The New York campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Hillel Gruenberg as Director of Israel Engagement. Under a generous grant from UJA-Federation of New York’s Commission on the Jewish People, Dr. Gruenberg will coordinate the existing programs about modern Israel and help create new courses and opportunities for students, including some that bring students from both schools together. The goal is to ensure that our campus communities are infused with balanced dialogue about Israel and the diaspora relationship, and that we have opportunities to practice being leaders of dialogue. As future rabbis, cantors, educators, and lay leaders, our students (and indeed, many of our alumni as well) will need to form their own approach to Israel engagement as Jewish leaders. Dr. Gruenberg will help us create a foundation for this learning.
Anticipated projects include additional Israel studies courses, leadership training for students and alumni, and ongoing opportunities for dialogue and discussion on Israel-related subjects.
The grant, now in its second year, builds upon the important work of the outgoing Director, Rabbi Reuven Greenvald, and draws on an existing collaboration between HUC—JIR and JTS for engagement activities for our students studying in Israel, also supported by UJA Federation of New York. In this new role, Dr. Gruenberg will work to sustain this important effort and expand it to engage more students.
Dr. Gruenberg comes to this position with experience teaching undergraduate, graduate, and rabbinical students about all facets of Israeli history and society at JTS, New York University, and St. Joseph's College of New York. Outside of the academic world Hillel has taught about Israel's past and present and been otherwise involved in Israel-related programming at a number of synagogues and other Jewish communal institutions in the greater New York Area and beyond. Hillel has lived in Israel for a number of years and has traveled extensively throughout the land. Most recently he spent a year working on his dissertation while living in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel Aviv, during which time he interviewed and interacted with Israelis of all stripes ranging from ex-government officials to former student activists. Hillel is excited to fully focus his energy and knowledge on engaging with students about Israel, and is excited to grow as part of the HUC-JIR and JTS communities.
Hillel received his PhD in Jewish Studies and History from New York University under the auspices of the Taub Center for Israel Studies in 2015, during which time he was the recipient of a Schusterman Israel Scholars Award. He received his BA in History and Philosophy, Politics and Law (PPL) from Binghamton University, and has also studied at Hebrew University both during his time as an undergraduate and, as a graduate student before beginning his doctorate.