HUC-JIR Engages Future Jewish Leaders at the NFTY Convention and Youth Summit

Friday, February 13, 2015

HUC-JIR engaged current and future Jewish leaders at the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) Convention and Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Youth Summit from February 15-19 in Atlanta, GA. 

From left: Rabbi Joui Hessel, rabbinical students Dana Benson and Michael Danziger, and Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit Halachmi, Ph.D.

NFTY welcomed 1,000 Jewish teens from across North America, joined by 200 adult professionals and lay leaders who attended the Youth Summit.  Nearly 40 HUC-JIR alumni and nine current students participated, with several opportunities for future Jewish leaders to learn and engage with HUC-JIR students and administration.

The theme of the Convention, “My Self, My Community, My World,” invited participants to explore the most pressing issues and cutting-edge thinking in the field of Jewish youth engagement. Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., President, HUC-JIR, and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, URJ, served as keynote speakers.

Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, Ph.D., National Director of the Office of Recruitment and Admissions and President’s Scholar, and Rabbi Joui Hessel, RJE, Certificate Program Educator of the Certificate Program in Jewish Education Specializing in Adolescents and Emerging Adults and East Coast Recruitment and Admissions Associate for Education Programs, joined by current HUC-JIR rabbinical students Dana Benson and Michael Danziger, engaged in Convention and Youth Summit activities throughout the weekend.

On Saturday, February 14, Rabbi Panken spoke at Tefillah. Later that day, HUC-JIR sponsored a Coffee Break for Youth Summit participants. That evening, Rabbi Panken and Rabbi Sabath hosted a special networking event, open to all participants of the Youth Summit. On Sunday, February 15, Rabbi Panken and Rabbi Sabath presented in a town hall session on "Israel, the Middle East, and Us." 

Rabbi Sabath writes, "We are so proud of the essential role the College-Institute has played in the learning and leadership of NFTY for over 75 years. This year we are especially proud to bring to the Convention Rabbi Panken, who is a life-time member of NFTY, and to be part of the learning, leading, and celebration that makes our Movement so vibrant and so important in the North American Jewish landscape. I feel deep joy and excitement as the Convention begins not only because I remember how my own career as a Jewish leader began when I was elected a National NFTY VP at Convention 30 years ago, but especially because I know that many of these young leaders are the future students of HUC-JIR and I can't wait to meet them! They are the leaders that will shape our Judaism and our community in the decades to come."


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.