HUC-JIR Faculty Member Inaugurated as First Jewish President of the Academy of Homiletics

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

"God’s love cannot be a zero sum game," preached Rabbi Margaret Moers Wenig, DD, shortly after she was inaugurated as the first Jewish President of the Academy of Homiletics at its 2015 Annual Meeting in Nashville, TN. The Academy of Homiletics, founded in 1965, is a community of scholars and teachers of preaching from around the world.

Rabbi Wenig, Instructor in Liturgy and Homiletics, has taught at the New York campus of HUC-JIR since 1985. Also as Rabbi Emerita of Beth Am, The People's Temple, in New York, NY, Rabbi Wenig is both a teacher of liturgy and an innovative liturgist, both a challenging and widely published preacher and a teacher of preaching.

John S. McClure, Charles G. Finney Professor of Preaching and Worship, Vanderbilt Divinity School, and a former President of the Academy, stated, "I count her inauguration and sermon as one of the top five moments in my 30 years of participation in the Academy of Homiletics." 

"Rabbi Wenig’s sermon modeled how to give witness to the particularity of one's religious faith while simultaneously being hospitable and affirming of other traditions.  She thus embodied the very spirit of inclusiveness and compassion that our brutalized world needs," wrote Thomas H. Troeger, J. Edward and Ruth Cox Lantz Professor of Christian Communication at Yale Divinity School, another former President of the Academy.

Celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Academy of Homiletics, Wenig quoted in her sermon the fifty year old proclamation of the Catholic Church, Nostra Aetate, “the Declaration on the relation of the church to non-christian religions proclaimed by his holiness, Pope Paul the VI.” 

In Nostra Aetate, the Catholic Church said of Hinduism and Buddhism, for example, that she "regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which --though differing in many ways from the ones [the Church] holds and sets forth, --none the less often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men…. [she] regards with esteem also  the Moslems…[And] Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God… and, by [reason of] the Gospel’s spiritual love, [the church] decries hatred, persecutions and displays of anti-Semitism directed against Jews at any time and by anyone."

In the words of Fr. Gregory Heille, O.P., Aquinas Institute of Theology, another former President of the Academy of Homiletics, "President Wenig challenged and inspired the Academy to stretch understandings and embrace an inter-religiously relevant homiletic."

As the first Jewish President of a formerly Christian Academy, Wenig follows in the footsteps of two of her teachers: Rabbi Eugene B. Borowitz, Ph.D., Sigmund L. Falk Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Education and Jewish Religious Thought at HUC-JIR/New York, who was the first Jewish President of the American Theological Society, and Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D., the Barbara and Stephen Friedman Professor of Liturgy, Worship, and Ritual at HUC-JIR/New York, who was the first Jewish President of the North American Academy of Liturgy.

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.