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Historic Faculty Retreat

For the first time in a quarter of a century the HUC-JIR faculty attended a joint retreat, held at the Hickory Ridge Conference Center in Chicago on June 14-16, 1998. The retreat was planned by a faculty committee chaired by Rabbi Samuel K. Joseph, Professor of Jewish Religious Education in Cincinnati. It was attended by sixty full-time faculty members and academic program directors from HUC-JIR's four centers of learning.

Rabbi Norman J. Cohen, Provost, reported that having all the faculty gathered together "was inspiring. It reflected how far the school had moved forward in its united position and how close the relationship of the campuses has progressed. The commitment of our faculty to maximize our efforts came through during this retreat." At the retreat, Rabbi Cohen discussed integrating the core curriculum and other long-term goals with the faculty.

Rabbi Joseph organized opening sessions during which faculty members became acquainted with each other. Cantors from New York, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and Jerusalem created moving worship services. Rabbi Stanley Nash, Professor of Hebrew Literature in New York, remarked that he had only heard rumor of Dr. Eliyahu Schleifer's "vaunted" Torah cantillation at the Jerusalem School and felt privileged to finally hear it first-hand.

Academic discussions focused on the place of Hebrew language education in the curriculum, the skills graduates would need for the next century, and the College-Institute's strategic planning process. Faculty intermingled in formal study sessions and "break-out" groups according to their area of study. "While the Hebrew language session was of the greatest importance for me as one of the representatives of the Jerusalem School, I also enjoyed the 'Jewish Community' session," said Schleifer, referring to a panel on the demographics and challenges of 21st century Judaism. The panel included Dr. Isa E. Aron, Professor of Jewish Education in Los Angeles, Dr. Michael A. Meyer, Adolph S. Ochs Professor of Jewish History in Cincinnati, and Dr. Bruce A. Philips, Professor of Jewish Communal Service in Los Angeles; it gave Schleifer "some surprising evidence and thoughts about American Jewry. It made me think about my role in educating future cantors."

The generosity of Stanley and Ilene Gold made this extraordinary program possible. Burton Lehman, Chairman of the Board of Governors, praised the retreat, in which he participated, as "an enormous success and a major step forward in solidifying the collaboration among the faculties of our different sites and bringing greater unity to the College-Institute."

The faculty returned to their respective classrooms with new ideas and renewed purpose. They are looking forward to their next reunion in two years when the College-Institute plans to hold another retreat.