H
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OLLEGE
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J
EWISH
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NSTITUTE OF
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2003-2004
Annual Report
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Page 5
he College-Institute’s dedication to
tikkun olam,
repairing the world, has been reinforced by the
generosity of Leonard and Ruth Litwin, along with
an anonymous donor, who have donated $1.5
million to endow the Rabbi Jerome K. Davidson
Chair in Social Responsibility, the first of its kind at
HUC-JIR. Their landmark gifts express a shared belief
in Jewish ethical values and recognize HUC-JIR’s
distinguished alumnus, teacher and role model:
Rabbi Jerome K. Davidson.
These contributors are active members of my
congregation and lifelong social activists in the
community,” notes Rabbi Davidson. “Their support
will be responsible for strengthening HUC-JIR’s core
curriculum with a foundation in social responsibility.
Their gifts demonstrate that congregants understand
the importance of training Jewish professionals.
I hope that this generosity encourages other alumni
to reach out to congregants who are able to help
HUC-JIR and support the creation and amplification
of programs.”
Named the “Suburban
Activist” in Murray
Polner’s book,
Rabbi,
the American
Experience,
Rabbi
Davidson has served
as Senior Rabbi of
Temple Beth-El of
Great Neck since
1971
and has exerted
strong leadership in
the community and in
the field of social
service. Ordained at
HUC-JIR/Cincinnati in
1958,
he is a devoted
alumnus and serves on the Board of Governors, as
chair of the Rabbinic Board of Alumni Overseers, and
as founding chair of the Alumni Council, and
continues to mentor students through courses on
practical rabbinics, social justice, and biblical
literature. For over a decade, Rabbi Davidson, together
with Albert Vorspan, Vice President Emeritus of the
Union for Reform Judaism, has brought the mission
of social action within congregational life to the
fourth-year rabbinical students at HUC-JIR. Through
their team-taught course,
Tough Choices, Social
Action in the Community
,
they have helped generations
of students prepare for the realities they will one day
face as religious and professional leaders.
As part of the new Chair, a national Planning
Committee on Social Responsibility has been
formed to “shape the guidelines for learning
modules, text study, required coursework, field work,
and public programming that will then be
implemented in an integrated program of required
professional development for rabbinical students,”
notes Dr. Norman Cohen, HUC-JIR Provost. The
Committee is comprised of faculty, students, and
administrators who serve as representatives from
each stateside campus, as well as several alumni
who are renowned social activists, including Rabbi
Davidson; Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the
Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism in
Washington D.C.; and Albert Vorspan.
The Committee is exploring the development of two
learning modules, “Rabbinic Leadership and Social
Action” and “Rabbinic Leadership and Community
Relations,” both of which will be required as part of
the professional development courses for rabbinical
students. Field work related to these professional
development courses will be another aspect of the
new Chair, in order to provide students with real life
experiences and new perspectives on social
responsibility and the issues covered in the
forthcoming learning modules. The objective is for
students to work with organizations including the
Religious Action Center, Anti-Defamation League,
and NAACP, among others, or to cultivate leadership
skills in pre-existing social action-oriented activities
such as the New York student-run soup kitchen.
Guest lecturers and new programs are also planned
to build upon the community service experience
required of the students during the Year-In-Israel
Program so as to broaden the mission of social
responsibility on each campus.
The establishment of the Rabbi Jerome K. Davidson
Chair in Social Responsibility is another step that
HUC-JIR and its supporters have taken in order to
provide tomorrow’s Reform Movement leaders with
the necessary skills to help shape their rabbinate
and transform Jewish communal and civic life.
Ruth Messinger (center), President,
American Jewish World Service,
engages students in a discussion
about current events during the
class "Tough Choices, Social Action
in the Community," team-taught by
Rabbi Jerome K. Davidson (left)
and Albert Vorspan (right).
T
Repairing the World:
The Rabbi Jerome K. Davidson
Chair in Social Responsibility