December 31, 2013 / 28 Tevet 5774
Dear Members of the HUC-JIR Community,
As I write to you today, my tenure as President of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion comes to an end. This has been a remarkable and exciting – and surely challenging – 12 years. We have shared moments of joy and sadness and times of excitement and of apprehension. There is so much I recall as I step away from this position. To have served as President of this great institution is surely the singular privilege of my life.
The Hasidic master, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, in his Toldot Yaakov Yosef, taught that the degree of success a leader in Israel enjoys is only in accord with the capacity and greatness of those he leads. On this day, I therefore think, more than anything, of you, the people involved in sustaining this College-Institute and allowing it to fulfill its mission each and every day. I am grateful to all of you – students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, supporters, Governors, and Overseers. You have allowed me into your hearts and shared my passion for this school, and you have allowed it to achieve greatness. For this, I will always be thankful.
On this, my last day as President, I would recite the prayer that Rabbi Nehunya ben Hakaneh, as reported in Mishnah Berachot 4:2, offered on his departure from the Bet Midrash. He stated, “I give thanks for my portion – Ani notein ho-da’ah ‘al helki.” His prayer is now my own.
May God bestow blessing upon you and our new President Aaron Panken, and may this College-Institute grow from strength to strength in service of the Jewish people and humankind.