Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion ordained five new Israeli rabbis for Israel's Progressive Movement at a convocation on HUC-JIR's Jerusalem campus on November 12, 2004. Dr. Yehoyada Amir, Alona Lisitsa, Aharon Fox, Michal Conforti Krik and Sa'ar Shaked exemplify the growing impact of Progressive Judaism among young Israelis and their quest for authentic Jewish expression in a pluralistic Israeli society. The ordinees completed HUC-JIR's Israel Rabbinical Program which has ordained 33 Israeli rabbis to date, including 11 women rabbis. An Honorary Doctorate was awarded to Dr. Michael Stone, Professor of Armenian Studies and Gail Levin de Nur Professor of Religious Studies at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Dr. Yehoyada Amir, Director of HUC-JIR's Israel Rabbinical Program, was born in Jerusalem. His grandfather was the Liberal rabbi of Duisburg, Germany. Amir studied at The Hebrew University and completed his degree in Modern Jewish Philosophy. After completing his Ph.D. studies, he taught for several years in the Department of Jewish Thought at The Hebrew University as well as at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and at Beit Berl College. For two years he headed a task force that prepared a new Jewish studies curriculum at the Alliance School in Tel Aviv. Amir's book, Reason out of Faith - The Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig, was recently published. He is an active member of the Progressive congregation Mevakshei Derech in Jerusalem, which has for the past twenty years served as Amir's and his family's spiritual home. He has chaired the parental steering committee of the Tali Bayit Vagan School and was a key partner in shaping the direction of this institution. Dr. Amir will continue as Director of the HUC-JIR Israel Rabbinical Program.
Alona Lisitsa was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and immigrated to Israel with her husband, Sasha, in 1991; they are the parents of two children. Lisitsa enrolled in The Hebrew University, completing her M.A. in English linguistics. Lisitsa also studied in the Educator Course of the Institute for Jewish-Zionist education, which marked the beginning of her career in informal Jewish education. After two years of work in the Conservative Masorti community as a community and youth coordinator, she decided to pursue her rabbinical studies at HUC-JIR and work towards an M.A. in Talmud and Halacha at Machon Schechter. Lisitsa served as Director of the Department of New Immigrant Activities in the Movement for Progressive Judaism and currently serves as rabbi of Kibbutz Yahel and works at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, developing Reform spiritual leadership for the Jewish communities of the former Soviet Union.
Aharon Fox was born in Jerusalem to Rabbi David and Bracha Fox. He and his wife, Hadas, have four children and live on Kibbutz Na'an. Having grown up and been educated in an Orthodox Zionist home, he spent six years in an ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva. Fox spent 10 years in the Israeli army, serving in command HQ positions in the Paratroopers and in the Shaldag unit. He completed his B.A. and M.A. in the Department of Jewish History at The Hebrew University. He is currently preparing to begin his Ph.D. studies. The desire to combine academic studies and activity in the educational, cultural, and communal spheres led Aharon to the Kibbutz Givat Brenner High School, where he taught Talmud and the philosophy of the Sages. He was also a fellow in the Rikma program, which aims to rejuvenate Jewish life in Israel. His decision to study for the Progressive rabbinate was a further manifestation of his desire to help shape Jewish identity in Israeli society. He currently works as an educational consultant at Beit Morasha in the Israel Defense Force's "Educational and Destiny" project and continues to teach at Kibbutz Brenner High School. His brother, Rabbi Shlomo Fox, an instructor in the HUC-JIR Israel Rabbinical Program, will be Aharon's sponsor for ordination.
Michal Conforti- Krik, born in Ramat Gan, is married to Eli Krik and they are the parents of a daughter. After serving in the Isareli army, Michal studied education and pedagogy in the junior high school track at Levinsky College. She completed an M.A. in the Department of History at Tel Aviv University. Michal's first encounter with Progressive Judaism came at her younger brother's Bar Mitzvah. As part of his Bar Mitzvah course, the whole family was invited to a morning service and later to Kabbalat Shabbat at the Beit Daniel Progressive congregation in Tel Aviv. She and her family chose to become active members that Progressive congregation and she has worked at Beit Daniel for five years in various congregational and educational functions. Conforti-Krik currently directs the Education Department of Beit Daniel. Some three years ago, she founded a group composed of young families who meet every other Shabbat. For the past three years, she has supervised the congregation's twelve pre-school classes. She has developed unique educational programs for early childhood, and has also prepared kits for running festival ceremonies in the family in an egalitarian and modern spirit. She is currently a partner in the efforts to establish a Reform day school in Tel Aviv. Additionally, she served for a year as rabbi of Brit Olam Congregation in Kiryat Ono.
Sa'ar Shaked grew up in Netanya, a city whose founders are included on both sides of his family. As a child, he was deeply influenced by the tradition of "Practical Zionism" as embodied in the elders of his family. Sa'ar and his wife Sharon have a son. After completing his military service, Shaked went to the United States to work as a counselor at the Reform Movement's Olin-Sang-Ruby summer camp in Wisconsin. This was his first encounter with the world of Progressive Judaism. The sense of elation that he felt at the camp was the foundation for his decision to begin rabbinical studies. Shaked studied for a B.A. in History and Clasiscal Studies at Tel Aviv University. At the same time, he worked in informal education and youth counseling. He was active in the student struggles of 1998, and during this period was offered the opportunity to coordinate the Young Adult Leadership Forum of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism in Tel Aviv. This was the beginning of his involvement in Beit Daniel, the congregation that, until recently, served as both his spiritual and professional home. Shaked has been a student of Exegesis and Culture at Bar Ilan University; andhe recently completed his M.A. and began doctoral studies. He intends to write his thesis on the subject of "The Perception of Sanctity in the Transition from the Second Temple Period to the Mishnaic Period." Shaked now serves as head the Carmel Yeshiva, a new Zionist and Progressive study program for young Jews from the Diaspora operating under the auspices of the Lokey School of Jewish Studies at the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa. Haifa University has accepted academic responsibility for the program, and has been involved on a conceptual level in its development.
Dr. Michael E. Stone, Professor of Armenian Studies and Gail Levin de Nur Professor of Religious Studies at Hebrew University, was born in Leeds, England. After completing his B.A. at Melbourne University in Semitics and Classics, he studied at Harvard University where he received his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages. He also holds a D.Litt. from Melbourne University (1985). Returning to Israel and the Hebrew University, he has devoted his academic activities to two different disciplines: Jewish Literature and Thought in the Second Temple Period and Armenian Studies. As a pioneer researcher in the area of Armenian Studies, Stone created a new field of learning, the study of the Armenian apocrypha -- the transmission of biblical and Jewish traditions in Armenian. He also showed how their transformation reflects changes in Armenian religious and intellectual history. His work in computer applications to Armenian was groundbreaking and has enabled scholars of Armenian to broach tasks that would otherwise be daunting. Stone is the most prominent Armenian paleographer in the Western world and his work on Armenian inscriptions in the Land of Israel and the Sinai have marked his seminal work on the history of the Armenians in Israel.
In the field of Second Temple Period Jewish literature and thought, Stone has worked particularly on apocalyptic literature and on issues relating to the major characteristics of Judaism in that age. Additionally, Stone's study of Aramaic apocrypha led to his interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This interest and his writings on the question of the Pseudepigrapha and the Qumran literature, on the classification of Jewish literature in the Second Temple Period, led him to establish the Orion Center for Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Hebrew University. He has also made significant contributions to the study of the character and phenomenology of Jewish Apocalyptic literature and other issues of Second Temple Judaism, such as the move from oral literature to written literature, the sociological approach to the understanding of sapiential teachers,and questions of pseudepigraphy.
Stone is also an overseas member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences and the Accademia Lombarda (Italy). His published works include: The Testament of Levi (1969), Armenian Apocrypha relating to Patriarchs and Prophets (1982), The Armenian Version of IV Ezra (1979), The Penitence of Adam (1981), Armenian Inscriptions from the Sinai (1982), Armenian Apocrypha Relating to Adam and Eve (1996) Adam's Contract with Satan (2002). He is married to Dr. Nira Stone, and they are the parents of Aurit and Dan and have three grandchildren.