Innovative Course of Study Enables HUC-JIR Rabbinical and Graduate Students to Explore the History of American Reform Judaism

Monday, August 22, 2016

Participants at Historic Kahal Kodosh Beth Elohim, Charleston, SC: Back row, (L-R)— Scott Gellman, Tarlan Rabizadeh, Ben Gurin, Erik Uriarte, Shira Gluck, Tobias Moss, Michael Cohen, Zev Rooks-Rapport, Daniel Brenner; Front Row (L-R) –—Randi Serrins, Anita Rosenberg, Lisa Frankel, Rabbi Stephanie Alexander, Dr. Gary P. Zola (Not pictured: Iah Pillsbury)

A unique, seven-day intensive course in American Jewish History was taught at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in May 2016.  Rabbinical and graduate students across the stateside campuses were introduced to a wide variety of historically significant documents that illuminated the early history of American Reform Judaism, primarily in Cincinnati and Charleston. 

The course was developed by Dr. Gary P. Zola, Executive Director of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of American Jewish Archives and the Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professor of the American Jewish Experience & Reform Jewish History at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati. "The course was designed to provide students with an in-depth familiarity of the early history of American Reform Judaism, particularly as it evolved in two important centers, Cincinnati and Charleston," explained Dr. Zola. "The students engaged in experiential learning through on-site study visits to a variety of historical sites in both Cincinnati and Charleston, and then chronicled an episode in the history of United States Jewry by submitting an original piece of research based on primary historical documents." 

The course was also designed to expose students to a wide array of compelling primary source documents that illuminate the early history of American Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR/New York rabbinical student Tobias Divack Moss observed that, "Participating in this seminar was one of the highlights of my HUC-JIR education thus far.  It was refreshing and stimulating to combine classroom learning with visits to cemeteries, memorials, university archives, and, of course, the historic yet active synagogues. The most indelible moment of the program was one which showed an amazing synergy among primary source documents, historic sites, and a true moment of l'dor vador, from generation to generation."

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.