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Thursday, August 1, 2002


Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., will be inaugurated as the eighth President in the history of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the academic and professional leadership center of Reform Judaism, on Sunday, October 13, 2002, at Cincinnati's Isaac M. Wise / K.K. B'nai Yeshurun Plum Street Temple. The Inauguration, to be attended by the leadership of the Reform Movement from across North America, Israel, and abroad, will feature the participation of alumni, faculty, and students. Rabbi Ellenson will be inducted into office by Burton Lehman, Chair of HUC-JIR's Board of Governors. The Inauguration Committee is chaired by Ilene and Stanley P. Gold, immediate past Chair of HUC-JIR's Board of Governors; the honorary chairs are Joan and Richard J. Scheuer, former Chair of HUC-JIR's Board of Governors.

As HUC-JIR President, Rabbi Ellenson serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the four-campus, international university. HUC-JIR's centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles and New York provide the academic and professional training programs for the Reform Movement's rabbis, cantors, educators, and communal service professionals, and offer graduate programs for scholars of all faiths.

Rabbi Ellenson, who was ordained at HUC-JIR in 1977, is the eighth President in its 127 year-long history and succeeds Dr. Norman J. Cohen, Acting President and Provost.

"We are proud that Rabbi Ellenson is leading our institution," stated Mr. Lehman. "He is a distinguished rabbi and scholar, dedicated teacher, and committed leader of the Reform Movement. Associated with HUC-JIR for nearly 30 years, Rabbi Ellenson is a beloved teacher and mentor to generations of HUC-JIR students. He is internationally recognized for his publications and research in the area of Jewish religious thought, ethics, and modern Jewish history. His exemplary leadership and passionate commitment to Reform Judaism and the Jewish people worldwide will inspire HUC-JIR's growth in the 21st century. In selecting this eminent rabbi and scholar as President for this institution, we are proud to demonstrate the excellence of HUC-JIR's intellectual and religious mission."

"I am greatly honored to be called to serve as the President of HUC-JIR and pledge to advance the definition and fulfillment of its sacred mission. The College-Institute is a precious intellectual and religious resource for the ongoing life of the Reform Movement and the Jewish people. I hope to inspire others to aid in the cooperative task of building and sustaining this institution as a source for good and blessing in the world," stated Rabbi Ellenson.



Rabbi David Ellenson is the I.H. and Anna Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles. A member of HUC-JIR's faculty since 1979, he has served as Lecturer, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor of Jewish Religious Thought. From 1981-1997, he also held the post of Director of the Jerome H. Louchheim School of Judaic Studies.

Rabbi Ellenson received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1981 and was ordained a rabbi at HUC-JIR's New York School in 1977. He holds M.A. degrees from Columbia University, HUC-JIR, and the University of Virginia. He received his B.A. degree from the College of William and Mary in Virginia in 1969.

Rabbi Ellenson is a Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jerusalem and a Fellow and Lecturer in the Institute of Advanced Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem (1999 to present). He has served as Visiting Professor of History at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Lady Davis Visiting Professor of Humanities in the Department of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Visiting Professor in the Center for Jewish Studies and a member of the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (1986-97). In addition, he has been the Blaustein Scholar at the Jerusalem Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies and regularly serves as a faculty member of the Wexner Heritage Foundation.

Rabbi Ellenson has published and lectured extensively on diverse topics in modern Jewish history, ethics, and thought. He is the author of Tradition in Transition: Orthodoxy, Halakhah and the Boundaries of Modern Jewish Identity (1989),Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy(1990) (nominated for the National Jewish Book Council's Award for outstanding book in Jewish History, 1990), and Between Tradition and Culture: The Dialectics of Jewish Religion and Identity in the Modern World (1994).

His work describes the writings of Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist leaders in Europe, the United States, and Israel during the last two centuries and employs a sociological approach to illuminate the history and development of modern Jewish religious denominationalism. His application of this method has allowed him to emphasize the interplay between Jewish religious tradition and modern society in unique ways, and has prompted him to write and lecture on diverse topics, including early Reform and Orthodoxy in 19th century Germany, conversion to Judaism at the beginning of the 1900s, and the problems of medical ethics in present-day America.

Along with Dr. Stanley Chyet, Rabbi Ellenson co-edited Bits of Honey: Essays for Samson H. Levey (1993), and is the author of the commentary entitled "How the Modern Prayerbook Evolved" in the acclaimed Five Volume Series on the Jewish Prayerbook, Minhag Ami : My People's Prayerbook, edited by Dr. Lawrence Hoffman. He is currently completing a book tentatively entitled, 'For the Sake of Heaven': Conversion, Identity, and the Politics of Modern Jewish Orthodoxy, co-authored with Daniel Gordis. He is also at work on another book-length collection of his essays.

He has written over 150 articles and reviews in diverse academic and religious journals and books, including The Hebrew Union College Annual, The Journal of American Academy of Religion, Religious Studies Review, The Year Book of the Leo Baeck Institute, Journal of Religion, Modern Judaism, The Jewish Book Annual, The CCAR Journal, Conservative Judaism, The Reconstructionist, andTradition. His academic lectures have been delivered at such institutions as Charles University in Prague, Ben Gurion and Bar Ilan Universities in Israel, Haverford College, Harvard University, Yale University, Brown University, and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

Rabbi Ellenson is a member of several professional and academic societies, including the Association for Jewish Studies, the American Academy of Religion, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Southern California Board of Rabbis, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He has served as a pulpit rabbi in Port Washington, New York, and Keene, New Hampshire, and has worked at several summer camps of the Reform and Conservative Movements.

Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1947, Rabbi Ellenson was raised in Newport News, Virginia. He is married to Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson, who was ordained at HUC-JIR/New York in 1983. They are the parents of Ruth (married to Robert Guffey-Ellenson), Micah, Hannah, Naomi, and Raphael.



The Covenant lies at the heart of our Jewish tradition. We must continue to have this biblical notion guide and inspire us as we strive to have the values of Jewish tradition speak in a relevant and humane way to the challenges and dilemmas of our time.

We Jews today, not less than our ancestors in generations past, are called to covenantal responsibility by the God of Israel, Who asks that we serve as partners -- shufatim -- with God in forming and mending the world. Each of us is challenged personally to see to it that mitzvot are performed, to strive for the realization of kindness, grace and mercy -- hein, hesed, v'rahamim -- in the world.

The notion of Covenant -- brit -- asserts itself collectively as well, for we also stand as part of a people, in dialogical relationship with other members of the household of Israel. We educate our students to affirm Jewish peoplehood and Jewish solidarity as the core values of their vocational tasks. We teach them words of Torah, so that they can bring these words alive and translate them into guidelines. These guidelines will cause them to perform ma'a'sim tovim -- good works that will direct and inspire the lives of the people and the communities that they will one day serve.

This vision of Covenant provides an ideal of freedom and responsibility that animates the educational endeavors we undertake at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Our students internalize the history and memory of the Jewish past into their very being. This knowledge inspires them to feel a responsibility to the past and gives them the courage to respond creatively in their own voices to the demands of the present, so that the life-affirming values and enduring beauty inherent in our tradition can assure a vibrant Jewish future.

Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D. 



Hebrew Union College was established in 1875 in Cincinnati by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the founder of American Reform Judaism, and is the oldest institution of higher Jewish education in America. Throughout its 127 years, HUC-JIR has been characterized by a continuity and stability of leadership unknown to most other institutions. Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise led the College for 25 years, succeeded by the leadership of Rabbi Kaufman Kohler (1903-1921), who strengthened HUC-JIR's commitment to the scientific investigation of the Jewish tradition; followed by Rabbi Julian Morgenstern (1921-1947), who rescued European scholars from the threat of the Nazis. Rabbi Stephen S. Wise (1922-1948), the founder and leader of the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York from its inception in 1922 to 1948, was a pioneer of the American Zionist Movement and a social justice activist. Dr. Nelson Glueck (1947-1971), who merged HUC and JIR in 1948, was a renowned biblical archaeologist who established HUC-JIR's campuses in Jerusalem and Los Angeles. He was succeeded by Dr. Alfred Gottschalk (1971-1996), a Zionist and modernist who enhanced HUC-JIR's commitment to Jewish scholarship and community service, followed by Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman (1996-2000), a 26-year veteran of congregational leadership and former President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR).

HUC-JIR's Los Angeles campus was opened in 1954 to serve the growing Jewish community on the West Coast. The Jerusalem campus, founded in 1963 as a postdoctoral school of archaeological and biblical studies, has grown to serve as the center for HUC-JIR students' first year of study and the Israel Rabbinic Program training rabbis for Israel's Progressive movement.

The College-Institute has ordained 2586 rabbis, including 392 women rabbis since 1972, when HUC-JIR was the first Jewish seminary to ordain a woman rabbi in America, Rabbi Sally Priesand. Since 1980, HUC-JIR has ordained 26 Israeli rabbis to serve Israel's Progressive Movement, including 6 Israeli women rabbis since 1992, when HUC-JIR ordained the first woman rabbi in Israel, Rabbi Naamah Kelman. The College-Institute's School of Sacred Music, established in 1948 to sustain Jewish liturgical music after the Holocaust, has invested 390 cantors, including 162 women since HUC-JIR invested the first woman cantor, Cantor Barbara Ostfeld, in 1975.

HUC-JIR has 295 education alumni leading and teaching temple religious schools, 483 Jewish communal service alumni heading Federations and Jewish communal and social service agencies, and 359 graduate studies alumni teaching at HUC-JIR and other distinguished universities and seminaries throughout the world. There are 915 Reform congregations that are served by HUC-JIR's alumni and students.

Over 500 courses and 20 advanced degree programs in rabbinic, cantorial, education, communal service and graduate studies are offered at the four campuses. Continuing education and public programs are offered through HUC-JIR's New York Kollel, Academy for Interfaith Studies in Cincinnati, Beit Midrash/A Liberal Yeshivah in Jerusalem, and at the Los Angeles School.

HUC-JIR's libraries, with nearly 700,000 volumes, are ranked among the world's largest repositories of Judaica and Hebraica from the 10th century to the present day. HUC-JIR's American Jewish Archives comprise over 10 million documents preserving the history of the Reform movement and Jewish life in the Western Hemisphere, and include 2 million World Jewish Congress documents, establishing it as an international center for Holocaust research. HUC-JIR's Skirball Museums in Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and Jerusalem, HUC-JIR Museum in New York, and archaeological excavations in Israel, present 4,000 years of Jewish history and culture.

HUC-JIR is accredited by the Middle States, North Central, and Western Association of Colleges and Schools.




The Inauguration of Rabbi David Ellenson will feature a series of special events:

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
3101 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati

9:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Academic Symposium -- "World Jewry: Retrospective and Prospective"
Dr. Paula Hyman, Lucy Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History, Yale University; Moderator
Dr. Ruth Gavison, Haim H. Cohen Professor of Human Rights, Hebrew University
Dr. Arthur Hertzberg, Bronfman Visiting Professor of the Humanities, New York University
Beate Klarsfeld, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, Paris, France

9:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Tours of the Cincinnati campus
The Dalsheimer Rare Book Room
The Jacob R. Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives
The Skirball Museum Cincinnati
The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education

* * *

Plum Street Temple
Eighth and Plum Streets, Cincinnati

3:00 p.m.
Inauguration of Rabbi David Ellenson

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. www.huc.edu