The Incoming Class of 2015-16 Settles in at the Jerusalem Campus

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

By David Mendelsson, Director of the Year-in-Israel Program

This year’s incoming class numbers thirty-three students of whom twenty-one are rabbinical, nine cantorial, and three education students. We have seven students aged 30 and over and an almost equal divide between men and women.  Fourteen students participated in the pre-ulpan which is a month-long study program aimed to get our students to the required level to begin the mandatory summer ulpan.  During the summer, aside from learning Hebrew, students study Biblical History, which naturally takes advantage of the various archaeological sites available in and around Jerusalem. The heat has been rather intense but our students struggle heroically to overcome the challenges. Water, sunscreen, and walking shoes have been the order of the day.

Last year upon arrival, students were immediately thrown into the atmosphere of Israel at war and found themselves in shelters and stairwells as rockets reigned in on the city. This year, the incoming class has been spared these challenges, however many of them were at the recent gay pride march when a haredi fanatic murdered sixteen year-old Shira Banki and injured five others.  Students were also stunned by the news of Jewish extremists who torched a home in Nablus murdering the toddler, Ali Dawabsheh, and seriously wounding other members of the family.  These are challenging days for all of us but the class has created a wonderful and supportive community.

HUC-JIR/Jerusalem has said some painful goodbyes to long-serving faculty members: Dr. Yossi Leshem, teacher of Bible and Biblical Grammar; Sima Haruv, teacher of Modern Hebrew and Biblical Grammar; and Rabbi Shelly Donnell.  All will be sorely missed.  There have been new appointments on campus. Dr. Barak Dan, Dr. Roni Megidov, and Rabbi Don Goor join the faculty. As part of the College-Institute’s commitment to increase the Hebrew level of our students, we have added two weekly hours of Hebrew during the fall and spring terms. In addition we are experimenting with Hebrew mornings, during which students will be expected to use Hebrew in the classroom and in the public arena.

Our impression of the incoming class is upbeat and positive. They seem to be adjusting very well. The faculty, staff, and interns continue to work closely and supportively with them. Read more about the first-year class. 

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.