish presence.”
Student pulpits are not the only contacts that HUC-JIR students have with communities’ abroad. Stacey Nolish (LA ‘07) entered rabbinical school after having served the Polish Jewish community during 2000-2003 through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Jewish Service Corps. Last Fall, she presented her experience at a panel at the United Jewish Communities’ General Assembly, entitled, “Community Engagement: The Power of Volunteers.”
Furthermore, students are not alone in establishing relationships with Reform communities abroad. Dr. Lewis Barth, Dean of HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, has traveled to Prague for High Holy Day pulpits and Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Acting Dean of HUC-JIR/New York has spent the past two High Holy Days with the liberal congregation in Florence, Italy.
The memorable and meaningful connections that continue to be made through these High Holy Day pulpits and other joint projects with the WUPJ have a lasting impact on both students and world Jewry. These programs empower students to raise awareness, bring support, and continue to build links between Reform Judaism in North America and Progressive Judaism around the world.
Hebew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s renowned faculty members serve as visiting professors, fellows, and conference presenters at major universities across the United States and throughout the world. Not only do they serve as ambassadors representing the College-Institute to the secular academic world and international Jewish communities, they bring honor to HUC-JIR for being recognized as leaders in their fields of expertise. From guest appointments at Harvard University to the University of New South Wales, they bring a unique perspective on their respective areas of scholarship to their host universities, and then return home with innovative research, new pedagogic strategies, and enriching experiences that strengthen HUC-JIR’s academic programs. Highlighted here are several members of our faculty who have engaged in this intellectual exchange, which extends HUC-JIR’s scholarly reputation far and wide.
Dr. Marc Bregman, Harry Starr Fellow in Judaica, Harvard University
Dr. Bregman, Professor of Rabbinical Literature, HUC- JIR/Jerusalem, spent the Spring 2005 semester as the Harry Starr Fellow in Judaica at Harvard University. There, his research focused on “Biblical Exegesis from the Second Temple Period through the Middle Ages” and he met weekly with Harvard faculty members and other member of a research group in his area. He appreciated the “time devoted exclusively to research” and will bring the fruits of his studies back to Jerusalem, where he teaches Year-In-Israel students and Israeli rabbinical students.
Dr. Susan L. Einbinder, Institute for Advanced Study, American Philosophical Society, and Guggenheim Fellow
Dr. Einbinder, Professor of Hebrew Literature, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, is the recipient of three research fellowships: she recently completed her sabbatical leave for the academic year 2004-05 at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, with fellowships from the Institute and from the Philadelphia-based American Philosophical Society; in the Spring of 2006, she will be on leave as a Guggenheim Fellow.
These fellowships provide her with an opportunity to research and write a new book. Her current research picks up where her first book, Beautiful Death (Princeton University Press, 2002), ended with the mass expulsion of French Jews in 1306. The dearth of literary responses to this traumatic episode in Jewish history led her to medieval Provence (not French until 1481), the destination of large numbers of French Jewish refugees. Seeking both indirect and direct references to the expulsion, her new work explores a variety of literary genres: medical treatises, liturgy, secular songs, astronomical texts, chronicles, romances, and prayer book graffiti. Much of this material has never been published and is still in manuscripts scattered from England to Kiev.
A preliminary essay on an Esther romance from Avignon appeared in the journal Speculum (April 2005). Dr. Einbinder has lectured on other aspects of her new project at the University of Aix-en-Provence, the University of Pennsylvania, the Institute for Advanced Study, Boston University, Princeton University, the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, and at the American Philosophical Society.
Dr. Sharon Gillerman, Research Associate and Visiting Lecturer, Women’s Studies in Religion Program, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University
Dr. Gillerman, Associate Professor of Jewish History, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, spent the 2003-04 academic year at Harvard Divinity School, where she focused her research on material for her book, tentatively entitled Germans into Jews: Remaking the Jewish Social Body in the Weimar Republic, and met bi-weekly with the other Research Associates and the Director of the Women’s Studies in Religion Program to present and discuss her work.
She taught a course, “Engendering Jewish Modernity: Women, Family, and Faith in Modern Europe” to graduate students at the Divinity School, where she also presented a lecture, titled “From Theology to Biology: Reproducing Modern Jewry in Weimar Germany.” She noted a similarity between her Harvard Divinity students and her HUC-JIR students: “Although students study a wide range of religious traditions during the course of their studies at the Divinity School, the students at Harvard, like those at HUC-JIR, are seriously interested in the study and practice of religion.” The fellowship succeeded in fulfilling Dr. Gillerman’s aim “to work closely with other scholars working in the field of women and religion as well as to meet colleagues throughout the university.”
Dr. Lawrence A. Hoffman, Yale Divinity School, Yale University
Dr. Hoffman, Barbara and Stephen Friedman Professor of Liturgy, Worship, and Ritual, HUC-JIR/New York, was the Convocation Speaker to open the 2004-05 Yale Divinity School academic year and was the keynote speaker at a conference on “The Psalms in Jewish and Christian Worship,” as part of the tercentennial celebration of Yale University.
His audience was comprised of students, faculty, and alumni of Yale’s Divinity School, which he said reminded him of his time teaching summer school at the University of Notre Dame. “I found that forcing myself to explain Jewish concepts to Christians helped me understand better what I believed myself.” While at Yale, he spoke with (and remains in contact with) liturgists and experts in ritual studies and discovered new developments in Christian divinity circles.
Dr. Hoffman highly recommends his experience to his colleagues: “There is no substitute for the enrichment one receives by teaching students unlike our own, and sharing scholarly experiences with colleagues in other institutions.” He compares this scholarly exchange to the openness of the Reform Movement, saying “The Reform Movement has always prided itself on its broad scholarly perspective – the old Union Prayer Book offered a prayer affirming our warm reception to truth from all sources, under the presumption that truth is universal, so that our own Jewish insights can only be enhanced by truths we discover elsewhere. Learning truths elsewhere can enhance our own understanding of the truths from Judaism that we receive from our texts and then transmit to our students.”
Rabbi Samuel K. Joseph, Visiting Scholar, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia; Visiting Scholar, Hong Kong University
Rabbi Joseph, Professor of Jewish Education and Leadership Development, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, spent the 1988-89 academic year as Visiting Scholar at Monash University and then spent the 1993-94 academic year as Visiting Guest Lecturer at Hong Kong University while serving as a Scholar-in-Residence for Jewish communities there. In addition, he was the first resident rabbi and founding rabbi of the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong.
During these guest scholar stints, he taught organizational development and leadership to undergraduates. Since the study of culture is a key interest of his, Rabbi Joseph found the interaction with students from different backgrounds enlightening. He especially appreciated the academic interchange with faculty members from varied disciplines found outside HUCJIR, such as the sciences, mathematics, and psychology. He thinks that they enjoyed interacting with a scholar who was also a rabbi and saw him as a novelty. Though Rabbi Joseph found his time in Melbourne and Hong Kong “refreshing and renewing,” it made him appreciate HUC-JIR’s students even more. He returned recommitted to teaching “at the place that I love.”
Dr. Mark Kligman, Visiting Professor and Research Fellow at Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Kligman, Professor of Jewish Musicology, HUC-JIR/New York, spent the Spring 2001 semester at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, where he joined 14 other guest scholars from around the world in researching the fellowship theme of “Jewry and the Arts.” Working within a “stimulating intellectual environment” where he could meet and work with other scholars in related fields, he participated in the weekly seminars, where Fellows gave presentations on their work and then discussed their research. Dr. Kligman’s research, which focused on contemporary Jewish music since the 1970s in different Jewish communities, including popular and recorded Jewish music, yielded three scholarly articles and a conference paper: “Reestablishing a ‘Jewish Spirit’ in American Synagogue Music: The Music of A.W. Binder” in The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times: Essays on Jews and Aesthetic Culture, editors Barbara Kirshenblat-Gimblett and Jonathan Karp (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005); “Recent Trends in New American Jewish Music” in Cambridge Reader in Jewish Studies, editor Dana Kaplan (Cambridge University Press, to be published, 2005); “Jewish Music in the Concert Hall Post Bernstein: The Music of David Diamond and Steve Reich,” a paper presented on the panel “Synagogue and Stage: Jews and Twentieth-Century American Art Music” at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Jewish Studies, 2001; and “Contemporary Jewish Music in America,” in American Jewish Yearbook, vol. 101 (2001). In addition to his research, he taught “Jewish Music in Ashkenazic and Sephardic Traditions” to undergraduates through the University’s Music Department and found this to be a “welcomed opportunity to open students of all backgrounds to areas of Jewish music.”
Dr. Kligman credits his fellowship at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies with strengthening his understanding of Jewish art and inspiring him to integrate the visual arts into his teaching back at HUC-JIR. The result was the development of a new elective course, entitled “Intersection of Jewry and the Arts,” which was offered during the Fall of 2004. Taught with Dr. Carole B. Balin, Associate Professor of Jewish History, HUC-JIR Museum Director Jean Bloch Rosensaft, and Curator Laura Kruger, the class exposed rabbinical, cantorial, education, and NYU Judaic Studies students to Jewish music and art history, with visits to museums and artists’ studios, and artists serving as guest lecturers. It is planned that this course will be repeated during the 2006-07 academic year.
Dr. Aaron Panken, Visiting Scholar, Shalom College, affiliated with University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Dr. Panken, Dean and Lecturer on Rabbinics, HUC-JIR/New York, spent the Spring 2005 semester as Visiting Scholar at Shalom College. He decided to go to Sydney to “spend time working on my next book on the history of Hanukkah, get to know and serve Australian Jewry, see a part of the world I might never otherwise see, and have my children go to school in a different culture for a term.”
Dr. Panken taught a Midrash course and presented a paper at the Australian Association of Jewish Studies conference. He regarded this semester as “a wonderful opportunity to focus entirely on my academic work, to meet new colleagues and hear their ideas, and to complete work I have wanted to do for a few years.” He received a warm welcome from the Jewish community in Sydney, which knows about HUCJIR through the College-Institute’s alumni who work and have served there.
Dr. S. David Sperling, Bronfman Visiting Professor of Judaic Studies, College of William and Mary
Dr. Sperling, Professor of Bible, HUC-JIR/New York, served as Bronfman Visiting Professor of Judaic Studies at the College of William and Mary for the 2003-04 academic year and taught Bible to undergraduates. This was a return visit to William and Mary for Dr. Sperling, who had taught there previously and had enjoyed interaction with the Religion Department’s faculty and students. Although Dr. Sperling had taught at secular universities before coming to HUC-JIR (State University of New York, Stony Brook and Barnard College, and Visiting Professor at Syracuse University and New York University), he pointed out that “William and Mary is an elite public college in Virginia with relatively few Jewish students. Accordingly, one needs to be sensitive to diversity.”
This experience advanced his teaching. He “brought back an increased commitment to teaching Bible from a historical non-theological perspective” and noted “one has to understand the Bible on its own terms before attempting to reinterpret it or make it ‘relevant.’”
Dr. Ezra Spicehandler, Worldwide Visiting Professor
Dr. Spicehandler, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Literature, HUC-JIR/ Cincinnati and Former Dean, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, has taught around the world. He served as Visiting Professor at Victoria University [Wellington, New Zealand] (199698), University of Witwatersrand [Johannesburg, South Africa] (1989), Oriental Institute at Oxford University (1983-84), Logos Theological Seminary [Kyoto, Japan] (1980s), Hebrew University (1969-71), and the University of Teheran (1962-63).
Among his academic adventures abroad, Dr. Spicehandler had a memorable experience in Japan, where he lectured on Judaism for a month and a half at Logos Theological Seminary, the seminary of a small Protestant sect.
A very pro-Israel group, they believed that Zionism and support for Israel were the first steps in bringing about the coming of the Messiah. This unusual opportunity arose as a consequence of Dr. Spicehandler’s meeting one of the Seminary’s professors during the course of that professor’s studies in Israel at Hebrew University. Accepting his offer to teach at his Seminary in Kyoto, Dr. Spicehandler lived in a seminary dorm, Beit Shalom, where a photo of Moshe Dayan greeted him every day. The seminarians already used Hebrew in their prayer services when they sang hymns and Dr. Spicehandler moved them to tears when he spoke in Hebrew. They told him it was the “first time that they had heard the Lord’s language spoken.”
His other foreign visiting professoships included his stint in New Zealand, teaching a survey course on Jewish religious thought to students who were studying for the ministry and also lecturing on Jewish theology. In South Africa, he taught Medieval Spanish and Hebrew poetry from the Golden Age to students and the community. In England, he taught Midrash and Hebrew Literature to undergraduate and graduate students. At Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he taught Modern Hebrew Literature in the Special Program for Foreign Students, taught Israeli students through the Department of Literature, and conducted research. In Teheran as a Fulbright Scholar, he researched Persian history, collected Judeo-Persian materials (he contributed 100 of these objects to HUCJIR’s collections), and lectured on Persian history to students and the community.
[list in formation]
Dr. William Cutter, College of William and Mary
Dr. Cutter, Dr. Paul M. Steinberg Distinguished Professor in Human Relations and Counseling, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, will present a paper at an academic seminar, “Representing the Holocaust,” at the College of William and Mary in Spring 2006. His paper, “When the Holocaust is Not the Primary Theme,” will consider films and prose literature in which the Holocaust is “background” without being the primary subject and will explore ways in which the Holocaust has indirect impact on broader social and literary issues. His paper, as well as those of the other participants, will be published.
Dr. Reuven Firestone, Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) III Fellow, American University of Cairo, funded by the Fulbright Binational Committee in Egypt and the U.S. Department of Education
Dr. Firestone, Professor of Medieval Jewish Studies, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, received a CASA III research fellowship for the Spring 2006 semester. He will study the Qur’an and its interpretation (Tafsir) in Arabic with academics at the American University of Cairo as well as with traditional Muslim religious scholars, whose interpretations of the texts influence the spiritual and religious worldviews of hundreds of millions of people. “Conducting research in Egypt will be an exceptional opportunity, for I will not only learn something about the high cultural traditions represented by the texts and scholarship, but also the modes of religious thinking and behaviors of religious Muslims in Cairo.” In addition, he will study modern Arab political discourse on religion and religious minorities in the Middle East and Islamic religious texts and literature under the tutelage of Egyptian scholars. He hopes to bring back “a deeper experience and knowledge of Arabic language and culture, and Islamic religious thought” to HUC-JIR. This Fulbright-sponsored program comes on the tail of lectures in Russia and Macedonia as well as recent university lectures at Cornell University, Fairfield University, Harvard University, La Salle University, Pomona College, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Memphis, the University of Oregon, the University of Utah, and the University of Washington, on topics including “Holy War: Divine Authority and Mass Violence,” “Judaism, Christianity and Islam in Dialogue and Dissent,” “Martyrdom or Suicide? Islamic Tradition and the Case of the Modern Muslim ‘Bombers,’” and “The Problem of Chosenness in Religion.”
Dr. Leonard S. Kravitz, Oxford Round Table, St. Antony’s College
Dr. Kravitz, Professor of Midrash and Homiletics, HUC-JIR/New York, will participate in the Oxford Round Table at St. Antony’s College in August 2005, where he will speak on the relation of religion and government as they have impact on education.
Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, International and National Conferences
Dr. Eskenazi, Professor of Bible, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, will present a paper on Biblical Studies in Munster, Germany in 2005, as part of her ongoing participation in major international conferences in her specialized field of the Bible in the Postexilic Period, including in Heidelberg (2003) as well as at national and international conferences of the Society of Biblical Literature.
VICE PRESIDENT FOR COMMUNAL DEVELOPMENT AND ELEANOR SINSHEIMER DISTINGUISHED SERVICE PROFESSOR OF EDUCATION AND HUMAN RELATIONS
In reflecting on my 50 years of association with Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, I realize that my commitment to Jewish education began in my earliest years. I was born on the lower East Side – on 3rd Street, only a few blocks from our present-day New York campus – to a family that was traditional and which exposed me to all that we treasure in the Jewish heritage and, most importantly, to Jewish study and learning. At the age of six or seven, I studied Chumash and Yiddish with a rebbe two or three times a week. My parents felt that it was important for me to know Yiddish, so that I could write to my grandparents in Poland. These Yiddish language skills enabled me to correspond with my maternal grandparents until they perished in the Holocaust.
I went on to study at the Zitomer Talmud Torah Darchei Noam, which later changed its name to the East Side Hebrew Institute. The curriculum consisted of Hebrew grammar, history, Chumash, Jewish customs and traditions, and a good deal of Zionism, especially at the time of the riots in Palestine, from 1936-1939. In addition,
I joined an organization called “Shimshon,” founded and led by Mordechai Wucher, a disciple of Shomer Hadati (an Orthodox group), which stressed the importance of Jewish education, Jewish identity formation, and Zionism. We were encouraged to grow up and transmit the Jewish tradition and heritage, both religious and cultural. Later, I enrolled in the Herzliyah Hebrew Teachers Academy with its wonderful faculty: Daniel Persky of Hadoar, Kalman Whiteman, Solomon Ladiger, Moses Feinstein, and the great Hebraist, Abraham Aharoni.
While going to City College, where I studied education, sociology, and psychology with the giants in the field (personality expert Gardner Mercury, Rorschach expert Bruno Klopfer, and others), I led a Young Judea group. There was never any doubt that I would be involved in Jewish education, as well. In the mid1940s, however, Jewish studies were not available at City College; nor did they even teach Hebrew there. My drive for furthering my Jewish education propelled me to simultaneously enroll in the rabbinical program at the Jewish Institute of Religion (JIR), a rich storehouse of ideas and teachers, where a pluralistic, transdenominational, freespirited ethos – encompassing Orthodox to Reform, Zionist to anti-Zionist, traditional yeshivaeducated students to those consciously choosing liberal directions – fostered academic freedom for both the faculty and the students. At the same time, I enrolled in the Master’s Program at City College, where I was awarded a teaching fellowship and where I met Trudy Strudler. I received the Master’s Degree in Education with a specialization in psychology in 1948.
At JIR I was privileged to be the student of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, the great Zionist and social activist leader, Dr. John Tepfer, professor of history, Dr. Simon Halkin, professor of Hebrew literature, Dr. Guido Kisch, professor of medieval Jewish history, and Dr. Henry Slonimsky, professor of philosophy and the dominant influence on my life. Dr. Slonimsky’s belief in the Jewish people and its unique capacity to influence the lives of others as well as his free spirit modeled for me a direction in Jewish education that has inspired my professional aspirations until this day.
As a passionate Zionist I worked for Americans for Haganah, securing large quantities of small weapons, which overflowed my locker at JIR, where they were stored until they were shipped to the freedom fighters is Eretz Israel. During these years, I taught in religious schools in Mt. Vernon, had a student pulpit, and was a mentor with the New York City Youth Board, which was concerned with delinquent children. Learning, teaching, helping others – it was a rich life of immersion in Jewish education and values, directing me toward a career that would integrate Judaica and psychology. Rabbi Wise officiated at my wedding to Trudy in 1947. I was a member of the JIR’s last ordination class, in 1949, before the merger of JIR with Hebrew Union College in 1950.
The Guggenheimer Fellowship enabled me to realize my dream of going to Israel in May of 1949 – when the State was one year old – during an amazing time fraught with tzena (economic hardship and shortages) as well as all of the promise of building a Jewish State. I taught at Hebrew University’s School of Social Work and School of Education and gave Rorschach tests to new immigrants in the ma’aborot (temporary tent and crate housing), many of them Holocaust survivors, and recorded their trauma, fears, and anxieties. For a month, Trudy and I worked at Kibbutz Gesher Haziv, where I helped build pre-fabricated housing, planted watermelon seeds, and performed other tasks, while Trudy sewed buttons on clothing. We left Israel reluctantly, but with the recognition and hope that I could do more for Israel by returning to the United States and teaching, inspiring, and imbuing people with a commitment to Jewish life and the State of Israel.
Upon our return to the U.S., instead of taking a congregation I became the director of Hillel at the University of California, Berkeley, during 1950-52. There, at the age of 24, I created one of the largest Hillel Foundations of that era. We brought leading intellectuals – including scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, radiation lab director Glen Seaborg, sociologist Reinhard Bendix, and archaeologist William Foxwell Albright – to speak to the students, organized student services, celebrated with Israeli folk dancing, integrated the very large contingent of Israeli students studying at the agricultural program at the nearby University of California, Davis, and made Hillel a vital center for Jewish life on campus. By teaching these young people, I was laying the foundation for their Jewish identity.
Family responsibilities brought me back east, where I became the rabbi of Temple Israel of Northern Westchester, at a key moment during the 1950s when Jews were migrating from the old urban Jewish neighborhoods and creating new communities and congregations in the suburbs. I poured all of my energies into transforming the congregation into a community of learners through creativity and community building in every aspect of synagogue life, from empowering personal ritual and intensive parent involvement in their children’s education in the religious school, to Hebrew school for the parents themselves – all of these programs became the model for innovation in Jewish education. At the same time, Dr. Abraham Franzblau, dean of the School of Education at HUCJIR, asked me to return to my alma mater and become an instructor in Jewish education and human relations while still leading my congregation and consulting as an industrial psychologist for Richardson, Bellows, and Henry and BFS Psychological Associates, where I conducted psychological testing, interviewing, and executive appraisals. I also served as chaplain at the FDR-VA Hospital in Montrose, New York.
At the recommendation of Dr. Franzblau, Dr. Nelson Glueck, HUC-JIR President, appointed me to the position of Dean of the School of Education and Sacred Music in the mid-1950s. It was during this time that the cantor-educator program developed into a bachelor of music program. In addition, I created the program of instruction for HUC-JIR’s satellite schools in Lynbrook, Roslyn, Great Neck, White Plains, and New Jersey that offered certification in Jewish education, in which Dr. Eugene Borowitz, Dr. Leonard Kravitz, Dr. Michael Zeldin, and Dr. Isa Aron taught, and which trained hundreds of teachers and principals for primarily Reform congregational schools.
In 1960, I became the Dean of the Rabbinical School, School of Education, and School of Sacred Music and continued to build up the New York School’s faculty with the appointments of Dr. Eugene Borowitz, Dr. Leonard Kravitz, Dr. Lawrence Hoffman, Dr. Norman Cohen, Dr. S. David Sperling, Dr. Stanley Nash, and Dr. Martin Cohen. I had the privilege of renewing the old as I brought in the next generation of educators and scholars and strove to build an institution of higher learning. At the same time, I continued my work toward a doctorate in psychological services at Columbia University and received the Ed.D. in 1961.
During the years 1962-1973, I had the additional joy of spending a considerable amount of time building the Jerusalem School, under the leadership of President Nelson Glueck. I had the privilege of overseeing the completion of the construction of the campus’s two buildings – the Rau/Administration Building (incorporating the Murstein Synagogue) and the Feinstein Building – and organizing the dedications of the campus in February of 1963 for the Board of Governors and in July for alumni.
In short order I went to Washington, D.C., where I applied to the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which provided the seed money for our Summer Institute in Near Eastern Civilization in Israel, and which it continued to fund for the next 10 years. I also created a consortium of institutions to help fund the summer dig programs and send us students and faculty. We would have over 100 graduate students from seminaries and universities throughout the United States who participated in our two-month-long digs, many of whom became the leading lights of the field, including Eric and Carole Meyers, Lawrence Steger, Darrell Lance, William Dever, and Jodi Magness. We worked closely with Hebrew University’s faculty with these programs, as well. We trained over 2500 people in the basic elements of archaeology during those years.
I then suggested to Dr. Glueck that we needed a dig that we could call our own and he and Dr. Ernest Wright of Harvard University decided it would be Tel Gezer. We received over $1 million from the Smithsonian Institution to fund it, and my name appears as the principal investigator! During that decade and later, I was responsible for archaeological excavations at Gezer, Dan, and Aroer and for their documentation in major publications by the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology. The significant finds from these and other HUC-JIR excavations are featured in our Skirball Museum of Biblical Archaeology on our Jerusalem campus.
After the Six Day War in 1967, we decided that it was essential that all of our rabbinical students spend a year of study at our Jerusalem School in order to strengthen the ties between North American Reform Jewry and the State of Israel. As a lifelong Zionist, nothing could have pleased me more! We inaugurated the Year-In-Israel Program in 1971, and it has grown to include our cantorial and education students over the years, as well as an Israel Seminar for our Jewish communal service students. We were the first seminary to establish such a program, and saw other Jewish seminaries follow our lead and establish their own Israel programs. Working with Dr. Ezra Spicehandler, then the Dean and Director of the Jerusalem School, and his successor, Dr. Michael Klein, I helped select the faculty and develop the curriculum. This program has greatly enhanced our students’ understanding of Jewish identity, pluralism, Israeli history and culture, and the ongoing struggle for Jewish nationhood in a hostile region. We take pride in their becoming vital links to Israel as professional and spiritual leaders of congregations and institutions throughout the diaspora.
For decades, I have devoted my energies to raising funds for the expansion of the Jerusalem campus, both physically and academically. Our location on the edge of the no-man’s land of the Jordanian border changed with the unification of Jerusalem in 1967. It was a joy to participate in the development of the campus complex as we know it today, with the magnificent buildings and gardens designed by Moshe Safdie. Thanks to the generosity of our Governors, Overseers, and friends, we are blessed with a landmark campus, which has been featured at the Venice Biennale international architecture exhibition and attracts many visitors to its religious services, cultural programs, and research resources. Seeing that beautiful campus each time I visit Israel represents a profound personal fulfillment.
It was my privilege to meet with so many celebrated Israeli leaders during those years, including Professor Yigael Yadin, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, Finance Minister Pinchas Sapir, General Moshe Dayan, and Prime Minister Golda Meir. I am reminded of a favorite anecdote of those early years in Israel. Trudy, our son, Alan, and I had occasion to have dinner with Moshe Dayan. After dinner one evening in Jerusalem, our six-year old approached the General for his autograph. The very next day, we were in a restaurant in Tel Aviv and Dayan was at a nearby table. Our son again approached Dayan and asked for his autograph, to which Dayan replied, “I already gave it to you yesterday!” “But yesterday was Jerusalem and today is Tel Aviv!” Alan replied!
The establishment of our Israel Rabbinical Program in the mid1980s has immeasurably enhanced the Jerusalem School’s outreach. We can really take pride in our graduates as they serve the burgeoning Israeli Progressive Movement’s synagogues and schools, tangibly manifesting the College-Institute’s lasting contribution to religious pluralism in Israel for the generations to come.
My energies as Dean of the New York School continued to focus on the advancement of that campus. Under the leadership of President Alfred Gottschalk, I had the privilege of organizing the relocation of the campus from our building at West 68th Street, adjacent to the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, to a greatly expanded new facility in the heart of Greenwich Village, adjacent to New York University (NYU) in 1979. Working closely with Dr. Jules Backman, the Chair of our Board of Governors and a distinguished professor of economics at NYU, and Edwin A. Malloy, a member of our Board of Governors and Chair of the New York Building Committee, we engaged the architectural services of Harrison and Abramovitz.
The New York campus was named the Brookdale Center in appreciation of the Brookdale Foundation’s generous gifts of $2.5 million for scholarships and $1.5 for the building. We were blessed by the artistic talents of Yaacov Agam, who designed the magnificent Stained Glass Windows of the Twelve Tribes contributed by Janet and George Jaffin, the Ark contributed by Michael and Jeanny Roth, and the Eternal Light of the Minnie Petrie Synagogue, contributed by Hannah Hofheimer, in memory of her husband, Henry. The contemporary reading table, designed by Jeffrey Brosk, was contributed by Edith Randall. Each time I participate in services or public programs in that sacred space, I am reminded of the power of aesthetics to elevate the spirit and warm the soul.
A highlight of my activities as the Dean, serving the longest tenure in that capacity in the College-Institute’s history, has been my relationships with our Board members and generous donors. I have been gifted with their friendship over the decades, where a shared sense of mission and a love for the Jewish People have helped strengthen our programs in a myriad of ways. The Scheuer family, the Jaffins, the Millers, the Forchheimer family, the Rechler family, Edith Roberts, the Newman family, the Joseph family, the Heller Foundation and its trustees, Mark Harris, Ruth O. Freedlander, Carol L. Weidman, and Beatrice S. Weidman, Norman Gross and Edward S. Schlesinger, the trustee of the Croll Foundation, the trustees of the Gimprich Foundation (of which I serve as President), and so many others have become a part of my extended family. With their generous and inspiring support, we have been able to ensure that the College-Institute has the resources to fulfill its mission, in the form of the essential bricks and mortar to house our programs, scholarship support, academic programs and research resources, educational and cultural programs reaching out to the larger community, and special programs like the annual Dr. Bernard Heller Prize honoring humanitarians whose good works are founded on religious principles of ethical justice.
The Heller Prize and my work for the College-Institute have introduced me to so many leading personalities in the arts, letters, and diplomatic world: Richard Holbrooke, Dennis Ross, Daniel Libeskind, Thomas Friedman, and others. It has been a privilege to have a close personal friendship with Ambassador Uri Lubrani, the architect of the airlift of Ethiopian Jewry to Israel, and with General Meir Amit, head of the Mossad and mastermind of the Six Day War. A related activity with our Jerusalem Board of Governors meetings was travel to other countries, which I organized. During these memorable trips, we had occasion to meet with leaders of Egypt, Turkey, Spain, and Czechoslovakia, as well as with the American Ambassadors posted in those countries. Highlights were our meetings with King Juan Carlos of Spain and with Prime Minister Ciller of Turkey.
Since arriving at the CollegeInstitute in 1955, I have served as a faculty member, Chairman of Faculty, Dean of the New York School, Vice President, Special Assistant to the President, and Vice President for Communal Development. I have worked with Presidents Nelson Glueck, Alfred Gottschalk, Sheldon Zimmerman, and David Ellenson. I say with reverence, “Ashreinu, how fortunate is my lot.”
It was most gratifying in 1998 to be honored by the CollegeInstitute with a special academic convocation and the establishment of the Dr. Paul M. Steinberg and Trudy Steinberg Endowment Fund for the Teaching of Human Relations. Thanks to the generosity of Edward S. Schlesinger and the Croll Foundation last year, the Dr. Paul M. and Trudy Steinberg Distinguished Professorship in Human Relations and Counseling was inaugurated, with Dr. William Cutter appointed as the inaugural recipient.
All of my skills and aspirations coalesced when I devoted my life’s work to the College-Institute. HUC-JIR has given me models to learn from and the motivation to teach, to try to be an exemplar, to train, to contribute in some measure to the State of Israel, and to sustain the vitality and continuity of Jewish life, values, and heritage.
My aspiration has always been the survival of the Jewish people through transmission of the Jewish cultural and ethical tradition and guarding against assimilation. All of my endeavors have been directed at ensuring that young people, and their families, see the richness of our tradition, take pride in it, love it, and see beyond the destruction of the Holocaust to value Jewish creativity and the indomitable Jewish spirit. I have wanted to inspire them so that they, in turn, will be the inspired teachers of Judaism. Personal achievement has been less important to me than the opportunity to help others achieve their goals. I have wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. The pulpit has given me this opportunity as well. Several years ago, after twenty years of spiritual leadership, I accepted the title of Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Adas Israel, the oldest congregation on Long Island. I was also honored by Baltimore Hebrew University when it bestowed upon me the Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa.
My mission has been to sustain the viability of HUC-JIR’s programs and growth by ensuring scholarship support and the best academic and professional training possible for the growing number of future rabbis, cantors, educators, communal service professionals, and scholars needed by our burgeoning Jewish community in North America and Israel, the renascent communities in the Former Soviet Union, the struggling communities in Latin America, and Jews worldwide.
Human relations and counseling are increasingly important components in the roster of skills that Jewish professionals must have in order to serve their communities properly today. Through my teaching and the strengthening of our professional development programs, I have hoped to imbue our students with human relations skills so that they can work with people and motivate them. At a time when living Jewishly is voluntary, and a growing number of Jews are not synagogue affiliated, I have wanted to ensure that our graduates are the best advocates, as well as exemplars, for a vital Judaism.
Among the laity today, adult learners need to be encouraged to pursue lifelong Jewish education. A vital Kollel at HUC-JIR can reach out to young and older learners and, in the process, inspire some of them to enter into our professional and graduate programs, as firstand second-career students.
Our students need to become leaders in the area of working with the aged – with the growing segment of the aging Jewish community who are blessed with decades of longevity and vitality. The aging sectors of congregations are thirsting for educational opportunities that can enhance the meaning of their lives. Today, we cannot only train our students to work with youth groups – they need to know how to work with elder groups, as well. That is why Dorot’s mission of helping the elderly and bringing the generations together is of special interest to me.
The arts offer music to our souls. Contemporary Jewish art, literature, music, film, and theater have so much to offer in strengthening and transmitting Jewish identity. Our museum and cultural public programs, organized by Laura Kruger, add special dimensions to the lives of our students, faculty, and the larger community. If you do not have art, you are bereft of some resources of spirituality.
For many years, we hosted Sundays at the College, which presented Yiddish and Israeli films, cantorial concerts, and lectures by leading scholars and authors. These cultural and educational experiences, now under the auspices of the recently established Croll Center for Jewish Learning and Culture, are a vital enrichment of our academic curriculum as well as a significant means of outreach to those outside of HUCJIR who are searching for meaning in Judaism through a myriad of paths.
I treasure the great joy of teaching and touching the lives of our students, who are so precious to us. I feel blessed knowing that I have made a difference for some of them and have been able to nurture them. God has placed the whole world in their hearts – this has been central to my teaching. And I truly believe that as we place the world of others in our hearts, we have the passkey to their hearts. As Professor Slonimsky, my mentor and teacher, taught me: “Let no person suppose that the smallest act of goodness is wasted for society at large. All our help is needed. The fruit of every faithful service is gathered in.”
Of course, the light of our lives are our children, Lonnie, Alan, and Amy, and our grandchildren, Lindsay, Michael, Alex, Haley, Joshua, Arielle, and Natalie, in whose achievements we rejoice.
The recognition that each day is a gift from God goes a long way toward making us aware of the extraordinary privilege of being alive. I take this very seriously. This awareness serves to inspire us to enjoy, to live each day more intensely and more fully.
I have come to believe that too much of our living is really done in the past or in the future, while we all too often neglect the present. As has been noted so well, yesterday is a cancelled check and tomorrow is a promissory note. Only today is cash for us to spend.
My credo has been: A chance to build, a chance to grow, a chance to see, and a chance to know. In my years at the College-Institute, that is exactly what I’ve had the opportunity to do. And for that I am deeply grateful.
I love challenges. They make me feel alive and inspire my energies to achieve. I have been blessed that I have never run out of challenges at the College-Institute throughout these fifty years, and that more lie ahead. What has kept me going is not the road that I have traveled, as the poet Robert Frost tells us, but rather the road ahead. What has always motivated me is not any achievement but rather the challenge and an anticipation of the future.
Eleanor Roosevelt once noted, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, and that’s why it’s called the present.” Trudy, my life’s partner, has been an ever-constant guide, a rich source of inspiration, support, courage, encouragement, gentle prodding, and love. I thank God for her being such a treasure in my life.
Jean Bloch Rosensaft
Professor Sara S. Lee marked her 25th year as Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education (RHSOE) in a remarkable way: by receiving the President’s Award for Jewish Education in the Diaspora from Israel President Moshe Katsav, in recognition of her contributions to Jewish education and exemplary educational leadership. Lee’s academic expertise in curriculum, organizational and sociological phenomena, and education leadership as they relate to Jewish education has made a significant contribution to the flourishing of the RHSOE. Her leadership of the RHSOE, along with the work of her fellow faculty members, Dr. Isa Aron and Dr. Michael Zeldin, has established the school’s reputation in applied research in Jewish education and influenced the thinking about Jewish education in the Reform Movement and the Jewish community at large.
In an interview with The Chronicle, Lee shared her thoughts on this milestone occasion.
The daughter of an American-born mother and a Russian-born father and the elder sister to two brothers, Sara Lee grew up in Boston in a Jewish family affiliated with a Conservative synagogue, but not very engaged with Jewish life or Jewish practice. It was her public school education that had a most significant role in shaping her life. “The Boston public school system had a special school – Girls Latin School – for which admission was based on excellent elementary school grades. It provided an elite, classical, and highly challenging education to bright girls. If you didn’t make the grade, you were sent back to your regular junior or senior high schools. When my class started, there were 270 girls. When I graduated, there were only 90 left.” She studied Latin, German, and French, as well as the traditional subjects in rigorous studies that set the standards of excellence for education – standards that would influence her future professional goals in Jewish education.
Another formative experience was her involvement with Young Judaea, the Zionist Youth Movement of Hadassah, as a junior in high school. The group was led by Arnold Band, a doctoral student at Harvard who went on to become a leading scholar of Hebrew literature at UCLA. “We didn’t just come and meet. We studied Ahad Ha’Am, Herzl, and had lots of intellectual discussions within this very intelligent group of high school students. We became fervent Zionists.” Not only did Lee become a leader in the Young Judaea movement, she also met her future husband, David, there.
The valedictorian of her graduating class at Girls Latin, she was admitted to Radcliffe College. She encountered an entire school of valedictorians, “the brightest women you can imagine and very intimidating, I have to say.” At this women’s college, albeit with classes with Harvard, Lee had another formative experience. “Radcliffe really shaped me as a woman. The message from my education was ‘You‘re smart, you can do anything.’ This was not the normative way to think about women in the 1950s!”
She worked as a counselor at a Zionist Jewish summer camp, Camp Pembroke, outside of Boston during several summers – another important educational experience. There she met up with the most significant mentor and role model in her life: Hadassah Blocker, the camp director, who had gone to Radcliffe and Boston Hebrew Teacher’s College. “She was so educated Jewishly; I have this memory of her every Shabbat, all in white, getting up and chanting Torah in this unbelievable way.”
During the second semester of her sophomore year, she took advantage of a Young Judaea scholarship enabling her to spend a year in Israel at the Institute for Youth Leaders from Abroad sponsored by the Jewish Agency. “I asked Radcliffe for a leave of absence for a year, and they were so progressive. They said, ‘Yes, this sounds like a very important learning opportunity,’ but they would not give me credit for it.” In Israel, she met with young Jews and new immigrants from throughout the Diaspora, and shared memorable experiences during these early, harsh years of Jewish statehood. “Hitchhiking was virtually the only form of transportation around the country and we would travel with any car or truck that would pick us up.”
Lee recalls, “This was the real beginning of my serious Jewish education.” The program was based in Jerusalem, with six months of intense studies in Hebrew, history, and Zionism, followed by several months on a religious kibbutz, a Young Judaea kibbutz, and then a moshav. The purpose of the program was to educate youth leaders who would go back to the Diaspora.”
Upon her return, Hadassah Blocker assigned her to work with counselors in training at Camp Pembroke, and she eventually became the director of that program. “She had great expectations of all of us who were on staff, she pushed us, but at the same time, she nurtured us. She was an incredible role model for me as a woman who was a leader, accomplished, always striving for excellence, and pushing people to grow. At the end of the summer, she would have these one-onone feedback sessions with each of the staff. She was a major part of my growth and development – and a role model I have emulated throughout my career.” Years later, Blocker would train Lee’s grandson for his bar mitzvah, in a touching rounding up of the circle of life.
Lee was part of a transitional generation. After graduation from Radcliffe with a B.A. in Social Relations, when she thought she would go out and get a job to support her medical student husband, whom she had married at the end of her junior year, she was told to go to graduate school and that there were fellowships to help her. She supported her husband through medical school, working at the Hillel Foundation at Boston University. In the years after graduation they moved to Cleveland for his internship, Virginia and Arizona for his service in the Air Force, and eventually to California for his residency.
As soon as she and her family settled in California, two things happened: Lee immediately starting teaching in congregational schools and Hadassah found her. “The next thing I knew I was the regional youth activities chair. Over the course of the next seven years, I built the Young Judaea movement in the region, hired directors, created a regional camp, and drummed up the idea that there really ought to be a summer program for Young Judaeans in Israel while they are in high school, to prepare them for leadership – a program that did not yet exist in the movement at that point.” Her own children participated in all of these new programs and, years later, her high-risk obstetrician daughter said, “Mom, I’m telling you, everything good I learned in Young Judaea, everything that I know how to do!”
Just at the moment when she was being pushed into serving on the national board of Hadassah, David died, suddenly, of a massive heart attack. “That’s when I totally redirected my life. Aviva was sixteen, Joseph was fourteen, and Josh was seven, and I was in my 40s.” Years later, Lee takes pride in her children’s accomplishments. “Two of my children have followed their father’s path in medicine. Aviva is an obstetrician, serving as the Vice-Chair for Obstetrics at the Boston Medical Center, and Josh is an internist serving as a hospitalist and as Medical Director for the medical information technology system at University of California at San Diego. Joseph, who has followed his creative instincts, is a vice president at NBC, where he write and directs promotional programs for television shows and the Summer and Winter Olympics.”
After her traumatic loss in1974, HUC-JIR beckoned. Michael Menitoff, the rabbi of her synagogue at the time, was teaching at HUC-JIR in Dr. William Cutter’s newly established education program, which had begun in 1970. He suggested that she meet with Cutter, and despite people’s urging her to consider the School of Jewish Communal Service, she intuited that Jewish education was her true path. She applied to the Rhea Hirsch School of Education (RHSOE), and was able to place out of the Israel requirement based on her prior study there and her knowledge of Hebrew.
As an older student, the discipline of Girls Latin kicked in, and she more than held her own as a student in her classes with education and rabbinical students, including Michael Zeldin and Nancy Berman. Cutter invited her to become an intern at the RHSOE in her second year and, after graduation, created a full-time position for her – teaching a course, supervising students, and running the Tartak Learning Center. She received her M.A.J.E. from HUC-JIR in 1977 and the M.A.Ed. from the University of Southern California in 1979.
Cutter chose to step down as RHSOE director after his heart attack in 1979, and returned to being a professor of Hebrew Literature. “Despite the fact that I was not a rabbi at a time when the faculty members were virtually all rabbis, and that I was a woman, when there were no other women in senior academic positions, did not have a Ph.D., and refused to make the commitment to get a doctorate, President Gottschalk appointed me as director, upon the recommendation of the administration of HUCJIR in Los Angeles.”
Lee approached her new position with a strategic question: “I understand that I need to create a different kind of Jewish educator and a new generation of leaders, so what is my legacy going to be? And I decided that it was really important to make the RHSOE a highly visible program that was strongly connected with the Reform Movement. I restructured the course of study, together with Michael Zeldin and then Isa Aron, as they joined the faculty of the RHSOE. I have to say that the three of us, together as a team, built this school into what it is today.” Their partnership has yielded several books: A Congregation of Learners (with Aron and Seymour Rossel); Touching the Future: Mentoring and the Jewish Professional (with Zeldin); Communities of Learning: A Vision for the Future, and a myriad of important educational action-research projects.
The RHSOE applied to the Wexner Foundation, which was giving out institutional grants, in order to fully develop the clinical education program, internships, and clinical faculty. “We received a three-year grant and we spent those three years working closely with ten of our field supervisors, really studying, deliberating, and writing. One result was a book which Michael Zeldin and I edited on clinical education and mentoring.”
During the 1980s, she was invited to serve on the Mandel Commission on Jewish Education, convened by Morton Mandel, a major philanthropist of Jewish education from Cleveland. This Commission included all of the Jewish seminary presidents, leading scholars, and prominent lay leaders. “It was interesting for me at that point in my career to sit in a room with this incredible mix of people, to have a very deep conversation about Jewish education, where it was and were it ought to go. I learned a lot from being in dialogue with these people; I got to know a lot of people, and they got to know me.”
At the conclusion of the Commission’s work, Mr. Mandel challenged each of the major seminaries to create a master plan for Jewish education in its own institution. Based on the quality of the master plan, each institution could receive a $750,000 grant to implement the plan. The RHSOE team worked on this for six months, and the final product received the blessing of the leadership of HUC-JIR and the UAHC (now URJ). The RHSOE then received the grant from the Mandel Associated Foundations. In preparing this plan, “we recognized that it was not good enough to train our students to go out and work in day schools and congregations. As is true of all first rate schools of education, you need to be engaged with the very field into which you are placing your graduates.”
This thinking led to a ten-year master plan, with the RHSOE’s first action-research project – the ECE-Experiment in Congregational Education, geared toward transforming synagogues into self-renewing congregations of learners. In addition to the Mandel Associated Foundations’ grant, Rabbi Rachel Cowan (NY ‘89) and the Nathan Cummings Foundation were a great support to this project. “With this significant backing, we became big players in the field of Jewish education. People began to pay attention to who we were and what we were doing.”
The ECE research project initially was sparked by Lee’s reading of Samuel Heilman’s article prepared for the American Jewish Committee, which opined that the reason people say Jewish education is a failure is because it doesn’t change the Jewish community, because Jewish education reflects the community in which it is embedded. “I thought that while we probably cannot change the whole Jewish community, why couldn’t we help individual synagogues to transform themselves to be more serious places of Jewish learning?’ In that case, it would have impact on the learning of children.”
Lee became a consultant for an evaluation process at Temple Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, California that became the prototype for the ECE. Dr. Isa Aron became the first director and currently the project is directed by Dr. Robert Weinberg. The ECE, in its early years, worked with fourteen Reform congregations across the United States to help them change their culture and achieve their goals of becoming more vibrant and welcoming homes of Jewish learning and practice. Most recently, a $1,050,000 grant from UJA-Federation of New York has launched ECE-Re-Imagine, a 24-month project derived from the ECE project, to engage synagogues of all denominations in the New York area in a systematic process with the specific focus of reimagining their congregational schools. The project utilizes direct consultation, on-line learning, and printed materials to assist congregations in this effort.
The next focus of the RHSOE master plan was the potential of Jewish liberal day schools and the creation of a process that which would enable them to deepen their Jewish soul and clarify their core values. This led to Day Schools for the 21st Century, funded by the Mandel Associated Foundations and other small grants. Based on this first effort, the RHSOE created Jewish Day Schools for the 21st Century (JDS21), which was supported by a grant from the AVI CHAI Foundation. The goal was to enhance and expand the Jewish mission of these schools and deepen Jewish learning for students, teachers, and families of the day school.
The Righteous Persons Foundation gave the RHSOE a grant to support two-year postgraduate training of RHSOE graduates for leadership in Jewish day schools. Another significant program is DeLeT: Day School Leadership Through Training, geared toward recruiting, inducting, and retaining a new cadre of Jewish day school teachers. Directed by Dr. Michael Zeldin, the program is offered at HUC-JIR and Brandeis University and addresses the need for day school teachers who can be models and create learning experiences to integrate American and Jewish values and culture.
All of these projects have helped shape the teaching and courses back at the RHSOE. “We share with our students on an ongoing basis our progress with these projects, which are grounded in the notion of leadership for change. There is a high premium on that in our academic program – we are producing educational leaders for the different venues of Jewish education and for a changing understanding of what Jewish learning is. They need to be able to guide and manage change in the institutions where they will serve.”
Israel remains a key component of the RHSOE’s academic programs. The Year-InIsrael program for HUC-JIR students has been required for RHSOE students since 1973. “I’m exactly on the same page with Rabbi Ellenson. I honestly believe that if we are preparing educational leaders, we are preparing leaders for the Jewish People. Even though many of our students have had prior Israel experiences, this year in Israel is a critical year for them to encounter, integrate, and develop a personal and professional ideology about the Jewish People. This is a major issue, since Jewish peoplehood and the place of the State of Israel in contemporary Jewish self-understanding is greatly diminished for American Jews.”
For twelve years, Lee and Dr. Gary P. Zola designed and conducted a colloquium for HUC-JIR’s Year-In-Israel students in Jerusalem. This program continues to this day and engages students in a four-day program focusing on Jewish identity, Reform Judaism, Zionism, and leadership. She has also lent her expertise to the planning of seminars in Israel for the National Association of Temple Educators (NATE), bringing the Reform Movement’s educators to the Jewish State for meaningful intellectual, spiritual, and professional development.
Lee and the RHSOE faculty have a very direct impact on the overall CollegeInstitute. At the Los Angeles campus, they have created an ongoing teaching seminar for faculty to help them improve their teaching skills and serve as mentors for new members of the faculty through observation, meeting, reflection, and critique. Lee chaired the HUC-JIR faculty retreat in 2002, attended by all faculty from the four campuses, which focused on greater integration of HUC-JIR’s academic programs through the new core rabbinical curriculum.
Based on involvement with the Wexner rabbinical residencies program, she has helped shape the core curriculum of clinical education for rabbinical students. She is also heartened by the growing number of rabbinical students who are pursuing the Jewish education degree. “Some will enter educational positions, but even if they don’t, they will be rabbis with the knowledge, skill, and understanding to be visionary about what their congregation should want, educationally.”
As part of her outreach within the CollegeInstitute and the Reform Movement, Lee serves on the Editorial and Advisory Committee for the Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA), together with leading historians, and chairs the AJA’s educational advisory committee to help extend its national prominence in the education world. She also serves as the Vice-Chair from HUC-JIR to the URJ Commission on Lifelong Jewish Learning.
Lee has had the opportunity to influence leaders in other denominations of Judaism and the Jewish community at large. Her participation in the Mandel Commission led to her inclusion on the Council of Jewish Federations Continuity Commission. This Federation connection led to her team-teaching a summer training course for Federation professionals with Steve Hoffman of the United Jewish Communities and Cleveland Federation and Jonathan Woocher of JESNA. “Jewish educators are rarely invited to do that kind of teaching because they are not perceived as having a broad perspective on the American Jewish community. Somehow, through my work on these two Commissions, I was perceived as a person whose understanding of the sociology of the Jewish community was broad and pervasive and as a person who could make a contribution to the professional development of these communal professionals.” This stint led to other teaching opportunities at the Jewish Community Centers’ Leadership Institute and elsewhere.
As a member of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Committee for the past fifteen years, Lee has had the opportunity to encounters young Jews from every ideological orientation who are preparing to be rabbis, educators, cantors, communal professionals, and academics in Jewish studies. Not only has she had a role in selecting the Wexner Graduate Fellows, but she has had the opportunity to teach them at institutes. She believes that by so doing she is contributing to a deeper understanding of Reform Judaism by these fellows, and she has a window into the complex world of denominational Judaism that enriches her teaching at HUC-JIR.
Her interfaith work has offered memorable collaborations and experiences, primarily with Dr. Mary C. Boys of Union Theological Seminary in New York; Lee has co-edited a special issue of Religious Education on “Religious Traditions in Conversation” with Boys. She also traveled with her to Hong Kong to consult on furthering religious pluralism at the Hong Kong International School, with 2500 students from a myriad of ethnic and faith traditions. “They were struggling with being both a Christian school, founded by a fundamentalist Lutheran denomination, and a pluralistic school. For a Catholic and a Jew to consult on this issue was a daunting challenge!” Lee and Boys have also served as co-directors of the Catholic-Jewish Colloquium, an experiment in interreligious learning supported by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, which also funded their study of “Particularism and Pluralism in Religious Education.” Lee has served as chair of the Editorial Committee of the Religious Education Association and is a past president of the Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education. Lee and Boys are currently writing a book on their work for Skylight Path Publishers.
Observing the field of Jewish education, Lee muses on the change of terminology, from ‘principal’ and ‘director’ to ‘head’ of the day school. “That signifies an understanding of the breadth of the role. It’s not just ‘running the school’ – hiring teachers and making sure the curriculum is okay. It’s about fund raising, marketing, public relations in the community, recruitment, and retention. It’s about visioning for the school and recruiting and supporting excellent lay leadership for the school.”
The same applies to the educational directors in congregations. “It’s about being an educational leader who is going to be engaged with adult learning, early childhood programs, and family education. But the reality is that one person can’t do it all. That’s an issue that we are trying to get congregations to pay attention to – the need for someone to be in charge of lifelong Jewish learning, with others working with that person to actually direct the components of congregation-wide education. There are few congregations that are visionary enough to understand that model and many others who do not have the resources to implement such a model. The implications for staffing visionary congregational education are tremendous.” Acknowledging that there are not enough educators with the sophisticated graduate training provided by the RHSOE and the New York School of Education, Lee feels an intense responsibility to enhance the qualifications for the many congregational educators currently in the field who do not have degrees or professional training in Jewish education. The need to provide additional knowledge and skills to these congregational educators is under discussion between HUC-JIR and the URJ. The stakes are great because “unless we have people in congregational education at that level of Jewish educational and organizational knowledge, we’re never going to be able to respond to those congregations aspiring to reimagine education and create a community of learners.”
The challenge, overall, is how to create the conditions that would bring more talented people into Jewish education and promote the idea that rigorous study and preparation is necessary to produce well-qualified Jewish educators. “Too many people, including lay leaders and the youth in our own Movement, see Jewish educators as underpaid, undervalued, and not requiring serious Jewish study. While such perceptions are not supported by reality, they demean the profession and impact on the numbers of people entering the field, or sustaining careers in the field. The resulting shortage presents a threat to Jewish continuity.” Lee asserts “Jewish education is fundamental to ensuring the Jewish future. In order to have Jews who are committed to Judaism in a substantial way, to have Jews who go from a biological identification as a Jew to a chosen identity as a Jew, they need Jewish learning. You can’t get from one kind of identification to the other without knowing something about the tradition and history and without having Jewish experiences.”
And why are Jewish education and Jewish educators so important? “We are trying to take people who are born Jews and help them become committed Jews. And we have to think of all of the ways in which we can connect them to Jewish learning and tradition, from family education to adult learning and beyond. Who creates those experiences and learning structures? For the most part Jewish educators do it and, in the best of circumstances, work in close collaboration with their clergy colleagues and the lay people of their institutions.”
The challenges are daunting, since Jews for the most part no longer live in traditional Jewish environments. “The pervasive Jewish structure of my childhood neighborhood does not exist in the contemporary environment. So we need communities and structures to replace that natural or organic Jewish environment and extended family. Jews tend to have their Jewish experiences in the synagogue, in day schools, and in Jewish camps. We have to bring them into such Jewish communities, where they can see Jewish life lived, and they can experience it. We hope that we can empower them to take Judaism home with them. So the role of Jewish education and Jewish educators in creating those communities and those learning experiences, and empowering people to make their homes and lives more Jewish, is critically important. We need Jewish educators who can construct compelling Jewish communities, Jewish environments, and Jewish experiences.”
Lee describes the education field as an area of greater growth and diversity than years ago. “It’s not a field just of religious school principals and day school heads and teachers, but JCC educators, communal programming educators, family educators, and adult educators. There are so many jobs out there.” HUC-JIR’s education alumni are able to enjoy increasingly challenging and diverse careers, as they move from one venue to another, using their finely honed and transferable leadership skills and knowledge. Implicit in all of this, of course, is the notion of lifelong continuing education for educators in the field.
Back in her office, surrounded with photos of all of her graduating classes, Lee maintains a close, mentoring relationship with her alumni – continuing to ask probing questions, analyzing situations, and suggesting solutions. Looking to the future, Lee’s energies are centered on several objectives: developing new programmatic initiatives for the RHSOE, working with the URJ on enhancing the qualification of educators, and strengthening the RHSOE alumni association and alumni continuing education. Her dream is to develop HUC-JIR’s Rhea Hirsch School of Education into a major research center for Jewish education, bringing together the best minds and practitioners to explore the most profound issues and questions.
Lee’s accomplishments to date have been recognized. She received the Samuel Rothberg Prize in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University in 1977 and the Doctor of Hebrew Letters, honoris causa, from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1999. When the RHSOE Alumni Association honored her 25th anniversary on December 25, 2004, 120 alumni and colleagues attended – “an accolade more meaningful than any other I’ve received,” she said. Upon bestowing her with the President’s Prize for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, presented jointly by the President of the State of Israel and the Jewish Agency, Israel President Moshe Katsav congratulated her “for her many years of activity in dialogue and studies in the field of religious education.” On February 22, 2005, the day of her President’s Award, the College-Institute’s tribute announcement said: “We honor Sara Lee’s twenty-five years of achievement as the teacher and mentor of generations of education, rabbinical, and communal service students, and for advancing the field of Jewish education through ground-breaking research projects that have transformed congregational schools, strengthened day schools, and inspired Jewish learners of all ages.”
Excerpts of the lecture presented on October 22, 2003 at HUC-JIR/New York
What is our claim to the Holy Land based on? Let me give you the Talmudic version. The first hallowing of the land was not permanent; it was the second hallowing of the land that made it a permanent possession of the people. The first Temple was not a permanent possession, and I suspect that the rabbis of the Talmud were able to say that because they accepted the legitimacy of the rule of the Persians who then permitted them to return to rebuild the Temple.
Then the rabbis of the Talmud arrived and said that the second Temple belongs to us permanently. We never recognized the transfer of sovereignty through conquest by the Romans in the year 70, and then again most of a century later when they quelled the Bar Kokhba Rebellion in the 130s. Therefore, we maintain that Jews never surrendered their sovereignty in the land of Israel. To this day, this is taken to be a legal precedent.
For certain legal purposes, like the transfer of moveable property, each one of us who is Jewish owns four ells of the land of Israel. Each Jew has an inalienable entitlement to the land of Israel; and so we do not recognize international law with regard to the right of conquest. This is ours by self-declaration, because we believe it to be a given.
But guess who else believes it is a given? The Muslims, who believe that any piece of land to which Islam was ever extended remains inalienably Muslim. Therefore, serious Muslims believe that their claim to the possession of Palestine – to which Islam was extended in the 7th century – cannot be compromised. And so you have a war of religion...
What compromises can you make between religious absolutes? Or religious absolutism? Religious absolutes lead to eternal war. Religious absolutes cannot be waived, not when they meet cross-table or in combat. And therefore, let us face the fact that whenever we have had peace in the Holy Land, we have had it when the religious absolutes were checked at the door and pragmatic people made a deal...
If we move away from a war of religion, there is some hope; we can then move the question to a solution not by messianic dreamers or enthusiasts, but by pragmatic people. Because the truth of the matter is that the fanatics on both sides, on our side and on their side, don’t want peace!
The game is about suicide bombings by the Palestinians, because they want to make the Holy Land too hot for Jews to live in and they want to chase us out. And our game is to make the West Bank unlivable so that the Palestinians start marching out. And the truth is that neither policy will work.
Imagine that we actually succeed and the West Bank is all ours. At that point, three options are present for Israel and the Jewish world. One option is one-man-onevote bi-nationalization, which has now become the favorite idea of the left, or the post-Zionist left, which would like to do away with the State of Israel.
Remember: the Arab birth rate is larger than the Jewish birth rate with the exception of B’nai Brak and Mea Sha’arim. With the oneman-one-vote state, Zionism can expect to hear its death knell.
Cantons are the other option that the Israeli right uses. They mean that the Arab population in the West Bank can run their own domestic affairs, but only after about half their land and water supply are appropriated.
Do you think that Israel can survive in Jewish opinion and in the world’s respect if it is disenfranchising the majority of its people in the undivided land of Israel?
Finally, there is the third solution – and that is transfer. Do you know what transfer means? Do you know who last used it? The minutes of the Wannsee Conference of January 1942 never said expulsion, nor did they say murder; they arranged to transfer the Jews of Europe to the east.
Transfer is nothing more than a sanitized word for uprooting civilian populations, which, although it does not mean the worst things that happened to Jews, still besmirches the record of compassion that the Jewish people carries with it from the days of Sinai.
The undivided land of Israel means the destruction of the Zionist adventure, and therefore, the battle for the salvation of Israel is the battle that I have joined in my book, The Fate of Zionism.
The notion that the Israelis and the Palestinians are going to make peace across a table has always been a favorite formula of many Israelis who do not want peace. They know that it is not going to happen through dialogue.
In 1940 and 1950 the armistice agreements between Israel and the Arab states were imposed on both parties by Ralph Bunche on behalf of the U.N. with the Americans standing right behind him. In 1973 who made peace between Israel and the Palestinians? Did they make it cross-table or did the Americans broker it and pay for it?
The point of the matter is that a serious analysis of the history of the PalestinianIsrael conflict will show us that without strong third-party intervention there can be no peace. If Israel is to remain a Zionist state, if the Palestinians are to be saved from their warlike and murderous propensities, peace is going to have to be imposed by the Americans.
Therefore, I set no store whatsoever in the notion that the Israelis and Palestinians are going to settle this between them. If they could, they would have done so a long time ago.
I think an awareness is beginning to filter around that will force the Israelis and the Palestinians to do what is good for them: the Palestinians to give up murder; the Israelis to give up what they cannot digest. And once that happens, I think the atmosphere will change.
I think that each side is stalling because each hopes that the other side will blink first. And I think the only way out of this impasse is to create a situation in which they are both moved to peace by the opinion of the moral and political leader of this day: the United States of America.
To obtain a copy of Dr. Hertzberg's lecture, please contact the National Office of Public Affairs, 212-824-2205.
The Dr. Fritz Bamberger Memorial Lecture honors the memory of the noted German-Jewish scholar and specialist in Jewish intellectual history, who served HUC-JIR as a member of the Board of Governors and, from 1962 on, as Assistant to the President and Professor of Intellectual History at HUC-JIR in New York. Established in loving memory by Fritz Bamberger’s children, Phylis and Michael Bamberger, a former Vice Chair of the New York Board of Overseers, and Gabrielle Bamberger, the Inaugural Bamberger Memorial Lecture was presented by Dr. Arthur Hertzberg, Bronfman Visiting Professor of Humanities at New York University. To mark the occasion, Hebrew Union College Press published Dr. Bamberger’s Spinoza and Anti-Spinoza Literature, the Printed Literature of Spinozism 1665-1832, and reprinted his Books are the Best Things, An Anthology from Old Hebrew Writings.
Born in 1902 in Frankfurt-am-Main, Dr. Fritz Bamberger received his doctorate from the University of Berlin. From 1926 to 1933 he was a member of the Forschungsinstitut of the Akademie fur die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin, working on books about Maimonides and Gabirol and serving as one of the editors of the “Akademie edition” of Moses Mendelssohn’s Collected Works. From 1933 to 1934 he taught philosophy at the Hochschule die Wissenschaft des Jundentums in Berlin, of which he was a graduate.
After Hitler’s rise in Germany, Dr. Bamberger organized at great personal risk a system of schools from kindergarten to college for Jewish students expelled by the Nazis from public schools. In 1934 he was appointed Director of the Bureau of Education for Jews in Berlin and President of the Jewish Teachers College, which was established to train general teachers for the new Jewish schools. In these capacities, he was responsible for the establishment of new types of Jewish schools and for many educational innovations designed to meet the needs of young Jews during the Nazi years.
In January 1939 he came to the United States where, until 1942, he taught at the College of Jewish Studies and the University of Chicago. In 1942 Dr. Bamberger joined Esquire, Inc., the American publishing house, where he served as Executive Director of Esquire and Coronet magazines. After twenty years in the publishing field, he resigned in 1962 to become Assistant to the President and Professor of Intellectual History at HUC-JIR in New York.
A contributor to scholarly journals and general periodicals, his publications included The Origin of the Problem of Values in the Philosophy of the 19th Century (1924), Moses Mendelssohn (1929), The System of Maimonides (1935), The Ninth School Year (1937), Zunz’s Conception of History (1941), Leo Baeck – The Man and the Idea (1958), Julius Guttmann – Philosopher of Judaism (1961). He was the editor of The Teachings of Judaism (3 volumes; 1928-30), Moses Mendelssohn’s Collected Writings (7 volumes, 1929-32; new edition 1970-74), Mendelssohn Autographs (1929), The Book Zunz (1932), Herder’s Jewish Fables (1936), and Books are the Best Things (1962).
HUC-JIR awarded Dr. Bamberger the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in 1982 for his courage, moral integrity, and scholarly attainments. Dr. Bamberger’s encyclopedic collection of works by and about Spinoza are a treasured resource of the Abramov Library at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem.
Ruth Friedman and Jean Bloch Rosensaft
Groundbreaking research on school violence by Dr. Ron Avi Astor (MAJCS/MSW, ‘85) has helped transform Israeli educational policy and influenced educational policies throughout the world. The only comprehensive study of Jewish and Arab children and school violence and the largest study on school violence in the world, his findings and recommendations can be found in his recently published book, School Violence in Context: Culture, Neighborhood, Family, School and Gender (with Professor Rami Benbenishty of Hebrew University, Oxford University Press, 2005).
School Violence in Context shares the findings of their studies on school violence and how family, community, and culture affect this violence. Astor and Benbenishty analyze the results of their studies in Israel and California and offer solutions for combating school violence in Israel and worldwide. In interviews with The Chronicle, Dr. Astor, Professor in the Schools of Social Work and Education at the University of Southern California, reflected on his Jewish communal service studies at HUCJIR and their influence on his career path, highlighted his recent landmark research, and shared his hopes for expanding the relationship between HUC-JIR and USC.
As a double master’s graduate student at HUC-JIR’s School of Jewish Communal Service in the mid-1980s, Ron Astor focused on the treatment of children and families in organizational and clinical settings and, as part of the Social Work Program at USC, studied children and family. He credits his studies at HUC-JIR for having taught him about the organizational, historical, and cultural aspects of Jewish issues. For example, he learned how issues of victimization and violence have a distinct cultural perspective in both the Jewish community in Israel and the United States. The historical roots of Jewish thought about violence and Jewish experiences with victimization influence how violence might be interpreted. His learning at HUC-JIR serves as a foundational basis for the research that has animated his professional career.
“Dr. David Ellenson, my advisor and professor in numerous courses, influenced my decision to pursue a Ph.D.,” recalls Astor. “He encouraged me to pursue my studies and to look further at the social and empirical questions I had about violence and society. During my year in Israel as a Fulbright Scholar, we frequently talked about ways violence has been discussed throughout Jewish history and in modern times.” Furthermore, at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Michael Signer’s text classes also highlighted the critical roles of conflict, violence, and moral perspectives surrounding interpersonal issues of violence. Professor Gerald Bubis’s many classes encouraged him to think about the Jewish community on an institutional, organizational, and global level. Dr. Abe Zygielbaum’s course on the Holocaust made a profound influence on Astor’s thinking on the role of bystanders in violence. Dr. Bruce Phillips’s classes stressed the importance of forming policy through demographic study of modern Jewish populations. Astor’s placements at Jewish Family Service and Vista Del Mar focused exclusively on issues of family, school, and interpersonal violence. Finally, “the close emotional and intellectual relationships I developed with many of my peers during those years remain among the most important influences from my HUC-JIR days. I met my wife, Sheva Locke (MAJE/ MAJCS, ‘85), who is my closest intellectual and spiritual partner, and Rabbi Ellenson married us. Many of our close friends are people we learned with at HUC-JIR.”
Astor received his Ph.D. in 1991 from the University of California, Berkeley, where he focused on human development and school psychology. Astor joined the faculty of USC after teaching at the University of Michigan for nine years. At USC, he teaches courses to social work students, doctoral students, education students, and others on globalization of education, cultural and religious influences on different forms of violence throughout the world, and school violence. Much of what he teaches is based on his work in Israel.
His current research began when he was a Senior Fulbright Scholar studying school violence at Hebrew University in 19971998. During that year, the Israeli media was reporting cases of school violence and national politicians became interested in the topic. Astor was invited to testify about school violence to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) Subcommittee on Education. He suggested to the Subcommittee that Israel’s school safety policy be based on accurate data rather than on media reports or public views. This led to the Ministry of Education’s call for very large-scale studies on issues of school violence.
The Ministry of Education’s movement to tackle the problem systematically and swiftly was a source of inspiration for Astor and his colleagues. Even with the intense geopolitical situation, involving terrorism, recession, regional wars, and internal religious and ethnic tensions, the Israeli government saw the safety of schools as a national priority and it made radical changes to its educational policies and training. “The national studies we’ve conducted are the basis for most of Israel’s educational policy around school safety. The studies had a quite large contemporary impact almost immediately, which is rare in the kind of work that we do,” notes Astor.
Even with the intense geopolitical situation, involving terrorism, recession, regional wars, and internal religious and ethnic tensions, the Israeli government saw the safety of schools as a national priority and it made radical changes to its educational policies and training.
While he has conducted many of his studies in the U.S., his largest studies have taken place in Israel. School Violence in Context is based on three of his large Israel studies. To date, there have been four separate largescale studies that have looked at between 16,000 and 30,000 students. With funding from the Israeli Ministry of Education, he, Professor Benbenishty, and other colleagues have surveyed Jewish and Arab students, teachers, and principals on topics such as violence by students and staff, weapon possession in schools, risky behaviors in schools, and school climate and feelings of safety.
Although Astor and others had studied youth violence in the U.S., most had not analyzed Jewish groups. “Very little or no research had been done up until this point on Jewish kids, which was very interesting to me,” he notes. “I had conversations with David Ellenson over the years about why there has been so much written about Jews as victims, but not as victims within our own relationships, families, schools, or communities.”
Astor believes that his newly published book is the only representative study of Jewish children anywhere regarding school safety or youth violence. Like the historical debate within Judaism, he believes his research normalizes Jewish children’s life experiences because “we, like every other people, have issues of school violence and interpersonal issues and family violence.” Conversely, he believes that this research on Jewish and Arab children is “a light” for other cultures to replicate. “The research and study we do in Israel is the most advanced and largest school violence study done anywhere,” Astor explains. “We’re really leading the international community in showing that our research in Israel on Jewish kids and Arab kids in the Middle East is establishing a model for how countries might look at the problem.”
His research, conducted with Professor Benbenishty, has studied Arab as well as Jewish children in Israel, including ultraOrthodox Jews, Orthodox Jews, secular Jews, Bedouins, and Druze. Their studies also have looked at teacher/student violence in Israel, which they have found to be high. According to Astor, Israel is one of the few countries in the world collecting national data on teacher/child violence.
Overall, the study found that “when all forms of victimization: verbal-social, threats, and physical violence are rank-ordered, patterns are extremely similar across gender, ethnicity/culture, age, and within and between the U.S. and Israel,” which supports their belief in common global victimization patterns that exist within schools. They found that the social climate within schools – school policy, teachers’ relationships with students, and peer group support – more than community or family, influences the violence. Nevertheless, their research also supports the fact that in every country and community there are some schools that account for large amounts of victimization and there are some schools that have very low levels of violence. An exploration of these types of schools could help countries develop more effective antiviolence strategies.
Astor and Benbenishty recommend a “whole school” approach to school violence, where the school community, including school leaders, students, and parents, addresses the problems of violence and creates solutions to solve them. Everyone in the school community is held responsible to make the school a better and safer environment.
One study in Herzelia, Israel, provided schools there with a system by which they could compare themselves to other schools within the school district and nationally on issues of violence. This way, the school could tailor its responses to particular situations after reviewing how other schools handled similar problems. Schools could track their problems over time and see if their “grassroots” approaches or adopted programs actually reduced violence. It also enabled democratic discussion since students, teachers, principals, parents, and community members could all see the local victimization rates and work together to solve the problem. They found the program to be very successful with “significant reductions in interpersonal violence as a result of allowing each school to develop its own kind of method,” which is then followed up with monitoring and collecting data on a regular basis. The Israeli Government Accounting Office recommended this kind of process as a model school violence program. They would like to bring this program to the U.S. and expand it more systematically in Israel.
Another study conducted by Astor and Benbenishty in Israel, funded by the William T. Grant Foundation, looked at nine “atypical” schools that have high levels of community or political violence surrounding the schools, but where the schools have created a safe place for their students. The study looks at how “different school practices in different cultures are protecting children from some of these outside influences, such as crime, family violence, and political violence. We spent three years in these schools and have learned from the principals in these safe haven schools. The strategies and patterns in Muslim, Christian Arab, Orthodox, Secular, and Mixed Ethnic group schools appear to be very similar even though each culture uses its own history and culture to create safe havens.” This qualitative case study will be the basis of their second book exploring how these islands of safety were created and maintained.
Astor and Benbenishty recommend a whole school approach to school violence, where the school community, including school leaders, students,and parents, addresses the problems of violence and creates solutions to solve them. Everyone in the school community is held responsible to make the school a better and safer environment.
In the U.S., Astor has looked at the impact of schools’ and neighborhoods’ physical conditions on violence. This has led to having students and teachers map out dangerous locations around their schools and create interventions to prevent violence in these places. The article based on this study was honored as the article of the year (in 2000) by the American Educational Research Association. Since then, the mapping procedure has been used in countries across the globe and in the U.S.
Due to the large size of his studies, Astor feels “very confident in our data to show which groups are being victimized most and what teachers and principals could do to stem the violence in certain schools and areas.” Consequently, the Israeli Ministry of Education and Blue Ribbon Knesset Subcommittee on School Safety have adopted the majority of the suggestions from their studies for teacher education codes and for education programs that train teachers and principals, such as mandatory school safety plans and teacher in-service training on issues of school violence. School psychologists and counselors in Israel have also participated in this effort to create a school level process around the national and local data. These combined efforts contributed to a reduction in school violence since the first two studies. Based on their third study of 24,000 students in Israel, they found approximately a 25 percent reduction in school violence that they believe is partially resulting from the awareness and intense media coverage that their studies generated on the issue.
Astor emphasizes the universality of their findings, noting that “We have very strong empirical data showing that what happens in Israel is similar to what’s happening in the rest of the world in terms of schools, and that their interventions and way of seeing it and our understanding of how community and culture interacts with interpersonal violence have a lot of lessons to be taught.”
Based on their work in Israel and the U.S., they have come up with suggestions on how teachers should be trained and how policy should be set on local, district, and national levels in the U.S. Their findings were cited on the U.S. Senate Floor and entered into the Congressional Record. Astor has used methods they developed as a result of their work in Israel in the U.S. and hopes to continue to expand the impact of their findings.
We have very strong empirical data showing that what happens in Israel is similar to what s happening in the rest of the world in terms of schools, and that their interventions and way of seeing it and our understanding of how community and culture interacts with interpersonal violence have a lot of lessons to be taught.
Strengthening HUC-JIR and USC Relations
HUC-JIR’s links with USC include the double master’s program in Jewish Communal Service and Social Work, Public Administration, Business Administration, or Communications Management as well as the Louchheim School of Judaic Studies, offering Jewish studies courses to more than 600 USC undergraduates each year. These partnered programs are offered within the context of the Los Angeles School’s rabbinical, communal service, and education programs. Astor stated that USC’s School of Social Work wants to build on these programs and, particularly, to strengthen the counseling skills training for rabbinical students. In many ways, clergy function as social workers and he feels that additional social work training would benefit them for lifecycle events. Conversely, having clergy in courses with social workers will help integrate cultural and religious perspectives with sociology and psychology paradigms. He hopes faculty will work to strengthen the connection between HUC-JIR and USC in pastoral counseling, family mediation, and family violence work.
Jacqueline Mondros, Vice Dean of USC’s School of Social Work, is working with HUC-JIR to offer more possibilities for connections between the schools. As USC’s School of Social Work revises it curriculum, it plans to open up classes so that rabbinical students, cantorial students, lay people, Jewish communal professionals, as well as other clergy can attend. Emphasizing the importance of rabbis receiving more social work training, Astor says, “I think we could both learn from each other. Combining education for clergy and social workers moves the whole realm of social work and clinical intervention, not just to communal and Federation work, but to more interpersonal relations and the role of spirituality or religion.” HUC-JIR has already moved in this direction but further collaborations would benefit both USC and HUC-JIR. This training could also enable rabbis to use the tools of the social sciences to collect analytical data so that they better understand and care for the needs of their congregations or regions. Astor suggests that HUC-JIR and USC give students more electives with the hope of offering more joint programs, which could award certificates in areas such as family violence, school interventions, and spirituality.
He believes that USC is open to further collaboration with HUC-JIR and other institutions. “In general there’s tremendous support for the joint collaboration with HUC-JIR as well as with the Jewish community at large. I haven’t felt this strong support for working with Israel and Jewish issues at a research university setting in a long time. There’s a very positive feeling towards working with the Jewish community and Jewish institutions.” USC’s recruitment of Jewish students and faculty, the creation of The Center for Religion and Civic Culture and The Casden Institute for the Study of Jews in American Life, as well as joint programs with HUCJIR, such as one with Dr. Reuven Firestone on religious text and its implications for violence in society, help foster this collegiality.
Reflecting on his work, Astor is grateful for the “tremendous support from academic colleagues and students” for his work in Israel, reinforced by the Los Angeles Jewish community’s support for Israel. He believes it is important for Jewish institutions and organizations “to bring in a different vision of what’s happening in Israel than what we see in the media. There are so many positive and wonderful things going on there. People are actually working hard to solve society’s problems at the social, interpersonal, and political levels in Israel. The quality of research on social issues is excellent both at USC and with Israeli academic institutions, including HUC-JIR.” He plans to become more involved with the Jewish Federation
in Los Angeles to help form joint partnership programs with schools in Israel and schools in Los Angeles. His wife, Sheva Locke, is Head of School at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino. She has already started a joint school/family partnership with the Bloch School in Tel Aviv. These kinds of collaborations have political, social, educational, but also strong personal implications. An exchange of people, ideas, and programs can create the links needed for a meaningful Jewish identity in modern times.
Emphasizing the importance of rabbis receiving more social work training, Astor says, I think we could both learn from each other. Combining education for clergy and social workers moves the whole realm of social work and clinical intervention, not just to communal and Federation work, but to more interpersonal relations and the role of spirituality or religion.
Astor sees his current work as a culmination of bringing his research on community violence and school violence to the Jewish communities in the U.S. and Israel. “Since I realized I could actually study my own people in the context of the world community, I get a lot of personal, professional, and spiritual naches out of this work.”
Of the 572 School of Jewish Communal Service alumni who are providing visionary leadership for the North American Jewish community in a broad range of agencies and organizations, several are highlighted here to demonstrate the distinguished contributions these hundreds of communal professionals are making every day. In reflecting on their HUC-JIR studies and careers, they stressed the invaluable, ongoing mentorship of Gerald Bubis, founding director of the SJCS, and Steven Windmueller, SJCS Director.
Howard Charish (Certificate ‘70)
Executive Vice President, UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey
Specializing in community mobilization, fund development, and professional development, Charish has served UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey for three years and previously worked in Philadelphia at Metrowest. His Federation has direct impact on many of the approximately 100,000 Jews in Northern New Jersey through its programs and grants. Charish cites receiving his “honorary doctorate from HUC-JIR, mentoring colleagues, directing an absorption project in Israel, and leading the national UJA system in mobilizing for the needs of Argentinian Jewry” as the professional achievements of which he is most proud.
Jonathan Cohen (MAJCS/MSW ‘91)
Director, URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp, Utica, Mississippi
Cohen has served as Director of Jacobs Camp for over five years, but has been associated with the camp for over twentyseven years, back to the time when he attended as a camper. Specializing in youth work, he has served for over fourteen years as part of the Youth Division of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) in varied roles, including Director of Junior and Senior High School Programs and NFTY. Previously, he worked as the Assistant Director of the URJ Greene Family Camp in Bruceville, Texas and as Regional Advisor to NFTY’s TexasOklahoma Region.
The SJCS helped him understand how the Jewish community worked: “I understood the history and background that made organizations act the way they did. I grasped the difference between ‘lay’ and ‘professional,’ and how those relationships should be developed for maximum success.”
“As the first SJCS graduate to hold a professional position at the URJ (in 1991), I am proud to have played a role in demonstrating to the URJ leadership the value of Jewish Communal Service professionals and the great resource that the SJCS Program could be for them.” One of three HUC-JIR alumni in Mississippi, he mentors many campers with the hope of encouraging them toward Jewish professional careers and study at HUC-JIR.
Terry Cohen Hendin (Certificate ‘74)
Director of Student Services, NFTY in Israel
Since making aliyah to Israel, Hendin has served the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) for over fourteen years, in addition to her previous positions in Israel at MATNAS, the Israel Association of Community Centers, Hebrew University, the World Union for Progressive Judaism, and Project OTZMA. Sheispartofa team creating educational opportunities for teens and young adults on Israel programs, in which she concentrates on facilitating meaningful contact with Israelis through home hospitality experiences, teen interactions, visits to Israeli Reform congregations, and community service opportunities. She cites her “role in ensuring the continuity of quality ‘NFTY in Israel’ programs at a time when so many had been reluctant to visit Israel or to enroll their children in Israelbased programs, while maintaining the highest level of security possible” as one of the professional accomplishments of which she is most proud.
Her NFTY work is based at the HUC-JIR/ Jerusalem School. She organizes opportunities for North American Reform high school students participating in Israel programs, particularly the NFTY Eisendrath International Exchange (EIE) semester in Israel, to meet with Rabbi Ellenson and the factulty of the College-Institute as well as to celebrate Shabbat and holidays with HUCJIR students. “These opportunities are invaluable in strengthening the ties between the College-Institute and its most significant target group of future students.” Hendin praises HUC-JIR’s “spirit of tolerance and pluralism. The SJCS instilled in its students a sense of Jewish communal responsibility so that they gained the ability to see ‘the greater agenda of the Jewish people’ as opposed to our own personal agenda or that of the agencies we serve, which is something I believe distinguishes those fortunate enough to have studied at the SJCS.” Hendin also facilitates networking opportunities for SJCS alumni and students in Israel.
Rick Meyer (MAJSC/MSW ‘79)
Executive Vice President, Milwaukee Jewish Federation
Specializing in executive leadership, management, and fundraising, Meyer has served at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation for over twenty years and previously worked at the Minneapolis Federation for Jewish Service. The Milwaukee Jewish Federation funds twelve local constituent agencies, six direct service departments, two overseas beneficiary agencies, and its Partnership 2000 Israel community. Beneficiaries include Aurora Sinai Medical Center, Children’s Lubavitch Living and Learning Center, Hillel Academy, Jewish Home and Care Center, Yeshiva Elementary School, Jewish Chaplaincy Program, Jewish Historical Society, Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Agency for Israel, and the Joint Distribution Committee, among others.
Meyer chose Federation work because it offered him “the broadest opportunity to work in a communal setting.” HUC-JIR provided him with “a strong base of understanding about how the field operates, organizational expectations, lay/professional relations, the skill sets to research areas in which I would be directly practicing, which gave me some comfort to know I could succeed in a full-time professional setting.” He remains connected to HUC-JIR by helping with alumni activities and recruitment efforts.
Among the professional achievements of which he is most proud, he points to providing a variety of programs “contributing to the growth and well-being of the Jewish communities I’ve been fortunate to live and work in,” and receiving the Council of Jewish Federations (now United Jewish Communities) “Campaign Director of the Year” award for outstanding professional achievement.
Joy Sisisky (MAJCS/MPA ‘00)
Assistant Director, National Women’s Philanthropy, United Jewish Communities
Sisisky manages the Lion of Judah Endowment (LOJE) program, where 2425 women have endowed gifts representing over $350 million to their local Federations in perpetuity. Having served at UJC for almost two years, Sisisky has also worked on programming for the 2004 International Lion of Judah Conference, which 1400 women attended and raised over $18 million for Federations. Seeing the growth of women’s foundations as a way to involve Jewish women in philanthropy, she also works to develop National Women’s Philanthropy as a resource for Jewish women’s foundations around the country. She researches and writes about trends in women’s philanthropy and helps to develop advocacy opportunities for UJC leaders. Before coming to UJC, she worked at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Israel Policy Forum (IPF).
HUC-JIR helped prepare her for her professional career by presenting her with varied career options and the opportunity to meet with alumni in the field. Classes on management, budgeting, and fund raising, and, most importantly, student internships, proved to be invaluable. Her HUC-JIR internship at AIPAC led to a full-time position there. “It was an incredible opportunity, thanks to HUC-JIR, and an extraordinary jump-start at the beginning of my career.”
While she worked at AIPAC in southern California and Arizona, she managed local fund raising, grassroots community organizing, and advocacy development. She notes that she is proud of this work because she had the opportunity to work with her grandfather who was serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. “I always felt it was a privilege and rare opportunity to work with him on behalf of the issues we cared about as a family. Today I am proud to work on another Jewish agenda that empowers women as decision makers, philanthropists, and leaders in the Jewish community.”
Lee Wunsch (Certificate ‘76)
Chief Executive Officer, Jewish Federation of Greater Houston
Wunsch has served the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston for eighteen years, seven of which have been as CEO, and his areas of expertise include fund raising and community planning. Previously, he served the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization in Seattle, Washington, and Houston, and worked for three years in the private sector.
He praises the professional preparation that HUC-JIR offered him, noting that it “increased my level of maturity; exposed me to issues, ideas, and teachers that I otherwise would not have come into contact with; and broadened my perspective and vision of Jewish community life.” Wunsch attends HUC-JIR alumni events at the United Jewish Communities’ General Assembly, keeps current with HUC-JIR news through alumni newsletters and listservs, and felt honored to receive the Doctor of Jewish Communal Service degree, honoris causa, on the 25th anniversary of his graduation.
Aaron D. Panken, University Press of America, 2005
In Dr. Aaron Panken’s new book, The Rhetoric of Innovation, he explores the profound tension that exists between the opposing tendencies of preservation and innovation in rabbinic legal literature. The rabbis made tremendous attempts to safeguard traditions handed down to them from prior generations in the face of significant new challenges. At the same time, these creative religious thinkers boldly invented new practices (or altered old ones) to fit shifting circumstances, designing and utilizing a rich rhetorical vocabulary to allow such necessary innovation.
Through critical examination of more than 1,000 occurences of terms depicting legal innovation, this study maps the contours of legal change reported during the rabbinic period. The Rhetoric of Innovation examines temporal clusters of statements and actions attributed to authority figures in the Tannaitic and Amoraic periods, also reviewing the geographic distribution of these words and their divergent usages in documents edited in Roman Palestine and Babylonia. It also provides significant insight into rabbinic philosophies of legal change, through exploring the various rationales deemed acceptable within the rabbinic corpus. In this respect, the book carries a relevant message for modern Jewish life in its consideration of the history of appropriate boundaries and reasons for legal change–questions that recur frequently in Jewish discourse today.
In this excerpt, Panken discusses a text from the Palestinian Talmud that deals with the everpoignant question of changing the qualifications required for a Jewish leader – an issue that is as relevant now at HUC-JIR as it was 1500 years ago when this text was written.
The Developing Meaning of Talmid Hakham
(A Disciple of the Wise)
The status of talmid hakham (literally “disciple of the wise” or “wise disciple”)(1) represented a liminal stage in the development of an individual as a Jewish religious leader. The talmid hakham was the quintessential apprentice, involved in the daily chore of learning his craft and imbued with some authority, but not yet complete in his own development. Many scholars have discussed the meaning of this ubiquitous term.(2)
In the Palestinian Talmud, Moed Katan 83b, 3:7 we find a fascinating discussion of the definition of a talmid hakham that reflects significant changes in the meaning of this term over time:
Who is a talmid hakham? Hezekiah said: anyone who has studied halakhot [the body of practically applicable Jewish law created by the rabbis] and more Torah.(3) Rabbi Yossi said to him: that which you said is at first, but now, [one who has studied] even halakhot. Rabbi Abbahu [said] in the name of Rabbi Yohanan: anyone who cancels his business for the sake of his study. It was taught: anyone of whom they ask [questions of law] and he answers.(4) [Rabbi] Hoshaya said: like us, since our rabbis supervise us and we answer to them. Rabbi [Ab]ba bar Memel said: anyone who knows how to explain his Mishnah.(5) And [with] us, even our rabbis are not wise enough to [fully] explain the Mishnah.(6)
The passage begins by quoting an initial statement from Hezekiah,(7) an Amoraic immigrant to Babylonia from Palestine who lived in Tiberias in the early third century. Hezekiah understood the study of halakhot and “more Torah” to be the sine qua non of discipleship, representing the minimum acceptable level of achievement for this premium status to take hold.
Next, we see Hezekiah’s statement overturned, classed as out of date by a statement attributed to Rabbi Yossi, a later emigrant in the opposite direction–from Babylonia to Palestine. Rabbi Yossi, also known as Assi or Issi, was a student of Rabbi Yohanan bar Nappaha in Tiberias, who lived in the midto late third century, two generations after Hezekiah. This is the first of three opinions from students of Rabbi Yohanan that we find cited here. Rabbi Yossi’s statement dropped the minimum acceptable standard for a talmid hakham to a lower level when he defined the requirements as: “now even one who has studied halakhot.” Removed from Rabbi Yossi’s requirements is the crucial clause “and more Torah.”
The third view presented in this pericope is attributed to the Palestinian Amora Rabbi Abbahu (d. 309 CE), citing Rabbi Yohanan (ca. 200-279 CE),(8) representing the least stringent of the views presented so far. Rabbinic legend described Rabbi Yohanan as the preeminent leader of Jewish life in Tiberias during the mid-third century. Rabbi Abbahu was his student and a contemporary of Rabbi Yossi (the prior opinion), situated in Caesarea in the late third to early fourth century CE. To qualify for discipleship in R. Yohanan’s Weltanschauung, one needed only to prioritize the study of Torah over one’s business obligations. Here, there was no requisite modicum of knowledge at all, simply a show of commitment to study at some personal expense.
A baraita forms the next piece of our passage, bringing with it the idea that anyone who participates in dialogic inquiry about Jewish law qualified as a talmid hakham. This earlier stratum is inserted to offer a new way to look at the question: being a talmid hakham does not imply meeting certain objective standards of Jewish practical and textual knowledge, nor is it required that one downplay the focus upon one’s livelihood. Instead, one must have enough ready knowledge to be able to engage in the ongoing shaping of Jewish law through asking and answering questions. In other words, if one asked this talmid hakham about any of a number of issues drawn from the broad range of halakhah, he had to be ready with an answer. This implies a commitment to the understanding and transmission of appropriate law given the questions being asked at the specific time and place of the disciple’s life. Thus, in the baraita, the minimum requirement is a steady engagement with the ongoing legal debates of one’s day and having ready halakhic answers based on an appropriate level of background knowledge.
One other important implication may be derived from this baraita. A distinct element of communal acceptance may also be hidden in its words: community members will only turn to an individual to answer their questions if that individual is considered worthy of providing them with counsel. Thus, this baraita also suggests that the community of learners/questioners has a role in defining a person’s status as a talmid hakham: after all, if no one asks these questions of a scholar, then the initial clause of the definition can never be satisfied.
Hoshaya,(9) an unordained shoemaker and the third student of Rabbi Yohanan in Tiberias encountered in this text,(10) applied this baraita to his contemporary situation, indicating that he and his colleagues, who ask and answer questions but are still supervised by their elders, qualified as talmidei hakhamim under this definition. Here, the text hints at a delicate communal tension: a talmid hakham was neither master nor ordinary person – instead he was a master-in-training. As such, he was able to provide answers to certain halakhic questions, but was still firmly under supervision. Such oversight safeguarded the interests of both the community and the disciple, ensuring that no serious mistake in interpretation or ruling harmed either.
Another implication of this passage is that the talmid hakham was responsible for his actions: he answered, literally, to his masters. They had the right to question his determinations and to demand a response. Such oversight was not inherent in any of the prior definitions of talmid hakham and may have been most visible to one who held the status of talmid hakham himself, such as Hoshaya. Here, the true flavor of the apprenticeship was visible.
Rabbi Ba bar Memel, a Palestinian Amora from the same period as Hoshaya known as Abba Bar Memel in BT,(11) concludes this pericope with a statement that rebuts Hoshaya and tells the final truth of this passage all at once: to qualify as a talmid hakham no objective level of knowledge can be expected in any absolute terms. Even the greatest of his contemporaries, who constantly supervise disciples, did not achieve total comprehension of what they study.
It is clear, then, that this text reports that the standards for becoming a talmid hakham underwent a significant shift over time. Hezekiah’s initial definition formed the basis for a useful further discussion. That discussion, if it was indeed historical, most likely took place in Tiberias, as all the voices belong to students of the prominent Tiberian master Rabbi Yohanan. Regardless of whether this is the record of an actual conversation, or a literary construct that a later editor pasted together from transmitted statements, the result is the same: when the redactor finalized this passage, he included a variety of different opinions on the nature of a talmid hakham that spanned several generations and clearly evinced a forthright awareness of significant change in its definition over time. While the opinions from Tiberian authorities may well be cotemporaneous, the opinion contained in the baraita is clearly portrayed as originating in an earlier period. Rabbi Yossi’s claim in this pericope is that an older opinion no longer held currency because conditions that related to authority and leadership had changed.
The Rhetoric of Innovation is available through the HUC-JIR College Bookstore (513) 221-4651
Internet orders are discounted by 15% at www.universitypress.com/orderinfo/index.shtml
Fall 2004 Spring 2005
Rabbi Yehoyada Amir, Ph.D., André Neher and Jewish Thought in Post-Holocaust France (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz haMe’uchad and the Van Leer Institute). Neher was one of the leading Jewish philosophers in post-Holocaust France. Together with Emmanuel Levinas he conducted gatherings of French-Jewish intellectuals, mostly of very little attachment to their Jewish heritage, providing them with access to a modern, faithful, and humanistic approach to Judaism.
Dr. Gerald Bubis and Dr. Steven Windmueller, From Predictibity to Chaos?? How Jewish Leaders Reinvented Their National Communal System (Center for Jewish Community Studies). A study of the merger leading to the creation of the United Jewish Communities, featuring interviews with volunteer and professional leaders at the national level who were engaged in the merger discussions between the Council of Jewish Federations, United Jewish Appeal and United Israel Appeal, each with essentially different roles in the Jewish community, which together functioned as fund raising, planning, and leadership bodies and monitored how American dollars were spent in Israel by non-governmental agencies.
Dr. Edward Goldman and Dr. Richard S. Sarason, eds., Hebrew Union College Annual, Vol. 74. This volume of 9 scholarly articles that focus on all areas of Judaic, biblical, and semitic studies includes Stephen M. Passamaneck’s article, The Jewish Mandate of Martyrdom Logic and Illogic in the Halakhah.
Dr. Jerome Lund, The Old Syriac Gospel of the Distinct Evangelists, A Key-Word-In-Context Concordance (Gorgias Press). A key-word-in-context concordance of the Old Syriac Gospel of the Distinct Evangelists (Evangelion da-Mepharreshe), preserved in two manuscripts, namely Codex Curetonianus (Brit. Lib. Add. 14451) and Codex Sinaiticus (Sin. Syr. 30), and the earliest translation of the Greek Gospel text to a Semitic language.
Rabbi Aaron Panken, The Rhetoric of Innovation, Self Conscious Legal Change in Rabbinic Literature (University Press of America, Inc). An examination of more than 1,000 occurrences of terms depicting legal innovation, this study maps the contours of legal change reported during the rabbinic period. The book examines temporal statements and clusters of statements and actions attributed to authority figures in the Tannaitic and Amoric periods, also reviewing the geographic distribution of these words and their divergent usages in documents edited in Roman Palestine and Babylonia. (see page 28)
Marc Saperstein, Exile in Amsterdam, Saul Levi Morteira’s Sermons to a Congregation of “New Jews” (HUC Press). Saperstein provides a comprehensive analysis of the historical significance of texts and presents eight previously untranslated sermons of Saul Levi Morteira in their entirety, with full annotation.
Books may be purchased at theHUC-JIR College Bookstore – (513) 221-4651, by contacting the publisher directly, or by visiting our Faculty, Administration, HUC Press, and HUC Annual web pages at www.huc.edu
Sophie Gumenick, philanthropist, patron of the arts, and beloved mother of Jerome Gumenick, former member of the Board of Governors, who together with her husband, Nathan, z”l, ensured the continuity of Jewish leadership through the Nathan and Sophie Gumenick Scholarship Fund for worthy rabbinical students, established by her loving family.
Dr. Alvin J. Reines, (C’52) distinguished member of our faculty for 45 years and internationally renowned scholar in the fields of Jewish medieval philosophy, particularly the work of Maimonides, and contemporary Jewish thought, who developed the concept of polydoxy (a religion that is not based on infallible revelation), which laid the foundation for innovations in Reform Jewish life, including the ordination of women and the definition of Jewish status on the basis of patrilineal descent.
Bette Gillman-Rosenbaum, dedicated member of the Cincinnati Board of Overseers, Chair of the its Jewish Early Learning Cooperative Committee, and Overseer representative to the Professional Consultation Committee overseeing the Clinical Pastoral Education Program, whose devotion to Jewish education endures as an inspiration.
Charles Rutenberg, esteemed honorary member of the Board of Governors, whose commitment to the College-Institute’s mission strengthened the development of HUC-JIR’s presence in Florida.
Jean Tabach-Bank, cherished friend of the College-Institute and beloved wife of Brad Tabach-Bank, devoted member of the Los Angeles Board of Overseers.
Mary Tobias, beloved wife of Charles H. Tobias, Jr., honorary member of the Board of Governors, who was an intrinsic and esteemed part of the Cincinnati community.