Jerusalem Campus Welcomes New Class of Students for the 5777 Academic Year

Monday, August 1, 2016

By Dr. David Mendelsson, Director of the Year-In-Israel Program

The Year-In-Israel Class of 2016-2017 (5777) opened its studies in Jerusalem with an orientation week that coincided with the official naming of The Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem. Present at the ceremony were Nir Barkat, mayor of Jerusalem; Dan Schapiro, US Ambassador to Israel (and EIE alumnus); Natan Sharansky, Chair of the Jewish Agency, and President Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D. Ted Taube has made a $15 million gift to the Jerusalem campus, part of which will be used to remodel the front of the campus making it visible and accessable to the public from King David Street.  At the end of orientation week, we celebrated the annual alumni event with shacharit Shabbat tfila, followed by Kiddush and the Rabbi Judith Abrams, z"l, Memorial Lecture given by Jerusalem faculty member, Rabbi David Levine, Ph.D. The Jerusalem Alumni Shabbat was sponsored by the Class of 1985 Tribute Fund in honor of the enduring value of friendship among colleagues and in memory of their classmates: Rabbi Judith Abrams,
Cantor Kerry Ben-David, Rabbi Eric Bram, Rabbi Charisse Kranes, Robbyn Sue Panitch, MSW, Rabbi Julie Spitzer, and Rabbi Jeffrey Weisblatt.

The 42 incoming students, nine more than began studies last year, are comprised of 33 students in the rabbinical track, six cantorial, and three education students.  Their summer term focuses on Hebrew Ulpan, Biblical History, and Cantellation of the Torah. Despite the intensity of the summer heat, students are taken on field trips to places such as Tel Gezer, Beit Guvrin, and the Eretz Yisrael Museum in Tel Aviv. Students also had a chance to explore the recently opened temporary exhibit, "Pharaoh in Canaan," housed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The class participated in the gathering of Reform and Conservative supporters at the Kotel plaza demonstrating against the government's wavering on its commitments to establish an egalitarian section of the Western Wall.  Many students also participated in the Gay Parade in Jerusalem marking the slaying of Shira Banki at the same event last year.  A record 25,000 people participated in the parade.

During a moving ceremony held in the recently refurbished moadon, students received their Tikkunim from Rabbi Howard Jaffe on behalf of the Alumni Association. The college purchased 20 additional copies of Mishkan Tfila, following some concern amongst faculty that there were far too few copies of the non transliterated edition; the edition which would encourage students to further their Hebrew reading skills!

In faculty news, our beloved Hebrew teacher, Rivki Rosner is on a leave of absence following her award of the Shulamit Aloni Prize for outstanding young women scholars. She will be working on her doctorate, the subject of which is the writings of renowned Israeli author, Edgar Keret. The Year-in Israel programme has procured Rabbi Leon Morris part-time from the Hartman Institute to be head of the Prayer Workshop and teach liturgy.  Kudos goes to Rabbinics and Liturgy teacher, Rabbi Alona Lisitsa who recently received her doctorate from the Hebrew University. Rabbi Moshe Silberschein has returned from a year on the East coast as an interim rabbi in Savannah. 

Five students have recently been awarded scholarships from the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) which has teamed up with the college to further student engagement in the field of Jewish Peoplehood. The students will be familiarized with the work of the Joint worldwide. Last year the New Israel Fund offered three scholarships that served parallel goals for that NGO.   

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.