Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., President of HUC-JIR, writes, "These days, everyone seems to have something to say about what they think is wrong with Reform Judaism. We have heard that the Reform movement is, at best, in stasis and, at worst, facing a significant decline in its membership rolls. Some argue that Reform institutions are insufficiently nimble and overly bureaucratic. Others point to what they see as an underlying ideological or theological malaise, suggesting that Reform Judaism does not galvanize Reform Jews to acknowledge and act upon their covenantal obligations. Amid this wave of criticism and consternation, we should not lose sight of the great strengths that Reform Judaism displays. As I travel throughout the United States and Canada, I see synagogues where attendance at services is significant and worship is spiritually inspiring. I see thriving Reform day and afternoon religious schools, and summer camps where Judaism is a richly lived experience. I also see countless numbers of Reform Jews engaged in meaningful Torah study, acts of social justice and the forging of inclusive communities.
"Still, one need not ignore these triumphs to recognize that there is more than a modicum of truth in many of the expressions of concern and the critiques that we are hearing. The organizational structures of the Reform movement often do not act in purposeful and coordinated ways to address the many challenges confronting the Jewish people. Too seldom is there an overarching vision of liberal Judaism present to guide the Reform movement as we attempt to address the great demographic and religious issues of our day. To be sure, the fuller context of North American Jewish life as a whole must be taken into account if the challenges that the Reform movement faces are to be properly assessed and appreciated. After all, the unprecedented opportunities that Jews on this continent enjoy have resulted in ever-increasing assimilation and indifference among millions of North American Jews. This is the communal price exacted for living in an open and accepting society. In such a setting of individualism, where traditional kinship and associational patterns among Jews have been eroded by mobility and acculturation, each Jew is now a 'sovereign self,' and it is not easy to 'command' Jewish participation. These forces that challenge the continuity and relevance of Judaism for so many Jews constitute a sociological storm with which the Reform movement has had to cope."
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Thanks to Nicole Lyn DeBlosi and fellow students and faculty members at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in New York, HUC-JIR has now added its own message of hope in the form of a video for the "It Gets Better Project." The Project, created by gay activist and writer Dan Savage, shows young LGBT people that, despite the many cultural messages to the contrary, it is possible to live a fulfilled, happy life as an out gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or queer person.
HUC-JIR's video features students and faculty members telling their stories of coming out and of integrating their gay or lesbian identities with their Jewish identities. HUC-JIR community members acknowledge both rejection and acceptance by rabbis, teachers, parents, and friends. Overwhelmingly, this is a video of hope: we can be out and proud and Jewish. DeBlosi says, "We hope this video spreads through religious schools and camps, college campuses and synagogues, demonstrating how far the Reform movement has come-and how far we still need to go-in clearly sending the message that Judaism has room for so many kinds of lives and sexualities and families. We need to continue to counter the message of hate with our resounding song of hope." Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Dean of HUC-JIR/New York, notes, "I am immensely proud of the New York campus students and faculty who took the initiative to create this resource for LGBT kids. I hope Reform Jews everywhere will post this on their Facebook pages to help spread the powerful message, especially during the upcoming Pesach season, that HUC-JIR and our movement support LGBT liberation."
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In response to the tragic devastation of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, the Union for Reform Judaism has partnered with fellow North American Jewish organizations in the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief to open the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund. Through this coordinated and unified Jewish response, donations will be collected and distributed to those most in need. If you would like to make a contribution or if you have any questions about this fund, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Our prayers are with the victims of the earthquake and tsunami, and with the rescue workers as well as those trying to contain further disaster at the nuclear plants. May God grant consolation to all who mourn, and may the survivors find continued strength and courage.
In response to the knife attack Saturday morning in Itamar that killed 5 members of an Israeli family, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the following statement: "We condemn in the strongest of terms the senseless massacre of an innocent Israeli family in their sleep. There is no place in this world, or in the struggle for peace in the Middle East, for this sort of violence. We welcome the condemnations of the attacks by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. We urge them to follow-through on their statements with actions that bring the perpetrators to justice and strongly reinforce the message that violence like this will not be tolerated by the Palestinian leadership. Further, we support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pledge to safeguard the citizens of Israel and punish the murderers. We call for swift justice for the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of Fatah, which claimed responsibility for the attack, characterizing it as a 'heroic operation.' This sort of blatant disregard for the value of human life is appalling and we hope that together the Israelis and the Palestinians will work to ensure that this violence remains an isolated incident and does not escalate."
Dr. Steven Windmueller, the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball campus of HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, is conducting the 2011 Jewish Voter Survey, for Jewish voters aged 18 and over, an online Jewish voter survey launched to measure the changing Jewish vote and Jewish political interests. The anonymous survey, which takes about 10 minutes to complete, will examine the political priorities of Jews and where they allocate their financial resources with regard to their support of political causes, both Jewish and mainstream. It will look at variables including income, geographical region, age, religious affiliation and education. The study also seeks to discover how and where Jews acquire their political ideas and knowledge, and analyze how they define themselves with regard to specific political labels. The research also will focus on understanding the level and depth of engagement that Jews have with the State of Israel and other core social and policy issues. "I am particularly interested in seeing if we are in the midst of a political sea-change within the American Jewish community," Windmueller said in a statement.
Jack Gottlieb, the first full-time Professor of Music at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at HUC-JIR and a past president of the American Society for Jewish Music, died on Feb. 23, at the age of 80 in his Manhattan apartment. Through his music, Mr. Gottlieb very consciously erected a bridge between synagogue, concert hall, opera house and musical comedy stage. He composed both sacred and secular music, was a longtime associate of Leonard Bernstein, serving as his assistant with the New York Philharmonic from 1958-66 and as publications director and later consultant to the corporation responsible for overseeing Bernstein's musical legacy.
HUC-JIR is teaming up with Yeshiva University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Brandeis University, New York University, and the Spertus Institute to offer a master's concentration program in Israel education. The graduate-level program is being coordinated by the iCenter, a Chicago-based nonprofit that works to enhance Israel education within the framework of Jewish education. The center's founding funders are the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Jim Joseph Foundation. The aim, says Anne Lanski, executive director of the iCenter, is to develop future Jewish educators who will be "champions, advocates and leaders of Israel education."
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), co-sponsored the panel, "Israel at lo levad! Israel ¡No estas solo! Israel, you are not alone!" "AIPAC is a 501(c)(4) corporation," said Steven F. Windmueller, the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball campus of HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, who served as executive director of the Community Relations Committee of Federation from 1985 to 1995. He was referring to AIPAC's status as a tax-exempt nonprofit that can actively lobby government. "They're not in the traditional community relations business," he said. Windmueller has written extensively about Latino-Jewish relations in Los Angeles but was neither aware of nor involved in the current talks. "If they [AIPAC] and the Israeli Consulate are seated at these meetings, then Israel must be the agenda," Windmueller said.
Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, Ph.D., Editor of HUC-JIR's Blog of Continuing Jewish Learning, writes, "A few weeks ago, I was part of a conversation with an interdenominational group of rabbis about how we will mark the tenth Yahrzeit of 9-11. I was somewhat surprised with the range of and complexity of emotion that emerged from our collective psyche. The only easy observation from that discussion was that there is need to think about how we will approach this anniversary. To help understand how that thinking is emerging, I turned to the community of HUC-JIR alumni for some initial opinions and insights."
|Rabbi Reuven Firestone, Ph.D., Professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam at HUC-JIR/Jack H. Skirball Campus/Los Angeles, will participate in the lecture series, "Understanding Islam," at Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation of Pacific Palisades on Wednesday, March 23, 2011, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Firestone will discuss political issues and Jewish-Islamic relationships, the concept of Jihad, and where we are today and what we can do about it. Click here for further information. The Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies presents the Elizabeth & Robert Plumleigh Lecture Series, "The Birth of Religion and The Making of Peace," with featured speaker, Rabbi Firestone, on March 22, 2011. Click here for further information. On March 15, Firestone participated in the URJ's Torah Alive: The Qur'an and the Bible. He examined stories, laws, and lessons in both scriptures in order to deepen our understanding of their relationship and the uniqueness of each.|
|Dr. Jonathan Krasner, Assistant Professor of the American Jewish Experience at HUC-JIR/New York, will be speaking at Siegel College of Judaic Studies in Cleveland on "Unfinished Revolutions in Jewish Education" on Friday, March 25, 2011. Click here for further information.|
|Dr. David Mendelsson, Schusterman Visiting Professor of Israel Studies at HUC-JIR/Jack H. Skirball Campus/Los Angeles, participated in Eye on the Middle East, where he discussed Israeli politics, culture, and society. Click here to listen to the podcast.|
|Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Rabbinic and Second Temple Literature at HUC-JIR/New York, will be the Marjorie and Morgan Miller Scholar in Residence at Westchester Reform Temple on March 25-28, 2011.|
|Rabbi Margaret Moers Wenig, Instructor in Liturgy and Homiletics at HUC-JIR/New York, was a contributor to a Lambda Literary Award Finalist anthology, entitled Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community. Her chapter is entitled "Spiritual Lessons I Have Learned from Transsexuals."|
HUC-JIR/Jack H. Skirball Campus/Los Angeles will gather together as a community on March 22, 2011, to honor the founders of HUC-JIR in prayer, in learning, and in community building. Each year, the campus presents a case on a topic of interest and concern to the Jewish community. This year, students and faculty at HUC-JIR/Jack H. Skirball Campus/Los Angeles will address the issue of bullying and teen suicide. Rabbinical student Julia Weisz, education student Amanda Greene, and nonprofit management student Shira Landau will respond to the case study from their particular professional perspective.
HUC-JIR/Cincinnati presents the next film in the Academy of Adult Interfaith Studies film class, "Go for Zucker," a German film with English subtitles, on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 5:00 pm. Dr. Nathan Abrams, from Bangor University in Wales, will lead a discussion on a German Jewish comedy with insights into contemporary German Jewish identity. Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to email@example.com.
On March 29 and April 5, 2011, from 12:10 pm to 1:10 pm, the Spiegel Seminar series at HUC-JIR/Jack H. Skirball Campus/Los Angeles will host Difficult Decisions: Issues of Conception, Adoption, and Abortion. The topic is "I am pregnant, now what?" Please RSVP by March 24 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Louchheim School for Judaic Studies, the USC Center for International Studies, Canadian Studies Program, and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute present Esther Mayer's "The Holocaust Suite: Art, Memory and the Holocaust from the Second Generation" on Thursday, March 31, 2011 from 3:00-5:00 pm at HUC-JIR/Jack H. Skirball Campus/Los Angeles. The Holocaust Suite is a series of emotionally charged, evocative artworks that serve as an attempt to deal with the legacy of the Holocaust in a contemporary way. Light reception to follow. Please RSVP by March 29 to email@example.com.
HUC-JIR/Cincinnati presents the next film in the Academy of Adult Interfaith Studies film class, "Monty Python's Life of Brian," on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 5:00 pm. A discussion with Anne will follow. Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gustav A. and Mamie W. Efroymson Memorial Lectures at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati presents "The Biblical World and Its Impact: Precept and Praxis," a symposium honoring Professor Samuel Greengus, former Director of the School of Graduate Studies in Cincinnati, on Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 9:00 am. Dr. Samuel Greengus has had a long career of service to the College-Institute as the Julian Morgenstern Professor of Bible and Near Eastern Literature and as Professor of Semitic Languages (1963-2010). The symposium will begin with a welcome from Rabbi David Ellenson. The Gustav A. and Mamie W. Efroymson Memorial Lectures were founded in 1946 by brothers Clarence W. and Robert A. Efroymson in memory of their parents. RSVP to Sarah Strouse at email@example.com or 513-487-3230.
Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman, internationally recognized for his leadership of Reform, will be honored with a 95th birthday celebration on Saturday, April 30, 2011 at Emanuel Congregation in Chicago. World-renowned Israeli violinist and Stradivari Society recipient Vadim Gluzman and pianist Angela Yoffe will perform. The significant musical event will serve as an unforgettable tribute to Emanuel's Rabbi Emeritus, Herman Schaalman. Rabbi Schaalman, a native of Munich, Germany, was one of five young rabbinical students who were rescued by the College-Institute in 1935 with the help of former HUC-JIR President Julian Morgenstern. Morgenstern was instrumental in securing student visas for these five students, who escaped a likely fatal destiny by leaving Germany and coming to study at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati. Schaalman was later ordained by HUC-JIR and is Rabbi Emeritus of Emanuel Congregation in Chicago, where he has served for over fifty years. HUC-JIR/Cincinnati awarded him a Doctor of Divinity degree, honoris causa, in 1966 and he was also awarded the Order of Merit 1st Class by the President of Germany in 1995.
The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives will host 'Travels in American Jewish History - A Journey of Jewish Identity & Discovery to Historic Savannah, Georgia" from June 1-5, 2011. This unique program will offer participants the opportunity to travel to Savannah to examine its particular Jewish heritage while studying with the foremost scholars of American Jewish history. The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, founded in 1947 by its namesake at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, is committed to preserving a documentary of the religious, organizational, economic, cultural, personal, social, and family life of American Jewry. The Marcus Center contains over 12,000 linear feet of archives, manuscripts, nearprint materials, photographs, audio and videotapes, microfilm, and genealogical materials.
Rabbi Charles Kroloff, Vice President for Special Projects (at right), actors, and crew, filming a simulated rabbinical counseling session as part of a new project to produce a series of videos for classroom instruction by the Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling at HUC-JIR/New York. The videos will be used across HUC-JIR's campuses to strengthen students' skills in pastoral care.
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Celebrate special moments in your family's history this Passover with a custom-made L'Dor V'Dor matzah cover by Judaic textile artist Reeva Shaffer. Your precious family photos are duplicated in fabric form and are sewn into a uniquely designed matzah cover that can be appreciated by all generations. $250, plus shipping and handling.
To purchase, please contact: 212-824-2218, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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