Blaustein Foundation Establishes Path-Breaking Pastoral Counseling Center

Monday, July 3, 2000

Blaustein Foundation 
Establishes Path-Breaking Pastoral Counseling Center
at Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion's New York School

The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation of Baltimore, Maryland has awarded a new grant of $2,020,000 building upon their existing endowment at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, to support the creation and operation of a $2.5 million center for pastoral counseling. The new Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling, to be based at HUC-JIR's New York School, will help the College-Institute to prepare spiritual leaders to sensitively and capably help congregants to deal with the critical issues they face throughout their lives.

With the creation of the Blaustein Center, HUC-JIR's New York rabbinical program will be the first to require students, as a prerequisite for ordination, to complete a variety of supervised clinical experiences, including a year of congregational work as well as pastoral counseling internships, and acquire an academic grounding in psychodynamics and pastoral counseling. The development of the New York School's Blaustein Center will assist HUC-JIR's other stateside centers of learning in Cincinnati and Los Angeles to expand their current programs in this area. The Blaustein Center is being established in partnership with the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the rabbinical professional association of the Reform Movement.

Working with the College-Institute to develop the Blaustein Center's academic and clinical programs will be leadership of the CCAR as well as faculty of the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health in New York City. The Postgraduate Center for Mental Health, one of America's oldest and largest training and treatment centers, co-sponsors HUC-JIR's Doctor of Ministry program, which prepares ordained clergy for certification in pastoral counseling. The Postgraduate Center is affiliated with the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services of New York.

'Our trustees were very excited by the prospects of creating this Center,' said Betty Roswell, a clinical social worker in Bridgewater Township, New Jersey, Foundation Board member, and daughter of Jacob and Hilda Blaustein, in whose memory the new center is named. 'Congregants lead increasingly complicated lives. They turn to clergy for help in dealing with the myriad of personal, family, and spiritual issues that arise during the course of everyday life, in addition to the challenges of illness and death of loved ones. Our clergy and educators need the skills and understanding to support their congregants effectively. The Foundation is proud to help HUC-JIR toward this ultimate goal.'

Under the leadership of Rabbi Aaron Panken, Dean of the New York School, and the clinical direction of Dr. Nancy Wiener, Field Work Coordinator and Instructor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, the Center will test new approaches to teaching counseling skills, grounding reflections on practical field experiences in the teachings found in Jewish texts. Clinically supervised field placements where students gain hands-on experience will be expanded, while cash stipends will enable more students to complete these intensive assignments during their years at HUC-JIR. Further, the clinical supervisors, who are often rabbis with certification in counseling or chaplaincy, will themselves meet regularly for supervision to enhance their own professional development. The latter is virtually non-existent in seminary education.

'Most Jews assume that a rabbi is a competent counselor,' says Dr. Wiener. 'We assume that our spiritual leaders are able to listen and advise, respect confidentiality and boundaries and are aware of their own limitations. We also assume that clergy are able to refer congregants appropriately to mental health professionals when necessary. All too often, though, that's not the case.'

Dr. Wiener adds that, as with any other professionals engaged in counseling, rabbis enter seminary with varying degrees of self-awareness, familiarity with psychodynamics and family systems theory, and experience. 'Through the Blaustein Center,' she says, 'HUC-JIR students will have greater opportunity to develop their identity as rabbis - gaining insights into the expectations, demands, limitations, and power that come with the title and role.'

Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff, President of the CCAR and clinical member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, said, 'The CCAR and College_Institute share the belief that, to be more effective in their profession, rabbis must become more skilled in counseling congregants. During their seminary years, under the guidance of experienced teachers, clinicians and supervisors, rabbinical students should acquire basic counseling skills and an understanding of clinical concepts. Opportunities must then be offered for practicing rabbis to hone these skills, deepen their knowledge of related Jewish texts and traditions, and receive peer support and continued supervision. The CCAR looks forward to working with HUC_JIR in developing these activities through the new Blaustein Center.'

Recent graduates who took pastoral counseling electives as students agree that the training has been vital to their rabbinates. As Rabbi David Thomas, a 1998 graduate of the New York School and Associate Rabbi at Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester, New York, noted, 'It is no exaggeration to say that my clinical pastoral experience at the College influences every contact I have with my congregants.'

Rabbi Deborah Bodin Cohen, Associate Rabbi at Temple Emanuel of Cherry Hill, NJ, remarked that 'I feel that I am better able to draw out of my congregants their feelings and needs because of my experience. When I approach a difficult counseling situation, I have more confidence.' Cantor Andrew Bernard of Temple Beth El in Charlotte, NC completed a chaplaincy residency at Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati after investiture. Commenting on his experience, Dr. Bernard said, 'It's become clear to me that counseling or chaplaincy is essential for anyone being ordained or invested. At the very least, it gives the rabbi or cantor vital insights into his or her own gifts and limitations when working with congregants. Ideally, it combines personal growth, academic study, and clinical experience so that Jewish clergy are prepared to meet the challenges of congregational work.'

Though the Blaustein Center will be based at the New York School, its programs will inform the further development of pastoral counseling and chaplaincy programs at HUC-JIR's other stateside schools in Cincinnati and Los Angeles. At the Los Angeles School, the expansion of rabbinical studies into a four year stateside ordaining program is leading to the transformation of its supervised fieldwork program and related courses. In Cincinnati, rabbinical students enroll in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), a national system of experiential education that teaches pastoral care in healthcare settings. To ensure that the College-Institute's field programs are consistent in their training goals and requirements, a national Clinical Education Advisory Committee has been meeting regularly to review and develop College-wide learning objectives and supervision standards.

After activities for HUC-JIR students are underway, the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling will begin to work with the CCAR - first, to identify those counseling skills which rabbinical alumni need to be more effective, and then, to develop related professional education opportunities. These initiatives will be co-sponsored with the Joint Commission for Sustaining Rabbinic Education, a collaborative program of the College-Institute and CCAR.

The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation of Baltimore was established in 1957 by Jacob Blaustein, who, with his father, Louis Blaustein, founded the American Oil Company in 1910, which later became AMOCO. A successful industrialist, Jacob Blaustein also was a part-time diplomat, adviser to four U.S. presidents and U.S. delegate to the United Nations. He held leadership positions on the American Jewish Committee from the early 1940s until his death in 1970 and played a crucial role in gaining the inclusion of human rights provisions in the United Nations Charter. Hilda Katz Blaustein's interests included education as well as the U.N. She was active in local and national Jewish affairs. Jacob and Hilda were life-long members of Temple Oheb Shalom, a Reform Jewish congregation in Baltimore. The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, guided by its commitment to the Jewish value of tzedakah, supports a wide range of causes throughout the world.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to 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 American Jewish Archives, 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. www.huc.edu