From left: Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean, Jerusalem; Rabbi Aaron Panken, President; the 2016 cohort of rabbis for Israel's Reform Movement; Rabbi Ofek Meir, Director, Israel Rabbinical Program
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's (HUC-JIR) Jerusalem Ordination and Academic Convocation took place on Friday, November 18, 2016 at the Blaustein Hall at Merkaz Shimshon Beit Shmuel. HUC-JIR's Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem is the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism in the State of Israel. It prepares Israeli rabbis, educators, and pastoral counselors who are building religious pluralism in the Jewish State; welcomes HUC-JIR's North American rabbinical, cantorial, and education students for their first year of study before returning stateside to the Cincinnati, Los Angeles, or New York campuses; and invites the larger Israeli community to educational and cultural programs.
The Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, was presented to:
Professor Rachel Elior, John and Golda Cohen Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Jewish Mystical Thought, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Haim Gouri, Israeli poet, novelist, journalist, and documentary filmmaker
The Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, was presented to:
Rabbi Dr. Edgar Nof, Congregation Natan-Ya, Natanya, Israel
The Doctor of Jewish Religious Education, honoris causa, was presented to:
Lori L. Abramson, Program Director, Educational Tourism and Evaluation, Oranim Academic College of Education, Israel
Five new rabbis for Israel’s Reform Movement were ordained:
Yael Karrie was born in Haifa and, as a child and a teenager, roamed through forests and deserts with the patrol groups of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. She performed her military service as an instructor at a field school and later became a certified tour guide. she studied photography and art at Musrara Art School in Jerusalem, and has also completed a B.A. in Jewish Philosophy and Religious Studies at the Hebrew University, where she is currently completing a research M.A. in Jewish Philosophy. During her studies, she discovered a passion for Jewish mysticism, the Lithuanian Mussar movement, and Buddhism as a therapeutic theory. Her research examines these issues, including textual and thematic connections between these fields. Yael volunteered for six years in the Education Department of the Jerusalem Rape Crisis Center, a meaningful and significant experience that provided her with important tools for her rabbinical work. She has worked as a group leader for the Birthright program for thirteen years. Since 2013, she has served as a regional student rabbi in the Sha’ar Hanegev area, enjoying cooperative relations with the regional council leaders, cultural and spiritual activists in the kibbutzim, groups of residents in Sderot, and Bedouin community leaders and residents. She leads a creative Beit Midrash program together with the poet Eliaz Cohen and has organized interfaith activities between children from the kibbutzim and from the Bedouin city of Rahat to mark both Jewish and Muslim festivals. Her “Inlight” program, focusing on the festivals of light, has been adopted as a flagship project by the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and will be replicated in numerous communities around Israel and in the U.S. She also led Batei Midrash programs in Nachal Oz, Gavyam, Yad Mordechai, and other kibbutzim, as well as in Sderot and in numerous urban and rural settings around Israel. During Operation Protective Edge, she ran activities in the bomb shelters and held Kabbalat Shabbat programs for local residents and soldiers. During the military operation, she launched an art program, “Reclaiming Red,” providing support for the residents of the south, and involving hundreds of people from throughout Israel and abroad. She holds a peripatetic Kabbalat Shabbat that is hosted at the various kibbutzim in the region, blending traditional prayers with Hebrew poems and songs, working with all generations. In her rabbinical work, she seeks to combine the values of the Reform Movement, the kibbutzim she serves, and the humanistic values she acquired as a child in Haifa, as she blends her great loves: humanity, nature, art, and the written word.
Noa Mazor is the daughter of alumnus Rabbi Yehoram Mazor ’90 and sister of alumna Rabbi Oded Mazor ’09. She represents the fifth generation of Israeli liberal Judaism in Israel. Raised in the Darchei Noam Community in Ramat Hasharon and Hod VeHadar Community in Kfar Sava, s he studied at the Tali School in Hod Hasharon and was active in the Noam and Tzofei/Noar Telem youth movements. Home, school, community, and youth movement shaped her Jewish worldview from a young age, amplified by her love of dance. Her core values are feminism, equality, and humanism. She performed her military service in the first company of the Caracal Battalion, in which young men and women served together. She continued to be a pioneer as a student, participating in the first class of the Ofakim B.A. program at Tel Aviv University. She earned an M.A. in Pluralistic Jewish Education as one of the first class of the joint program of HUC-JIR and the Melton Centre at the Hebrew University. She lived on kibbutz Ketura for four years, including two years as a member, teaching Judaism at Ma’ale Shacharut Regional School and participating in the Friends Forever program, which runs joint activities for Jewish and Arab youngsters. During her rabbinical studies she worked for Kids4Peace and served as the supervisory rabbi for Noar Telem, the IMPJ’s youth movement. With ordination, her new role is as Director of the Interfaith Department of Rabbis for Human Rights.
Tamir Nir is an architect, urban planner, and graduate of Bezalel. An educator for most of his adult life, he founded a company called Nature Child, which he managed for some 25 years, offering educational programs to expose children to nature and environmental responsibility. He has also been involved in launching several educational and municipal initiatives in the field of sustainability. He is a graduate of Kerem teacher training institute and the Tehuda program for Jewish leadership, as well as the Environmental Fellows Program at the Heschel Institute. He works as a teacher and group facilitator in the fields of Judaism and the environment at pluralistic batei midrash and works with leaders and communities on aspects relating to the environment and sustainability. A decade ago, he founded the Achva BaKerem Community, which is committed to the values of environmental responsibility, Jewish renewal, and social action. He decided to study for the Reform rabbinate to deepen his Jewish, pluralistic, and social worldview, finding in Reform Judaism a home and holistic response to the values in which he believes. He also completed an M.A. in Pluralistic Jewish Education, a joint program of HUC-JIR and the Melton Centre at the Hebrew University. He recently completed his term in office as a member of the Jerusalem City Council representing the Yerushalmim faction, including serving as deputy mayor with responsibility for the transportation portfolio and the conservation committee. He sought to encourage sustainable and pluralistic life in the city, and worked hard to bring together different populations and communities in cooperative endeavors. Guided by a mission to create public space that is open to all and belongs to he, he worked passionately to preserve Jerusalem’s unique historical heritage and also sought to encourage the development of traffic arrangements and public transportation to be available for all residents on both the municipal and the national levels. He continues to serve as the rabbi of Achva BaKerem, a growing community that was recently admitted as a member of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism.
Alona Nir-Keren was born in the Krayot, near Haifa, to a devoutly secular family. During her military service, she worked as an instructor at Har Meron Field School, run by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Later, as a tour guide, she first encountered a different kind of Judaism while guiding a group of young Liberal Jews from Britain, and recognized that the Jewish component of her identity could be relevant to her life. After completing a B.A. in International Relations and an M.A. in Conflict Research, Resolution, and Management – both at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – she served as a Jewish Agency emissary to Federation of Greater MetroWest, New Jersey. Upon her return to Israel, she became an activist in Jewish renewal at Kollot Beit Midrash before joining the Israel Rabbinical Program at HUC-JIR. Alona returned a year ago from her second experience as an emissary, this time to the Reform Movement in North America. Over the past year, she has served as a rabbi in the Yozma Community in Modi’in.
Born and raised in East Berlin, Dr. Ulrike Offenberg experienced the denial of freedom of speech, religion, and association in East Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall inspired her belief that people and societies can change for the good. Ulrike studied Theology, Jewish Studies, and Political Science in Berlin, Potsdam, and Jerusalem, and specialized in German-Jewish history. Her doctoral thesis dealt with the history and the political function of the Jewish congregations in East Germany. She worked as an historian in several academic and archival positions. Her Jewish journey began in Orthodox Judaism, but she sought a Judaism that was more inclusive, egalitarian, and integrated into contemporary culture. Her long commitment to congregational life and her love for studying and teaching Torah led her to become a Reform rabbi. As a student in Jerusalem, she experienced the renewal of liberal Judaism as a guiding principle for a democratic and pluralistic society. Upon her ordination, Dr. Offenberg will return to Berlin, where she hopes to foster creativity in Jewish life there. She is the rabbi of the congregation in Hamelin, a town in West Germany, which in the Jewish world became widely known through the memoirs of Glickl, an emancipated Jewess from the 17th century.
Six students received the M.A. in Pluralistic Jewish Education, a joint program with the Melton Centre of Hebrew University:
Coby Ben Hamou
Sharon Douek Haronian
Eight students received certificates from the Blaustein Center for Spiritual Counseling Sugiyot Chayim Program:
Shlomit Naim Naor
Dr. Ulrike Offenberg
Established in 1963 as a post-doctoral center of archaeological and biblical studies, the Taube Family Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem has grown since 1971 to serve as the center of HUC-JIR’s Israel experience for stateside students, including the Year-In-Israel Program, and prepares Israeli students for leadership in the Israeli Rabbinical Program, M.A. Program in Pluralistic Jewish Education with the Melton Centre of Hebrew University, and the Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling’s Mezorim Program. Scholars and students from around the world are enriched by the excavations and publications of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology, and the resources of the Abramov Library and Skirball Museum. The Murstein Synagogue welcomes the community for services and holidays.