Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D., was inaugurated as the 10th President in the 144-year history of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the academic and professional leadership center of Reform Judaism, on Sunday, October 27, 2019, at Cincinnati’s landmark Isaac M. Wise / K.K. B’nai Yeshurun / Plum Street Temple. The Inauguration was attended by the international leaders of the Reform Movement, dignitaries from international academic institutions and organizations, communal and civic leaders of Cincinnati, alumni, faculty, and students.
A distinguished academic, President Rehfeld brings distinctive intellectual, spiritual, and professional qualities to lead the College-Institute’s mission to transform the Jewish community and the broader world. His passion for teaching and scholarship, as well as exemplary leadership skills, have set him apart as a dynamic visionary and community builder. His deep personal commitment to Reform Judaism and Jewish values, profound understanding of the impact of nonprofit Jewish institutions, and entrepreneurial spirit of innovation will lead HUC-JIR to greater excellence.
Dr. Rehfeld has bridged both the academic and Jewish worlds as Assistant Professor of Political Science (2001 to 2007) and Associate Professor of Political Science (2007 to 2019) at Washington University in St. Louis and as President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis (2012 to 2019). A tenured Professor of Political Thought at HUC-JIR, he contributes an unusual combination of teaching and scholarship, experience in Jewish nonprofit administration, and volunteer community leadership to the College-Institute.
President Rehfeld earned a Ph.D. in Political Science (2000) and a Master of Public Policy (1994) from the University of Chicago, and a B.A., Phi Beta Kappa, in the Philosophy Honors Program at the University of Rochester (1989). The author of The Concept of Constituency (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and numerous articles, Dr. Rehfeld’s research focuses on contemporary democratic theory with related interests in the history of political thought and the philosophy of the social sciences. He has published on the political uses of the Hebrew Bible and has taught yearly courses on Zionism and Jewish Political Thought at Washington University in St. Louis.
Following the Charge to the New President by Sue Neuman Hochberg, Chair of the HUC-JIR Board of Governors, President Rehfeld began his Inaugural Address with a memorial tribute to the eleven lives massacred at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh a year ago. Addressing HUC-JIR’s mission, he stated, “I am filled with optimism for our institution and its future, because HUC drives the development of ideas and leadership that strengthen the Jewish Public Sphere: the institutions that form the canvas of communal life upon which we as a people realize our collective values to serve the highest Good and the Holy, and lead our world to Justice, including our welfare and security in these times in which we once again are targeted and attacked simply for being Jews. Our Jewish communities are becoming far more diverse than in the past. We are multi-racial; inter-faith; inter-denominational; non-denominational; inter-gendered; inter-oriented; multi-ideological. We must prepare our students to lead communities who are themselves not always ready to embrace this change. We must invest in our faculty and inspire a culture of ideas and expression of spiritual practice as we train the next generation of Jewish leaders to deepen Jewish education, engagement, and identity, inspiring communities with innovative ritual and mobilizing for justice to respond to the challenges of the times. We thus commit ourselves to our sacred inheritance as ours, because it resonates and grounds us, whether because we were born into it, raised up by it, feel called by God to follow it, or simply chose to be part of it. That inheritance, upon which our institution was founded, is defined by Torah, Avodah, and Yisrael – our texts, our ritual traditions, and our people, on the basis of reason and moral autonomy, in order to pursue the Good, the Holy, the Right, and the Just.”
As HUC-JIR President, Dr. Rehfeld leads the four-campus international institution of Jewish higher education and seminary for Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR’s campuses in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York provide the academic and professional training programs for the Reform Movement’s rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offer graduate programs for scholars of all faiths.
HUC-JIR’s 4,000 active alumni serve over one million members of the Reform Movement, nearly 900 North American congregations, and more than 1,200 congregations worldwide, representing the largest Jewish denomination in North America, and the growing Progressive Movement in Israel and around the world. HUC-JIR alumni also hold leadership positions in Jewish educational, communal, cultural, and social service institutions, in hospital and military chaplaincies, in Jewish summer camping and Israel youth and engagement programs, and as faculty and Hillel directors at colleges and universities.
The Inauguration was organized by Joy G. Greenberg, Chair of the Inauguration Committee and Chair of the Presidential Search Committee, and Elizabeth M. Squadron, HUC-JIR Vice President for Program and Business Development.
David Holleman, Creation: And There Was Light, 1967. Stained glass with epoxy edge gluing mounted on plate glass. Cincinnati Skirball Museum; Gift of Congregation Beth Shalom of the Blue Hills, formerly Temple Beth El, Quincy, MA and Temple Shalom, Milton, MA.