The Chronicle is published by the National Office of Public Affairs.
Editor: Jean Bloch Rosensaft
Associate Editor: Rachel Litcofsky
Assistant Editor: Leah Kaplan
Contributors: Ruth Friedman, Jessica Gross, Francine Lis, Cathy Weinberger
Design: Tabak Design (www.tabakdesign.com)
Photos: Arnie Bellush, Jeff Finkelstein, Richard Lobell, Marvin Steindler
...the world is often a painful place, and the acknowledgement of this reality is an inescapable component of life. At the same time, such awareness must not obviate the faith that decency and righteousness will ultimately emerge and that sparks of hope and compassion capable of illuminating our existence are always present even during moments of sharpest anguish and dejection.
I write these words on September 11, 2006. Five years ago on this date, I was in New York City attending a meeting of the Reform Leadership Council at HUC-JIR when an unprecedented act of terror was unleashed on American soil and the Twin Towers collapsed. Today, I am sitting on the porch of the presidential apartment on the campus of HUC-JIR in Jerusalem gazing upon the hauntingly beautiful walls of the Old City, and all – for the moment – seems calm.
Beneath that calm resides an awareness that the world has changed dramatically during these past five years, and the expectations and faith that marked our world prior to September 11, 2001 have been eroded in so many ways by seemingly endless and irresolvable conflicts and acts of cruelty and murder. The devastating effects of war upon hundreds of thousands of Israelis, Lebanese, and Palestinians this past summer are all too apparent, and the attempts of terrorist networks to kill innocent travelers as well as the specter of a nuclear Iran cast a pallor upon our world. Unkindness and brutishness all too often abound, and a sense of pessimism and despair about the human condition are seemingly inescapable.
As a rabbi, I am grateful – amidst all these musings – for our Massoret. The teachings and traditions of the people Israel instruct me to face the present and anticipate the future in a balanced way. At the same time that I experience the pain of the present, I am told to retain a confidence in the future. A rabbinic commentary on Exodus 3:5 captures this needed equilibrium quite movingly. In this famous passage, where Moses approaches the burning bush to receive the word of God, God says to him, “Cast off your shoes from your feet.”
Hazal, our rabbinic Sages, in a midrash on this verse, state that God told Moses to walk barefoot on the earth precisely so that the rockstrewn soil would cut into his feet. The throbbing that ensued, they stated, would cause him to identify with the ache of others. The midrash suggests the recognition that the world is often a painful place, and the acknowledgement of this reality is an inescapable component of life. At the same time, such awareness must not obviate the faith that decency and righteousness will ultimately emerge and that sparks of hope and compassion capable of illuminating our existence are always present even during moments of sharpest anguish and dejection.
The first article in this issue of The Chronicle, “The View from Jerusalem,” by our first-year rabbinical student Jessica Gross, describing the experiences of our students in Israel this summer, reflects the nuances and textures of this teaching. Jessica movingly captures the feelings that informed our students this summer, and her descriptions of the deeds that our students performed during this time of crisis as well as the pictures and column that complement her essay further help to capture the complexity and richness of the situation that engulfed our entering students during the first months of their tenure at the College-Institute.
The second essay, by Dr. Reuven Firestone, Professor of Medieval Jewish Studies at our Los Angeles campus, chronicles and reflects upon the events and dialogues that Reuven and his wife Rabbi Ruth Sohn, and their sons Noam and Amir, encountered and celebrated during his sabbatical as a Fulbright Visiting Professor in Cairo this past spring. Reuven is a world-recognized authority on Islam, and a prolific author. His work encompasses comparative Jewish and Islamic interpretations of the Bible and Koran, and Oxford University Press published his recent book on Jihad. He is in constant demand in both academic and lay settings for the perspectives his wisdom and knowledge provide on current religious and world affairs. In the course of his essay, Rabbi Firestone observes, “My experience has demonstrated to me that Huntington’s theory of a ‘clash of civilizations’ describes a certain level of reality, but I do not agree that such a fault line must lead to insoluble conflict and war.”
Jessica Gross and Reuven Firestone instruct me and tell me that I must not view the present from a Pollyannaish perspective. The soil of our world is strewn with rocks and violence. However, a revelation of coexistence and mutual respect is not beyond our reach – no matter how impossible it currently seems. This is the lesson of the midrash surrounding Moses. This is the teaching embodied in the experiences of Jessica and Reuven and in the work of so many others at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion that is described in this edition of The Chronicle. The dawn of a New Year and the central teaching of the Days of Awe remind us that God alone cannot achieve reconciliation among peoples. The Divine requires that each of us aid in the work of healing a rock-strewn world.
May all of you know a world of health and sweetness in 5767. Tizku l’shanim rabot!
Rabbi David Ellenson
October 2006 Tishri 5767
Jessica Gross, First-Year Rabbinical Student,
Year-In-Israel Program, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem
I packed up my life in the United States to begin my rabbinical studies and arrived in Israel on June 28, 2006. My new home is a breezy apartment in Jerusalem, situated in the middle of the holiest city in monotheistic theology. Thrown into unfamiliarity, the items I carried across the Atlantic are strategically placed around my apartment, reminding me of home and making this new journey seem slightly familiar.
During my first two weeks, I learned about my neighborhood and my new community, teetering between homesickness and adrenaline for the newness of each moment. Daily, I would wake up with a new sense of purpose as I met new people, both natives and other visitors trying to call Jerusalem home.
We gathered to begin our HUC-JIR orientation the same day that war with Hezbollah broke out. I remember Rabbi Naamah Kelman saying that the purpose of this orientation was more to disorient us: we are living in a foreign country and beginning our studies. Hebrew is our new language. A new culture and new faces are our daily life.
One of the goals of the Year-InIsrael Program is to understand life here from an Israeli perspective. From the first days of the war, the administration was very effective in helping us look at ha’matzav (the situation). We received many updates on what was going on and what we might expect. We were reminded that Jerusalem has existed as a safe haven in the midst of conflicts on multiple fronts throughout Israel’s existence.
In discussions with classmates, it has become clear that each of us has spent time preparing for some uncertainty during our year in Israel in different ways. Some of us have anticipated suicide bombers; others have understood that a year in Israel would inevitably bring unexpected moments. After all, life here is
I in Israel on June 28, 2006. My new home is a breezy apartment in Jerusalem, situated in the middle of the holiest city in monotheistic theology. Thrown into unfamiliarity, the items I carried across the Atlantic are strategically placed around my apartment, reminding me of home and making this new journey seem slightly familiar.
During my first two weeks, I learned about my neighborhood and my new community, teetering between homesickness and adrenaline for the newness of each moment. Daily, I would wake up with a new sense of purpose as I met new people, both natives and other visitors trying to call Jerusalem home.
We gathered to begin our HUC-JIR orientation the same day that war with Hezbollah broke out. I remember Rabbi Naamah Kelman saying that the purpose of this orientation was more to dis-orient us: we are living in a foreign country and beginning our studies. Hebrew is our new language. A new culture and new faces are our daily life.
One of the goals of the Year-InIsrael Program is to understand life here from an Israeli perspective. From the first days of the war, the administration was very effective in helping us look at ha’matzav (the situation). We received many updates on what was going on and what we might expect. We were reminded that Jerusalem has existed as a safe haven in the midst of conflicts on multiple fronts throughout Israel’s existence.
In discussions with classmates, it has become clear that each of a bit beyond the suburban American bubbles familiar to most of us.
There we take peace and security for granted. Here lies just one of many differences between Israeli and American life.
Fifty-seven of us are here. We traverse a spectrum of comfort and anxiety. We have questions. We wonder about the year ahead. We try to put into perspective the additional demands on our purpose as we have lived through war during our initial weeks of study.
Three weeks after orientation and the first fall of rockets, we understood how unrest in Israel affects everyone. Boyfriends and husbands were being called to the Army reserves and students in the Israeli Rabbinical Program were also being summoned to military service in the North. Students from other North American rabbinical programs had left Haifa and joined our ulpan (intensive Hebrew language course) here in Jerusalem. Confidence that this situation would be resolved quickly had waned. We were learning how to stay aware and knowledgeable. In Jerusalem, we were learning how not to become complacent as rockets flew not a hundred miles from here.
As the war continued, we donated blood, organized groups to play with children of displaced families, and put together care packages to send to soldiers. We tried to find our own adjustment to Israel and remember why we came here amid moments that challenged even those who are conditioned to Israeli life.
Friends and family were in touch constantly with emails and phone calls. I spent my time writing about my experience for those people who could only rely on local media. I felt that it was important to remind them that there is more beyond the camera and that day-to-day life goes on in Jerusalem.
Challenging times are when people shine. During those four weeks, we saw an Israel that we might otherwise have missed. Upon completion of our YearIn-Israel Program, we will return as ambassadors to North America, where we will become the leaders of Jewish communities. I am blessed to have been here during this time and I know that my ability to speak to and about Israel and her people in the future will be defined by this experience. I do not wish war upon anyone and I pray every day for peace tomorrow. This experience, which unfolded so soon after my arrival, has allowed me to understand the challenges and beauty of life here in ways I could not have imagined.
The fifty-seven cantorial, rabbinical, and Jewish education Year-In-Israel students, who began their studies in mid-July just as the Hezbollah conflict began, organized a number of activities to assist those who have been affected by the war in the North of the country. A student-initiated blood drive was held in the moadon (student center) as a spontaneous response to the Magen David Adom call for blood so desperately needed in the North. A group of students visited a local Jerusalem hotel where Ethiopian families from the North were evacuated for some rest and relief. There they spent time with the children, entertaining them and leading them in recreational activities, giving their parents a much-needed break. They prepared care packages for soldiers and a fundraising campaign for food and supplies for residents of the North.
The HUC-JIR Israeli staff, faculty, and student body were caught up in the situation in very intense ways. Students and staff provided rabbinical support for communities on the frontline and some were called up for Reserve Duty. Terry Hendin (SJCS ‘74), who formerly had served as the Administrator of the Israel NFTY programs, based on the HUC-JIR/Jerusalem campus, and a mentor and surrogate family to Year-In-Israel students, was called back to service when the war started. She reorganized the NFTY summer programs throughout Israel, asked rabbinical alumni and members of Jerusalem congregations to open their homes to the teenagers for study, dinners, and enlisted the teens’ help to pack gift cartons for children in the Northern shelters and for soldiers.
Ninety members of the faculty convened for the fourth HUC-JIR Faculty Retreat, which took place June 11-13 at the Hickory Ridge Conference Center in Lisle, Illinois. This gathering, which was made possible by a generous grant from Burton Lehman, Chair of the Board of Governors, fostered substantive faculty dialogue on issues of critical importance to the College-Institute.
Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Associate Dean and Director of the Rabbinical Program, HUC-JIR/New York, and Retreat Planning Chair, was assisted by a planning committee —
Dr. Sarah Bunin Benor, Assistant Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles;
Dr. Dalia Marx, Lecturer in Liturgy and Midrash, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem; Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, Professor of Cantorial Arts, HUC-JIR/New York; and Cantor Yvon Shor, Director of Liturgical Arts and Music, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati.
They organized a program that encompassed strategic planning, preparation for accreditation, group meetings for academic teaching areas, presentations on student assessment, discussion of the YearIn-Israel Program and the coordination of Hebrew language study throughout the curriculum and across the campuses, pedagogy workshops, worship experiences, and informal moments of kinship.
Rabbi Ellenson welcomed the faculty, praising them for their “talent, wisdom, and knowledge and their role as shutafim (partners) in HUC-JIR’s mission as the intellectual center for liberal Jewish thought and the training ground for students as klei kodesh (consecrated leaders) of the Jewish people.”
Dr. Norman Cohen, Provost, noted HUC-JIR’s academic growth through the significant strengthening of faculty and enhanced support for students. Citing Moses in Parshat Naso, he noted that “just as the mishkan (altar) built by Moses was a place of holiness only if everyone brought their offerings there, HUC-JIR’s vital future can and will be ensured by the offerings of the heart of each faculty member.”
Dr. Dvora Weisberg, Assistant Professor of Rabbinical Literature at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, summed up the success of the retreat in saying, “This retreat was an incredibly important part of realizing our vision of ‘one institution.’ I appreciated the opportunity to meet with colleagues from other campuses, to be reminded that we share a common mission, to learn from the experiences of others, and to take comfort that my challenges are shared by others.”
Rabbi Ellenson; Dr. Norman Cohen, Provost; Dr. Aaron Panken, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives; Michael Cheney, Vice President for Finance; and Gary Bockelman, Vice President for Administration, updated the faculty on the Strategic Planning Process and its goals of academic excellence and financial sustainability. Faculty breakout groups discussed a broad range of HUC-JIR’s key needs, including the Library, Recruitment, Technology, the Graduate School and Graduate Studies, Education Programs, Excellence, and Leadership Preparation
Rabbi Shirley Idelson launched the Retreat with an orientation welcome that set the tone of warmth and inclusivity for the next few days.
The presence of faculty from Jerusalem facilitated key discussions of new directions for the Year-In-Israel Program, the enhanced integration of Hebrew language instruction and competency throughout the core curriculum and across the campuses, and the coordination of Hebrew text study from the first year in Jerusalem through the culmination of stateside studies.
Members of the Board of Governors joined the faculty for a discussion of Strategic Planning: (from left) Barbara Friedman, Chair-Elect, Board of Governors; Burton Lehman, Chair, Board of Govenors; Jerome Lerner, Sheila Lambert, and Frederick Lane.
Dr. Eugene B. Borowitz, Distinguished University Professor, engaged the faculty in an interactive discussion on “Teaching in a Reform Seminary: What’s the Difference?”
Sheila Yarbroch, Associate Dean, University of Chicago, presented a workshop on “Graduate Students with Learning Disabilities: Learning from the University of Chicago Model,” offering constructive ways in which to help students learn.
Professor Sara Lee, Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, and Dr. Richard Sarason presented a workshop on “Confronting Teaching Challenges in the Classroom: Case Studies.” Working in small groups allowed for closer interaction between faculty from a variety of disciplines, generating different perspectives and responses to challenging classroom situations.
Gregg Alpert, National Director of eLearning, presented a multi-media workshop on “Using eLearning and Educational Technology in Courses...NOW!” that introduced the faculty to exciting new opportunities to enrich their teaching, made possible by innovative technologies.
Dr. Mark Kligman, Professor of Jewish Musicology, introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Norman Stillman, Professor and Schusterman/Josey Chair in Judaic History, Department of History, University of Oklahoma, who spoke on “Teaching the Sephardi/ Mizrachi Heritage and Reform Judaism” to provide a historiographical context for HUC-JIR’s Sephardic Studies Initiative, made possible by Maurice Amado Foundation.
Faculty convened in their respective academic area groups for collegial discussions that were informative and engaging and offered opportunities for integration of teaching and curriculum: Hebrew, Rabbinics, Religious Thought, Contemporary American Jewish Studies, Education, History, Professional Development, and Bible.
Members of the national administration and faculty discussed planning for accreditation across the stateside campuses.
Dr. Norman Cohen led a plenary session on assessment, noting that the assessment of students and mentorship by faculty were key components of the newly implemented rabbinical core curriculum. Stating that “we are responsible for judging the holistic suitability of students for their viability in careers as Jewish leaders,” he announced the creation of a faculty-generated matrix of criteria to assess students’ knowledge, skills, character, and spiritual growth and stressed the importance of students’ self-reflection as part of their search for meaning in their lives and professional aspirations. The assessment process was illustrated by presentations on mentoring protocols at HUC-JIR/New York by Dr. Andrea Weiss, Assistant Professor of Bible, and Dr. Wendy Zierler, Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish Literature and Feminist Studies, and by a narrative assessment case study presented by Dr. Dvora Weisberg, Associate Professor of Rabbinical Literature. The faculty continued their discussion of summative assessment of students and its implementation during their area group meetings.
Dr. Richard Sarason and Dr. Edward Goldman, editors of the Hebrew Union College Annual, convened a meeting of this internationally renowned publication’s Editorial Board.
Cantorial faculty discussed curriculum, welcomed Dr. Bruce Ruben, the new Director of the School of Sacred Music (SSM), and organized a faculty choir that performed “Shomer Yisrael” by Cantor Israel Goldstein, the retiring SSM Director. They led worship services that were diverse in style, spiritually elevating, and added a unique dimension to the retreat.
Rabbi David Levine, Ph.D., newly appointed to the David and Roslyn Sonabend Associate Professorship of Talmud and Halakhah at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, established by Sheila Lambert in honor of her and her sister, Erica Frederick’s parents, was introduced to his new colleagues by Dr. Michael Marmur, Dean, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem.
Dr. Reuven Firestone, Professor of Medieval Jewish Studies, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles
As Cairo came into view while we were readying ourselves for landing last January, and the city of 18 million inhabitants stretched before us even to the horizon, I asked myself one last time whether it was a responsible thing for me to bring my family to live with me in Egypt for my sabbatical. I had been awarded a prestigious fellowship funded by the Fulbright Binational Committee in Egypt and the U.S. Department of Education to study Arabic literature under the tutelage of esteemed Egyptian professors who would be invited to work with me one-on-one.
I had chosen two areas of intense personal interest: medieval Arabic commentaries on the Qur’an, and modern Arabic writings on religion, including Judaism and Israel.
My children were going to attend an English-language school, but one populated almost entirely by Egyptian students with their eyes on an American college education, and my wife, Rabbi Ruth Sohn, had decided to study Arabic and do some writing. But how would they be received in Egypt, a country that was becoming increasingly “Islamic” and traditional, where the Muslim Brotherhood had become the only viable opposition to the secularist and increasingly entrenched repressive government? We were informed by the school administration that no other Jewish students were enrolled in our children’s school. In fact, they had no recollection of any Jewish students in its entire history. And they urged us to tell our boys not to let their new friends know that they are Jewish – at least not until they had developed some strong friendships at the school. Imagine this precaution, when our children, whose parents are both rabbis, happily attended Jewish day-schools their entire lives!
Writing this some weeks after our return to the United States, I am extremely gratified with our decision to come to Egypt as a family. We all had wonderful, if not always easy, experiences living in the Muslim world. Our children grew both as Jews and as humanists. They developed deep friendships with their Muslim friends, and learned to live in and appreciate a society and culture that are in many ways profoundly different from their own. We grew as a family as well, as we processed the differences and changes that we faced every day. We traveled up the Nile to the border with Sudan and down to the Mediterranean. We had our own yetzi’at mitzrayim (Exodus) before Pesach when we traveled through the Red Sea (in a tunnel) to Sinai, climbed the mountain that is called Mt. Sinai, wandered the desert in buses and mini-vans and taxis for four days rather than forty years, snorkeled among the coral reefs of the Gulf of Aqaba, and finally had our Seder among friends in Jerusalem.
But mostly, we lived in the great city of Cairo, and we learned to navigate a world that was once foreign but had become familiar and beloved. We learned enough Egyptian Arabic to get around town, and we grew to appreciate and even love the warmth and good-heartedness of the Egyptian people.
I studied the Qur’an and its commentaries with a professor who knew the Qur’an by heart and who recited it at the mosque according to the strict rules of musical recitation called tajweed, something similar to Torah trope that ensures that all the words are pronounced properly so the listeners will hear the divine word correctly. He helped me to appreciate the deep spirituality and intellectuality of these Islamic religious sciences.
Islamic philosophy, theology, law, liturgy and even the rules of Arabic grammar and linguistics emerged through intense study of the Qur’an, and my studies in Egypt deepened my knowledge and appreciation of Islam in ways that are difficult to articulate.
We tend to oversimplify things that we know little about, and this is certainly the case with our Western perceptions of Islam. My readings of contemporary Arabic essays on religion deepened my appreciation of the range of thinking in the Arab world on religious trends in Islam and on Muslims’ views of other religions as well. The lessons learned through my Egyptian studies will undoubtedly have a profound impact on my scholarship, and certainly also on my work in developing and improving Jewish-Muslim dialogue through the Institute for the Study and Enhancement of Muslim-Jewish Interrelations.
But the most profound lesson I learned from living in Egypt was through the experience of living a very different “narrative” than what we are used to as Jews and as Americans. The world looks different through the eyes of most Egyptians. It is shaped by language, culture, history, religion, and social mores that are very different from our own, and the result is an interpretation and understanding of current events that are often profoundly different from what we might expect back home. Dorothy was right when, in “The Wizard of Oz,” she so astutely said to Toto “we’re not in Kansas any more!” Yes, one can buy McDonalds’ hamburgers in Egypt, and KFC and Pizza Hut, and Levi’s jeans and Nokia cell phones and Dell computers. But this kind of globalization is superficial, and local culture in the broadest sense is very much alive and well. And that is good.
I have learned that it is the greatest hubris and arrogance to expect that everyone should see the world as I see it. I do not necessarily agree with the perceptions and insights of my Egyptian colleagues and friends, but
I have learned to understand where they are coming from and to appreciate even when I disagree. This realization has helped me gain greater insight into the complexities associated with Israel’s place in the Middle East.
My experience has demonstrated to me that Huntington’s theory of a “clash of civilizations” describes a certain level of reality, but I do not agree that such a fault line must lead to insoluble conflicts and war. We have the ability to understand the “other,” but only after having really made an effort to try on the other’s shoes, to spend time living in the other’s world. It is not necessary and certainly not possible for everyone to do so, but we would be light years ahead of where we are today if more political, cultural, and religious leaders tried this out for themselves, or were at least willing to learn from those who have.
The native Jewish community of Egypt is miniscule, with less than one hundred Jews remaining throughout the country. We met a number of these Jews during our visits to the one synagogue on Adly Street that remains open for services. Another dozen synagogues may still be found in Cairo, all closed and in various stages of disrepair, and great and ancient Jewish cemeteries may still be found in Egypt. The community tries to retain these properties even if it cannot afford to keep them up, because it believes that someday the situation in Egypt and Israel and the Middle East will change and Jews will return to Egypt as they are returning to Spain and even Germany.
The continued survival and wellbeing of the Jewish world, and particularly Israel, requires that Jewish leaders develop greater and deeper understanding of the range of views, perceptions, and developments in the Muslim world. My invaluable experience in Egypt will be reflected in my teaching at the College-Institute. At this point, my experience and insights will be shared in my teaching the standard curriculum, but I will soon offer courses to deepen the particular knowledge base and skills necessary to serve the Jewish community in its enduring relationship with the Muslim world.
Cantor Israel Goldstein reflects on his life and career at the culmination of his nineteen years of dedicated leadership of the School of Sacred Music.
How did a British soccer player become the Director of the School of Sacred Music (SSM)? Cantor Israel Goldstein’s journey from avid London athlete to renowned New York cantor illuminates the trajectory of 20th-century Jewish history and the evolution of the cantorate from its Golden Age to its contemporary vigor.
The roots of Goldstein’s life’s work can be traced to his primary role model, his father, Cantor Jacob Goldstein, who during the 1920s and early 1930s was the cantor of the leading Orthodox synagogue in Vilna, known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania and a vibrant cultural and religious center of Jewish life. Despite the vitality of life in Vilna, his mother, Toba, foresaw the impending threat of the Shoah, and the family immigrated to London, where a colleague had recommended his father to the New Synagogue in Stamford Hill, then a prosperous suburb of the city. Goldstein was born there in 1936, survived the London blitz as a young child, and was evacuated periodically to Wales and other safe havens. After the war, he attended the Avigdor High School where many of his classmates were orphaned Orthodox children who had been rescued from Nazi Europe by the school’s founder, Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld.
Goldstein’s vocal talents were recognized when he was five years old. “I sang in my father’s men and boys choir, which was situated in the loft of a cathedral-like synagogue that seated 1800 people and would be packed to the rafters on Jewish holidays, with the windows open so the many people standing outside could listen,” he recalls. “My father leading these services was an incredible, electrifying experience. I remember saying to myself, if this is what being a cantor is all about, I want to get in on this!”
The choir had about 30 singers on Shabbat, and as many as 60 on holidays. Goldstein memorized the music by ear. “I soon had my own following – all the girls and women in the balcony who could see me in the loft! My choir position was boy alto, but when you talk about positions, I was right half of my soccer team,” he adds.
His family immigrated in the early 1950s to New York, where he graduated from a yeshiva high school on the Lower East Side. There was no soccer team, but Goldstein followed baseball and basketball. “I couldn’t get into football – I just didn’t understand that game.” He attended Yeshiva University for a short while, but left to study at HUC-JIR. “My father did not encourage me to become a cantor, because he felt that the Golden Age of the cantorate had passed, but he said that if I wanted to do this, I had to go to HUC-JIR, which he knew to be the best school and the place where many of his colleagues taught.” Goldstein studied with the giants of cantorial art: Cantors Moshe Ganchoff, Abraham Shapiro, Eric Werner, Abraham Binder, Isadore Freed, Lazar Weiner, and Lawrence Avery, and received his B.A. and investiture in 1959. While he never studied formally with his father, he learned by observing and listening to him, by being in his choir, then leading his choir and occasionally substituting for him at the pulpit.
At HUC-JIR Goldstein participated in the School of Sacred Music’s renewal of Jewish music in America after the Shoah, when liturgical traditions were transplanted from the destroyed synagogues and communities of Europe. Simultaneously, he became enthralled with the possibilities of contemporary music in the synagogue and the importance of the organ at that time. “Of the many composers I admired, Isadore Freed affected me the most, because he opened up all kinds of harmonic possibilities that had not been possible in my traditional approach to music and indicated a new direction for me.”
Goldstein initially served a congregation in Stamford, Connecticut for a year and in Caldwell, New Jersey for two years, but found a home for the past forty-three years at the Jericho Jewish Center. The call to join the faculty at his alma mater came in 1974 from his mentor, Cantor Avery. He began teaching during the academic year that culminated with the investiture of the first woman cantor, Barbara Ostfeld, and he has witnessed the burgeoning number of female students and their successful integration in the field over the decades.
Goldstein’s forte has been teaching the traditional cantorial courses and coaching students for the past thirty-two years. “I felt that I could help young cantors become the cantors they should try to be, and as a good listener, students have sought me out for guidance throughout the years.” This affinity prompted his becoming the Director of the School of Sacred Music in 1987, where the cantorial course of study had grown to be a four-year Master of Sacred Music program. “My first grant application was an unsuccessful attempt to get funding to commission new compositions tailored for women’s voices, because traditional cantorial music was designed for men’s vocal range. As time went on I found more and more music was being written for women’s voices and it became far less of an imperative than when I first started as Director.”
Over the years, Goldstein has enjoyed composing and arranging liturgical music. He has written the piano accompaniments for a number of Cantor Moshe Ganchoff’s compositions, including the weekday “Maariv Service” and “Tfilot Moshe” (published by the Cantors Assembly) and the prayer “Magein Avot” (published by Transcontinental Music). Sacred Music Press recently published four of his liturgical compositions, entitled “B’chol Levacha Uv’chol Naf Sh’cha.”
Goldstein has also officiated and concertized in London, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv and in major cities throughout the United States and Canada. He is the soloist on four archival recordings of “Great Synagogue Composers,” including the recording of High Holy Day works by Abraham Birnbaum and Israel Alta. In October 1993 he sang a recital at the Old Jewish Theatre in Odessa, Ukraine, as part of the 2nd International Festival of Jewish Art Music.
Under his aegis, the cantorial program was expanded from four to five years in 2003-04, in order to accommodate the full range of prerequisites beyond the study of liturgy and voice: Judaic studies and education courses; professional development training, including student pulpit and pastoral chaplaincy internships; spiritual growth mentorship; and a thesis and senior recital demonstrating scholarly accomplishment. Aside from the rigor of this program, Goldstein stresses that “having a voice and musical skills are the essential elements that distinguish the cantor from the rabbi or educator. I am always advocating for talent during admissions. Leave the rest to us at HUC-JIR.”
Goldstein regards the Year-In-Israel Program as vital in establishing camaraderie among future cantors, rabbis, and educators during their required first year of study in Jerusalem. This interaction is reinforced during their remaining stateside years of study through shared courses in religion, philosophy, Midrash, and education, with some cantorial students pursuing a dual Master’s degree in Jewish education. All of these developments point to an evolving job description for the cantor.
“With some exaggeration, of course, years ago it was a great voice that got the job, but today’s congregations are seeking greater participation in worship and a cantor who brings so much more to the role. Beyond being a life cycle officiant and having extraordinary talent, today’s cantor is expected to have strong interpersonal relationship abilities, a thorough grounding in higher Judaic studies through our curriculum, pastoral counseling and spiritual guidance skills, and more. The more we train our students in these areas, the more successful we, and they, are.”
Over the past nineteen years as Director of the SSM, Goldstein has had the privilege of presenting 192 students at Investiture Ceremonies. In preparing them for this milestone, he has strived to nurture his students’ strengths, explaining “I’ve been able to draw them out, expand their self-perception, and show them that they are more flexible than they think they are. I’m hoping to continue that as a member of the faculty.” Goldstein is also looking forward to having the opportunity to coach more students, a role he greatly enjoys, without the distractions of his former administrative responsibilities.
He will also have more time to enjoy family life with his wife Ellen, a gifted artist and calligrapher, his daughters – real estate attorney Dina, educator Cara, and homemaker/ former communications professional Toba, his C.P.A. son Jakob, and his grandchildren, Ashley and Emma Cohen; Amanda, Danielle, and Aron Denenberg; Chaim Yehoshua, Moshe Dovid, Avraham Menachem, Hindy, Nochum Meir, Shlomo Yosef and Miri Goldstein; and Maya and Jesse Avraham Jamil.
Reflecting on his association with HUC-JIR, beginning as a student fifty years ago, Goldstein acknowledges that the cantorate was his destiny. His teaching and mentorship have shaped the lives of hundreds of cantors, strengthening their ability to touch the lives of countless individuals in congregations and communities far and wide. His enduring friendship signifies a “lifetime warranty” for his students, who reciprocate with great affection and a shared dedication to ensuring the continuity of Jewish heritage and values for the generations to come.
Jean Bloch Rosensaft
Cantor Bruce Ruben, Ph.D., a distinguished scholar, university academic, and composer, has served as the cantor of Temple Shaarey Tefila in New York City for 24 years. He is now bringing his professional expertise, personal commitment, and creative vision to HUC-JIR as the newly appointed Director of the School of Sacred Music (SSM).
“Over the past 15 years at Temple Shaaray Tefila, I have had the pleasure of mentoring HUC-JIR cantorial interns, who have given me wonderful insights into the SSM,” he explains “It has been fulfilling to help shape the careers of these young people.”
Ruben takes on his new responsibilities at a time of transformation in Reform worship and Jewish spirituality and brings a solid grounding in the realities of Reform congregational life. “I feel that it is very important to serve all those who enter our sanctuaries,” he says. “Some congregants want to be engaged and sing throughout the service. Others want to let the beauty of the music and the voices of the cantor and choir wash over them and bring them to a spiritual place. Every synagogue is different, and each cantor has to find the right balance. Traditional chanting, the music of the choir, contemporary Jewish music – the best of every era must be sustained to enrich our services. The goal is to create a synergy of worship linking the cantor and the congregant to reach the spiritual fulfillment that so many seek.”
While the traditions of nusach (traditional chants and melodies of prayers) and cantillation (chanting of the Torah and other biblical books) are still the core of the cantor’s calling as the schaliach tzibbur (prayer leader representing the community), Ruben points to congregations’ other needs. “Cantors are expected to provide adult education, officiate at life cycle events, and function as fullfledged clergy in ways that were not expected years ago.”
Ruben has thought a lot about the skill set required for today’s cantor. “First of all, the ideal cantor must be a strong musician, both vocally skilled and able to conduct a choir. He or she must have a level of musical proficiency that is worthy of the Master of Sacred Music degree.”
Ruben also stresses the role of the cantor as scholar and educator. The son of an academic – his father was Professor of Biology at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where he was raised – Ruben received the Bachelor of Science, Music (1975) and Master of Arts, Religious Studies (1977) at Indiana University (Bloomington) and was invested as a cantor at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in 1981. He earned a Ph.D. at the City University of New York, Graduate Center (1997) with a dissertation on “Max Lilienthal: Rabbi, Educator, and Reformer in NineteenthCentury America,” based on substantial primary research in HUC-JIR’s American Jewish Archives, which he is preparing for publication.
Ruben has had a long relationship with the SSM. He presented a keynote lecture on “The History of the SSM” at the symposium marking its 50th anniversary in 1998 and has taught Jewish history at HUC-JIR in New York. He has also taught the history of Jewish music at the Juilliard School and has served for fifteen years on the faculty of Hunter College, City University of New York, where he has taught courses on Jewish history and the Holocaust. He has guest lectured internationally, and authored articles and study guides on American synagogue music, liturgy, Jewish life cycle, and American Reform Judaism.
He believes that “the cantor must be immersed in yiddishkeit and Jewish knowledge – a scholar able to teach liturgy, Jewish music history, and Jewish history, so that the music being taught or performed is understood in its context, as part of the larger Jewish heritage.” He stresses the need to teach human relations skills for those interacting with congregants at the most important moments of their lives, from the birth of their children, b’nai mitzvah, and marriage, to bikkur cholim at times of illness and counseling at times of personal loss or crisis. “The cantor’s presence is crucial at such times. One has to have compassion, empathy, and high ethical standards to fulfill these responsibilities.”
Furthermore, he emphasizes that today’s cantor is part of a clergy team and needs to understand the structure of synagogue leadership and the range of responsibilities, from fundraising and program development, to administration and supervision of staff. “Part of the SSM curriculum should prepare the cantor for the real job description, which includes staff management, the budget process, and development.”
There is the additional opportunity for the cantor to serve as a communal leader, which Ruben has enjoyed through his work with the American Jewish Committee, as a member of the Board of the Yorkville Christian-Jewish Council, and his service to senior citizens at the Brown Gardens Nursing Home. He has also served on the URJ Task Force on Jewish Ethics, on the ARZA slate at the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, and as a member of the URJ’s Editorial Committee for Shirei T’shuvah. He is associated with the Cantors Assembly of America, the American Jewish History Society, and the American Society for Jewish Music.
Ruben plans to devote his energy toward recruitment, in order to see the SSM grow and attract more students. “I want to strengthen relationships with voice teachers, heads of music schools, and Jewish studies programs throughout the country, to help them understand the opportunities at HUC-JIR. When they have a student with a strong Jewish identity and great musical talent coming through their programs, I’d like them to direct that student to us.”
He is committed to maintaining close contact with HUC-JIR alumni, who are a vital link in recruitment for the SSM. “Cantors in the field, seeing young kids coming through their programs, are mentors and role models for them. Many of our cantorial students came to us because they were inspired by the cantor of their synagogue. Sometimes it’s as simple as their saying, ‘Have you ever thought about becoming a cantor?’”
Ruben’s own journey toward the cantorate began as a casual visitor to the Hillel at Indiana University, where the rabbi discovered that he was a voice major. Soon he was helping to lead services and found the experience beautiful. When he was randomly assigned to a voice teacher, Marko Rothmüller, who had not only had a distinguished opera career in Europe but had also led High Holy Day services at a Cleveland synagogue for many years and had written a book on the history of Jewish music, “I asked him to help me learn more cantorial music in order to lead High Holy Day services at Hillel – it was my first taste of being a cantor.”
Pointing out that the SSM’s location in New York is a great asset and offers potential for new partnerships, he says, “We have tremendous resources in this city, with the various music schools, music education programs, the opportunity for guest faculty for masterclasses, the presence of composers, and more.”
As a composer, whose Baruch Haba for mixed chorus and organ has been performed at HUC-JIR Ordination/Investiture Services, Ruben enjoys writing settings of liturgy, incorporating a kernel of traditional trope (musical motif in biblical cantillation) or nusach as part of compositions. He has produced recordings for Shabbat and weddings, presented chamber music concerts, commissioned and premiered new works by leading composers, and performed in concerts of Jewish sacred, popular, and art music.
He hopes to attract composers-in-residence for a semester, to connect these visiting artists to Jewish liturgical traditions and expose students to their creativity. “I would love to identify talented young Jewish composers around the country, invite them into our nusach and cantillation classes and have them teach our students how to compose, with the goal of writing a new piece of music that gets performed. The process of creating new Jewish music would be exciting. We need to nurture an American musical tradition for the synagogue that is meaningful to our own era.” He also aims to encourage the SSM students in their academic research, bring in guest scholars-in-residence, and raise the SSM’s scholarly profile with academic conferences.
As a member of the HUC-JIR/URJ/ American Conference of Cantors Joint Cantorial Placement Committee, Ruben looks forward to working with Cantor Barbara Ostfeld, Director of Placement, to increase opportunities for SSM graduates, offer career guidance, and establish continuing education programs to enable cantors to gain new skills to meet the changing needs of the pulpit.
He shares his love for music with his wife Judith Clurman, a faculty member at the Juilliard School and a renowned choral conductor of the Juilliard Choral Union, who has performed at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. She is currently preparing concerts for a Leonard Bernstein Festival at Harvard University, where their son Ari is a student. Ruben has great aspirations for the SSM.
“I want to build on Cantor Israel Goldstein’s extraordinary accomplishments to bring this school to an ever greater level of excellence,” he says, and seeks to further strengthen and integrate the core curriculum from the first year of study in Jerusalem through the four subsequent years culminating in investiture as cantor.
He is proud of the SSM’s mission to ensure the vitality of Jewish identity and heritage and looks forward to the challenges ahead. “I want to help create a future for Jewish music. Coming to HUC-JIR offers a unique opportunity to nurture the next generation of cantors, to teach in a stimulating academic community, and to have an impact on the future of the profession that I love.”
Dr. Rachel Adler, Associate Professor of Jewish Religious Thought and Feminist Studies, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles
The Dr. Samuel Atlas Memorial Lecture, presented on March 15, 2006 at HUC-JIR/New York, was made possible through the generosity of the Dr. Bernard Heller Foundation and its trustees, Ruth O. Freedlander, Beatrice Weidman, and Carole L. Weidman, Esq.
In the Book of Ruth, when the two widows Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth return to Bethlehem, the women of the town greet Naomi and she laments, “Do not call me Naomi, Pleasantness. Call me Mara, Bitterness, for Shadai has made my lot very bitter. I went away full and Adonai has brought me back empty.” (Ruth 1:20-21). Her bitterness and rage are understandable. We spend our lives defending ourselves from the sure knowledge that fullness does not last. All that we love we will lose. We are fated to return empty. We are ill-suited to loss and to emptiness. When we cease to feel held in a web of relationships, when the network of meanings that make the world intelligible are destroyed, we are seized with spiritual vertigo. We don’t know where we stand or what can be relied upon. “What are we? Mah anu? we ask. What is our life, Meh chayenu?” This sense of radical unmeaning, of dangling loose from the web that had safely held us is almost like physical pain.
The cultural critic Elaine Scarry writes about physical pain and its effects on the universe of the sufferer.(1) Intolerable pain, says Scarry, unmakes the universe, expunging thought and feeling, self and world, “all that gives rise to and is in turn made possible by language.”(2) In severe torment, the sufferer is utterly isolated, unable to experience relatedness, unable to defend her values from a torturer’s insistence that she betray them, or to give or withhold consent to a medical procedure, unable to attend to her surroundings, unable to speak – for language is displaced by gasps, moans, and screams. In contrast, Scarry observes, “to be present when the person in pain rediscovers speech is almost to be present at the birth or rebirth of language.”(3)
I want to argue that some of these observations are also germane to sufferings from emotional and spiritual pain. “I am a little world made cunningly,” the poet John Donne writes about the delicacy and complexity of the human being. There is more than one way to unmake the little world that is a person or even the larger world that is a people. There is more than one kind of pain that can leave us tormented and bereft. And to be present when the sufferer reachieves relational speech is to be present at the rebirth of redemption.
According to our mystical tradition, language precedes everything, for the world is created with the alphabet. To unmake a world is to undo the alphabet of creation, to plunge the world constituted by language back into disorder, to strike it wordless. But how can the alphabet so violently broken be reconstituted? How can the broken reenter the realm of language and speak the unspeakable? The doorway, I would maintain, is lament. In lament, the boundary between the made and unmade universe is thinnest, for it is the cultural form closest to the preverbal howl of pain. Lament can be incoherent and chaotic, picking its way through a broken rubble of unbearably vivid happenings and intolerable sensations. Its content is dangerously dark and disordered, and in its meaning may be nonexistent, rejected, or found wanting. And yet I want to argue that the doorway through which lament enters the world is a petach tikvah, a doorway of hope.(4)
What, first of all, is lament? Lament is composed of several sub-genres. There are laments for the dead, laments by the sick and the disheartened, communal laments over lost battles, destroyed cities, and states and eventually, for other communal catastrophes. We are not the only culture that lamented. Lament was common to the entire Mediterranean and Middle East as well as to other cultures across the globe. In laments, human beings bewail all that hurts about being human: having bodies that hurt; being mortal; suffering brutality at the hands of others; losing control over our lives; losing kin; losing home; losing freedom; being tormented by memories of happier times or by memories of horrific occurences; feeling abandoned by an indifferent or actively punitive God. Listen and you hear a mighty symphony of the broken and bereft: Here is the author of Psalm 77:
Has God forgotten how to pity?
Has He in anger stifled His compassion?
And here is King David:
My son Absolom O my son, my son
If only I had died instead of you. O
Absolom, my son, my son.
(2 Samuel 19:1b)
Why did I not die at birth?
Expire as I came forth from the womb?
Why were there knees to receive me
Or breasts for me to suck?
And the man of Lamentations 3, complaining about God:
He is a lurking bear to me,
A lion in hiding;
He has forced me off my way and mangled me,
He has left me numb.
I have called this a symphony rather than a cacaphony because these explosions of poignant, bitter, even accusatory utterances are contained in literary forms. Some are identified as qinot – dirges – and exhibit the characteristic “limping meter.”(5) Others exhibit structures peculiar to lament psalms: a series of complaints, a statement of guilt, a request for God’s favor, a petition against enemies, and an abrupt turn to hope and trust in God. Lament psalms, qinot, and other biblical genres, which were intended to be sung, share characteristics we would call poetic: patterned stresses, repetition, alliteration, parallelism, and imagery. Imposing form and structure on lament constrains its wildness and socializes it so that it can engage a community as witnesses and as participants.
I want to speak now about three major varieties of laments, all of which offer some resources for us today. The first of these kinds of lament is the lament for the dead. Rather than talking about literary laments for the dead in the Bible, I want to focus on the social phenomenon they reflect. There really were laments for the dead, and although men also lamented, the fashioning of laments was regarded as a women’s genre. Wailing women or “professional mourners” as the word mekonenot is often translated, did not just wail or howl wordlessly as popularly supposed, they orally composed and sang funeral poetry.(6) Hence, God commands Jeremiah: “Call the lament-singing women [mekonenot], let the wise women come.” (Jeremiah 9:16-17). Jeremiah exhorts the elegy-makers to teach their daughters the craft because the prophecied devastation will require so many lamenters (9:19). Lamentsinging women are referenced in several of the prophetic books but the only full-scale biblical depiction of a female lamenter is of Zion in the Book of Lamentations.
The formal structures of lament and their performance by female artists are familiar to the rabbis of the Talmud. “What is meant by ‘chanting’ [innui]?” asks Mishnah Moed Katan. “When all the women sing in unison. And lament [kinah]? When one speaks and all respond after her.”(7) For the Mishnah what distinguishes kinah is not a distinctive meter but a call and response type of structure. In Mishnah Ketubot (4:4), Rabbi Yehuda rules that even the poorest husband must provide at the very minimum two flute players and one lament-singing woman for his wife’s funeral. A funeral may be delayed in order to summon the lament-singers (Sanhedrin 47a). The position of the lamentsingers in the funeral procession was pivotal. A baraita teaches that they either immediately preceded or immediately followed the corpse, depending on local custom (Sanhedrin 20a).
Compare what we have learned so far about rabbinic lament with the vivid account of travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor who in the 1950s witnessed a performance of oral lament poetry in Mani, the mountainous, isolated Southern Peloponnese region of Greece.(8) This lament poetry is believed to be descended from the laments of classical antiquity.(9)
The chief woman mourner begins the klama, or weeping . . . [T]he [lament] unfolds in spite of the semi-ecstatic mode of delivery in a logical sequence of proem, exegisis, and epilogue. As the dirge continues, the knees stiffen, the hair falls in disorder, the handkerchief is stretched across the shoulders, an end held in each hand, which work up and down with a sawing motion in time to the slow beat of the metre. The breast is struck, the cheeks clawed, and very often the [lament] accelerates into a gabble and finally into wails and shrieks without meaning. If the dead man has been killed in a feud, the dirge may finish with terrible curses and oaths of vengeance . . . When she fades out, another woman ‘takes’ the [lament].
What do we learn from this? As in the Talmud, Greek lament is a performance by individual women and groups of women, and it has structure and meter. Between this modern Greek lament and the literary lament poetry of Tanakh, there are a number of analogies. In both traditions, lament is contradictory rather than emotionally consistent. The lamenter is, by turns accusatory, guilt-wracked, reminiscent, despairing, imploring, vindictive, bitter, hopeful.(10) In both lament is tumultous and disordered language interspersed with returns to the preverbal: gasps, sobs, tears, keening, cries of ah, alas, woe, while at the same time, strict literary conventions are maintained. Gail Horst-Warhaft, a classics scholar, writes:
Like the cries that puncture the text, so sobs, sighs and sudden intakes of breath are integral to the performance of lament. Singers of dramatic or plaintive songs from opera to blues will use their breath for heightened emotional effect.”. . .[B]reathing and singing, like weeping and singing have always been so intimately associated that it may be difficult to determine where a sigh ends and a song begins.(11)
Breathing. Weeping. Music. Throughout the ancient Mediterranean, flutes are used at funerals. They represent the breath, the body’s mysterious, God-given internal wind instrument, now stilled.(12) Percussion instruments like drums may be used to represent the thumping heart.
The third century Palestinian Amora Ulla offers the following details about how Jews grieved at funerals: “Hesped means beating on one’s heart . . .Tipuach means clapping one’s hands together (Rashi). And Kilus means [lamenting] with the foot” – either stamping one’s foot or, as Tosafot suggests, slapping one’s thigh (Moed Katan 27b). What these actions tell us is threefold. They tell us that grief is expressed with the whole body. They tell us that grief is expressed rhythmically, probably as a percussive accompaniment to the lament music. And they tell us that lament exists at some intersection between art and violence.
I have said that lament is language traumatized, but there is also an impulse to traumatize the body. Many commentators talk about mourners enacting a mimesis of death.(13) Like the dead, the mourner does not bathe, annoint, or have sex. The mourner rips his clothes, a custom that safely channels the mourner’s wish to imitate the disintegrating body of the corpse, to be united with her once more. And from Ulla we have heard about striking the body. The little black ribbon the funeral director snips for us today does not even begin to address this desire for violent grief. We must ask ourselves how we are going to make a place for it today.
What did lament-making women say? I have so far been able to find only one source that gives examples. In tractate Moed Katan (28b) the 4th-century Amora Rava quotes seven snippets of lament sung by the women of Shochentziv. The Aramaic quotations are enigmatic enough to make one wonder if the women of Shochentziv were having a little fun at Rava’s expense. The first is straightforward enough: “Alas for the departed./Alas for his wounds.” The second, I will follow the Soncino in translating “Take the soupbone out of the pot/ and fill the vessel with water.”(14) The irony is that the same pot that made the sick man’s broth will now heat the water to wash his corpse. Leigh Fermor in his account of Greek women’s laments notes their custom of making homely objects such as the dead man’s tools testify to his death.(15) Here the evidence of the transition from sickness to death is the pot and its two uses.
In times when burial societies were quite rare, the dead man may have been washed by the same woman who made the soup.(16) A third quotation is in the grand style: “Cloak yourselves [in splendor],(17) high mountains, a great man and a noble was he [who is dead].” One snippet is both frank and acidly funny about the dead man’s fecklessness: “he rushes and tumbles aboard the ferry/ and has to borrow his fare.” An interesting detail here is the ferry, a feature of the Hellenistic underworld. Like the Greek lamenters, these women are not particularly orthodox in their theology.(18)
In lament for the dead, then, we have a type of social performance led by experts, the lament-making women, but with open participation for everyone, female and male. In this performance, language, weeping, breastbeating, clapping, stamping, and ripped clothing, all express and respond to a world disordered. Death has irrupted into the domain of the living and uprooted a member of a family and a community. All must lament before comforters can begin to console.
Lament of this sort may have continued for many centuries in some communities. A researcher heard lament songs from Iraqi Jewish women as late as 1950.(19) Funeral songs have also been attested among Jews in Southern Iran and among Moroccan Jews. In Ashkenaz, women’s lamenting may have succumbed to a one-two combination punch from the newly influential Zohar and from the growth of burial societies organized like medieval guilds. The Zohar warned that because through Eve’s sin, death was introduced into the world, the Angel of Death is present among the women during funerals, and he has permission to kill during the funeral ceremony.(20) Hence separating the women from the men is a matter of life or death. At the same time, chevrei kadisha, burial societies, introduced their own customs and theology of reception into the afterlife. The women’s “weeping and lamenting” were accused of weakening the song of the seraphim, “who rejoice at the arrival of the deceased.”(21) These developments may explain why several Ashkenazic communities’ records from the 16th century on confirm that women were placed at the back at funerals. Harsh punishments were prescribed for those who ventured forward among the men: having their cloaks taken away, being sprayed with water, or, in one community, stone throwing.(22) The implication is that the law was difficult to enforce because the women were recalcitrant. Possibly they were lamenters protesting the disvaluing of their expertise.
I want to present rather briefly the second of the lament subgenres I have chosen to address. Here is an individual lament, Psalm 13. The Bible scholar Tod Linafelt makes a distinction between the lament for the dead and the lament psalm. The lament for the dead is focused on death, while the lament psalm is directed toward life and seeks more life. It is, ultimately, hopeful rather than hopeless. The dirge can afford to be hopeless, because the community contains and preserves hope for the mourner. In the individual lament, the lamenter must himself turn toward hope and life.
Hope is intrinsic to the theological work of lament. The Bible scholar Walter Bruggeman contends that lament is a form of protest that “shifts the calculus and redresses the distribution of power between the two parties, so that the petitionary party is taken seriously and the God who is addressed is newly engaged in the crisis in a way that puts God at risk.”(23) Because God is a God of justice and not a cosmic bully, God can be confronted by God’s covenant partner. According to Bruggeman, rather than presenting a compliant false self and rendering the relationship manipulative and insincere, the lamenter confronts God with the immediacy of suffering in a way that renders retribution unjustifiable.
You will notice this motif in Psalm 13. The psalm starts off with a derangement of language, the accusatory and paradoxical question: “How long, Adonai, will you forget me forever? The JPS translation ‘tames’ this question into an exclamation. “How long O Lord; will you ignore me forever?” But this particular expression, ad ana, how long, occurs only four times in the book of Psalms, all in Psalm 13. A similar expression, ad matai, ocurs in 6 psalms (6:4, 74:10, 80:5, 82:2, 90:13, 94:3), and it is an interjection of exasperation. Ad ana, on the other hand seems to seek both information and a response. The question “How long will you forget me forever” has to be located in deep memories of infancy, when mommy’s leaving was experienced as if she had dropped into a black hole. But the despair in this personal experience of abandonment “forever” is lightened by the hopeful “how long,” which implies an eventual ending. So the lamenter, presenting his most vulnerable self, senses a glimmer of hope even at the opening of the lament.
How long will You hide Your Face from me? This evokes another deep memory. An infant’s first reactions are to faces. Faces reassure the infant in his helplessness. They offer love and attention. The hiding of the face, its going away, is a primal occasion of anxiety. The game of peekaboo is a version of the “gone and reappeared” game that Freud observes a toddler playing. The feared abandonment by the face is overcome again and again by the repeated reappearance.
“In the access to the face,” the philosopher Levinas says, “there is . . . also an access to the idea of God.”(24) Human faces bear a hint or recollection of God that can spur the desire for God. For Levinas, relation to the Infinite is not a contemplation of an abstract idea, but a Desire. For our speaker in Psalm 13, the turning away of God’s face represents his desire for God thwarted and blocked. He suffers.
How long will I have cares on my mind/ grief in my heart all day? The speaker is preoccupied with plans or schemes, eitzot. But his is the anxious scheming of one whose insecurity will not let him rest. Instead, persistent grief clings to him, as if his plans had already failed.
How long will my enemy have the upper hand (yarum – be high above me, tower over me)? These four repetitions of “how long” present to us a speaker increasingly frantic with anxiety. God’s abandonment in his vulnerable situation is intolerable. For there is an enemy, as there often is in Psalms, a person, a conspiracy, or a metaphorical enemy, a sickness, or an obssessive idea that is a mortal threat to the speaker.
Look at me, answer me Adonai my God. The speaker pleads for recognition and response from the withdrawn Deity.
Restore the luster to my eyes/ Lest I sleep the sleep of death) The speaker‘s eyes are dulled like a fainting or dying person.
Lest my enemy say, “I have overcome him (or I have put an end to him/ my foes exult when I totter (emot) or you might translate it ‘stumble.’ Repetition again expresses anxiety. The repeated word lest (pen) introduces what the speaker dreads: defeat and death. In keeping with the disarrangement of lament, the images are out of logical order. First he imagines his death, then, his defeat, and at the last veers back to the nightmare moment when a running man stumbles, begins to fall, and his adversaries close in to drag him down. But at this horrid moment the speaker pulls his mind away from these despairing images of collapse and ruin.
But I trust in your faithfulness (chasdekha). Instead he calms himself by remembering his trust in God. A similar conjunction of images occurs in Psalm 94. ‘When I think my foot has given way, your faithfulness, Adonai, supports me.” (Im amarti mata ragli/ chasdekha, Adonai, yisadeni.) Now the speaker can envision his own joy at the deliverance he trusts to occur.
My heart will exult in your deliverance/ I will sing to Adonai/ for He has been good to me
I want to turn now to the last of the three types of lament: the communal lament for the fallen city in the paradigmatic lament text of the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Lamentations. This will not be a full scale analysis. I have only a few points. The book’s Hebrew name is Eikha, and three of its five chapters begin with that word. Eikha, How! is used in the Book of Lamentations, not as a call for reasoned explanations of cause and effect, not as the rational inquiry, eikh? but as an exclamation of incredulous horror. “How dreadfully everything has changed!” How awful this is! The open vowel of the emphatic ah, a scream: Eikhaaah. For when people are truly horror striken, what astonishes them is how an ordinary day turned into a catastrophe after which nothing will ever be the same.(25)
The liturgical performance of Lamentations is the centerpiece of a mimesis of unmaking and remaking. Hauntingly chanted on the Ninth of Av, it commemorates the destructions of the Temple and other catastrophes of Jewish history. Ashkenazic tradition surrounds its recitation with graphic representations of a dead covenant and a bereaved community. The synagogue, locus of the ordered nomos, is deliberately disordered. The Holy Ark is shrouded like a corpse. Chairs on the altar are overturned and fasting worshippers sit on the ground. The following Sabbath the community rises to recontract the covenant as the Ten Commandments are read. The liturgical performances that frame Lamentations, both present and overcome the terrifying possibilities of cosmic disorder and covenantal rupture.
The Book of Lamentations both bewails and remakes this shattered world quite explicitly by reconstituting the broken alphabet of creation. Four of its five chapters are alphabetical acrostics. Chapter 3 is a triple alphabetical acrostic. Chapter 5 is not an acrostic but has the same number of verses as there are alphabet letters. The alphabet represents the totality of language, and the acrostic thus represents the gamut of catastrophic experiences and the gamut of human reactions that can be represented in language. The structure of the book, its strict, alphabetical sequence of verses, barely serves to contain the wildly disordered content. The poet and the two speakers, the woman Zion and the man who has known affliction, pour out a torrent of personal and collective woe: physical torment, humiliation, pity, self blame, accusations hurled at a violent and predatory God, dreadful tableaus of jeering enemies, starving children, cannibal mothers, slave laborers, slaughtered bodies, pleas for mercy, pleas for bloody revenge.
Because lament is without rational sequence, this torrent of complaint strikes us as confused and overwhelming. One can see this sequenceless, anarratival quality in Holocaust memories. The post-modern ethnographer Ruth Linden observes that the accounts of the women survivors she records contain fragments of “sheer happenings” whose senselessness and arbitrariness would be falsified by ordering them in narrative.(26) Lament is a repository for “sheer happenings.” It curbs narrative’s tendency to assign causes and meanings, to use storytelling to mend the unmendable.(27) Lament’s capacity to represent non-narratives allows it to preserve what is irreduceable and inexplicable about evil.
The first two chapters of Lamentations are a mixture of genres. They are at first death dirges but, as the woman Zion becomes increasingly active and alive, they become laments beseeching life. In Lamentations 1 we see both the isolation of pain and the lack of logical sequence I have been talking about. The first fact we learn about the female figure Zion is her loneliness. The poet’s portrait contrasts her present with her former state as a death dirge would do. She was populous and is now lonely, was great and is now a widow, was a princess and is now a forced laborer. Zion is pictured weeping in the night, an image that will recur. We get the first instance of what will become a refrain, “Ain menachem lah” “there is no one to comfort her.” Then suddenly Judah’s exile is introduced and Zion is in exile. Verse 4 swerves back to the deserted city. Verse 5 introduces three themes that will persist throughout the book: 1) the triumph of Zion’s foes; 2) Zion’s punishment for sins; 3) Zion’s children going into exile. From these first five verses we can see how the demands of alphabetical acrostic, which constrain the choice of the verse’s subject matter, actually enhance the disjointedness that characterizes lamentation.
Linafelt calls the Book of Lamentations “survivor literature,” because it is literature written by survivors in the wake of a catastrophe, but also because the literary figure Zion is centrally concerned with the survival of her children.(28) “It is survival,” says Linafelt, “rather than the theological categories of guilt or hope that I take to be the hermeneutical key to the poetry of chapters 1 and 2.”(29)
The outrageousness of pain forms the core of Zion’s complaint. She keeps presenting to God the palpable, soul-shattering reality of suffering and death as simply unjustifiable as punishment. She accuses God not of injustice but of compassionlessness. “Re’eh v’habita,” “See and look hard,” are words that recur along with words for pain, suffering, torment, agony. Zion interrupts the poet-narrator in verse 9 to say, “See Adonai, my misery; How the enemy triumphs.” And in Verse 11: “See Adonai, look hard at how abject I have become.” She calls on witnesses to her ordeal:
May it never befall you –
All who pass along the road Look about and see:
Is there any agony like mine which is meted out to me when Adonai made me suffer on the day of His wrath. (1:12)
The poet calls on Zion to mobilize herself in defense of her little ones. Act like a lamenting-woman, he tells her.
Arise, cry out in the night
At the beginning of the watches Pour out your heart like water In the presence of Adonai!
Lift up your hands to him
For the life of your infants Who faint for hunger
At every street corner. (2:19)
She responds less with pleading than with indignation.
See O God, look well (habita)
at whom you have treated so badly. l’mi ‘ollalta ko (Lam. 2:20).
Alas women eat their own fruit, Their new-born babes
Alas priest and prophet are slain
In the Holy Place of Adonai. (2:20)
That women are eating their infants rather than infants nursing from their mothers, she construes as God’s fault, like the slaying of priest and prophet in the sanctuary. They are evidence of how God has turned the world upside down. Zion does not let God off the hook.
In the concluding chapter, where gendered personifications merge into a communal “we,” the lamenting community is poised between hopeful reconciliation and the reiterated testimony of violation and abandonment. It is the liturgical tradition that tips the balance in favor of restoration, by insisting that the penultimate verse, “Take us back O God and we will turn back. Renew our days as of old” must be repeated after the final verse, “for truly you have rejected us, bitterly raged against us.” If I orchestrated a performance of Lamentations, I would draft a powerful soprano to sing that last verse over the congregation’s repetition of “take us back,” “renew our days” in order to restore the textual tension that forbids easy recuperation.
Take us back. The covenant is compared to a marriage. What I always find most moving about this metaphor of God and Israel as partners in a marriage is precisely its insistance that the one we hurt is the one with whom reconciliation is nevertheless possible. The covenant-marriage metaphor is troubled and sometimes violent, as many feminist theologians have pointed out.(30) Yet it is the one covenant metaphor that offers
God and Israel an opportunity to grow into partnership, to begin to recognize the Other as separate from self and yet intimately bound to self. The metaphor of the sacred marriage whose participants persist, despite violence and betrayal, is applicable to human, political dilemmas as well. In South Africa, Rwanda, Cambodia, and in Eretz Yisrael, where civil covenants were intolerably violated, human, political beings struggle with conflicting impulses. Like the violent God of Lamentations, they are caught between the unslakable passion for just retribution and the bitter compassion that counsels us all to pardon the unpardonable, to mediate and mend broken covenants.
This is one reason why I believe we need lament. Lament can help us to bear witness to violence and injustice in the life of the community, to respond with indignation and outrage and then with constructive action. We do not know and will not know why God does not protect us from atrocities or genocide or why God created a world which can be devastated by tsunamis or hurricanes, but we can express our anger, our grief, our sense of abandonment. We can bring to God not only our best behaved happy selves but also selves seized by despair, brokenness, a thirst for revenge, and other so-called “unacceptable” feelings. This is lament, the first step in reconstituting the broken world.
We Reform Jews have not made much room for lament in our communal life. Early Reform worshippers, who wanted their services to be “edifying and uplifting,” were dismayed by the negativity of lament and by the disorderly universe it depicted. Reform congregations valued decorum and restraint. The anger at God in lament texts and the penitential themes, which were thought to demean human dignity, were removed from Reform liturgy early on. The national events to which lament was tied, the destruction of the Temple and exile, were not seen by Reform theology as tragic, but rather as necessary steps to evolve an international Jewish diaspora that could fulfill its mission to be a light unto the nations. Not until a few years ago did Reform Jews begin to celebrate Tisha B’Av, the holiday that has come to commemorate all acts of destruction against the Jewish people.
Currently, because our psychologically sophisticated community has become more tolerant of public expressions of pain, and because of the healing movement’s revelation that many congregants are ill or suffering, Reform is accustoming itself to public acknowledgments of brokenness. There is still work to do. Healing services are often segregated from the rest of the congregation, as if congregants in need of them were undergoing some exceptional misfortune that will not befall the rest of us. And some healing services are relentlessly upbeat and make no room for lament. Lament with its tears, illogic, poignancy, and shadow of death is still an explosive topic.
It is an irony. We want to repair the world and yet we are reluctant to acknowledge that everything is broken, including ourselves. We need laments to vocalize the pain before we can be comforted. We need laments at funerals so mourners can grieve their loss. We need laments for people in persistent vegetative states and those who have become profoundly demented, to give their loved ones words to bewail the loss of those relationships. We need laments for divorces, miscarriages, abortions, diseases, and mutilations. We need laments for communal catastrophes. The history of lament can help us by reminding us how poetry and music open the heart to its pain and give sorrow a voice. Maybe we will once again have music at funerals, and weeping will follow.
When a Torah scroll has an effaced or mutilated letter, a reader may not read from it until it is repaired and made whole. Every human loss is a silencing, a letter of the alphabet of creation effaced, erased, a whole world destoryed. We cannot go on until we can break that silence, until we can speak authentically to God out of our wounds. The language of lamet allows us to rearticular the alphabet of creation and restores for us the hope of redemption. As it says in Isaiah (25:8), "He will destroy death forever. Adonai Elohim will wipe the tears from every face."
Ruth Friedman and Leah Kaplan
DR. AVRAHAM BIRAN
Director Emeritus, Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology (NGSBA); Adjunct Professor Emeritus of Biblical Archaeology, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem
Professor Avraham Biran has stood in the footprints of Jewish kings and forefathers in his archaeological work unearthing ruins from nearly 4000 years ago. At the site of the 3700-year-old Cannanite Triple Arched Gate at Tel Dan, which he discovered in 1979, he can visualize Abraham walking up the steps leading to the Gate when he came to rescue his nephew Lot, and being greeted by the elders of Laish, as the place was then called. King David’s legacy materialized for the world in 1993, when Biran found the first archaeological evidence supporting the existence of the House of David – a stele inscription in Aramic paleo-Hebrew dating from the 9th century B.C.E, a discovery that was featured on the front page of the New York Times.
Biran was a member of HUC-JIR faculty for 28 years (1974-2002), and served as Director of HUC-JIR’s Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology (NGSBA) in Jerusalem. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1935, and returned to Palestine as the Thayer Fellow at the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem. From 1937 to 1945, he served as District Officer of the Government of Palestine for the Beth-Shean Valley, and in 1946 became the District Officer of Jerusalem. After the State of Israel was proclaimed in 1948 he became Deputy Military Governor of Jerusalem and soon after served as District Commissioner of the city. In the late 1950s he lived in Los Angeles, where he served as the Consul-General of Israel for 11 western states. Upon his return, he became Director of Armistice Affairs of the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, and from 1961 to1974, before joining the HUC-JIR faculty, he was Director of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums.
Biran participated in excavations throughout the Middle East, including those of the University of Pennsylvania in Iraq—at Tepe Gawra near Mosul and Khafaje near Baghdad, and in the American Schools of Oriental Research excavations near Irbid in Jordan. He accompanied Nelson Glueck in his epoch-making discoveries at Tel el-Kheleifeh at the head of the Gulf of Eilat. Biran directed the excavations of Anathoth, Tel Zippor, Ira, Aroer, the synagogue of Yesud Hama’alah, and the longest ongoing excavations in Israel at Tel Dan, from 1966 to the present day.
He has documented his Tel Dan excavations in numerous articles and books, including Dan, 25 Years of Excavation (in Hebrew, Hameuchad Publishing House/Israel Exploration Society, 1992), Biblical Dan (Israel Exploration Society/HUC-JIR, Jerusalem, 1994), Dan I (with David Ilan and Raphael Greenberg, HUC-JIR Annual Series, 1995), and Dan II (with Rachel BenDov, HUC-JIR Annual Series, 2002). He presented numerous papers in Israel and abroad, and was one of the most popular lecturers at the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) annual meetings in the United States. Dr. Biran received Israel’s highest honor, the Israel Prize, in 2002.
Biran tells of the origins of the Tel Dan dig, a year before the Six Day War. He explains that “we didn’t go there because it was the site of Biblical Dan or even because that’s where we thought it was. It was near the border with Syria and Lebanon, at the source of the Jordan River. The army had been digging trenches and putting up gun emplacements facing the Syrian positions. Some kibbutzniks from Kibbutz Dan came and told me that the army was destroying the tel.” Led to this ‘rescue dig’ by necessity, he had found the site of some of the most important biblical archaeological discoveries in history.
Dr. Biran envisions an expanding presence for HUC-JIR in Israeli society, to advance the cause of pluralistic Judaism and to maintain and strengthen the bridges between Diaspora Judaism and Israel. He feels that biblical archaeology has a great deal to contribute towards these goals, and that the work that the NGSBA produces – scholarly publications, research, and community and youth development, helps build strong foundations for Jewish identity and Jewish literacy.
PRO. GERALD BUBIS
Founding Director, School of Jewish Communal Service; Alfred Gottschalk Professor Emeritus of Jewish Communal Service, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles
When Professor Gerald Bubis first came to HUC-JIR after 18 years of service as a Jewish communal professional working at Jewish centers, camps, and Hillels, he believed that his foray into academia would be temporary. However, as Founding Director of HUC-JIR’s School of Jewish Communal Service (SJCS) – established in 1968 – and a member of the HUC-JIR faculty, Bubis served the College-Institute for 21 years until his retirement in 1989, training a generation of Jewish communal service professionals. “The SJCS’s graduates would accomplish much more in the field than I would myself had I returned to a professional setting,” he says of his students with pride.
Bubis points to the establishment of the SJCS as the fruit of his life’s work, and he expresses his gratitude to Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, then Dean of HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, for offering him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build the school of his dreams. Gottschalk allocated one year to Bubis for research and development, during which he traveled to seventeen cities, examining potential curricula and program plans. His brainchild began with a two-summer certificate program and then in 1971 grew to incorporate double Master’s degree programs with the University of Southern California and a joint degree program with the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.
Bubis’s legacy today is a multi-track program that offers a certificate and master’s degree in Jewish Communal Service (MAJCS), a joint masters for students enrolled in the Rhea Hirsch School of Jewish Education and the SJCS, and several dual degree programs offered in coordination with the University of Southern California (USC). Students have the option to pursue the MAJCS with a USC Master’s degree in Social Work, Public Administration, Business Administration, Public Arts Studies, or Communications Management. The program also offers learning tracks in Synagogue Management and Youth Services that can be combined with any other HUC-JIR degree.
Professor Bubis’s reach extends from academia to Israeli causes. He has taught at the University of Southern California, the Council of Jewish Federations’ Continuing Education Program, and the Wexner Graduate Fellows Program. He has served as Vice President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, as a board member and officer of MAZON, the New Israel Fund, American Zionist Youth Foundation, Friends of Labor Israel, and United Israel Appeal, and as national Co-President of Americans for Peace Now. He is past president of the Jewish Communal Service Association and a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation and the BrandeisBardin Institute, among many others.
Bubis has served as Milender Fellow at Brandeis University and Arnulf Pins Visiting Professor at The Hebrew University. He is the recipient of numerous awards from the AZA, Los Angeles Jewish Federation, Hebrew University, and the University of Judaism, and an honorary doctorate from the College-Institute.
He has authored, co-authored and edited more than 180 articles, which have appeared in publications ranging from Moment and the Journal of Jewish Communal Service to the Journal of Reform Judaism and Judaism and Psychology. Bubis has been a trainer, lecturer, and consultant for many national and international organizations in over 125 communities throughout the world. At HUC-JIR he taught about family, Jewish identity, organizational theory, and management. He recently published a book on board-staff relations, entitled The Director Had a Heart Attack and the President Resigned and From Predictablity to Chaos? – a study with Dr. Steven Windmueller on the formation of the United Jewish Communities. His 2005 memoir, Guide Yourself Accordingly (Lighting Source), the proceeds of which support the scholarship fund of the SJCS, describes his 55-year journey of leadership in the Jewish community and academia.
Bubis speaks fondly of his years at HUC-JIR and the professional and personal relationships he formed and still maintains with former students and colleagues. His tenure was one of warmth and informal connection, where students felt as comfortable in his classroom as in his home. Bubis and his wife Ruby, a retired Jewish communal professional, are happy to report that both of their children, Deena Libman (MAJCS, ‘78) and David Bubis (MAJCS/MSW ‘82) attended the School of Jewish Communal Service.
PROFESSOR LOWELL MCCOY
Professor Emeritus of Speech, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
Professor Lowell McCoy, Professor Emeritus of Speech at HUC-JIR/ Cincinnati and an ordained Methodist minister, has the distinction of having been the first full-time non-Jewish faculty member at HUC-JIR. Throughout his five decades of service at the College-Instiute, McCoy has sustained the belief that “it is more important to communicate values and ideas than particular denominational and theological practices.” His years at HUC-JIR allowed him the opportunity to interpret Judaism to the Christian community and vice versa. “The liberal attitude of the College-Institute completely suited my particular religious philosophy,” he explains, and praises the intellectual aspect of Reform as very important for the enduring significance of religion. “I couldn’t have found anything that would have been better than my 50-year relationship with HUC-JIR.”
McCoy recalls a memorable incident which highlights the open attitude of HUC-JIR and its former President, Dr. Nelson Glueck: “Soon after I joined the faculty, one of our students preached a sermon on proselytizing (as far as I can remember it was the only sermon on this subject in my tenure here, although a number have alluded to outreach). His thesis was that ‘if we believe that Reform is so great we should attempt to win converts.’ As we made our way to the dormitory dining room for an Oneg Shabbat following the service, a group of students, in a jocular vein, suggested that I should be the first candidate. Whereupon President Glueck placed his arm protectively around my shoulder and said: ‘We just want Professor McCoy to remain a good Christian.’”
As Professor of Speech, McCoy shaped the way rabbinical students would transmit their own religious and academic views to their communities. He came to the CollegeInstitute in 1949 as part of a joint program in Communications with the University of Cincinnati, and in 1954 began teaching fulltime at HUC-JIR. He taught public address, oral interpretation, religious broadcasting and telecasting, and homiletics, served as Associate Dean, Associate Editor of the Hebrew Union College Annual, and was a founder and board member of the Academy for Adult Interfaith Studies. He officially retired and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the CollegeInstitute in 1989, but continued to teach part-time until 2000. The Rabbinical Alumni Association honored him recently as a Distinguished Professor.
Before coming to HUC-JIR, McCoy served as a chaplain during World War II and taught at Ohio State University. While at the College-Institute he held a chaplaincy at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and taught at the Chaplain School during the Korean War. His scholarly work includes articles and reviews on public address and oral interpretation, and contributions to the book Recent Homiletical Thought (Abington Press, 1967), among other publications.
After his retirement, Professor McCoy continued to teach for ten years at the Institute for Learning in Retirement in Cincinnati, where he also served on the board of directors. Founded by Aaron Levine, z”l, former member of HUC-JIR’s Cincinnati Board of Overseers, and coordinated by the University of Cincinnati, the program grew from 13 courses with 130 students to over 100 courses and 1000 students during his tenure there. He continues to teach, lecture, and preach as invited by Jewish and Christian communities.
DR. HERBERT H. PAPER
Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Near Eastern Languages, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
Professor Herbert Paper’s lifetime love of languages was kindled in his twenties, when he studied Latin and Greek as an undergraduate. Soon after, as a young serviceman during World War II, he was enrolled in an intensive year-long course in Chinese in preparation for overseas service. The native English and Yiddish speaker rapidly became fluent in his fifth language, and knew then that he had a calling. His passion for Persian, which would become his life’s work, grew in Iran in 1951, where Paper was living on a post-doctoral Fulbright Scholarship after receiving his Ph.D. in Linguistics and Ancient Near Eastern Languages at the University of Chicago after the war. With no Englishspeaking companions in the city of Susa, where he lived with a French archaeologist, he learned a good deal of Persian in five months. It was during that time that he discovered Judeo-Persian text, spoken in pure Persian, but written in Hebrew script. Paper explains that the unusual phenomenon developed because “for hundreds of years, Jews in Iran could only read and write in Hebrew characters.” Persian Studies became the major focus of his career, which would include work on the history of the Persian language and on the ancient languages of Iran, as well as Yiddish literature. Of his numerous publications, he points to his work on a Judeo-Persian manuscript of the Pentateuch from 1319, which now resides in the British Museum in London, as the most memorable. His 125-page edition of the document was published in Israel.
Before coming to HUC-JIR in 1977, Paper taught Near Eastern languages for 24 years at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and was instrumental in founding their Jewish Studies program. Over his 22-year tenure at the College-Institute, he helped to build its reputation in languages and linguistics and introduced several languages that had not been taught at HUC-JIR before, such as Yiddish, Sanskrit, and modern Persian. He served as Dean of Graduate Studies and Editor of the Hebrew Union College Annual.
Over the course of his career, Paper has seen the resurgence of interest in once-declining languages such as Yiddish. He marvels at the phenomenon that “the language once passed down verbally is now being studied at universities by people who did not learn it at home, and even by non-Jews, who are interested in it for its inherent literary and historic value.” He is proud to have been integral to the rebirth of “an aspect of Judaic studies that used to be neglected.”
Paper has lectured in both Yiddish and English, presenting papers and generating public interest in Jewish languages. His topics include “The History of Yiddish Literature,” “The Languages of the Jews Throughout History,” and “Sholem Aleichem as a Social Critic.”
He served as President of the Association of Judaic Studies and, since retiring in 1999, continues to stay current in his field by reading voraciously and keeping up with recent research on the Yiddish language and Judeo-Persian texts. He is always available to his former students to answer their linguistic questions.\
DR. ELLIS RIVKIN
Adolph S. Ochs Professor Emeritus of Jewish History HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
Professor Ellis Rivkin’s career as a historian of Jewish history grew out of an intense personal, theological search. Rivkin was born in 1918 into an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family in Baltimore. He was nurtured on the belief that every word in the Torah is the word of God. “I was the very model of a promising Talmid Chacham and an exemplem of piety, keenly eager to become a defender of the true faith against even the most intrepid challengers.” He led a fervently Orthodox life until his teenage years, when he encountered the New Testament and was exposed to Biblical criticism for the first time, a theory that he found equally compelling and troubling. As a student at Baltimore Hebrew College, Rivkin had a deep crisis of faith, but it took him not away from Judaism as he feared, but toward a new rational theology of Jewish history. He calls this transformation that would thereafter underly his life and scholarship as a religious trajectory “from God to God.”
Of his most influential teachers at that time, Harry M. Orlinsky, Frederick Lane, and Solomon Zeitlin stand out. Rivkin says that “through these scholars I was exposed to the ubiquity of historical change, to things becoming other than they had previously been. Ideas that had predominated once upon a time declined in appeal as vibrant new ideas emerged.” Confronted with the certainty of historical change, Rivkin wondered “how can I sustain the claim that change does not occur in a supernatural Torah? Do not the same laws apply to Jewish history as to non-Jewish history?”
Rivkin’s seminal theory, the “Unity Principle,” sought to reconcile the problem. In it he identifies a oneness in Judaism that has endured as the beliefs, practices, and circumstances of the Jewish people have evolved over time. His 1971 book, The Shaping of Jewish History (the second edition was renamed The Unity Principle in 2003), presents Jewish development as a dynamic process acting on an inherently flexible people. Rivkin argues that Judaism’s core was able to survive the pressure of historical forces from Biblical to modern times because rather than cling to an unchanging faith, Jews have adapted their practices and relationship to God, retaining their “oneness” in a constantly changing world.
He explains that “the distinctive significance of Jewish history and of the Jewish people is that Judaism commits itself not to God-finding as much as to God-searching. Modern Jewish identity is the freedom to think, to seek God rather than to accept the claim that God’s will is fully known. If we have already found God, why not be satisfied with Abraham’s God or the God of the First Temple or the God of the Shulhan Arukh? The concept of a completely known God defies the notion of historical progression that makes the ‘unity principle’ a paradigm for Jews – and for humankind.”
Rivkin lives out his historical theories in personal practice. After a great personal struggle with his family’s history and beliefs, he came to Reform Judaism, attracted to the movement for its ability to look at the past critically, “allowing for a future that has a goal but no end.”
Rivkin came to HUC-JIR early in his career, and would remain with the institution until his retirement (1949-1985). After receiving his Ph.D. in History from Johns Hopkins University he began publishing his first papers as a post-doctoral student at Dropsie University in Philadelphia. He recalls that Joseph Rader Marcus, the founder of the American Jewish Archives at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, noticed him and persuaded President Nelson Glueck to invite him to join the faculty as Assistant Professor of Jewish and World History. Rivkin agreed, but only under the condition that he “be free to teach Jewish history exactly the way it would be taught at Harvard or Yale, that is, as objectively as possible, to which Dr. Glueck responded ‘We would not want you otherwise.’” Rivkin’s other published books include Leon de Modena and the Kol Sakhal (HUC Press 1952); The Hidden Revolution: The Pharisees’ Search for the Kingdom Within (Abingdon Press, 1978); and What Crucified Jesus (Abingdon Press, 1984). Each overturned prevailing beliefs and probed new and uncharted territory of scholarship. In addition, Rivkin has written more than 200 articles and monographs, many of which, in economic brevity, solved problems that beset scholars for centuries.
During his 36-year tenure at the College-Institute Rivkin transformed the worldviews of his students with his inimitable teaching style and radical ideas. He is currently working on a book loosely titled A God for the Perplexed in an Age of Religious Terrorism, prompted by the period of global unrest that followed the fall of the Soviet Union. Observing the myriad ways that God has been invoked throughout history to justify violence, he turns to his own theology. “It is not God but human beings who declare war, spread terror, exercise torture, bomb cities, and threaten to nucleate life. What we need today is a God that we can believe in with all our reason and love for the good, the true, and the beautiful. That is the vision of God to which my life has led me.”
Director Emeritus of Liturgical Arts, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
Composer Bonia Shur transformed Reform Jewish music during his 26 years at HUC-JIR (1974-2000) as Director of Liturgical Arts, a position created especially for Shur. Under its aegis, he taught generations of rabbinical students to perform and create liturgy, composed music for HUC-JIR celebrations and events, and established a choir at the College-Institute that became the HUC-Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music Vocal Instrumental Ensemble, then “the only known vocal instrumental ensemble in the Jewish world that enhances the music at Shabbat Services.” It has been said of Shur that during his tenure, he turned the CollegeInstitute around spiritually, generating a house of prayer and celebration.
Shur taught students to internalize and express themselves creatively through tefilah. He emphasized the importance of a meditative “transition from nothingness to prayer,” and encouraged students to vocalize their spontaneous and emotional prayers without a siddur before turning to standardized liturgy, a tool that would help them to find meaning in unique situations throughout their lives. His courses included cantillation, creativity in prayer and leading services, and traditional and contemporary liturgical music.
A versatile composer, Shur has published over 300 original compositions for the synagogue and the stage, theater, television, and film. He collaborated with Johnny Mandel on the vocal score to the motion picture “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming” (1966). In 1968, he received a National Television Academy Award for his music for the TV special, “Revolt in Modi’in.” His orchestral music has been performed by the Israeli Radio Orchestra, Minneapolis Chamber Symphony, and Cincinnati Chamber symphony, and his choral works have been performed and and recorded by the Sarasota Chorale Symphonic Chorus, the Nova Singers of Florida, Oshkosh Chamber Singers, The Rinat Choir of Israel, and the Chicago Children’s Choir, among others.
Shur believes that he composed some of his best music while at HUC-JIR, particularly Hallel Psalms, which has been performed at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati’s S.H. and Helen R. Scheuer Chapel every year for the last 30 years, during Passover, Sukkot, and Hanukkah. Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel was moved to tears when he heard Never Again, a piece which Shur composed for Holocaust Remembrance Day in 1980.
Shur’s music integrates and reflects the many diverse cultural heritages in which he has lived. He escaped the Nazi invasion of Latvia, fought in the Russian Army, and performed in its orchestra. After the war, in 1947-49, he performed in displaced persons camps in Germany and encouraged Holocaust survivors to go to Israel. He immigrated to Israel in 1949, where he lived and worked on Kibbutz Netzer Sereni for eleven years, wrote music, and established its choir. He immigrated to the United States in 1960. In 1964 he created the Mediterranean Art Chorale, with 35 graduate students at UCLA, which performed mainly Israeli music and his compositions. He then served as Musical Director at Temple DeHirsch Sinai in Seattle prior to coming to HUC-JIR in 1974. Although he officially retired in 1993, Shur continued to work with students until 2000, conducting and composing for Shabbat morning services.
Currently, Shur is writing music and collaborating with Fanchon Shur, his choreographer wife of 45 years. The couple created and performed Lebedike Neshoma (Vibrant Soul), Akedah, and Tallit Prayer Shawl, to considerable public acclaim.
DR. EZRA SPICEHANDLER
Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Literature, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
Born in 1921, Dr. Ezra Spicehandler’s love of Israel and Hebrew Literature was instilled during his childhood while growing up in Brooklyn, New York in a family where “Palestine was central.” His father, a major supporter of the Modern Hebrew Language Movement in America, taught himself to speak Modern Hebrew in the days of the language’s infancy and cultivated a vast library of Hebrew literature. Spichandler recalls the moment when Hebrew became his own passion. He became enamored with a volume from among his father’s stacks. When he proudly pronounced the author’s name to his father – Merek Twayen – he was met with laughter at the realization that the ‘Hebrew’ book that he read – and loved – was a translation of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer.
Spicehandler’s relationship with Hebrew Union College began when he was admitted in 1939 as a rabbinical student. He was ordained in 1946 and pursued a Ph.D. in Hebrew Literature at HUC-JIR, which he earned in 1952.
During his graduate studies, he spent a year in Jerusalem at The Hebrew University. The year was 1948, and on the eve of the War of Independence, one month before the U.N. voted for the partition plan, he, along with several other American students, was recruited by the Hagganah to serve as a machine gunner in a hastily-enlisted ‘support company.’
Spicehandler returned to his studies in the United States after the war, but his passion for the promise of the Jewish State informed the role he would later play at HUC-JIR, developing the Year-In-Israel Program and the Israeli Rabbinical Program. After completing his degree, he became an instructor in Modern Hebrew Literature at HUC-JIR/ New York before being appointed to a full professorship track in Cincinnati in 1955.
In 1966 Spicehandler returned to Israel to serve as Director and Dean of HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, where he would remain for fourteen years. At the time, the institution was primarily an archaeology school, and under Spicehandler’s leadership, it grew to include a mandatory Year-in-Israel Program for first-year HUC-JIR students and the Israel Rabbinical Program, which to date has ordained 39 rabbis (26 men and 13 women). Spicehandler recalls that there had been stateside support for some time to incorporate the Jerusalem campus into the American rabbinical program, but it wasn’t until after the Six Day War in 1967 that President Nelson Glueck and the Board of Governors approved the idea. “Glueck had a good sense of timing and this was an opportune time,” he says.
During his 41 years on the faculty, Spicehandler saw the Reform Movement, and then HUC-JIR, embrace Zionism and Israel. Spicehandler developed the Israeli Rabbinical Program “to teach Reform ideology and theology in Israel and provide a pragmatic liberal option for aspiring Israeli rabbinical students.” The Year-In-Israel program fulfilled the need for further Hebrew training, exposure to world Jewry, and the incorporation of newly-accessible biblical sites into a rabbinical education.
Spicehandler’s memories of his time in Israel are full of the grandiose plans, personalities, and quirks of the State’s architects – Golda Meir, David Ben Gurion, and Yitzhak Rabin. He caught his first glimpse of the newly-captured Sinai desert from the windows of a helicopter with Nelson Glueck. He served on the Committee of the World Zionist Organization throughout his tenure in Jerusalem, and was eventually appointed to the organization’s National Committee, which at that time was called ‘Avodah.’ He was once offered a seat in the Knesset, which he turned down to devote his time to the rapidly growing Jerusalem programs.
Spicehandler has made major contributions to the fields of Modern Hebrew Literature, Israel and Zionism, Judeo-Persian studies, and Talmudic history. His anthology, The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself, written with T. Carmi and Stanley Burnshaw, is used as the standard textbook in advanced studies in Modern Hebrew Literature in the United States and Israel; his article on Hebrew Literature was included in the latest edition of the Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Spicehandler served as an editor of Modern Hebrew for the Encyclopedia Judaica, and has published widely in academic journals.
On sabbaticals from the College-Institute, Spicehandler served as a visiting professor at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand; University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Oriental Institute at Oxford University; Logos Theological Seminary, Kyoto, Japan; and Hebrew University. He spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Teheran (1962-63), during which he taught Persian history at Teheran University, lectured on Persian history to the community, and collected many Persian manuscripts and Judeo-Persian materials, which are now housed in HUC-JIR’s collections.
He is currently working on a translation of the works of Yosef Hayim Brenner, an early 20th-century Zionist novelist, which he started with Professor David Patterson, z”l, of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. His translation of Haim Nachman Bialik’s short stories, also written with Patterson, in the book Random Harvest & Other Novellas, received a lauditory first page review in the London Times Supplement and was included in The New York Times Literary Review. Supporting and encouraging him throughout these numerous accomplishments are his wife Shirley, and his daughters Rabbi Reena Spicehandler and Rabbi Judith Spicehandler, C ‘99.
DR. MATITIAHU TSEVAT
Julian Morgenstern Professor Emeritus of Bible, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
Born in Germany and raised in Breslav after World War I, Dr. Matitiahu Tsevat inherited his parents’ strong background in Judaism and Modern Hebrew culture, and commitment to Zionism. He learned Hebrew from his mother before he learned to read German in school, and grew up reading Chaim Nachman Bialik and Mendele Mocher Sforim in his father’s collection of Modern Hebrew literature. Tsevat was active in the Zionist youth organization in Germany during the years of Hitler’s rise, and worked in agricultural hachshara – vocational training for young Jews anticipating immigration to Palestine. He writes that “in my late teens I spoke Hebrew fluently and I knew chapters of the Bible by heart (just as I knew scores of Mozart and Beethoven).”
In 1938, at the age of 25, with a teacher’s diploma from the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau, Tsevat immigrated to Palestine with his family. He continued his studies at Hebrew Teachers College in Jerusalem and at The Hebrew University, where he earned an M.A. in Bible in 1948. In 1949 he moved to the United States to study, first at Dropsie College in Philadelphia and then from 1950 to 1953 at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, where he earned his Ph.D. in Bible.
Tsevat began his more than 35-year-long career with the College-Institute in 1954 when he joined the library staff. In 1958 he was asked to join the faculty, and in 1966 was appointed Professor of Bible, later becoming the Julian Morgenstern Professor of Bible. In addition to his Bible courses, Tsevat taught electives on the religious poetry of Judah Halevi, the world of the Old Testament, and graduate courses on extinct Near Eastern languages – Ugaritic, Akkadian, and Hittite.
During 1964-66 Tsevat returned to Israel as Director of Jewish Studies at HUC-JIR/ Jerusalem. He led the program during its formative years, and was instrumental in its development. In his courses on both continents, Tsevat believed in lecturing in Hebrew, providing important continuity and reinforcement of the speaking skills that his students developed during their year of studies in Israel. He said “one cannot overestimate the experience of spending a year in Jerusalem.”
A prolific writer, Tsevat has published and presented his work widely. His publications include A Study of the Language of the Biblical Psalms (1955 and reprints) and The Meaning of the Book of Job and Other Studies (Ktav, 1980), in addition to numerous articles, reviews, and encyclopedia entries on the topics of Bible, the Ancient Near East, Judah Halevi, methodology, and the philosophy of science. He has been well sought-after in the larger academic community, and spent sabbatical leaves from HUC-JIR as a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies at The Hebrew University (1978-79 and summer 1982), the University of California, Berkeley (1987), and at the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien in Heidelberg, Germany (1983), where he aided in the reestablishment and support of Jewish studies and culture in Germany.
In addition to his teaching and scholarship, Tsevat served as Chairman of the Committee on Academic Affairs and the Faculty Senate, as a member of the Publications Committee, and as Editor of the Hebrew Union College Annual.
Tsevat and his wife Miriam Tsevat celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the College-Institute. He recalls her moving speech on that occasion, when she spoke about her memories of Kristallnacht. After coming to Cincinnati so that he could work on his Ph.D. for a year or two, they have stayed for 54 years, and are now enjoying his retirement together.
DR. BEN ZION WACHOLDER
Solomon Freehof Professor Emeritus of Talmud and Rabbinics, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
Professor Ben Zion Wacholder, scholar of Talmud and Rabbinics, began his career at HUC-JIR as the Los Angeles School’s first librarian in 1956. His early work in the burgeoning library collection helped usher the new school into accreditation – the committee that came to evaluate the campus cited his presence in the library as their reason for support.
Born in Ozarow, Poland in 1924, Wacholder studied in European yeshivot and was recognized as a scholar in Europe before World War II began. In October 1942, the Nazis liquidated his town, but Wacholder survived the Shoah, living as a Christian under an Aryan name and working in a Polish labor camp until liberation. After the war, he moved to Paris and later Bogota, Colombia, and finally immigrated to the United States in 1947 with the goal of resuming his education. Wacholder received his rabbinical ordination from Yeshiva University in 1951 and his Ph.D. from UCLA in 1960. Soon after joining the HUC-JIR staff, he became a permanent member of the CollegeInstitute’s faculty, ultimately being named the Solomon Freehof Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics in Cincinnati, where he taught until his retirement.
Wacholder’s students speak of the warmth and magnetism that drew them to their teacher, a brilliant Talmudist who knew scripture and rabbinic texts by heart. When his eyesight deteriorated in the 1970s, dozens of his rabbinical and graduate students flocked to assist him with his research. Martin Abegg (now co-director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at Trinity Western University in British Columbia) describes the experience of working “knee to knee” with his mentor: “I have often thought that my 5 years with Ben Zion Wacholder – in the hands of a gifted writer – would rival Mitch Albom’s Tuesday’s with Morrie. Only with me it was Tuesdays and Thursdays with Ben Zion. I, in the rich company of a dozen other HUC-JIR grad students over the years, was Ben’s eyes.”
The students would open mail from scholars around the world seeking his input on scores of topics and would lend their sight to Wacholder’s study of secondary sources in multiple languages. They were constantly awed by their teacher’s flawless knowledge of primary text. Wacholder imbued his students with the lesson that as helpful as modern technology might be, a computer search engine can never replace personal knowledge of the Bible, Talmud, Midrash, and all of the commentaries that create our layered text.
Abegg co-authored Wacholder’s seminal work, an unauthorized edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, titled A Preliminary Edition of the Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls (Biblical Archaeology Society, 1991). Together they developed a computer program that reconstructed fragmented sections of the scrolls from a concordance, thereby making the full content of the scrolls accessible and leading to the release of the original manuscripts, which had been withheld from the public for years. The work opened wide the study of the scrolls to new scholars, leading to the establishment of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation to raise funds for research and preservation.
Abegg notes that the legal writings in the Dead Sea Scrolls “provide a critical window into the shape of Judaism before the Mishna and the [Jerusalem and Babylonian] Talmuds.” Professor Wacholder “realized this potential” and made it accessible to the academic community.
Abegg and another former Ph.D. student, Tim Undheim, are currently putting the finishing touches on Wacholder’s latest work, The New Damascus Document: The Midrash on the Eschatological Torah of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Brill 2006). Abegg concludes: “My adventure with Ben Zion was priceless. This is the kind of education that all of us hope for from our schooling but few of us actually experience.”
For additional information on these honored Emeritus Faculty members, please go to http://www.huc.edu/faculty/faculty
Thank you to Hanni Hirsch, Dr. David Ilan, David Tsevat, and Nina Wacholder for their contributions to this article.
Arriving January 2007 on the HUC-JIR Website
A JEWISH SCHOLARSHIP NEWSLETTER
Editor: Eugene B. Borowitz, HUC-JIR/NY
Associate Editor: Alyssa Gray, HUC-JIR/NY
Adam Kamesar, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati;
Yehoyada Amir, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem;
David Kaufman, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles
Aimed at narrowing the communication gap between Jewish studies academics and the Reform Movement’s serious and thoughtful lay readers, this electronic newsletter will feature timely and significant scholarly activities in accessible prose, drawing on the widespread expertise of HUC-JIR’s distinguished faculty.
*Lishmah - learning for its own sake, is a joint project of HUC-JIR and the Union for Reform Judaism.
This is HUC? Absolutely! These current opportunities and new projects for the upcoming academic year are indeed the wave of the future. Since the establishment of the National Department of Distance Education seven years ago, this innovative department is not only changing the way many teach and learn at HUC-JIR but is also changing its name to better reflect its mission, vision, and activities.
Department of eLearning
The mission of ‘eLearning’ (electronic learning) is to enhance, extend and expand learning both inside and outside of the formal classroom. A creative, multi-talented team of educators and educational technology and design professionals guides the high caliber and diverse learning opportunities offered: Online Learning modules, Virtual Resource Centers, Alumni Study programs, numerous course materials and learning support tools, and more.
The department focuses on synergizing pedagogy and educational technology to further the mission of the College-Institute for excellence in all programs and greater integration of all that we do on our four campuses. eLearning’s projects include collaborations with the HUC-JIR/CCAR Joint Commission for Sustaining Rabbinical Education, the Experiment in Congregational Education, The Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health, the Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation, and the Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling in New York.
“eLearning is one of the most important vehicles for achieving these goals. It expands the classroom beyond its walls, making it possible for students to take advantage of academic resources on other campuses and in other institutions,” states Norman Cohen, Provost of HUC-JIR. “This work has also brought academic and intellectual resources to bear on our alumni, the Reform Movement, and the larger Jewish community through cutting-edge programs and the creation of numerous eLearning and distance education projects.”
eLearning’s ambitious vision and programs are implemented by (pictured above, from left) Michelle Lazarow, Educational Technologist; Barbara Lehman, Director of Design for Digital Learning; Gregg Alpert, the department’s founding Director; and Karen More, eLearning Project Manager and Project Manager. “The department is an open laboratory for experimental concepts and pedagogic innovations,” Alpert explains. “With a little guidance and a collaborative process, educational technology can actually be an engine that drives the learning, allows our students, faculty and alumni to explore a broader range of possibilities and, as a result, discover the full potential of each learning opportunity.”
Changing the Mechanisms for Learning and Teaching
eLearning has enriched student learning and faculty instruction across the institution through creative, inter-disciplinary projects and courses, and faculty-student interaction. In one example of innovative programming, Dr. Mark Kligman, Professor of Musicology in the School of Sacred Music in New York, conceived of an interactive PowerPoint presentation that demonstrates for students the evolution of Sephardic music over time and geographic migration. The eLearning staff developed the presentation, which includes custom maps, charts, and sound clips of rare and authentic recordings and is tailored to specific audiences. “The result is amazing,” Kligman reflected. “The students grasp the concepts more quickly and will now be able to review the material on their own.” This presentation is part of a larger academic resource site on Sephardic Studies created by Dr. Kligman, his committee, and the Department of eLearning, funded through the generosity of the Maurice Amado Foundation.
Electronic Text Materials
Dr. Dvora Weisberg, Professor of Talmud and Director of the Lainer Beit Midrash on the Los Angeles campus, was looking to enhance her students’ understanding of rabbinic sources through a new series of digital educational materials. She sought a simple format to present original Aramaic texts side by side, on-screen, with special passages highlighted; short study guides for takehome, on-screen quizzes; online class notes; and color-coded keys for charts and diagrams. With eLearning, she created a set of PDF’s with editable Word templates that fulfilled all of these goals, helping students better visualize and absorb complex concepts. Easily updated by Weisberg and downloadable by students from the course website, the documents have served as a rehearsal for the new Online Course Management System she is piloting this year.
Online Course Management System
The Department of eLearning is piloting Sakai, an “open-source” Online Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE), which is being developed by major universities around the world. Sakai offers a powerful set of organizational, communication, assessment, and pedagogic tools that will allow faculty and students to choose the most appropriate means for enhancing their particular course or project, and will provide an institutional platform for sharing resources and common curricular pursuits. It will also be a great asset for committee work, collaborative projects, and research. By contributing to this open-source community (a free, shared online resource to which partners contribute in a hands-on way), the Department of eLearning has aligned itself with forwardthinking innovators who have made a conscious decision to shape the technology that they use, rather than just respond to it.
Based on new faculty-developed assessment guidelines, students will be able to compile their own electronic repositories of work done at the College-Institute, including records of traditional papers, written assignments, and teaching materials, as well as audio and video clips of presentations, recitals, sermons, and classroom instruction. Annotatable by students, faculty, and mentors, the ePortfolios will contain selected exchanges with faculty or congregants, comments by professors, and other notes demonstrating critique, growth, or achievement. Ultimately, the ePortfolio will be evidence of a student’s accomplishments during his or her tenure at HUC-JIR. “This is all about performance-based assessment – not just what one knows but what one can do with that knowledge. Most importantly, students, together with their mentors and advisors, will be able to identify what they still need to learn and will be able to create an action plan for possible next steps,” explained Gregg Alpert. “We are also working with the Provost to develop a more comprehensive plan for continuing education for our alumni who will maintain access to this powerful resource as testament of this first of many important steps in their lifelong journey as Jewish professionals.”
Alumni Learning and Leadership
eLearning currently provides easily accessible resources and a range of professional development opportunities to all HUC-JIR alumni and the larger world of Jewish professionals. At the heart of the Alumni Online Learning Portal is a link to the HUC-JIR/CCAR Joint Commission for Sustaining Rabbinical Education, a creative collaboration between HUC-JIR and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. The Joint Commission Online was the brainchild of Rabbi Martin Weiner, past CCAR President, Norman Cohen, HUC-JIR Provost, and Gregg Alpert. To respond to the educational needs of busy rabbis in different time zones throughout the world, the team created a 24/7 online sustaining education program for alumni. Now in its fifth year, the Joint Commission Online is home to more than 20 archived courses with more than 500 participants. The site provides each alum with a permanent eLearning archive of completed courses, creating an expanding record of source materials and lessons that can be drawn upon to craft adult education classes, sermons, articles, and discussions.
Through the enthusiastic leadership of Rabbi Ellen Nemhauser, the Joint Commission’s Director, and her collaborative partnership with the department, this year’s offerings are being expanded (see page 33). Interactive video recordings of onsite programs like the highly successful Kinnus Bogrim, a live, multi-day alumni conference, will be viewable online. The same is true for a new two-year series, “10 Great Texts,” enabling alumni to study online with HUC-JIR’s world acclaimed faculty. Plans are underway to make these materials available for ipods in 2007. “Remarkably, all of the electronic and enhanced resources of the Joint Commission will fit in the palm of your hand” explains Rabbi Nemhauser. “Once again though, it’s not the technology that’s important but the fact that eLearning continues to advance alumni study and professional development, which, in turn, directly impacts and enhances the learning of the communities where these Jewish leaders serve.”
The Reform Movement and Larger Jewish Community
The eLearning staff has collaborated with the Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE) to provide participating congregations with state-of-the-art resources: an extensive website, an Online Learning Experience on Alternative Models of Religious School (AMRS), and a new Online Resource Center. Each is focused on exploring the central questions – how do congregations create new educational visions and ‘re-imagine’ their educational programs? How can they learn from other communities? The AMRS online, interactive, media-rich learning module, which has generated over a thousand reflections by participants, allows individual team members to study sample programs and further explore the models of those that best fit the needs and goals of their community. “I am profoundly moved by the content and presentation, both from an inspiring artistic and a technically proficient standpoint. Judaism was never presented to me this way,” said a participant in the ECE’s Online Learning Experience. Standout programs, such as the Jeff Herman Virtual Resource Center (JHVRC) for Sexual Orientation Issues in the Jewish Community, and the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health have incorporated eLearning into their planning and programming. JHVRC’s online materials, which complement workshops and classes on each of the campuses, are now available to the general public (www.elearning.huc.edu/jhvrc/), as part of the new Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation. The Kalsman Institute has also launched a completely re-designed web resource (www.huc.edu/kalsman/), created by Kalsman Associate Director, Michelle Prince and the eLearning design team leader, Barbara Lehman, which offers video recordings from conferences and workshops, as well as new innovative resources. “Our work with the eLearning staff is always collaborative,” explains Michelle Prince, an alumna of HUC-JIR’s School of Jewish Communal Service. “They guide and engage all of us in their unique process that enables us to better think through what we are trying to accomplish, the best way to get there, and frankly to see things we just didn’t see before.”
The Kalsman Institute’s video recordings are part of an Audio/Video Streaming Portal that allows anyone with a high speed Internet connection to view conferences, presentations, lectures and interviews directly on the HUC-JIR website. The streaming and eventual podcast versions are a glimpse of the future – projects that will continue to expand and extend the reach of the College-Institute beyond physical and temporal boundaries, or as the legendary Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel so eloquently taught us, will help the Jewish people to consecrate both space and time, anew.
Four years ago, the eLearning Department used HUC-JIR’s video conferencing system to offer an experimental cross-campus elective, “The Jew and the Other,” taught by Professors David Kaufman, Mark Washofsky, and Wendy Zierler. Four years later, the department has created the eLearning Classroom program, which will bring stateof-the-art video conferencing to classrooms on all four campuses, with upgraded technology and training for faculty members on how to best use these resources to enhance their instruction and promote deeper connections and learning.
The newest, and most ambitious program being developed by the department is Mechinah: Preparing Oneself for Professional Jewish Leadership, an online, media-rich Jewish learning environment that offers students a holistic framework with which to think about, approach, and understand Jewish life (see www.huc.edu/support/AnnualReports/03-04-Page7.pdf ). The audience will include incoming students who will complete the online, fifty-session program (with HUC-JIR faculty and led by graduate students and alumni) during their application process and first year of study in Israel, Jewish professionals in the field who have not had the opportunity to study at HUC-JIR, and eventually, serious adult learners around the world. eLearning endeavors such as Mechinah promise to not only change what we know but to forever change the way it will become a part of all of our lives.
To view the complete article online and explore its links and resources, go to www.huc.edu/elearning/chronicle
To learn more about the National Department of eLearning and its programs, go to www.huc.edu/academics/continuing/de.shtm
“This study program far surpassed my expectations!”
“The opportunity to devote two days to pure study is amazing, a priceless blessing.”
“I have to commend HUC-JIR for the truly substantive high level adult education program it offers rabbis in congregations.”
Such were the comments of alumni last March at the conclusion of Kinnus Bogrim, the 2 1/2-day study program that brought together fifty alumni, most from the New York and surrounding areas, but some from as far away as Northern California and even Haifa, Israel.
This is one example of the successful efforts of the HUC-JIR/CCAR Joint Commission for Sustaining Rabbinical Education. Now in its second decade of planning and implementing continuing education for rabbinical and other alumni, the Joint Commission is developing innovative ways to gather alumni of the College Institute for in-depth, collegial study.
In its early years the Joint Commission created seminars in specific locales, where rabbinical colleagues would study together under the guidance of national scholars. Seven years ago, with the creation of the National Department of Distance Education (now the Department of eLearning), the Joint Commission embarked on a partnership yielding new and stimulating programs accessible to all alumni wherever they live and work around the world. Alumni have been offered sixteen online minicourses, which incorporate live teleconference sessions and email-based discussion, as well as the highly popular, annual Sefirah Study, which over the past five years has provided alumni with seven consecutive weeks of eLearning with numerous experts on a single study theme.
In addition to these eLearning opportunities, the Joint Commission hosts Onsite programs every year during the CCAR convention and every other year on a HUC-JIR campus. The programs are organized by the members of the Commission, currently headed by co-chairs Dr. David H. Aaron, Professor of Bible at HUC-JIR/ Cincinnati, and Rabbi Irwin Zeplowitz of The Community Synagogue, Port Washington, NY.
Joint Commission programs, offering the most current analysis and commentary on topics of study, aim to complement and deepen the learning that alumni achieved during their student years at the College-Institute. More than 500 rabbis have participated in Joint Commission courses Online and another 150 have taken advantage of the Onsite programs.
Alumni are encouraged to register at www.huc.edu/jointcomm
Two-Year Guided Study through Email, Video, and Teleconference
10 Great Texts
October 2006 – June, 2008
Registration: $50 per session or $300 for the two-year program
Bi-monthly study with HUC-JIR Professors Norman Cohen, Michael Marmur, Alyssa Gray, David Aaron, Isa Aron, Eliyahu Schleifer, Reuven Firestone, Richard Sarason, and David Ellenson
Toward a Deeper Understanding of Islam and Muslim Jewish Dialogue
December 7, 14, and 21, 2006 at 1:00 p.m. EST Registration: $100
Study with Professors Reuven Firestone, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles; Zayn Kassam, Claremont College; and David Elcott, American Jewish Committee, New York
CCAR Convention – Atlanta, GA
A Day in the Beit Midrash
March 13, 2007 at 8:30 a.m. 5:30 p.m. Registration: Included in CCAR Convention fees
Study with Professors David Ellenson, Donniel Hartman, Menachem Lorberbaum, and other HUC-JIR/Jerusalem scholars
Sefirah Study – An Email Text Program with Online Discussion
Uncovering and Upsetting the Paradigms of Prayer?
Liturgical Innovation from Antiquity to the Present
April 4 – May 22, 2007 Registration: $100
Study with Professors Richard Sarason, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati; Laura Lieber, Middlebury College; Ruth Langer, Boston College
Twenty-three courses offered over the past seven years are available through the Catalog of Courses at www.huc.edu/jointcomm
All text materials, teleconference presentations, and online discussions with colleagues are available at $50 for each archived course.
For further information on these programs,
please contact Rabbi Ellen Nemhauser at firstname.lastname@example.org
HUC-JIR Museum/New York
One West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 9 am - 5 pm; Fri., 9 am - 3 pm;
Selected Sundays, 10 am-2 pm, Oct. 22;
Nov. 5, 19; Dec. 10; Jan. 14, 28.
Information/Guided Tours: (212) 824-2205
Admission: Free; photo ID required for entrance.
The Eye of the Collector: The Jewish Vision of Sigmund R. Balka
Through January 26, 2007
An encyclopedic survey of the major European and American Jewish artists and Jewish themes in 19th-and 20th-century art. This collection of over 200 paintings, drawings, prints, and photographs, donated to HUC-JIR by Sigmund R. Balka, features works by Chagall, Ryback, Israëls, Pann, Lipschitz, Zadkine, Struck, Pascin, Golub, Gross, Gropper, Levine, Lozowick, Soyer, Shahn, Steinhardt, Baskin, Nevelson, Steinberg, Barnet, Bishop, and Rivers, as well as Rembrandt, Beckmann, Feininger, and Motherwell.
Tamar Hirschl: Cultural Alarm
Through January 26, 2007
A fine art installation that awakens viewers to the dangers of human and environmental destruction through works that draw on personal memories of war and displacement.
David Wander: The Jonah Series
Through December 29, 2006
Fresco-style works on paper pay homage to the biblical story while adding Wander’s own personal interpretations.
Deidre Scherer: Surrounded by Family and Friends
November 27, 2006 – February 23, 2007
Using fabrics as paint, thread as brushstrokes, and mortality as theme, Scherer depicts haunting life-size images.
Judy Chicago and Her Jewish Heritage
February 6, – July 2007
A career retrospective illuminating Judy Chicago’s Jewish identity, values, and mission and their influence on her creativity and featuring leading works from private and public collections. Presented as part of a 2007 national consortium of cultural institutions promoting greater awareness of feminist art.
Living in the Moment: Contemporary Artists Celebrate Jewish Time
The sale of unique and limited edition works of innovative Jewish ceremonial art, created by internationally recognized artists.
HUC-JIR Skirball Cultural Center/LA
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049
Hours: Tues.-Sat., 12 - 5 pm; Thurs until 9 pm;
Information: (310) 440-4500
Tours: (310) 440-4564 Admission: Free
On The Couch: Cartoons from The New Yorker
Through December 31, 2006
Honoring the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sigmund Freud.
Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America
Featuring works from the HUC-JIR’s permanent collection, this exhibition traces the history, accomplishments, and values of the Jewish people over four thousand years.
HUC-JIR Skirball Museum/ Cincinnati
3101 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45220
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 11 am - 4 pm; Sun., 12 - 5 pm
Information: (513) 487-3055/8
Guided tours upon request. Admission: Free
An Eternal People: The Jewish Experience
The cultural heritage of the Jewish people as conveyed through seven thematic galleries: Immigration, Cincinnati Jewry, Archaeology, Torah, Jewish Festivals and Life Cycles, the Holocaust, and Israel.
The Archaeology Center
A hands-on learning and research facility for the study of Archaeology and Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern history and culture.
Mapping Our Tears
Holocaust exhibition sponsored by Cincinnati’s Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education.
Klau Library and American Jewish Archives/Cincinnati
3101 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45220
Guided tours of the Dalsheimer Rare Book Building of the Klau Library and the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives are available by appointment, by contacting 513-487-3276.
Skirball Museum of Biblical Archaeology/Jerusalem
13 King David Street, Jerusalem, Israel 94101
Hours: Sun., Tues., Thurs., 10 am – 4 pm
Guided group tours upon advance request.
Information: (02) 620-3333 Admission: Free
Highlighting the research and the archaeological expeditions of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology at three ancient cities: Laish/Dan, Gezer and Aroer.
For information on bringing HUC-JIR’s TRAVELING EXHIBITIONS TO YOUR SYNAGOGUE MUSEUM OR CITY, please call (212) 824-2218 or visit www.huc.edu/museums/ny
Visit HUC-JIR’s exhibitions in BOCA RATON, JUPITER, AND MIAMI, FLORIDA (see below)
Study with HUC-JIR’s scholars and view HUC-JIR’s traveling exhibitions in South Florida this winter!
The Great Scholar Series
The Lifelong Learning Society, Florida Atlantic University, and HUC-JIR present a series of eight lectures exploring the great men and women who have changed the course of Jewish life through their impact on literature, music, politics, philosophy, government, entertainment, and business.
The Jewish Supreme Court Justices
Benton Becker, Professor of Law, St.Thomas University in Miami/FAU
Musical Portrayals of Jewish Heroes and Heroines
Cantor Bruce L. Ruben, Ph.D., Director of the School of Sacred Music, HUC-JIR/New York, and Joyce Rosenzweig, Pianist/Conductor and Artist in Residence, School of Sacred Music, HUC- JIR/New York, with students from the HUC-JIR School of Sacred Music
Profiles in American Jewish Courage
Dr. Gary Zola, Associate Professor of the American Jewish Experience and Executive Director of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
In Search of Abraham Joshua Heschel
Dr. Michael Marmur, Dean, HUC-JIR/ Jerusalem
Jewish Thinkers Since Auschwitz
Dr. Alan L. Berger, Raddock Eminent Scholar Chair in Holocaust Studies/FAU
Rosa Sonnenschein (1847-1932) and American Jewry: Was She the Oprah of Her Day?
Dr. Carol Balin, Professor of Jewish History, HUC-JIR/New York
Israeli Heroes I Have Known
Ambassador Asher Naim, veteran of Israel’s Diplomatic Services/FAU
Heroic Figures and Legacies in the Bible
Dr. Frederick Greenspahn, Gimelstob Eminent Scholar in Judaic Studies/FAU
Tuesdays, Boca Raton Campus 1:30 – 3:15 p.m.
Please call FAU at 561.297.3171 for Boca Raton and 561.799.8667 for Jupiter for the catalogue and registration materials.
Wednesdays, MacArthur Campus, Jupiter. 2:45 – 4:30 p.m.
For information about HUC-JIR’s faculty and programs, please contact Gerda Klein at 561.738.2806 or email@example.com.
HUC-JIR Exhibitions in Florida
Schedule of public programs and special events: www.huc.edu/florida
ALIZA OLMERT: TIKKUN
November 5 - December 17, 2006
The Nathan D. Rosen Museum at the Adolph and Rose Levis Jewish Community Center, 9801 Donna Klein Boulevard, Boca Raton
Renowned Israeli conceptual artist Aliza Olmert creates an existential tikkun through the mending of the shattered pieces in her haunting works, expressing the fragility of existence, the obstacles to survival, and the imperative to sustain life.
Sunday, November 5, 2-4 pm
WALDSEE – 1944
January 2 – March 30, 2007
Hibel Museum of Art, MacArthur Campus, Florida Atlantic University, 5353 Parkside Drive, Jupiter, Florida.
Hungarian Jews deported by the Nazis to their deaths at Auschwitz during the summer of 1944 were required to write deceptive post- cards from “Waldsee” to their families, reassuring them that all was well. Seventy international artists have created postcards to commemorate the annihilation of Hungarian Jewry.
Sunday, February 18, 2-4 pm
THE ART OF AGING
March 27 – September 23, 2007
Jewish Museum of Florida 301 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida
Through painting, sculpture, photography, video, and mixed media, artists of all generations explore the effects of time on human experience.
Monday, March 26, 6 pm
Contact Gerda Klein at 561.738.2806 or firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP to these opening receptions.
These exhibitions are presented courtesy of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum in New York.
Rachel Litcofsky & Cathy Weinberger
The College-Institute’s Youth Programs have a crucial mission: to attract the youngest emerging leaders associated with the Reform Movement to HUC- JIR and a future in the Jewish professional world. In fact, more than half of the students currently enrolled in HUC-JIR’s rabbinical school participated in an HUC-JIR-spon- sored youth program during their high school and/or college years.
“It is clear from extensive interviews with interested students that many of our appli- cants had their excitement piqued because of their first HUC-JIR experiences as teenagers coming to Cincinnati,” explains Rabbi Ken Kanter, Director of the Rabbinical Program and Interim Regional Director of Admissions and Recruitment at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati. “Youth weekends at HUC-JIR and participation in the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) camps are the two most successful and often repeated experiences that inspire them to become students at HUC-JIR.”
Alumni as Vital Links
The College-Institute relies on its alumni as the vital links between young people in their congregations and the opportunities for lead- ership development sponsored on the campuses. Alumni are invited to nominate qualified high school candidates, who are then personally invited to take part in Youth Programs. Many alumni make special arrangements to bring their confirmation classes to HUC-JIR’s campuses. They also mentor college students toward graduate study at HUC-JIR.
Connecting in Cincinnati
Each year approximately 250 high school and college students from more than ninety congregations throughout North America spend three to four days in Cincinnati studying, singing, worshipping, and enjoying a transformative experience together. Enthusiastic after a long weekend filled with vitalized Jewish commitment, strengthened identity, and peer kinship, the participants feel empowered to further develop and evolve into tomorrow’s rabbis, cantors, Jewish communal service professionals, and educators. The young people who attend youth programs each year receive vital encouragement through relationships forged with the rabbinical students who facilitate the programs and share stories of their own journeys that led them to rabbinical school.
The rabbinical student facilitators commit to a two-year internship. In this position they oversee all of the logistics, administrative responsibilities, and management involved with running the Youth Programs Department. Rabbinical interns strive to create innovative programs that challenge, stimulate, and motivate the participants. They work to ensure that every detail is meticulously exe- cuted, from the weekend theme to the meals, from the transportation to the enter- tainment, from the Shabbat services to the song sessions and the participation of renowned faculty members as guest scholars.
“The Youth Programs Department at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati gives high school and college students the opportunity to see a side of Jewish study to which they may not yet have been exposed,” explains fifth-year rab- binical student Joel Simon, C ‘07, who recently served as an intern for two years. “Many of them see the rabbinate as some- thing that only ‘their rabbi’ can do, but after engaging in the study experience for a week- end and seeing the wide array of rabbinical students who immerse themselves in this exploration daily, they realize that they too can live this life if they desire.”
Some of the unique opportunities that the Youth Department offers include celebrating Shabbat in a new and different way than back home, spending time with some of the leading Judaic scholars in the world, talking informally in the dorms, and forming discus- sion groups based on compelling and challenging study topics.
The Cincinnati campus provides participants with an array of world-renowned resources. They have access to the Klau Library, one of the most extensive Jewish libraries in the world, including its collection of manu- scripts, books, maps, and other rare items housed in the Dalsheimer Rare Book Building; The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives’ collections of artifacts documenting the Jewish past and present; and the Skirball Museum – Cincinnati’s encyclopedic display of Jewish history and cultural heritage. These treasures reinforce the informal learning programs and enrich the overall experience.
Joining Together in Jerusalem
Thousands of North American students par- ticipate annually in Youth Programs on the Jerusalem campus, from NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) teens and youngsters on other summer youth trips, to students spending the semester in Israel as part of the Eisendrath International Exchange (EIE) and college students study- ing abroad for the year. Working closely with The Saltz Education Center at WUPJ Jerusalem and Kesher (the Youth Division of the Union for Reform Judaism), Rabbi David Wilfond, Director of Outreach and Admissions at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, sponsors weekend programs designed especially for the large number of college students study- ing in Israel.
“The goal is to provide meaningful Reform Jewish experiences and spiritual support for college students from North American Reform families studying at the universities in Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Beer Sheva, or working in the service-based lead- ership development programs Otzma, WUJS, and Young Judea,” explains Wilfond. He hosts students for the High Holy Days on the HUC-JIR campus, where they wor- ship side-by-side with HUC-JIR’s Year-In- Israel cohort and Israeli rabbinical students. In addition, he organizes three major shab- batonim – Shabbat retreats with intensive Jewish learning in cooperation with the Saltz Center.
The New York Experience
The Miller High School Program at HUC- JIR offers a special two-year high school honors program for students entering 11th and 12th grades from congregations throughout New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Reform rabbis, cantors, and educators select students from their congre- gations to participate in this program, which meets two Sundays a month during the aca- demic year. Over fifty high school students are enrolled each year. Rabbinical, cantorial, and education students supervise and teach the classes together with leading scholars on the HUC-JIR faculty. Students have the opportunity to meet with lay and profession- al leaders of the Reform Movement as well.
Seymour and Claire Glass Miller, founders of the program, note, “When students from the far reaches of the New York metropolitan area dedicate their precious weekend to study at HUC-JIR, it says a great deal about the quality of this program. We are delighted by the probability of these young people becoming future Jewish leaders.”
The post-confirmation students enjoy the opportunity to expand their knowledge of Jewish texts, liturgy, and Reform Judaism, with curriculum spanning Torah study, Israeli current events, Hebrew language, midrash workshops, research projects, and more. Group study, discussion groups, and guest speakers raise the students’ conscious- ness of the critical issues facing North American and world Jewry. Students are encouraged to replicate these learning ses- sions in their home synagogues. Worship is a core component of the program; students learn to lead services and to bring these skills back into their congregations.
Jo Kay, Director of the New York School of Education and of the Miller High School, remarked, “The Miller High School Honors Program provides an opportunity for young leaders to hone their skills and interact with leaders in the Jewish community, scholars, and peers in the hope that they will choose to become Jewish professionals or lay lead- ers in their communities.”
This year the Youth Department at HUC- JIR/New York will have a student intern who will be a liaison to NFTY and Kesher. Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz, Regional Director of Admissions and Recruitment for the East Coast, works alongside the Youth Program interns and together they are amongst the faculty for the URJ Kesher Convention. The New York campus is also involved in programs for the February 2007 NFTY and Youth Workers Convention in Philadelphia. Throughout the year, student liaisons work with student groups, youth groups, confirmation classes, and adult groups to coordinate tours of the campus and arrange participation in the student-run Soup Kitchen, which is held every Monday evening. During the summer, HUC-JIR students, alumni, and admissions and recruitment staff continue their outreach efforts to college and high school students at the URJ camps throughout the country, meeting with potential Jewish leaders of today and tomorrow.
Los Angeles Outreach
The Youth Department at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles facilitates programs with Jewish high school and college students in the West and Southwest region. Dr. Matt Albert, Regional Director of Admissions and Recruitment, supervises interns who introduce Reform youth to HUC-JIR’s programs, faculty, stu- dents, and campus life. High school students have the opportunity to participate in two Sunday programs – a day of engagement with HUC-JIR faculty and students, and an orientation to undergraduate university admissions that focuses on how to find out about Jewish life, activities, and involvement as a college student. Students attending uni- versities in Southern California and the West can engage in daylong or evening programs with HUC-JIR students and faculty, which also involve the greater Jewish community, including local Hillels, the URJ’s Kesher program, and synagogues in the area.
Partnerships Foster Opportunity
Partnership with the URJ and its congrega- tions plays a significant role in recruiting high school and college students to on- campus programs and provides alternative, off-campus venues for their personal and educational growth. Each year the URJ Kesher Convention enables college students from across the continent to join together to study and consider the future of Judaism here and abroad. NFTY annual regional conclaves for high school students bring together the youngest Reform Movement leaders for kinship and leadership develop- ment. The annual HUC-JIR/Religious Action Committee Social Justice Weekend represents a unique forum for high school students to debate social justice issues affect- ing contemporary American life and get involved in human rights advocacy. This coming year, participants will explore Jewish attitudes towards communal and personal responsibility as they relate to social policy.
Former Youth Programs rabbinical intern Rabbi Michael Namath continues to be a devoted supporter of HUC-JIR’s Youth Programs, as do most of his peers who, as ordained rabbis, are serving congregations, Reform institutions, and Jewish organiza- tions around the world. “The Youth Programs department provides a vital opportunity for Jewish youth,” states Rabbi Namath, now Program Director at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) in Washington DC. “As an alumnus, I am pleased to be able to continue my sup- port as a co-sponsor of the HUC-JIR and RAC youth programs weekend.”
Over the past twenty-seven years, high school and college student participants in all of these programs have not only strength- ened their Jewish identity and commitment but have been influenced to consider careers as Jewish leaders.
Please share the directory of High School and College Programs [see next page] with young people who have the potential for lives of meaning and excellence through study at HUC-JIR.
DID YOU KNOW?
In 2006 and 2007, taxpayers age 70 1/2 and older can give away up to $100,000 a year from their IRA’s directly to charities,
Please consult your financial advisor
HUC-JIR NATIONAL YOUTH PROGRAMS
Rabbinical Interns: Amy Hertz, Daniel Septimus, and Bill Tepper
3101 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45220-2488, (513) 221-1875 x3232 email@example.com
HUC-JIR/RAC SOCIAL JUSTICE WEEKEND
“It’s Good for Me, Is it Good for You?”
Where do our obligations lie? Come explore Jewish attitudes towards communal and personal responsibility as they relate to issues of social policy.
Date: November 10-12, 2006 Location: HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
Grades: 10th-12th Focus: Social Justice Cost: $110
“The Birds, the Bees, and the Bible”
Sex in the text? Who would’ve thought? Join us as we explore historical and modern Jewish attitudes towards sexuality.
Date: December 1-3, 2006 Location: HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
Grades: 10th-12th Focus: Student Leaders Cost: $110
“I STILL Have a Dream!”
Be a part of our annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy as we consider issues of Jewish responsibility to the greater community.
Date: January 12-15, 2007 Location: HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
Grades: 10th-12th Focus: Academic Students Cost: $130
2007 COLLEGE COLLOQUIUM
“Whose Judaism is it Anyway?”
Meet other Reform college students as we discuss issues of denomi- nationalism on campus and in the larger world.
Date: February 2-4, 2007 Location: HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
Grades: Freshman-Senior College Students Cost: $80
“The Ten Commandments: Stone Cold?”
Study the development of the Ten Commandments and discuss their place in contemporary life. They might not be as set in stone as you think!
Date: March 23-25, 2007 Location: HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
Grades: 10th-12th Focus: Academic Students Cost: $110
HIGH SCHOOL LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE (HSLC)
“More Than Just a Good Falafel”
Explore innovative ideas for programming about Israel in your youth group and community as we prepare to celebrate Israel’s 59th birthday!
Date: April 13-15, 2007 Location: HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
Grades: 10th-12th Focus: Youth Group Leaders Cost: $110.00
NFTY-Ohio Valley Study Kallah
January 19-21, 2007
Planned by NFTY-OV and coordinated by HUC-JIR’s Department of Youth Programs. Applications available from the NFTY-OV Office.
Rabbi Ken Kanter, Regional Director of Admissions and Recruitment; (513) 221-1875 x 3256; firstname.lastname@example.org
A partnership with HUC-JIR, The Saltz Education Center at Hebrew University, and the URJ’s Kesher Youth Division. Visit http://www.huc.edu/academics/continuing/outreach/ for a full schedule of Reform on Campus meetings, Shabbat dinners with local synagogues, High Holy Day programs on the Jerusalem campus, and Shabbaton weekend programs, for college students studying in Israel during the Fall 2006-Spring 2007 semesters.
Rabbi David Wilfond, Director of Outreach and Admissions; 972-2-620-3392; email@example.com
LOS ANGELES PROGRAMS
High school and college students are invited to learn more about the Los Angeles campus and HUC-JIR programs.
Matt Albert, Regional Director of Admissions and Recruitment; (213) 765-2121; firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW YORK PROGRAMS
The Miller High School Honors Program
A two-year post-confirmation program for students entering 11th and 12th grades from congregations throughout New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut; meeting every other Sunday from 10:30 am – 2:00 pm throughout the academic year at the HUC-JIR/New York campus, located in Greenwich Village.
Jo Kay, Director of the New York School of Education; (212) 824-2213; email@example.com
NFTY Leadership Training Institute for the New York Area Region
Planned by NFTY-NYAR and coordinated by HUC-JIR/NY Youth Department. Applications available from NFTY-NYAR office.
Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz, Regional Director of Admissions and Recruitment; (212) 824- 2207; firstname.lastname@example.org
YOUTH GROUP AND CONFIRMATION CLASS TOURS
Congregations are invited to bring confirmation classes, youth groups, and other classes to all HUC-JIR campuses. Please contact the above-mentioned regional departments to set up a visit. Groups are encouraged to contact email@example.com well in advance of a New York campus visit in order to arrange participation in the Monday evening Soup Kitchen.
How do you turn a hike through the woods into a lesson about the principles of bal tashchit (do not destroy or waste) or a discussion about the values of tsa’ar ba’alei chayim (compassion for animals)? These challenges are what motivated a cadre of rabbinical students from across the campuses – Justus Baird, NY ‘07; Nicole Greninger, NY ‘08; Jordie Gerson, NY ‘09; Emily Huebscher, C ‘10; Josh Brown, LA ‘08, RHSOE ‘08; Evon Yakar, C ‘07; Jessica Kessler Marshall, NY ‘08; Owen Gottlieb, NY ‘10; Mitch Delcau, C ‘08; and Stacey Delcau, MAJE ‘01 and Director of Outreach Education and Supervisor of Clinical Learning, HUC-JIR/ Cincinnati – to participate in the first ever HUC-JIR ‘Adventure Rabbi’ Training Program.
This innovative program, which took place over a long June weekend in Colorado at Chitaqua Park near the Flatiron Mountains, was organized by Rabbi Jamie S. Korngold, C ‘99, an avid outdoor sportswoman and founder of ‘Adventure Rabbi.’ Previously, Korngold had worked as a wilderness guide for the Union for Reform Judaism summer camp Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI), competed in an ironman triathlon, and bicycled 4,020 miles from New York to San Francisco during one summer.
She initially followed the path of many newly-minted rabbis and served a congregation of two hundred families in Alberta, Canada, only to realize that her spiritual calling was pointing to a different path. She credits her mentor, Rabbi Kenneth Ehrlich, Dean of HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, for encouraging her to pursue her own rabbinical journey.
In her forthcoming book, to be published by Doubleday, Korngold explains her decision to create a new kind of synagogue without walls: “I realized that there are many rabbis who can serve the 30% of American Jews who are affiliated with congregations. But how many rabbis are reaching the 70% who are not members of congregations? How many can relate to those who prefer skiing or hiking on Saturdays to synagogue? How many rabbis are able to understand and accept those who say, ‘Running is my religion,’ or ‘I feel more inspired reading Robert Frost poetry than Psalms?’ I put in my resignation from my congregation and, in November 2001, loaded my truck and drove back to the United States, this time to Boulder, Colorado, to launch the ‘Adventure Rabbi’ Program.”
The ‘Adventure Rabbi’ Philosophy
The purpose of ‘Adventure Rabbi’ is to bring unaffiliated Jews back into communal religious life through innovative programs, which combine the outdoors and Jewish practice. Korngold believes that “the spirituality of the wilderness awakens Judaism and that the open countryside, unhindered by traditions of conventional worship environments, allows the awareness of the connectedness of all things to permeate our souls.” ‘Adventure Rabbi’ offers life cycle events for all stages of Jewish life; these events are held in private homes, unusual facilities, and wilderness venues. The rabbis and rabbinical students who lead these programs are all trained by the Reform Movement; the liturgy used is reflective of mainstream Reform congregations. The organization’s website www.adventurerabbi.com receives over 200,000 hits a month from visitors from over sixty countries.
In addition to serving as the spiritual leader and guiding force of ‘Adventure Rabbi,’ Korngold also facilitates an adult-learning program, serves on a monthly basis as rabbi for a congregation in western Colorado, and creates innovative programs for the 20’s – 40’s group for another congregation in Boulder. She is assisted by a small but highly resourceful staff, including wilderness guides well-versed in Jewish education.
Over the last five years, Korngold and her ‘Adventure Rabbi’ supporters have witnessed a growing demand by the community for its programs. In order to successfully expand the program, she and her staff have been seeking to involve more Reform Jewish professionals who identify with its philosophy. Her mentor, Rabbi Ehrlich, helped her reach out to the entire HUC-JIR student body to recruit rabbinical students to join her for the first annual HUC-JIR ‘Adventure Rabbi’ Training program.
Becoming an ‘Adventure Rabbi’
What motivated this inaugural cadre of HUC-JIR rabbinical students to volunteer to be trained as ‘Adventure Rabbis?’ A common goal was their hope of incorporating Korngold’s teaching philosophy into the pulpit work they do as student interns and in their future rabbinates.
“I know that an important part of my rabbinate will be finding ways for Jews to leave the comforts of the sanctuary, to seek God and the Jewish community in the wilderness,” Nicole Greninger explained. “I believe they are searching for informal Jewish experiences and for Jewish activities that take place in nature. I am not sure exactly what kind of rabbinate I am looking for, but I know that the outdoors will be part of it in some way.”
As part of their training, the students hiked, celebrated Tikkun Leil Shavuot (an all night study marathon in commemoration of receiving the Torah on Shavuot), prayed together on the mountainside, and enjoyed havdalah services amidst the outdoors. The weekend provided a stimulating forum for discussing the key issues confronting Jewish life today and brainstorming about new strategies to build Jewish life and community.
Evon Yakar, who has been affiliated with Reform Jewish camps for more than sixteen years, valued this opportunity “to meet other students from HUC-JIR and to learn from a rabbi/educator who has successfully applied the values of Jewish education in an outdoors setting.”
Jessica Kessler Marshall came to this experience through her active involvement with Hazon – the Jewish environmental group that organizes bike rides and retreats in the U.S. and Israel – whose mission is rooted in the belief that environmental education is a vital and significantly underutilized resource in Jewish life. She found the ‘Adventure Rabbi’ training program to be an ideal opportunity to integrate her commitment to Jewish environmental education with her rabbinical education and professional development.
“My first spiritual experiences were in the out-of-doors, but I never found a Jewish group that was interested in doing things outdoors until after college,” recalled Justus Baird. “I think the cultural bias of Jews as urban folk doesn’t work for all Jews, and those who love the outdoors are not being reached.”
Going forward, Stacey Delcau “would recommend this program to other students because it is so important to be exposed to a variety of ways of fostering spiritual engagement.” She sees this program, which links her concern for the environment and Jewish learning, as “a great opportunity outside of the classroom to discuss issues facing the future of Judaism.”
Korngold plans to continue this training program and build upon the relationship with the College-Institute and its students. She has demonstrated that connecting to Judaism can take place in unexpected places. ‘Adventure Rabbi’ provides students with yet another professional development opportunity to advance their skills as innovators of meaningful programs that can attract and engage the largest percentage of Jews in America – those not connected to the synagogues and other institutions of Jewish communal life.
Students, alumni, and HUC-JIR community members interested in becoming involved in ‘Adventure Rabbi’ should contact 303.417.6200 or info@AdventureRabbi.com
David H. Aaron, T & T Clark, 2006
This book engages the best known biblical passage – the so-called “Ten Commandments” – as a vehicle for uncovering the compositional history of the Torah. Aaron argues that the Ten Commandments (or “Decalogue,” as it is known from the earliest Greek renderings of Scripture) are developed relatively late in the literary time-line of the Pentateuch. By situating the origins of the Ten Commandments in the wilderness narrative, the writers were able to provide the document with both antiquity and authority. But a critical survey of biblical literature demonstrates no cognizance of the Ten Commandments prior to the post-exilic period (after 586 B.C.E.). In effect, the Ten Commandments were written to consecrate Israel’s ethnic identity at a time when domestic independence had been lost and dispersion among the nations had become a reality.
Building upon the scholarship of others, Aaron suggests that the Mount Sinai episode – when Moses ascends the mountain to receive divinely inscribed stone tablets — was created as a symbol for rallying the people around a unique conceptualization of God as the giver of law, not through a king, but directly to a people through a prophet. As such, the traditional station of “king” was shown to be irrelevant to the notion of peoplehood. By placing Israel in Sinai with God, the authors of the Torah established a very simple premise for Jewish identity, one very much at odds with what functioned for the other nations of the world. Most nations drew their identity from a king and his governance over a land and its polity, as well as its indigenous religion(s). When that king was defeated, when that land was conquered, identities waned and assimilation into the new polity and ethnicity was all but guaranteed over time. Hence, there are no Assyrians or Phoenicians, Moabites or Ammonites wandering the planet today. In contrast, by showing its origins to have been in the wilderness – a place that belonged to no one and was ruled by no person – the Torah’s authors demonstrated that peoplehood could be established on the basis of covenantal documents (Torah) and religious governance (priest and prophet instead of king and courtier). Moreover, on the basis of its literature, Israel could achieve a sense of solidarity even as its destiny was to be dispersed among the nations of the earth. The essential role of the Torah was to reverse the historical pattern experienced by all other nations: to establish a basis for religious and cultural identity despite the loss of land, king, and political autonomy.
The actual text of the Decalogue plays only a small role in Aaron’s latest book (the last chapter). As he points out, the Ten Commandments known by most people are those recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Except for the commandment to observe the Sabbath, there is nothing expressed in these chapters that one might identify as particularly “Jewish.” In fact, the laws are rather mundane in character, shared by all other cultures known to have recorded legal codes governing social interactions. Even the opening passage of the Ten Commandments, which constitutes an allegiance oath, parallels literary forms known in other Ancient Near Eastern cultures. What is unique to Israel is the framing of this document, not its contents. Aaron discusses at length the evolution of the very notion of creating a covenant scene by which Israel committed itself to worshiping Israel’s God exclusively. Worship here needs to be understood not only as expressions of allegiance and praise, but also as observance of divinely sanctioned rituals and legal precepts.
The Supreme Court was hearing cases on the display of Decalogue Tablets in courthouses in Texas and Kentucky just as the manuscript was being copy edited. While this book will have no impact on the political agenda of those who champion the display of Decalogue lawn ornaments and courthouse tablets, Aaron did revamp his “Epilogue” at the last minute to touch upon the Supreme Court’s decisions as they became public in June 2005. What was so interesting to Aaron is that the Court considered the historical significance of the Ten Commandments in the development of western jurisprudence. Given his understanding of the document’s development, the court essentially caved in to the religiously motivated depiction of that history rather than consider the scholarship that undermines that depiction in many ways. (Excerpt below.)
[T]he biblical text itself, taken by many contemporary religionists to be a univocal document, is the result of many competing ideologies. Throughout this volume evidence has been amassed to show how writers frequently used similar materials to frame their distinct – if not conflicting – understandings of covenant and society. My sense is that the writers of the various documents would have stood aghast at seeing the destiny of their compositions, merged into a single narrative with little regard for their unique contributions or obvious disparities. The redactors of the final version did not see it this way. Perhaps they did not recognize the tensions among the various literary sources they drew upon; or perhaps they believed that the distinct ideologies were conducive to harmonization, not only through the very act of placing them side by side but also by means of a distinct interpretive strategy that allowed ostensibly conflicting passages to be reinterpreted in light of the dominant redactional ideology.
The Torah involves a conceptualization of history which echoes what Mikhail Bakhtin refers to as valorized time. When redacting literature related to the epic past – the most valorized of times – the biblical writers saw no reason to insist upon the same principles of temporality and consistency as those expected in narratives about the present and future. They appear to have conceptualized their subject matter as the valorization of the social and religious ideal. As such, the notion that the merging of distinct ideologies might violate the integrity of a discrete literary strand only emerges for those who work outside of the epic’s own rules and who fail to exercise what has sometimes been called “the principle of charity” in the act of interpretation. This principle holds that statements are interpretable only when there is a maximized agreement between a speaker’s (or in our case, a writer’s) beliefs about the world and those held by his or her interpreters. As Donald Davidson explains, when we are motivated by a strong principle of charity in interpreting, we seek to maximize agreement between ourselves and a speaker even when comprehension is difficult. The alternative is to assert that the latter’s comments make no sense. To avoid this, we readily attribute self-consistency to the speaker or writer even in the face of incoherence, because our desire to understand what they are saying or writing is shaped by our belief that the speaker or writer is, indeed, sensible. The application of this principle in the context of our redactional process toward canon should be self-evident. The redactor was motivated to see in the inherited documents not only cogency, but evidence of the very same ideology he held to be true in his own writings. For scholars, all words are created equal, subject to reading like all other words, without privilege to a circumscribed interpretive strategy. But should one claim that this uncharitable devalorization of the text is a decidedly modern act, I would insist that they are mistaken. The tools for the destabilization of the text were already wielded by the biblical authors themselves. That is why we have so many versions of how to strike a covenant with God. That is why we have Horeb and Sinai and Zion and Gilgal and Shechem. And that is why we have canonization, the most exclusive of all literary acts.
As an interpreter of the text, I would argue that there is nothing particularly inspiring about the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. As noted, the only religious theme common to both is the Shabbat law. Otherwise, the laws that constitute those commandments are rather generic. Even the prologues, requiring allegiance to Yahweh, are decidedly less eloquent than the prologues that have survived in other ancient Near Eastern law codes, which regularly explain that the purpose of law is to establish justice and to foster peaceful coexistence. The biblical prologue’s concern with allegiance to history’s God says little about the importance of law in society in contrast to the prologues to the law collections ascribed to the ancient Mesopotamian rulers Lipit-Ishtar and Hammurabi. . . .
The Decalogue traditions were devised as allegiance documents framed to depict God and the Israelite people as having entered directly into a covenantal relationship. Neither priest nor king was relevant, and consequently the content of the standard prologue structures found in older law codes lacked feasibility in the current context. The Decalogue was about a personal promise that took on corporate significance, rather than a king’s promise to create a livable society through the imposition of law and order. In fact, no cluster of verses in the Pentateuch frames law in the manner found in the prologues to the law compendia of Lipit-Ishtar or Hammurabi. By getting everyone to express allegiance to their God individually, the society established a bond that was simultaneously communal and spiritual. As such, it is not the meaning of the Decalogue’s words that proves terribly impressive; it is rather the use of this document that results in its cultural and religious significance.
It will undoubtedly have been discerned that I consider the tablets of the Ten Commandments a literary fiction. The social attitude toward this literary image has varied greatly over time. Even its graphic depiction has changed over the centuries. Early in the history of Christian and Jewish medieval art, the tablets were invariably depicted as two square or rectangular slabs. The current vogue of depicting the stones as joined together, each with a rounded top, only became popular after the Enlightenment. That a literary fiction should take the form of a five-thousandpound granite monument, as it did in the Alabama Supreme Court building in 2001, is comical, given the historical purpose of the portable stones Moses placed in the ark. But then, the history of the Decalogue is little else if not paradoxical. Consider the awkward relationship of medieval Christendom to the Ten Commandments as a symbol. On the one hand, England’s King Alfred (849–899) thought the Decalogue so significant that he prefaced his laws with the Ten Commandments as well as the Precepts of Charity. In contrast, medieval Christian art frequently depicted the Synagogue as a blindfolded woman bearing a broken staff, who allows the tablets of the law to droop in her arms, thereby symbolizing their obsolescence. Her alleged historical replacement, the Church, stood erect, triumphantly holding a cross and a chalice of grace.
The “valorized time” Mikhail Bakhtin described as typifying epic literature involves a special, valorized form of perceiving and depicting people and events. The key to this valorization is found in the use of language and imagery: “One may, and in fact one must, memorialize with artistic language only that which is worthy of being remembered, that which should be preserved in the memory of descendents.”
An image, writes Bakhtin, “is created for descendents, and this image is projected onto their sublime and distant horizon. Contemporaneity for its own sake (that is to say, a contemporaneity that makes no claim on future memory) is molded in clay; contemporaneity for the future (for descendents) is molded in marble or bronze.” Few images in the history of literature have the staying power of those stone tablets said to have borne letters etched by the finger of God. It is the valorized image rather than the semantic value of the words that has given this literary epic such longevity. Likewise, it is the very power of this visceral image that has managed to divert attention away from the obviously mundane character of the laws themselves, the very diversion that originally enabled the ironic valorization of the commonplace. The irony was diffused. The polemic became a creed. Like a betrothed who carries around letters from her beloved, Israel and the inheritors of Israel’s spiritual legacy framed themselves as having once carried God’s engraved message in a box. In a world dominated by ephemeral bits of data instantaneously floated across an electronic universe with the stroke of a key, I would imagine that words etched in stone symbolically constitute the very image of moral stability for which we all yearn. But what has been lost on the interpreters of the text is that the very authors who wrote of God engraving ten statutes of a covenant in stone, also allowed those stones to vanish from the narrative. The same religionists ready to place granite Decalogue monuments in our courthouses and at our schools fail to grasp the existential irony of their disappearance. The vanishing of these stones from history signals the author’s profound sense of life’s transience – a transience so inescapable that not even tablets etched by the divine could endure. In the end, the ephemeral word outlasts the stones.
David H. Aaron, Ph.D.
David H. Aaron, Ph.D., has been Professor of Hebrew Bible and History of Interpretation at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati since the Fall of 1998. He earned a doctorate from the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University; he holds Rabbinical Ordination from HUC-JIR (C ‘83). As a graduate student he held fellowships at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Tübingen, Germany. Prior to coming to HUC-JIR, Aaron taught Bible and Rabbinic Literature in the Religion Department of Wellesley College (1991-98) and Biblical Studies at Boston’s Hebrew College (1987-91).
Aaron’s publications have been in the areas of Biblical studies, Midrash, the history of interpretation, and recently on contemporary issuesin religion and politics. Pursuing a deep interest in linguistics, Aaron’s first book, Biblical Ambiguities: Metaphor, Semantics and Divine Imagery (Brill, 2001), merges contemporary semantic theory with biblical exegesis, especially regarding metaphorical imagery in the Hebrew Bible. In March 2006, Etched in Stone: The Emergence of the Decalogue (T & T Clark) was published. This work traces the origins of the Ten Commandments to elucidate the compositional history of the Pentateuch. Aaron is currently at work on a study of post-modern historiographic theory and its potential impact on our views of antiquity. He has published numerous scholarly articles in a variety of journals, including Harvard Theological Review, Journal of the Academy of Religion, The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy, and Approaches to Ancient Judaism. He is also a contributor to the Brill Encyclopedia of Midrash (2005) and the Blackwell Companion to Judaism (2004).
David is married to Marjorie Corman Aaron, who teaches Alternative Dispute Resolution and Negotiation at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. They have two sons. He is an avid violinist who performs with chamber music groups and a photographer.
Andrea L. Weiss, Brill, 2006
This study applies several linguistic approaches to the book of Samuel in order to investigate the defining features of metaphor and the way metaphor and other forms of figurative language operate in biblical narrative. This in-depth analysis of the figurative language in 1 Samuel 24-25 and 2 Samuel 16:16-17:14 yields a better understanding of the mechanics of metaphor and a more insightful reading of these particular stories.
When the Tekoite woman appears before King David, she states: “They would quench my last remaining ember” (2 Samuel 14:7). In this narrative context, the utterance describes her kinsmen’s purported desire to kill her sole living son. In another setting, the very same words might refer to an attempt to extinguish a fire. Elsewhere, they might indicate the satisfaction of a long-held desire. A single lexeme, when situated in different linguistic contexts, can convey different meanings and nuances. Depending on the components of the surrounding text segments, the interpretation of the lexeme and its effects may vary. In the example at hand, how does one determine the referents of the verb and object and the implications of the utterance as a whole? What marks a sentence like this as a metaphor? What distinguishes this statement from other forms of figurative language? This book seeks to answer these questions, thus gaining greater insight into the way metaphor and other tropes operate in biblical prose narrative....
As the literature review above demonstrates, scholars have restricted their studies of metaphor primarily to the poetic sections of the Bible. No one has yet conducted an indepth investigation of metaphor in biblical prose narrative. Just as parallelism, considered a defining characteristic of biblical poetry, also appears in prose passages,(1) so metaphor is utilized by writers of prose as well as poetry. While metaphor, like parallelism, does not dominate prose narrative the way it does poetic passages, nonetheless it functions as an important and effective literary device.
Like other literary devices, metaphor provides a means by which “the text intimates its meanings”; it stands out as one of “the distinctive, artfully deployed features of ancient Hebrew prose and poetry that are the instruments for the articulation of all meaning, message, insight, and vision.”(2) In addition, metaphors found in prose texts are not complicated to the same extent as those in poetic passages by the other intertwining features that define biblical poetry, such as terseness, parallelism, repetition and patterning.(3) These factors make biblical narrative a promising setting in which to examine metaphor and other forms of figurative language.
Whereas other studies of metaphor tend to isolate distinct metaphors, such as the metaphor of the tree or the metaphor of God and Israel as husband and wife, this volume will investigate the various metaphors found in a particular passage and situate them in their surrounding narrative context. Agha argues that “the real task of analysis is not merely to catalogue the cases of metaphor but to understand the dramatic and rhetorical effects of the implicit meanings conveyed by tropes.”(4) Bar-Efrat emphasizes the value of this type of contextual strategy when he writes:
The best approach to a discussion of style is by undertaking a stylistic analysis of an entire narrative unit. Only in this way can the stylistic phenomena be seen within their contexts..., the interaction between them observed and their special significances discerned.(5)
This study begins with an analysis of 1 Samuel 25 and a discussion of how to identify and interpret the metaphors found in this chapter. Attention will be given to three main facets of metaphor: its anomalous nature, its underlying analogy, and the interactional effects it produces. Next, the metaphors in 2 Samuel 16:16-17:14 will be compared with other tropes in this narrative unit, primarily metonymy and simile. Finally, the notion of “dead” metaphors will be explored and challenged in the course of an examination of the figurative language in 1 Samuel 24....
In order to explore the mechanics of metaphor and other tropes, various theoretical approaches and heuristic devices have been applied to selected narratives in the book of Samuel. As has been acknowledged, these analytical tools do not always work flawlessly, in part because of inherent methodological imperfections as well as the challenges involved in the study of a restricted literary corpus written in an ancient language. Critics have raised legitimate objections to aspects of the theory of componential semantics, the concept of selection restriction violations, and assumptions about basic, context-free meanings of words. Likewise, White’s interpretive technique cannot be applied with equal success to all biblical metaphors. Nevertheless, the results of this study demonstrate that the benefits outweigh the weaknesses.
By its very nature, biblical narrative places a considerable exegetical burden on its audience. Marked by terseness and lacunae, reluctant to reveal motives and feelings, sparing in physical details, the style of biblical narrative necessitates close reading. Reflecting on the demands placed on the reader by “a multi-dimensional narrative,” Berlin writes:
The resulting narrative is one with depth and sophistication; one in which conflicting viewpoints may vie for validity. It is this that gives biblical narrative interest and ambiguity. The reader of such narrative is not a passive recipient of a story, but an active participant in trying to understand it. Because he is given different points of view, sees things from different perspectives, he must struggle to establish his own.(6)
The text-based approach to figurative language employed in this study enhances the reader’s ability to participate in this interpretive process. The methods introduced to identify and interpret metaphor and other tropes help the exegete to pay close attention to how language is used and to the rhetorical effects produced by the anomalous collocation of lexemes in a given utterance. An in-depth analysis of the figurative language in Samuel results in a richer, more nuanced reading of the story, its characters, and its language. A better understanding of the “internal drama performed by the actual words of the metaphor”(7) and other tropes contributes to a better understanding of figurative language in general and the compelling, artfully-crafted dramas that unfold in the Bible.
Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Ph. D.
Dr. Andrea Weiss is Assistant Professor of Bible at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. She grew up in San Diego, California and received her under- graduate education at the University of California at Berkeley, where she majored in Literature. After her ordination at HUC-JIR in New York in 1993, she studied for her doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania, focusing on the Bible and ancient Near Eastern languages and civilizations. Recently, Dr. Weiss published a book entitled Figurative Language in Biblical Prose Narrative: Metaphor in the Book of Samuel (Brill, 2006) and an introduction to Hills of Spices: Poetry from the Bible (Jewish Publication Society, 2006). She currently serves as the Associate Editor of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, a joint project of the Women of Reform Judaism and the Union for Reform Judaism Press. Dr. Weiss lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband, Alan Tauber, and their two children, Rebecca and Ilan.
Hal Coskey, member of the Los Angeles Board of Overseers and father of Rabbi Laurie Coskey, SJCS ‘83, LA ‘85, whose warmth and spirit infused his commitment to the School of Jewish Communal Service and the Los Angeles campus.
Ruth Daniels, beloved wife of Gerard Daniel, Governor Emeritus of the College-Institute, who will be remembered for her humanitarian efforts, leadership, and dedication to the Jewish people.
Charles Kenis, devoted husband of Audrey Skirball-Kenis, z’l, a beloved leader and benefactor of our institution, who together shared a vision for the arts, culture, and higher education that found expression through their commitment to HUC-JIR’s mission.
Simha Lainer, loyal son of the Jewish people, who together with his family established the Simha and Sara Lainer Beit Midrash at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, where study of sacred texts has been joined with modern technology to create a vibrant learning community for our students.
Lawrence J. Shapiro, treasured friend and honorary member of the Cincinnati Board of Overseers, who established, with his wife Betsy, the Shapiro Interfaith Fellowship Endowment to promote Jewish education.
Dr. Ronald Shlensky, cherished husband of Evely Laser Shlensky, an esteemed member of the Board of Governors, who together shared a vision of social justice and human rights that endures as an inspiration.
Dr. David H. Aaron, Etched in Stone: The Emergence of the Decalogue (T & T Clark, 2006). An analysis of the “Decalogue,” which concludes that the “Ten Commandments” were developed relatively late in the literary time-line of the Pentateuch to consecrate Israel’s ethnic identity when domestic inde- pendence had been lost and dispersion among the nations had become a reality (see above).
Dr. Norman J. Cohen, Moses and the Journey to Leadership: Timeless Lessons of Effective Management from the Bible and Today’s Leaders (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2006). An explo- ration of the most powerful and intriguing stories about the life of Moses and his leadership of the people of Israel from slavery to freedom, and what they reveal about the nature of leadership and human interaction.
Dr. Steven M. Cohen and Ari Y. Kelman, Cultural Events & Jewish Identities: Young Adult Jews in New York (National Foundation for Jewish Culture, 2006). Study released by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and funded by the UJA-Federation of New York, reporting that many Jews in their 20’s and 30’s are highly engaged in Jewish life, even though they are not currently affiliated with traditional institutions such as synagogues and JCC’s. The study analyzes the venues and participants in a variety of alternative Jewish performance events in New York City over a six-month period in the context of the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey.
Dr. Leonard S. Kravitz and Kerry M. Olitzky, eds., Jonah: A Modern Commentary (URJ Press, Fall 2006). This translation and commentary on the book of Jonah is the newest volume in the series brought to you by the authors of classic modern commentaries on Ruth, the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and Pirke Avot.
Dr. Michael A. Meyer, Ahadut betokh hamoderniyut: hiburim al ha-historiyah veha-dat ha-yehudit (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 2006). An expanded Hebrew version of Meyer's essays volume, published as part of the series Aron Sefarim Yehudi, edited by Avraham Shapira. Unlike the English version, it includes a section entitled Arakhim umehuyavut, which is composed of essays reflecting personal engagement.
Jean Bloch Rosensaft, ed., The Eye of the Collector: The Jewish Vision of Sigmund R. Balka (HUC-JIR Museum, 2006). Exhibition catalogue includes foreword by Rabbi David Ellenson, essays by Matthew Baigell, Laura Kruger, and Jean Bloch Rosensaft; artist biographies by Bryony Roberts; research by Marilyn Symmes; and 196 color illustrations.
Jean Bloch Rosensaft, ed., Tamar Hirschl: Cultural Alarm (HUC-JIR Museum, 2006). Exhibition catalog includes essays by Tom Finkelpearl and Laura Kruger; 18 color illustrations.
Rabbi Samuel Sandmel and Rabbi David Sandmel, eds., We Jews and Jesus: Exploring Theological Differences for Mutual Understanding (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2006). A reprint of the classic Oxford University Press volume, with a new Preface by Rabbi David Sandmel. Written in a non-technical way for the layperson, it looks at the ‘what and why’ of the Jewish attitude toward Jesus.
Dr. Andrea Weiss, Figurative Language in Biblical Prose Narrative: Metaphor in the Book of Samuel (Brill, 2006). This study applies sev- eral linguistic approaches to the book of Samuel in order to investigate the defining features of metaphor and the way metaphor and other forms of figurative language operate in biblical narrative (see above).
Dr. Sarah Bunim Benor, “Review of Language in Jewish Society: Towards a New Understanding” in Multilingual Matters, ed., John Myhill, 10/3, 396-399 (2006).
Dr. Steven M. Cohen and Jack Wertheimer, “Whatever Happened to the Jewish People” in Commentary (June 2006) 33-37.
Dr. Susan Einbinder, “Martyrs in the Rhineland: Rabbi Eliezer b. Nathan (Raban), O God, Insolent Men,” in Barbara H. Rosenwein, Reading the Middle Ages: Sources from Europe, Byzantium, and the Islamic World (Ontario: Broadview Press, 2006), 286-89.
Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, “Prophetic Thinking for a non-Prophetic Society” in Association for Progressive Judaism, Vol. 1, No. 1, May 2006
Dr. Aaron D. Panken, “The few against the many, the few among the many: the evolution of ideal types in the texts of Hanukkah” in Australian Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. 19 (2005): 147-161.
Dr. Stephen Passamaneck, “Biblical Arsonists and Sabbath Firemen” in Melilah, Manchester University Centre for Jewish Studies, England.
Jean Bloch Rosensaft, “Journey to Ivie,” in Rayonot: A Journal of Ideas, vol. III (New York: Park Avenue Synagogue, 2006).
Dr. Yaffa Weisman, “Women and Their Representation in Aloni’s Plays” in About Kings, Gypsies, and Actors: Researching Nissim Aloni’s Theatrical Works, ed., Yaari Nurit. Hebrew (Tel-Aviv, Hakibutz Ha-Meuhad & Porter Institute, 2005).
Dr. Yaffa Weisman, “Michele de Ghelderode: An Introduction” in Plays by Michele de Ghelderode, translated into Hebrew by Moshe Lazar (Tel Aviv University Press, 2006).
Dr. Andrea L. Weiss, Figurative Language in Biblical Prose Narrative: Metaphor in the Book of Samuel, Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 107 (Leiden: Brill 2006). Dr. Andrea L. Weiss, Introduction to Hills of Spices: Poetry from the Bible, edited by Rena Potok (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2006).
Dr. Andrea L. Weiss, “Teaching the Preaching of Isaiah,” Homiletix e-Forum (Spring, 2006), Academy of Homiletics.
Dr. Steven Windmueller, “The Second American Jewish Revolution” in The Journal of Jewish Communal Service (Summer 2006)
New York, May 4, 2006
Blu Greenberg, Author; President and Founder, Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance
My own story begins in the fall of 1972, in the waiting room of my dentist in Riverdale. I picked up a copy of the Ladies Home Journal and found a small article about Reform Judaism’s HUC-JIR ordaining a woman, Sally Priesand. I had not heard of her before nor of this action, and I was shocked, stunned. Reform Judaism had crossed the line, one drawn in the sands and earth of Sinai. Reform had disconnected itself from normative Judaism.
Five years later, just as Conservative Judaism was also taking that bold step, I reached a new place in my thinking: perhaps it might even be something of value for my own Orthodox community.
In these last 35 years, Orthodoxy has raised several hundred Jewish women whose talmudic and halakhic knowledge, if measured by objective examinations, equal or exceed the requirements for male Orthodox rabbis. Furthermore, Orthodox synagogues have appointed congregational interns who function as assistant rabbis do. We have yoatzot halakha [halakhic advisors], who study the law and render decisions either to the rabbis or to petitioners directly; toanot, women pleaders who function along with the judges in the bet din. Thirty-three years after Sally Priesand, two or three Orthodox women have been ordained, albeit slightly beyond the mainstream.
It has been a process and I and other women in the Orthodox community – and several representatives of JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance are here today to celebrate this honor that is being bestowed upon us collectively – owe a great debt of gratitude, not only to secular feminism for implanting the ethical idea of gender equality but also to liberal Judaism, to the men and women of those denominations whose witness opened our eyes to new possibilities.
But even as we disagree or explore alternate feminist pathways, we uphold all the elements of religious pluralism: respect for one another, learning from one another, not melding into one big indistinguishable blob but remaining clearly identifiable with very strong commitments to one’s own value system. Religious pluralism does not mean that anything goes. Religious pluralism means never having to say you’re sorry for what you stand for, but always having to listen to what the other believes. Religious pluralism is a far more complex matter than interdenominational Jewish feminism, for it deals with core identity issues such as patrilineal descent, conversion, and Jewish divorce, issues that carry more gravitas than who lights the candles.
But religious pluralism must be inculcated into the establishment, the pace setters and leaders, rabbis and theologians of each religious movement so they will not be content with solutions that work only for one’s own group. We must come together with respect, with a heartfelt desire to learn from each other, and with a will to find communal solutions that close the divide.
An open conversation and mutual respect will take us to places that will not be easy, to our denominational synagogues. We will continue to have separate synagogues, and we should consider ourselves lucky to have different denominations, for these denominations have created a place for each of us, with norms and structures and community and synagogues that enable us to live as Jews in modern times.
We have lived through so much in the last sixty years. The impact is equal to centuries of Jewish history. We should want to hug each other, or if not that, at least acknowledge how precious is the other. This should move each of us farther from the language of delegitimization. We must appreciate that your sincerity and passion about being Jewish is what drives your changes, and you must appreciate that our fidelity to tradition comes out of being deeply nutured by it as well as of our understanding of it as the word of God carried forward for thousands of years.
My final words to you who are graduating today – you who continue to be and you who will newly be teachers and rabbis and leaders of the Jewish community – are these: Go into your work with as much love in your hearts as you can find for the whole Jewish people. Stand firm for what you believe but always listen and always keep your minds open. Don’t become discouraged if your overtures are rebuffed or your actions are not properly understood. In bringing this love for Klal Yisrael to your work, you will not only heal the rift and narrow the divide, but you will also be serving continuously as a valuable model for others in the community, a model that will surely take root, here or there, now or the day after.
Los Angeles, May 15, 2006
Dr. Peter von der Osten-Sacken, Director, Institute for Church and Judaism, Humbolt University of Berlin
The eighties of the 19th century were a very hard time for Jewish communities in Russia and Germany. The hostility also spilled over into the German army and influenced the relationship between Christian and Jewish soldiers. In this situation one of the rabbis in the army proclaimed that motto which I chose as the title for my present address: “What we need,” he said, “is to get to know, to understand, and to respect each other.” This motto, which I first read twenty years ago, is a helpful guideline for the relationship between Christians and Jews, and of course for the adherents of other religions as well. It is also a helpful guideline for our personal conduct in daily relationships, and for our social and political behavior. It may be especially urgent today when we are aware of a growing alienation between cultures – in a time when even the farthest neighbor on the other side of the world is only some hours away.
Let us now ponder the issue as we have to do as students and teachers, that is, let us question the whole thesis. Is this really a generally possible guideline – to get to know, to understand, to respect each other? Are there no situations where this movement doesn’t function?
Understanding is always in the process of accepting the other person. However, there are deeds which are to be explained but not to be understood. I think that especially Judaism, as a religion which insists on repentance and also enables repentance, has been aware of this aspect from the beginning, as is Christianity on the basis of our common Bible.
What I am thinking of has been circumscribed by the famous Jewish religious thinker Martin Buber. He said with regard to dialogue that both sides, Jews and Christians, are centered around a mystery, which in its deepest core remains a mystery to the other one. But what we can do is to acknowledge the other one in this mystery as it is, to share what we know about the common ground and our common hope, to try to be what we should be, and to try to do what we should do.
How the 19th-century rabbi whose “Golden Rule” I have brought with me from Berlin formulated his sentence was a sign of nobleness. The hostile reactions in his time, of course, came from the majority in the army, that is, from soldiers with a Christian background. However, he didn’t say: “What we need is that you get to know us,” but rather: “What we need is to get to know ... each other.” It was a similar experience of nobleness which I myself had when, after an incomparably desolate period in my own country and church, I went to Israel in 1960 for the first time.
Cincinnati, May 21, 2006
Dr. John I. Kampen, Academic Dean, Methodist Theological School
I stand today in a place for which I developed a deep affection and before respected teachers whom I to this day hold in such high esteem.
Learning to study Talmud, Midrash and Mishnah-Tosefta with rabbinical students was one of the distinguishing characteristics of my graduate education. Studying with these students was one of the ways in which HUC-JIR became my home, one of the means whereby I became part of a Jewish diaspora, which has led me to seek out connections with the local synagogue or temple in every community in which I lived or worked since I left “home.”
Some of us in this graduate school came from non-Jewish backgrounds and had the wonderful privilege of being participants in the Jewish community associated with HUC-JIR through our enrollment here, a significant encounter with another faith tradition and communal experience, which changed our lives. In my studies here I gained a deep understanding of a set of sacred texts, which were not my own. I also gained a deeper understanding of the community that valued those texts. No mere antiquarianism, but a deep encounter with a community and its texts. The development of these types of skills and perspectives is fundamental preparation for life in a global society.
What I learned on this campus is the central significance of text. This perspective is remarkably important as a tool for the education of persons around the globe. Texts can provide a common identity while permitting multiple interpretations, a valuable tool for educating persons of various ideologies and cultures. When students in my present seminary classes approach me with questions concerning the validity of a certain reading of a biblical text, my first response is one I learned on this campus: Go read the text again and see if it still holds up. Such a textual tradition does not permit me to assume that I have the sole authoritative interpretation of a given text. A revolutionary concept for many people around the world.
New York, May 7, 2006
Clementina Cantoni, Aid Worker, CARE International and recipient of the 2006 Roger E. Joseph Prize
Almost a year ago exactly, my life changed dramatically, setting in motion a series of events that have somehow led me here today. After three years of living in Afghanistan as an ordinary aid worker, I suddenly became famous, when I was held hostage for twenty-four days.
When my friend Roger Karshan told me last year that he’d nominated me for an award established in memory of his grandfather, I was extremely surprised and deeply touched.
I realized that perhaps there are two categories of people to whom this award would apply – firstly, extraordinary people who achieve extraordinary things; secondly, ordinary people to whom extraordinary things happen. I clearly belong to the latter and in accepting this award I would like to highlight the extraordinary things that happened as a result of my kidnapping.
Firstly, the world finally took notice of some of the most marginalized and disenfranchised women in Afghanistan when hundreds of widows took to the streets to demand my release. Many live in precarious housing situations and some are forced to beg simply to survive.
People are often curious as to what motivates aid workers to choose a job that takes us to some of the world’s most dangerous regions and sometimes puts our lives at risk. The fundamental reason for me is that I don’t like the world I’ve inherited and I want to try and understand the causes and perhaps, in some small way, change the injustice and inequality I see around me.
I suppose the most important reason why I enjoy the work I do is that it teaches me the value of humility in a very direct way. I remember once, how I had returned from accompanying a widow to a job interview which had gone badly, because she had made up one hundred excuses as to why she couldn’t do the job. Yet these are the same women who a few months later bravely screamed their indignation and rallied in my support in front of the world’s press.
My greatest hope is that one day these women will demand their rights with the same dignity and strength.
Cincinnati, May 20, 2006
Rabbi Samuel E. Karff, Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Beth Israel, Houston, Texas
One of the truths I learned early in my rabbinate is that you and I are cast as defenders of the faith. What faith are we called to defend? In this week’s Torah portion, God says to the Israelites: “Im b’chukotai taylechu... If you follow my laws and faithfully observe my commandments, I will grant you rains in their season, so that the earth shall yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit... But if you do not obey me and do not observe all these commandments... you shall be routed by your enemies, and your foes shall dominate you.” The message is clear: There is an order of life that cannot be violated with impunity.
In truth, even for those of us who stake our lives on the belief in God as Creator, as ultimate Source of the way we are intended to live, and as a redeeming Presence in our lives and in history – even we must declare that there is a believer and unbeliever in each of us, because Adonai is an invisible, elusive Presence who cannot be summoned at will.
But there is a great difference between experiencing moments of doubt within a life committed to faith and making disbelief a way of life. You have chosen to affirm transcendent meaning against the threat of meaninglessness.
Sometimes we believe because of what we experience in ordinary life and sometimes we believe in spite of what we experience. Faith is the vision and perception of a spiritual reality at the core of life. The subtext of those biblical statements is two-fold: We are not alone. We are children of Adonai, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Colleagues, our people may come to you in times of trouble, because they know you have committed your life to that deeper spiritual perspective on the world. They need your help to recover the sense that “nevertheless there is meaning.”
One of your most precious experiences as a rabbi will be the times when you hear variations of the following: “I couldn’t have gotten through this without your presence and counsel,” or “You will never know how much your words meant at that time in my life.” Or, “The meaning you gave that text made Judaism speak to my life as it never did before.” Our sages had a term for such moments. They said, l’chach notzarta – for such a moment as this were you created. Or, by extension, for such a moment as this were you ordained. Dear colleagues, yours will be the privilege to help your people remember that contract – that covenant – which, at the deepest level of our being, we know is the standard by which we must judge the meaning of our lives.
Los Angeles. Sunday, May 14, 2006
Rabbi Lewis M. Barth, Dean; Professor of Midrash and Related Literature, HUC-JIR, Los Angeles
For you, the ordinees, this day is unique and special. Your joy is ours – as well as the conviction that what we have done together, and what you will accomplish, will guarantee the future of liberal Jewish religious life in our community, throughout the United States, and wherever Jews live and you serve.
Rabbis may resonate to this rabbinic statement: “if there is no flock, there is no shepherd, and if there is no shepherd, there is no universe.” Yet we know that living people, human beings, Reform Jews are not silent sheep, they are often thoughtful, creative, compassionate people who have the capacity to listen – if they are convinced that we have “the capacity to listen” to them as well, not just talk at them and expect their attention.
Let us attempt to see people in their uniqueness, understand their world, visit them in home and office – in order that when we reach out, when we extend a genuine invitation, we say and mean “so that e can come to know each other; so that I can hear you and you can hear me.”
Our deep faith is reflected in our commitment to build people, not empires; community, not ‘stars,’ that caring, and not greed represent the true manifestation of yjwr, God’s spirit on earth.
We all acknowledge that it is so difficult to change people’s minds, our own included. If, however, we frame our task as that of reminding people of the bonds that tie us together, the values we share, the story of changing beliefs that is our common history – in a word, Torah – it becomes a very different matter.
Listen to your people and they will listen to you, and to this congregation of family and friends, understand how study has transformed those whom you love into klei kodesh, ‘vessels of holiness;’ and to all of us present let us continue to deepen our partnership with the sacred to build a better world.