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Lynn Schusterman Announces Creation of Unprecedented Interdenominational Rabbinic Fellowship Program at HUC-JIR and JTS at Graduation at HUC-JIR/NY

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Lynn Schusterman, Founder and Chair, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Announces Unprecedented Interdenominational Rabbinic Fellowship Program in Graduation Address at Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion Graduation Ceremony 

Honorary doctorates awarded to Aaron Feuerstein, Founder, Chair, and CEO of Malden Mills; Burton Lehman, Past Chair, Board of Governors, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; Dr. Judith Plaskow, Professor of Religious Studies, Manhattan College; Lynn Schusterman, and Harold Tanner, Chair, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization 

Rabbinical Student Bone Marrow Donor and Recipient Meet for First Time through Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation Presentation 

Lynn Schusterman, Founder and Chair, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree and announced the creation of an unprecedented interdenominational rabbinic fellowship during her Graduation Address at the Graduation Ceremonies of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) on Thursday, May 3rd at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York. 

In her Graduation Address, Lynn Schusterman announced the creation of the Hevruta Fellowship, beginning in 2007, to enable eight outstanding students – four from HUC-JIR and four from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America – to experience collaborative rabbinical education focused on critical needs in the American Jewish community (click here for press release). Schusterman said, "The goal of the fellowship is twofold: to train transformational rabbinic leaders capable of profound and sensitive change in the communities they serve, and to better equip the rabbinate to address the ever-evolving needs of the American Jewish community, especially those of interfaith families and other Jews who find themselves on the margins of Jewish life." 

"This cooperative relationship, I hope, will yield benefits far beyond the campus walls and bring congregations from the Reform and Conservative traditions together," she explained. "I hope, too, that this fellowship program will inspire others to embark upon similar collaborative efforts to strengthen our Jewish community." 

Schusterman issued a call to the Jewish community to embrace the potential of young Jews to vitalize Jewish life and issued a call for greater outreach to interfaith families, non-traditional families, and Jews of color, saying "In the U.S. and around the world, there are too many young Jews and other spiritual seekers who are being thwarted in their efforts to embrace Judaism. We live in an era when all Jews are Jews by choice. We must always stand for openness – Judaism is too rich a faith not to be shared among women and men, learned and not, white or black, straight or gay, young and old. It has a message that is deep in meaning, and it sustains us to this day, just as it did in the days of Abraham and Sarah, the first Jews by choice." 

Lynn Schusterman was honored for her extensive contributions to the Jewish community as an ardent philanthropist in both the United States and the world who plays a leadership role at a multitude of national and international charitable organizations. Among her current responsibilities are serving as president of STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal), president of the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization, and co-chair of the International Board of Governors of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. She is also active with the Gift of Life Foundation, North America's only Jewish bone marrow registry. She is a past president of the Jewish Federation of Tulsa and currently serves on the advisory boards of the Parent-Child Center, the Foundation for Tulsa Schools, and Family and Children's Services, Inc. 

Over the years, Schusterman has received many prestigious honors and awards. In 2006 she was inducted to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and in 2003 into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame. She was the 2004 recipient of the Kipkis-Wilson/Friedland Lion of Judah Award from the UJC National Women's Philanthropy. Three times she has been named one of the 50 most influential Jews in North America by The Forward. In 2001, she was named one of Oklahoma's Most Influential Women by Oklahoma Family Magazine and, along with her husband Charles, was inducted by the Tulsa Historical Society into the Tulsa Hall of Fame. 

At the College-Institute's Graduation Ceremony, the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters was also presented to Aaron Feuerstein, Founder, Chair, and CEO of Malden Mills; Burton Lehman, Past Chair, Board of Governors, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; Dr. Judith Plaskow, Professor of Religious Studies, Manhattan College; and Harold Tanner, Chair, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization. 

The Doctor of Ministry in pastoral care and counseling was awarded to four graduates, including a Reform rabbi, a former Catholic nun, and two Nigerian Catholic priests. HUC-JIR's Doctor of Ministry program for ordained clergy is unique among the Jewish seminaries. Master's degrees were awarded to 50 rabbinical, cantorial, and education students. Twenty-eight rabbinical, cantorial, communal service, and education alumni received honorary doctoral degrees in recognition of their 25 years of service to the Reform Movement and the Jewish People. 

The Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation brought together bone marrow donor Dalia Samansky, a third-year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, and recipient Wendy Feller in a moving first-time meeting during the Graduation Ceremony. "As future Jewish leaders, we will be given many opportunities to touch and inspire lives, but rarely are we given the opportunity to truly partner with God in helping to save a life," said Samansky. "For many years, HUC-JIR's students, faculty and staff have supported the Gift of Life, have held bone marrow registration drives on each of our four campuses, and I and a few other classmates have been called upon to become donors. Every day we train to become leaders of the Jewish community, but it is Wendy Feller and the Gift of Life Foundation who inspire and remind us that God is surely present in our lives." Feller thanked the Gift of Life and Samansky, saying, "Without them, I would not be able to sepak to the graduates today and congratulate them on their and our futures." 

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, museums, 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.