Future Reform Rabbinic Leaders Grapple with Questions of Collectivity and Jewish Peoplehood

Friday, August 1, 2008

The HUC-JIR Mandel Fellows, a group of HUC-JIR rabbinical students who just completed an additional year of studies in Jewish education, spent an intensive three week seminar in Israel this summer grappling with the challenges of leading communities in North America and connecting them to the Jewish people globally. Over the course of the seminar, which took place at the Mandel Leadership Institute and HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, participants explored a variety of themes and issues related to these challenges. 

The program of study included lectures by scholars and leaders, reflection exercises, site visits, art and music, and encounters with vision-driven institutions and community leaders. The seminar culminated in a series of Roundtable presentations, in which fellows presented profound ideas concerning Jewish life that could meaningfully guide their deliberations and activities as rabbinic leaders. Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., President of HUC-JIR, participated in these discussions. 

"Rabbi Ellenson's participation not only added to the high quality of the discussions but conveyed his deep commitment to the importance of this initiative in preparing these future Reform rabbis for their leadership roles," said Professor Sara S. Lee of HUC-JIR, who is project leader for the HUC-JIR Mandel Fellows Program, together with Professor Dan Pekarsky. 

The HUC-JIR Mandel Fellowship Program is offered to a select group of HUC-JIR Rabbinic students who elect to complete an MA in Jewish Education at HUC-JIR after their third year of rabbinic studies and before completing the last two years of study toward ordination. Anchored in the belief that vital congregations depend on exceptional leadership, the HUC-JIR Mandel Fellowship program is designed to cultivate rabbinic leaders with the qualities, understandings, and competencies needed to achieve two inter-related aspirations: to establish inspiring congregational communities that meet their members' needs and encourage their Jewish growth; and to help foster a social reality in which Jewish peoplehood is universally experienced as a vital and seamless whole that transcends denominational and geographical boundaries. 

According to the concept paper that has guided the project, "The goal of this initiative is to create the capacity in a cadre of future rabbinic leaders to guide 21st century Reform congregations toward a vision of a compelling community, infused with Jewish values, enriched by Jewish learning, and capable of enhancing and perpetuating Jewish identity." 

This program is supported by a generous grant from the Mandel Foundation of Cleveland Ohio.

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 Jacob Rader Marcus Center of 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