Chair, Board of Governors
October 13, 2002
Rabbi David Ellenson:
At this milestone in the history of our beloved Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, we call upon you to lead us - just as Moses called upon Joshua in the passage of the Torah that we have just read, and as generations of our people have called upon successive generations throughout the millennia. For we are a people of calling: called to serve God, and called to serve humanity.
Our founders - Isaac Mayer Wise and Stephen Wise - were surely called as well, as were the generations of teachers, scholars, and lay leaders who supported and advised them. That is why we have come here today: to affirm our call and to call upon you - to service on behalf of our College-Institute, the Reform Movement, and klal Yisrael.
The future lies ahead of all of us - full of promise and potential. But dreams alone are not enough. As Theodore Herzl taught us, "If you will it, it is not a dream." To realize our dreams, we need a Moses, a Joshua, or a Wise: a visionary leader who will act affirmatively to shape the future.
We take seriously the transforming possibility that we are divinely intended - that we are part of a cosmic plan beyond our ken. God has called upon us to be part of this moment in Jewish history. This moment presents us with great challenges, as well as great hopes.
Someone once said that we are the "nevertheless" people, so I say to you - "nevertheless," we believe that the world is fated for greatness.
Isaac Mayer Wise saw our destiny embedded in our Bible, and borrowed it for our College logo: "Haboker or" - "Dawn appeared." For we Jews aspire always for the promise of the dawn, and an end to the night - an end to times of oppression and evil. All of us gathered here today share this dream - to hasten the dawn for which our people's visionaries have always hoped.
In guiding us toward this dream, we look to you and the great gifts that you bring to your Presidency of the College-Institute:
We take comfort in knowing that these gifts of knowledge and character will be a source of strength and inspiration to all of us in the years to come.
As the leader of this internationally recognized university and seminary, you will be called upon to sustain its academic excellence, distinguished faculty, a ccomplished alumni, and gifted students.
As our President, you will be called upon to serve as a leader of world Jewry.
At this moment, as I charge you with the privilege and responsibility of leading our beloved College-Institute, let all who are present here today pledge to be your partners in building our Jewish future. For this inauguration calls upon us, even as we call upon you, to guarantee a bold tomorrow, when dawn will come.
By the authority vested in me as Chair of the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and joy to formally install you as the eighth President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and to publicly charge you on this day of your Inauguration:
May God bless you and your dear family as you embark on this new chapter in your lives. May God grant you the wisdom and strength to fulfill your aspirations and dreams. And may God bless your leadership of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, so that Jewish learning and leadership, in service to God and to the world, will flourish as a source of light among the nations for the generations to come.