Reflections from Founders Day - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Reflections from Founders Day

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Wednesday, July 1, 1998

"Is it not incumbent upon us to begin to build the sanctuary for our future, like Bezaleel and Aholiab...not with the arid sands of the contemporary wilderness of Jewish religious life, but with the concretized ideals of our Sacred Tradition's noblest aspirations:

Not with divisiveness, but with unity
Not with bigotry, but with acceptance
Not with zealotry, but with humility
Not with intransigence, but with flexibility
Not with exclusion, but with embrace
Not with discrimination, but with equality
Not with hypocrisy, but with integrity
Not with degradation, but with ennoblement
Not with impediment, but with empowerment
Not with pettiness, but with magnanimity
Not with dogmatism, but with intelligence
Not with obscurantism, but with enlightenment
Not with superficiality, but with profundity
Not with superstition, but with understanding
Not with formalism, but with substantiality

And above all, not with malevolence, but with compassion?"

Dr. Martin Cohen, Professor of Jewish History -- March 17, New York


"Moses sits in Akiba's academy and does not recognize his own Torah as it has been transformed by the 1000 years that produced Akiba.... I want to speak about the stubborn perception that earlier times were better times..."Dear X," I wrote to an alumna seventeen years after her graduations from the Rhea Hirsch School, as she was about to become the head of a large day school. "You are entering a field I didn't imagine would exist, and you live in a vigorous city that many thought was dying. When you came to HUC-JIR, you were interested in arts education, and you left here an intellectual and practical leader of Jewish life. Women with three children didn't have much chance to become Jewish leaders when you graduated; and when I cam to HUC-JIR women in general didn't have that opportunity. Our world was poorer for that. Our intellectual lives have become destabilized - there is some confusion about our values; but the values we were certain about also fostered racisms and sexisms that seem to be disappearing. We have, for the first time in my life, some appreciation for, instead of fear of, the "otherness" of the other.... You are moving, in other words, into a post-modern, ahistorical, demythologized, unstabilized, non-Monolithic, and impatient world. These are the qualities you will have to use for creating the Jewish future...."

Dr. William Cutter, March 2, Los Angeles


"I recognize that the pursuit of truth and knowledge is a long and arduous process that extends over centuries of time. So one should be both patient and humble, knowing that all human intellectual efforts are fallible and correctable. We know that scientific theories, over time, may be subject to correction and at times rejections. We now also recognize that our sacred texts contain flaws of human character: erroneous conceptions about the nature of the physical and biological world and even about reported historical events. It has taken hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years to find all this out. But once we know the truth, then I feel we are required to reform and reformulate our ancient teachings in the light of what we know today. For me, Reform Judaism is not just about sociological adjustment but about intellectual adjustment. Reform is about the integration of knowledge and ideas and faith.... [In] Yehuda Halevi's Kuzari, written in the 11th century [he] says (1:67): "God forbid that there might be anything in the Torah to contradict what is empirically evident or demonstratively proved." There is no question but that the honor and credibility of the Torah is diminished if we teachers of Torah fail to adjust our interpretation of its sacred message to be in conformity with what is "empirically evident of demonstratively proved...."

Dr. Samuel Greengus, March 25, Cincinnati


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.