Israel President Reuven Rivlin Hosts North American and Israeli Reform Movement Leaders of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Andrew R. Berger, Chair, Board of Governors, seated, left; Israel President Reuven Rivlin, seated, center; Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., HUC-JIR President, seated, right; with members of the HUC-JIR Board of Governors. Photo credit: Mark Neyman (GPO)

Israel President Reuven Rivlin hosted over fifty North American and Israeli Reform Movement leaders on the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) at his residence in Jerusalem today.  Led by Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., HUC-JIR President, and Andrew R. Berger, Chair of HUC-JIR’s Board of Governors, this was the largest delegation of Reform Movement leaders to meet President Rivlin to date.

HUC-JIR President Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., left, and Israel President Reuven Rivlin. Photo credit: Isaac Harari

President Rivlin welcomed the delegates and said, “I can say to all of you, we are one family and the connection between all Jews, all over the world, is very important to the State of Israel.  I welcome you here, and want to tell you that I know so many Jerusalemites now that are grandfathers and grandmothers, and only came here to study at the Hebrew Union College, but have now been here for three generations.”

On the issue of the current tensions in Jerusalem and across Israel, the President said, “Jerusalem is a microcosm of the ability of all the people of the region to live together.  It is a place where we can find out if we can live together or if we are doomed to continue in the tragedy that we have endured for over one hundred years.  I believe we have to bridge social gaps, for the societies to live together and to progress.  We must build confidence measures because we are going to live here together forever.  We are not doomed to live together, but destined to live together.”

From left: Andrew R. Berger, Chair, Board of Governors; Israel President Reuven Rivlin; Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., HUC-JIR President. Photo credit: Isaac Harari

In greeting the President, Rabbi Panken stated, “We are here to sustain and build the connection between North American Jewry and Israel.  We are here to demonstrate our solidarity with the people and State of Israel and express our support for many of your efforts.  In your days as President, you have shown true leadership in the areas of rights for the Arab citizens of Israel, reconciliation between diverse groups, and consideration of those in Israeli society who need help.  We are, after all, one people and our beloved State of Israel must continue to value each and every one of its citizens to the greatest extent possible. We share your immense hope for the future, and hope to be your partner in ever greater ways.”  

Among the delegation were leaders of Jewish communal, organizational, and institutional life throughout the United States and Canada; Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Richard A. Block, President, Central Conference of American Rabbis; the Dean of HUC-JIR’s Jerusalem campus, Rabbi Naamah Kelman, the first woman rabbi ordained in Israel; and three of the Israeli rabbis who will be ordained this Thursday at HUC-JIR’s academic convocation at its Jerusalem campus, dedicated over fifty years ago.  HUC-JIR has ordained 90 Israeli rabbis to date at its Jerusalem campus; they represent the bright and growing future of Reform Judaism in Israel and will be serving congregations and communities in Israel for the generations to come. All of HUC-JIR's stateside rabbinical, cantorial, and education students are required to study for their first year at the Jerusalem campus, where they forge vital bonds with the people and land of Israel that they will transmit to their future communities throughout North America and throughout the world. 

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Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading 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.