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Monday, April 2, 2001

LOS ANGELES : Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) has received funding from Agnes and Rabbi Erwin Herman to establish a Virtual Resource Center, dedicated to the memory of their son Jeff Herman. This innovative and remarkable electronic center is a part of the Sexual Orientation Issues in Congregations and Community Initiative (SOICC) of HUC-JIR Los Angeles School. Dr. Lewis M. Barth, Dean, HUC-JIR Los Angeles School announced the gift.

"We are grateful to Agnes and Rabbi Erwin Herman for their dedication to HUC-JIR's innovative effort to sensitize our students and alumni to the needs of lesbian and gay Jews and to promote inclusivity within the Jewish community. Their generous support will enable the College-Institute to offer students and alumni on-line resources and communication tools to increase the students' ability to act as agents of change within the Jewish community," said Dr. Norman J. Cohen, Acting President and Provost, HUC-JIR.

"The College-Institute profoundly thanks the Hermans for their support of the Sexual Orientation Issues in Congregations and Community Initiative. The Virtual Resource Center is vital to the vanguard training our future rabbis, educators, cantors and Jewish communal service professionals receive at the College-Institute in all aspects of Jewish tradition and professional and spiritual development," said Dr. Lewis M. Barth.

The Virtual Resource Center (VRC) will support HUC-JIR's SOICC training seminar series for students and alumni by extending its effect beyond the classroom. The VRC features will include: (1) Annotated Internet Resource Lists; (2) Bibliography, including selected current articles and an online archive of significant articles as well as an annotated bibliography and specific book recommendations and reviews; (3) FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions, including practical knowledge of strategies and tools to combat and transform stereotypes of lesbian and gay Jews and promote inclusion; and requisite knowledge to handle issues relating to AIDS, displacement and death; (4) Learning and Teaching, including resources for both studying and teaching Jewish texts (Torah and Talmud) related to sexual orientation; with both self-directed, and guided/group learning options; (5) Dialogue/Threaded Discussions, allowing both students and Jewish professionals to continue conversations from the workshops and initiate new ones between campuses; (6) Case Study Video Presentations, to create greater awareness and understanding of religious, social, cultural and other needs of lesbian and gay Jews and their loved ones; and (7) Attitudes/Self-Awarness, presenting opportunities and tools to safely uncover and assess personal and professional attitudes toward lesbian and gay Jews and their concerns.

The VRC is being developed by HUC-JIR's office of Distance Education which is located at the Los Angeles campuses. This project is under the personal supervision of Gregg Alpert, National Director of Distance Education, HUC-JIR. All of the department's educational and technical staff will participate in its design and creation and will be augmented by outside technology design professionals.

The SOICC Initiative is a program designed to increase the ability of HUC-JIR students to act as agents of change within the Jewish community. The program includes a series of training workshops for rabbinic, education and Jewish communal service students and alumni at the College-Institute's Los Angeles School. There are also scholarships and internships for students working with local institutions to combat homophobia, better serve the needs of lesbian and gay Jews. Because of generous funding received from a New and Innovative Grant of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, the Galinson Family Foundation, the Shefa Fund, and numerous individual donors, HUC-JIR has already been able to plan and pilot the training seminar series, award scholarships and place students in internships working with the gay and lesbian Jewish community.

For more information about HUC-JIR's innovative Sexual Orienation Issues in Congregations and Community Initiative, please call Corey Slavin, Assistant Director of Development and Public Affairs, Western Region, and Liaison to the Dean's Office, SOICC at 213/749-3424 ext. 4205.

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 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 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.