Two New Israeli Reform Rabbis Ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem

Monday, March 3, 2003

Kibbutznik and First FSU Emigrant Israeli Rabbi Are Ordained

[Jerusalem]…Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion [HUC-JIR], has ordained Tamar Duvdevani and Helena Rubinstein as the two newest Israeli rabbis to serve the Reform Movement in Israel. Their Ordination ceremony took place at HUC-JIR’s Jerusalem campus on March 1.

Rabbi Ellenson noted, "Since its establishment in 1975 at HUC-JIR’s Jerusalem campus, our Israeli Rabbinical Program has ordained 28 rabbis, including 8 Israeli women. These dedicated rabbis serve Reform congregations and educational institutions throughout Israel. Today we recognize the commitment and achievement of two dedicated women who, as the newest rabbis for the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, will advance the cause of religious pluralism in the State of Israel."

Tamar Duvdevani, 31, of Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra, directs the Beit Midrash at Beit Shmuel, on the HUC-JIR campus, where she teaches Talmud and Mishnaic literature and supervises the first-year students in the Israeli Rabbinical Program. She is also a member of the faculty at the Beit Midrash for Teachers at ORT Reut School in Arad. She was born in 1971 at Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border, where she was raised and educated. She holds a B.A. degree from the Hebrew University in Yiddish and General Studies, and an M.A. from the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Talmud and Gender Studies.

In her ordination sermon, Rabbi Duvdevani noted “In the great desert of life, I have always been motivated by the search for a place where my voice could be heard, a place where I might sing God’s name in my own special way. It was this search that brought me through the gates of the Progressive Movement and through the doors of the Hebrew Union College.”

Helena Rubinstein, 48, immigrated to Israel from Moscow eleven years ago. She is the first Russian emigrant to become a Reform rabbi in Israel. She directs the department for new immigrants at the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) in Israel. Born in Moscow in the former Soviet Union in 1955, she graduated from the Faculty of History at the Pedagogic University in Moscow and worked for fourteen years as a scientific member of staff at the Borodino History Museum in Moscow. In 1992, she immigrated to Israel with her family. Since 1994, she has worked in a number of positions in the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, including coordinator of the Legal Advice Center for Olim in Beersheva and Tel Aviv, coordinator of programs for Olim at Beit Daniel Congregation, and, since 2002, director of the Olim Department at IMPJ headquarters. Her path toward Reform Judaism began when she saw an ad in the Russian language paper announcing a course for Russian community leadership at Beit Shmuel. She began her studies at HUC-JIR and at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in 1997. She now holds an M.A. in Jewish History.

Rabbi Rubinstein recalled her nine-year journey that led her to begin rabbinical studies. “I am proud of this country which gave me this opportunity. In Moscow, I always knew where I was allowed to go and where I wasn’t. Here, I feel all paths are open. I feel I have a purpose here. There are a million Russian-speaking Jews and I hope that they find their path to Judaism. They see it as black and white. I am trying to tell them there is another way.”

The Ordination Convocation featured the presentation of the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, to:

Seymour Gitin, Dorot Director and Professor of Archaeology at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem;

Moshe Negbi, Senior Lecturer in Constitutional and Media Law at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Legal Commentator on Israel Public Radio and Television;

Ruth Kartun-Blum, head of the Hebrew Literature Department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem;

Michael Rosenak, Mandel Professor Emeritus of Jewish Education at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The honorary Doctor of Divinity degree was awarded to rabbinical alumni:

Rabbi Levi D. Lauer, Director of Diaspora and Rabbinic Education at the Shalom Hartman Institute and founder of ATZUM-Justice Works, which channels aid directly to victims of terror, righteous gentiles, and foreign workers in Israel;

Rabbi Kenneth J. Leinwand, Command Chaplain for all US Army ground forces, US Army Europe, and 7th Army based in Campbell Barracks, Heidelberg, Germany;

Rabbi Michael L. Klein-Katz, Driector of Arab-Jewish Programming and Development, The Jerusalem International YMCA and rabbinic mentor to HUC-JIR first-year students.

The honorary Doctor of Jewish Communal Service degree was presented to:

Arie Gluck, who served for 45 years as a Jewish educator and Camp Director as National Director of Camping for the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Director of the UAHC Harlam Camp in Pennsylvania, and Yoth Division Director of the UAHC’s Pennsylvania Council.

First established as a center for Biblical and archaeological research in 1963, HUC-JIR’s Jerusalem campus houses:

  • The Year-in-Israel Program for all first-year study by all rabbinical, cantorial, and education students in HUC-JIR’s stateside programs;
  • The Israel Rabbinical Program, which prepares rabbis for Israel’s growing Progressive Movement’s synagogues and schools;
  • The Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology, which sponsors postgraduate studies, excavations, and research;
  • The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism’s headquarters;
  • The Skirball Center for Biblical and Archaeological Research and Museum
  • The Abramov Library, which features the world’s greatest collection of Spinoza material;
  • The Beit Midrash/A Liberal Yeshivah, which offers congregational group visitors and adult learners from around the world opportunities for study and spiritual growth.

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, 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