Dr. Michael Zeldin to Succeed Professor Sara S. Lee as Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at HUC-JIR

Thursday, March 1, 2007

President David Ellenson has announced that Dr. Michael Zeldin, Professor of Jewish Education, will succeed Professor Sara S. Lee, who will retire after 27 years at Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education (RHSOE) at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), on June 30, 2007. Professor Lee and Dr. Zeldin have worked together as close colleagues for the past quarter-century to shape the many contributions the RHSOE has made to the education of Jewish professionals and to research in Jewish education. 

"The appointment of Dr. Zeldin," said President Ellenson, "signals that the distinguished legacy of Professor Lee will be carried forward. As a renowned scholar, gifted teacher, and passionate advocate for Jewish education, Dr. Zeldin will sustain the RHSOE as a model of integrated learning and excellence that has inspired others in the field of Jewish education and other programs at HUC-JIR." 

Professor Lee will continue to teach and guide special projects at the RHSOE and HUC-JIR in the part-time capacity of Professor of Jewish Education Emeritus. 

Professor Sara S. Lee 

Professor Sara S. Lee assumed the Directorship of the RHSOE following Dr. William Cutter, the school's founding director. Inspired by Cutter's vision of a full-time, high quality graduate school of Jewish education that would produce educational leaders to transform the field of Jewish education, she built on his pioneering efforts to develop the RHSOE as "the premier academy" for the preparation of Jewish educators for the Reform Movement and the Jewish community as a whole. "My theory is this," she explained, "A talented educational leader can change a whole institution." 

Today, more than 275 graduates of the RHSOE lead Jewish educational programs in Reform congregations and day schools throughout North America, and educational agencies and organizations in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Israel. Included among the graduates are more than 75 rabbis who fulfilled an additional year of study beyond the rabbinical program in order to become Jewish educators and rabbis who are steeped in the discourse of Jewish education. 

Educated at Girls' Latin School in Boston and Radcliff College, Professor Lee's hallmark throughout her tenure has been her commitment to excellence in every aspect of the academic and professional program. She has been steadfast in her commitment to the year in Israel and serious text study alongside rabbinical students as critical elements in the preparation of Jewish educators. "Visionary educators have the ability to draw upon Jewish content, language, and text, along with sophisticated educational theories and mastery of educational skills, to create authentic Jewish learning for Jews of all ages." 

During her tenure as director, the Rhea Hirsch School of Education has been in the forefront of advancing the field of Jewish education, within and beyond the Reform Movement. Lee's outstanding reputation in the Reform movement and among leaders of the Jewish community led to significant philanthropic support for ground breaking initiatives generated by the RHSOE. In the 1980s, the School created its pioneering program of clinical education with the support of the Wexner Foundation, setting a paradigm for clinical education throughout HUC-JIR and at other schools of Jewish education. 

In the early 1990s, as a result of Lee's participation in the Mandel Associated Foundation's Commission on Jewish Education in North America, the School received a $750,000 grant from that foundation to implement a master plan for the preparation of educational leaders and the transformation of the RHSOE into a center for "action and analysis" in the field of Jewish education. The master plan led to the development of the Experiment in Congregational Education, a pioneering project of congregational transformation; Jewish Day Schools for the 21st Century, a program that guides schools to become values-driven institutions; and the first post-graduate residency program in the field of Jewish education, which has subsequently received endorsement and support from the Righteous Persons and AVI CHAI Foundations. 

Lee's accomplishments in Jewish education have been honored by the prestigious Pras HaNasi, the President of Israel's Award for Distinguished Leadership of Jewish Education in the Diaspora; the Samuel Rothberg Prize in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem; and the Doctor of Hebrew Letters, honoris causa, by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. She is the editor of several books, the author of numerous articles and book chapters, and most recently the co-author with Mary Boys of Christians and Jews in Dialogue: Learning in the Presence of the Other

Dr. Michael Zeldin, Newly Appointed Director of the RHSOE 

As the incoming Director, Dr. Michael Zeldin said, "I am committed to the Rhea Hirsch School of Education's dual mission of preparing educational leaders for all the settings in which Jewish education takes place, and serving as a center for applied research. My hope is to build on the achievements of our graduate program to offer opportunities for educators from across the continent to study with us and for gifted veteran educators to return to HUC-JIR for professional doctorates." Dr. Zeldin also stressed the critical role he sees for the Experiment in Congregational Education in providing RHSOE and rabbinical students with the opportunity to learn how to transform synagogues and how to lead these new, innovation-oriented institutions. 

Since entering HUC-JIR as a student in 1973, Zeldin has studied with or taught almost all the alumni who have graduated in the RHSOE's 36-year-long history. "Our alumni have demonstrated that with significant Jewish learning and serious professional preparation, Jewish educators can lead their institutions to new heights. Alumni of the Rhea Hirsch School have become a powerful network of Jewish educators who support each other and set the standard for the profession." 

Dr. Zeldin began his career in Jewish education at Camp Swig, the Reform Movement's summer camp on the West Coast, where he developed the camp's Hebrew program, Solel, into a paradigm of experiential education, tripling its enrollment in three summers by combining creative programming, serious interactive learning, and interpersonal connections. Five future HUC-JIR professors and countless future rabbis, cantors, and Jewish educators came through Dr. Zeldin's Solel program. 

Zeldin received an M.A. in Hebrew Education from HUC-JIR in 1977 and a Ph.D. in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education from the University of Southern California in 1979. Since joining the faculty of the College-Institute in 1979, he has taught hundreds of education and rabbinical students. Together with Professor Lee, he crafted the school's clinical education program and co-edited the resulting book,Touching the Future: Mentoring and the Jewish Professional. Among his other responsibilities, he directs DeLeT - Day School Leadership through Teaching, an innovative program for preparing a new breed of day school teacher-leaders to meet the demands of this growing sector of Jewish education. 

His areas of expertise include Jewish day school education, curriculum design and theory, change and innovation, and educational leadership. In recognition of his leadership in the field of Reform day school education, President Ellenson named him Director of Day School Initiatives for the College Institute in 2002, and Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, has called him "the intellectual father of Reform day school education." 

For the past four years, Dr. Zeldin has served as Senior Editor of the Journal of Jewish Education, the foremost academic journal in the field of Jewish education, after having served for seven years as annual guest editor. He also serves on the Editorial Board of the Union for Reform Judaism Press, the Board of Directors of Milken Community High School of Stephen Wise Temple, and the Executive Committee of the Network for Research in Jewish Education (of which he is past chair). 


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first 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 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