At 4 am on Thursday, July 6, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's Jerusalem School was vandalized. The Jerusalem police are investigating the incident, in which all of the glass panels at the 13 King David Street entrance were shattered, the word SATAN was spray_painted in English onto the floor near the entrance, and the public street sign indicating the College was defaced. There has been no physical threat to any of HUC-JIR's faculty or staff, and full security measures are being undertaken to avoid further damage.
In the context of the series of attacks on HUC-JIR and other non_Orthodox institutions over the last weeks, there is speculation that some group or groups may have decided to target HUC-JIR as a high_profile symbol of the Reform movement. There may be some connection between this vandalism and the July 5 hearing of the Israel Supreme Court on the conversion issue.
Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, HUC-JIR President, and Rabbi Michael Marmur, Dean of HUC-JIR's Jerusalem School, issued the following statement:
"These are historic days in Israel: as we grapple with the great issues of war and peace, we also face a no less significant question: how should we live as Jews in the Jewish State? Over the last five years, Reform Judaism has become a major voice in this conversation about the soul of Israel. Today, according to several opinion polls, a third of Israeli Jews identify with us. For some, this is an exciting and heartening development. For others, the prospect of a strong liberal Jewish presence in Israel is enough to drive them to desperate measures. Those who attack us and our colleagues are lashing out in fear and cowardice against an approach they cannot understand and will not tolerate. Fair-minded and tolerant Jews from across the religious spectrum have expressed solidarity with HUC-JIR, and their support gives us strength and encouragement. They realize that in the struggle for the soul of Israel, indifference is impossible.
For our part, we will continue with the sacred work of teaching those who teach Torah as liberal, modern, engaged, and informed Jews. As the Middle East edges towards peace, this Torah of tolerance and innovation may indeed shine forth from Zion. The future should be claimed by those who open doors, not by those who break them down."
HUC-JIR's Jerusalem School is the center for the Israel Rabbinical Program, training Israeli Reform rabbis to serve the growing number of Israel Progressive Movement congregations and schools, and for Israeli teacher training. In collaboration with the World Union for Progressive Judaism and the Israel Progressive Action Center, the Jerusalem School's campus is the center for the Reform Movement in Israel.
HUC-JIR's Jerusalem School is also the center for the first year of intensive Judaic and Hebrew studies for HUC-JIR's North American rabbinical, cantorial, and education students, and for the Israel seminar for all HUC-JIR's North American communal service students; these students complete their programs at HUC-JIR's stateside centers in Cincinnati, Los Angeles, or New York.
Also based at HUC-JIR's Jerusalem School is the Beit Midrash / A Liberal Yeshivah, which provides English-speaking adults with continuing education opportunities in a liberal and pluralistic environment. The campus hosts Reform Movement youth programs in Israel, sponsored by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the North American Federation of Temple Youth, which are attended by over a thousand North American Reform high school and college students each year. Visitors to Jerusalem are welcomed to weekly Sabbath services at the Murstein Synagogue. Hebrew language courses are offered for new immigrants and cultural programs are open to the general public.
The campus's Skirball Museum presents biblical antiquities excavated at HUC-JIR's Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology excavations at historical sites throughout Israel, including Gezer and Tel Dan. The Abramov Library offers extensive holdings in the history and religious thought of liberal Judaism.