Five Progressive Israeli rabbis were ordained at HUC-JIR's Academic Convocation on November 2, 2007, in Jerusalem. Newly ordainedNir Barkin, Silvana Kandel, Moshe Navon, Ishai Ron, and Tanya Segal exemplify the growing impact of Progressive Judaism among young Israelis and their quest for authentic Jewish expression.
Since the inception of the Israel Rabbinical Program in 1975, 53 Israeli men and women are serving as leaders of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), its congregations, institutions, schools, and other bodies within Israeli society. They are furthering the cause of liberal Judaism and a pluralistic approach to religious life in the Jewish State.
The HUC-JIR Israel Rabbinical Program's diverse student community is comprised of Israeli-born students and immigrants from the Former Soviet Union and North and South America. The rabbinical curriculum is completed in tandem with a Masters degree in a field of Jewish studies at one of Israel's premier universities.
Nir Yishai Barkin, a fourth-generation Israeli, served in the Intelligence Corps of the Israel Defense Forces before completing a B.A. cum laude in Middle Eastern and African History, Education, and International Relations. After working in the commercial and technological fields, he moved to Wisconsin to spend four years as a communal and educational emissary of the Jewish Agency for Israel to the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. Living in the U.S. introduced him to liberal Judaism, and he joined the Israeli Rabbinical Program immediately upon returning home. During his course of study, Barkin received his M.A. at the Herman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University. As a rabbinical student, he participated in an innovative pastoral care training program called Mezorim, helped found the Anita Saltz Education Center under the auspices of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, and worked as the student rabbi at Congregation Yozma in Modi'in. Upon ordination, he will join the rabbinical staff of Congregation Yozma as an associate rabbi, while also serving as assistant to the Dean of HUC-JIR in the field of Israeli Community and Society.
Silvana Kandel made aliyah in 1999 from Argentina, where she was active in the Buenos Aires Jewish community and attended various programs at the Marshall Meyer Latin American Rabbinical Seminary. Immediately after arriving in Israel, Kandel began working in Reform congregations in Jerusalem, teaching Judaism in conversion programs and to the disabled. She completed her B.A. and M.A. at Hebrew University in the department of Jewish Thought, and she was awarded the Yeshayahu Tishbi (z"l) Prize for Excellence for her thesis, which centered on "The Religious and Moral Thought of Rabbi Moshe Haim Luzzatto." In 2005, Kandel moved to Haifa and began working with Or Chadash Congregation and the Lokey Center of Leo Baeck Education Center. Last year she moved to Yokneam and joined Kehillat Shachar, where she and a group of students strive to teach the values of Jewish renewal, social justice, involvement, and Zionism. She completed her teaching studies at Oranim Seminary and runs Beit Midrash study groups in various frameworks.
Moshe Navon was born in 1954 in the Soviet Union and made aliyah in 1991. Navon grew up and studied in Moldavia, where he received an M.Sc. degree, and in 2003 he earned a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible from the Hebrew University. Before starting his rabbinical studies, Navon completed a fellowship in HUC-JIR's Academic Development Program and attended the Beit Midrash for graduates at the Shalom Hartman Institute for five years. Over the past decade, Navon has taught at the School for Overseas Students at the Hebrew University, as well as at leading universities in the Commonwealth of Independent States of the Former Soviet Union. He has served as a lecturer and writer of curricula for the Hebrew University, the Ministry of Education, and the Jewish Agency for Israel. For the past three years, he served as deputy director of the International Association of Education and Cultural Workers for the Russian-Speaking Population. He currently lectures at David Yellin College in Jerusalem and is serving as the pedagogic coordinator for an exhibit entitled, "The Jews of Struggle," to be staged at Beth Hatefutsoth, The Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv. Navon is also participating in a new pedagogic project for the Dome of the Book at the Israel Museum.
Ishai Ron is a native Israeli whose family immigrated in the first aliyah around the turn of the 19th century and helped establish Rosh Pina, one of the first Jewish settlements in Israel. Ron received his law degree at the Hebrew University and served as a lawyer for over a decade in Haifa, during which time he also worked for the Israel Religious Action Center. Ron spent a few years in America as the spouse of a shlicha in Fairlawn, New Jersey. Upon his return to Israel, he entered HUC-JIR and also enrolled at Haifa University as a graduate student in Philosophy, receiving his degree with honors in 2006. Ron serves as a student rabbi at the Yedid Nefesh Congregation in Carmiel, which was heavily challenged during the second Lebanese war. Ron is a passionate spokesperson for the idea that Reform Judaism's main mission must be to engage the Israeli secular population. His work with Yedid Nefesh includes efforts to develop education and cultural activities to bring together the diverse populations that live in the Galilee.
Tanya Segal was born in Moscow and worked as an actress and singer in the Jewish theatre there. She completed her studies at the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts and gave performances of Yiddish songs. In 1990 she and her son Binyamin made aliyah, and she has worked in three areas in Israel – culture, the translation of books on Jewish themes from Russian to Hebrew, and teaching theatre. In 1999 Segal worked in Riga as an emissary, teaching Jewish history at the Dubnov Jewish School. Upon her return, she entered HUC-JIR, which she says was an important milestone in a profound process of addressing the religious dimension of her life. An important part of the process was the semester she spent at HUCJIR/New York in 2004. In addition to her education at HUC-JIR, she studied in the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Theatre at Tel Aviv University. She prepared both a thesis and a play in recent years. Over the past few months Segal began working as a student rabbi at the Beit Warsaw Congregation in Poland. She is helping rebuild the infrastructure for the renewal of progressive Judaism in Poland and is also developing communities in Lublin, Krakow, and Gdansk.
Silvana Kandel spoke on behalf of her class, pointing to the symbolism of the date of Ordination as it echoed the historic date of November 2, 1917, when the Balfour Declaration "affirmed the right of the Jewish people to national renaissance in its land. Today, exactly ninety years later, we come as newly-ordained rabbis in Israel to declare our commitment to Israeli society. We pledge to revive and renew the historic bond between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and between these and the values of justice, equality, mercy, and peace on which our existence here depends."
The College-Institute's Jerusalem campus, established in 1963 as the first liberal institution of Jewish studies in Israel, prepares the leadership for the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and for the Reform Movement worldwide. Its academic programs include the Israel Rabbinic Program, which trains Israeli men and women to serve the IMPJ's congregations, institutions, schools, and other bodies within Israeli society and supports the growing search for meaning, Jewish identity, and spiritual direction among Israelis of all backgrounds; the newly established M.A. Program in Pluralistic Jewish Education, in conjunction with the Melton Center for Jewish Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which is designed to provide educational leaders with tools to promote Jewish pluralism; the Year-In-Israel Program for HUC-JIR's stateside first-year rabbinical, cantorial, and education students and first-year rabbinical students from the Leo Baeck College in London, England, and the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, Germany, for Hebrew language immersion, foundational text skills, Israel studies, and the fostering of lifelong ties with the people and land of Israel; and the Israel Seminar for stateside communal service students, an intensive introduction to Israel's communal institutions and organizations.
Supporting these programs are the campus's research centers and academic resources, including the Department of Education and Professional Development, offering training courses in cooperation with the TALI Fund and the IMPJ's Education Department; the Early Childhood Center – The Sadna, providing Jewish educational modules and materials for the IMPJ's network of pre-schools and the elementary school systems of Israel; the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling and its Mezorim Program, training rabbis and health care professionals as spiritual counselors to establish this pioneering field in Israel; the S. Zalman and Ayala Abramov Library, housing 50,000 volumes of Hebraica, Judaica, Near Eastern Archaeology, and the Dr. Fritz Bamberger Spinoza Collection, microfilms from the American Jewish Archives, and the Archive of Israeli Reform Judaism; and the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology and HUC-Skirball Center for Biblical and Archaeological Research and Museum, exploring Israel's ancient past and offering community-based educational projects/excavations ad Lod and Givat Sher.
HUC-JIR/Jerusalem offers outreach programs to North American college and high school students studying in Israel, and a broad array of community programs from Shabbat morning and holiday services at the Murstein Synagogue and Hebrew ulpan courses to summer educational seminars, archaeological digs, and lectures on new archaeological research, readings by well-known authors, symposia, and featured events, including Tikkun Leil Shavuot, concerts by the Hallel Community Choir, and the annual Yom HaShoah commemoration.
The headquarters of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism are situated in Mercaz Shimshon-Beit Shmuel on the east side of the campus.