Rabbi David Ellenson and Ruth Messinger Lead Rabbinical Students' Delegation to El Salvador

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Presidents of Hebrew Union College & American Jewish World Service Lead Rabbinical Students' Delegation 

NEW YORK, January 2, 2007 - How do rabbinical students understand the relationship between Jewish texts and social justice? With expert guidance from Hebrew Union College President David Ellenson and American Jewish World Service President Ruth Messinger, a unique program will bring together a group of rabbinical students from all denominations and nine institutions who will go to El Salvador to study the connection between social justice and Judaism. 

As part of the fourth annual American Jewish World Service Rabbinical Students' Delegation, 15 women and 10 men from nine seminaries and institutes across the country will spend a week, from January 2 to 11, in the rural town of Cuidad Romero, in southeastern El Salvador. They will work side-by-side with local community members at a sustainable agriculture organization, as well as study and pray together. 

Throughout the week, this group of future Jewish leaders will explore and debate the philosophy and practice of Judaism's response to social justice with two authorities on the subject, Ellenson and Messinger. 

Ellenson, in addition to being president of Hebrew Union College, is internationally renowned for his research and publications in the areas of Jewish religious thought, ethics, and modern Jewish history. He is a leader in developing a framework for how Judaism can be made relevant and practiced in the modern world. 

Through daily formal and informal discussions, Ellenson will contribute his distinctive philosophy from years of scholarly research and teaching about the interplay between Jewish religious tradition and modern society. He will help the students explore the integration of social justice into their Jewish identity and develop the skills for transmitting these values. 

Messinger, president of AJWS since 1998, will offer her expertise and experience of life-long leadership and commitment to social justice. Messinger has made AJWS a model of how—through grants, service and advocacy—Jews can promote and support global justice based in Jewish values. 

"The Rabbinical Students' Delegation will be a week of intensive and transformative work in El Salvador for 25 future rabbis, one in which they will be challenged to reflect on who they are, what they believe, and how they will exercise the Jewish responsibility to help heal the world," said Messinger. 

The rabbinic students are from institutions ranging from non-denominational to Orthodox: Academy for Jewish Religion, Drisha Institute for Jewish Education, Hebrew College, Hebrew Union College, International Institute of Secular Humanistic Judaism, Jewish Theological Seminary, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, and the University of Judaism.

The program, now in its fourth year, has 75 alumni, many now in pulpits across the United States. AJWS instituted the program in 2002 as way to promote the obligation in Judaism to repair the world. Each year demand for the program continues to increase. Ellenson's participation is a testament to a growing commitment to social justice in rabbinical education. 

"The combined experiences of living, working and studying in the developing world will instill a life-long dedication to social justice in the next generation of religious leaders," said Messinger. 

Media Contact Information: 

At HUC--Jean Bloch Rosensaft (212) 824-2209, jrosensaft@huc.edu 

At AJWS--Lisa Safier (212) 792.2885, lsafier@ajws.org

  • Interviews can be arranged with Ruth Messinger, Rabbi David Ellenson and rabbinical students.
  • Photos of the delegation in El Salvador are available.

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