Leaders of the Reform Movement Gather in Cincinnati at the Joint HUC-JIR, URJ, and CCAR Board Meeting

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Boards of Governors and Overseers at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis Board of Trustees assembled in Cincinnati from June 6-8, 2014, for a Joint Board Meeting and the Inauguration of Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., as President of HUC-JIR.

On Friday, June 6, the Boards joined with the greater Cincinnati Jewish community for Kabbalat Shabbat services at Isaac M. Wise Center. Over 300 Reform Movement leaders from the US and Canada participated in a joyous service of participatory and new music with members of Cincinnati's Rockdale Temple, Temple Sholom, and the Valley Temple. Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., President, HUC-JIR; Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, URJ; and Rabbi Steve Fox, Chief Executive Officer, CCAR, taught on "Writing the Next Chapter of Reform Judaism in North America." Following services, the Boards enjoyed a Shabbat dinner. 

On Saturday, June 7, the students and faculty at the Cincinnati campus of HUC-JIR hosted three different kinds of Shabbat services. Rabbinical student Max Miller and Cantor Yvon F. Shore, Director of Liturgical Arts and Music, led a Classical Reform service in the Scheuer Chapel. Dana Benson and Nathan Farb, rabbinical students, led a Mishkan T'filah service in Mayerson Hall. Jessica Wainer and Rabbi Julie Schwartz, Certified Supervisor of Clinical Pastoral Education, led an alternative prayer service at the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati Pavilion at the Klau Library.

Following services, the Boards of HUC-JIR, the URJ, and the CCAR were invited to tour the historic Cincinnati campus. In 1875, the Hebrew Union College was launched in Cincinnati as the first permanent Jewish institution of higher learning in the New World. Today, our Cincinnati campus is internationally recognized as a preeminent center for teaching, scholarship, and research. Our renowned faculty and resources attract students and scholars from around the world, while our community outreach and public programs engage the larger Cincinnati community and region. Participants toured the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati Pavilion and Klau Library, Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Jewish Family Service - Barbash Family Vital Support Center, Skirball Museum at Mayerson Hall, Herrman Learning Center and Scheuer Chapel, and the Teller Student Lounge and Pines Faculty Center.

Four esteemed members of the faculty of the Cincinnati campus of HUC-JIR led a Torah Study Lunch and Learn for the Boards in the afternoon. Rabbi Jonathan Cohen, Ph.D., Dean and Associate Professor of Talmud and Halakhic Literature, led "Return of Angels and Demons to Contemporary Jewish Practices." Dr. Nili Fox, Director of the School of Graduate Studies and Professor of Bible, led "Biblical Sanctification of Dress." Rabbi Samuel Joseph, Eleanor Sinsheimer Distinguished Service Professor of Jewish Education and Leadership Development, led "The Jewish Frankenstein: A Look at the Golem." Dr. Richard Sarason, Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Thought, led "Reform Books of Awe: A Preview of the New High Holy Days Prayer Book."

On Saturday evening, the Boards convened for Havdallah and a Joint Board Meeting, which continued during the morning of Sunday, June 8. 

HUC-JIR hosted an academic symposium on Sunday entitled "Imagining the Jewish Future."  The symposium initiated a renewed effort to elevate the level of discourse in our community and envision a vibrant, innovative, and achievable Reform Jewish future. Distinguished HUC-JIR faculty, leading guest scholars, and alumni thought leaders offered interactive TED-style talks addressing topics directly relevant to reimagining Jewish life.

  • Leadership - Shaul Kelner, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology and Jewish Studies, Vanderbilt University
  • Israel and Zionism - Warren Bass, Ph.D., Senior Editor, The Wall Street Journal 
  • Worship and Ritual - Rabbi Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl, Senior Rabbi-Elect, Central Synagogue, New York City
  • The Evolving Jewish Community - Rabbi Elka Abrahamson, President, The Wexner Foundation
  • Jewish Learning - Rabbi Jan D. Katzew, Ph.D., Director of Service Learning, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati
  • Social Responsibility - Alyssa Gray, Ph.D., Emily S. and Rabbi Bernard H. Mehlman Chair in Rabbinics and Associate Professor of Codes and Responsa Literature, HUC-JIR/New York

All talks will be posted on the HUC-JIR website and shared with congregations to support learning across the entire Reform Movement.

On Sunday afternoon, Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., was inaugurated as the 12th President in the 139-year history of HUC-JIR Cincinnati’s landmark Plum Street Temple. The Inauguration was attended by the leadership of the Reform Movement from across North America, Israel, and abroad, and featured the participation of alumni, faculty, and students.

As HUC-JIR President, Dr. Panken leads the four-campus international institution of higher learning and seminary for Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR’s campuses in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles and New York provide the academic and professional training programs for the Reform Movement’s rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offer graduate programs for scholars of all faiths.  HUC-JIR’s 4,000 active alumni serve the Reform Movement’s 1.5 million members and nearly 900 congregations, representing the largest Jewish denomination in North America, and the growing Progressive Movement in Israel and around the world.  Following the Inauguration, a festive Inaugural reception was held at the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati.


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