The entire Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) faculty convened for the Burton Lehman Faculty Retreat, endowed in honor of the past Chair of the HUC-JIR Board of Governors, in Lisle, IL, from June 16 to 18, 2008. Organized by a steering committee, led by Dr. Isa Aron and comprised of Dr. Michael Meyer, Dr. Carole Balin, Dr. Dvora Weisberg, and Dr. David Levine, and coordinated by Joy Wasserman, the HUC-JIR National Director of Alumni Affairs, the biennial Retreat brought together faculty from HUC-JIR's Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York campuses. Faculty were able to study and worship together, address emerging trends in Jewish studies, confront current issues in American Jewish life, collaborate in shared teaching areas, hone pedagogical skills, and further strengthen the process of student assessment.
The Retreat featured an opening plenary session with guest scholar Dr. Moshe Rosman, Professor of Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University, chaired by Dr. Michael Meyer, with responses from Dr. David Aaron and Dr. David Levine. Rosman spoke on "Trends and Controversies in Judaic Scholarship" (full text available).
Guest scholar Dr. Shaul Kelner, Associate Professor of Sociology and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University, addressed the faculty on trends and controversies in American Jewish life in a session chaired by Dr. David Kaufman, with responses from Dr. Steven Cohen and Dr. Tali Hyman. Small group discussions explored the implications of these trends in the areas of synagogue life, led by Rabbi Renni Altman; recruitment, led by Dr. Aaron Panken; leadership development, led by Dr. Norman Cohen; changing Jewish institutions, led by Dr. Rob Weinberg and Dr. Sam Joseph; Diaspora-Israel relations, led by Dr. Michael Marmur; education, led by Dr. Michael Zeldin; outreach, led by Rabbi Jerome Davidson; authenticity in searching for meaning, led by Dr. Lawrence Hoffman; and social justice, led by Rabbi Richard Levy.
A presentation on Sakai Technology deepened the faculty's familiarity with enrichment resources for classroom teaching. The retreat also focused on trends in teaching. Gregg Alpert, National Director of Distance Education at HUC-JIR, presented "Wikis, Blogs, and Google Docs." Dr. Michael Zeldin and Dr. Tali Hyman discussed teaching in the 'Smart Classroom', while Cantor Benjie Schiller explored nurturing spiritual, professional, and intellectual growth. Dr. Lewis Barth and Dr. Mark Kligman reported on working with an artist in residence, and Dr. Aaron Panken facilitated a session on teaching students to use textual resources.
Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., President of HUC-JIR, presented to the faculty. Barbara Friedman, Chair of the Board of Governors; Joan Pines, incoming Chair of the Cincinnati Board of Overseers; and Sheila Lambert and Frederic Lane, Chair and past Chair, respectively, of the Board's Academic and Faculty Affairs Committee were in attendance.
Faculty-led worship, organized by Cantor Eli Schleifer, Dr. Michael Marmur, Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Dr. Nancy Wiener, and Merri Arian, reflected a diversity of liturgical traditions. The Israeli film "Beaufort" was screened. Faculty members were also able to spend time together and integrate newly-hired faculty into the community.
As in past years, the Lehman Faculty Retreat advanced a number of key goals in HUC-JIR's strategic plan: enhancing faculty, promoting academic excellence, strengthening student assessment, and integrating HUC-JIR's four campuses into one institution.