Remarks for the Inauguration of Chancellor Arnie Eisen, Jewish Theological Seminary, by Rabbi David Ellenson, President of HUC-JIR

Monday, September 3, 2007

September 5, 2007, New York City 

B'lev malei simcha -- It is with a great sense of personal joy that I offer these words of greeting and welcome to my friend Arnie Eisen as he officially assumes his position as Chancellor of this great Seminary today. Two years ago we taught together at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem after Chancellor Schorsch had announced his intention to step down from his position, and I suggested publicly that evening that no one would be better suited for this office than Arnie. 

I am delighted that Arnie ultimately elected to act on this suggestion, and would say that I did so not only because of the personal relationship Arnie and I treasure. Of course, it is true that we do enjoy a deep and trusted one, and my wife Jackie joins me in welcoming you and Adriane, as well as Shuly and Nathaniel, to New York. We are overjoyed at the opportunities this will give us to be together. 

Yet, as Aristotle observed in his Nicomachean Ethics, friendship is not arbitrary - there are reasons for friendship. The qualities that Arnie possesses and the values he champions and embodies are those that I have admired for years and have led to our relationship, and they are precisely the qualities that this Seminary, the Conservative Movement, and the Jewish people so desperately need in our leaders. The love you possess for learning and Torah, your own breadth of knowledge and insightful scholarship, your passionate commitment to Zionism and Israel and the Jewish people, your instinctual and natural respect for all people, and your smiling face and your engaging personality make you the ideal person to serve at this moment in time as Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary. No Jewish community has ever thrived without a great House of Study at its center, and the Seminary will reach ever-greater heights under your leadership. I know you will inspire your students, your faculty, your Movement, and the Jewish people with your vision and your modesty, your Yiddishkeit and your humanity. 

As I salute you and wish you mazel tov on this day, Arnie, I would recite the words of blessing our Tradition commands us to recite in the presence of a Sage of our people, "Praised are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has shared divine wisdom with those who revere him." Your mantle of leadership is surely a blessing to all of us assembled here and to all Israel 


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