Reflections on Receiving My Honorary Doctorate

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

By Lori L. Abramson, MAJE '91

 

אף שרציתי עוד קצת עוד

Though I wanted more of more

(Haim Gouri)

I'll start with the end. These are Haim Gouri's words, the name of his most recent book of poetry, which he mentioned to me in a short, delightful conversation we had at the end of the ordination ceremony in Jerusalem. He said the words in Hebrew, but thought that maybe I didn't understand. I said, "Oh no, I'll understand – I just couldn't hear." And when he repeated these exquisite words, he could tell by the look on my face that I did indeed understand.

And now, back to the beginning. If Gouri's poem gives reassurance of what of himself will live on, this occasion of receiving an honorary doctorate gave me a glimpse of everything that led up to that moment. As I sat in Blaustein Hall, overlooking the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, my three years at HUC all came flooding back to me: the incredible joy of Torah lishma, the blessing of learning from such scholars and being able to proudly call them my teachers. I recalled the feeling of empowerment in making Hebrew my own language, so that I could understand Haim Gouri's words, then and now. I thought about the deep, abiding pleasure of finding friends and future colleagues who share a profound level of commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people. I reconnected with the joy of my journey into this profoundly fulfilling career. The Jerusalem campus is where it started – the more formal part of my Jewish journey, anyway – and that's where I had the blessing of celebrating 25 years – a Chetzi Yovel – in the field of Jewish education.

While I had anticipated this day for a long time, I was quite unprepared for it. My husband Joel started off the festivities by posting a lovely message on Facebook. Within minutes, the good wishes came pouring in, from every chapter of my life, personal and professional, from congregants, teachers, students, colleagues, and, of course, family, friends and classmates. Instead of focusing on what I might bequeath to the world (I'm not old enough for that yet!), all I could think of was how much each individual and each community had truly enriched my life. In yet another way, HUC modeled what it teaches: To take this delicious, meaningful opportunity to reflect on what it means to do this sacred work for 25 years, after having being trained to promote vision and to look forward.

Thank you to Hebrew Union College and to all my professors, rabbis and teachers for this honor and for the blessing of marking this moment. Thank you for making the College the spiritual and educational home that it has been for me. Thank you for the privilege of learning from the poet Haim Gouri, Prof. Rachel Elior, and the inspiring new Israeli rabbis. Thank you for the סגירת מעגל – for allowing me to come full circle – to celebrate in the place where it all started. I feel truly blessed and am filled with gratitude.


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. www.huc.edu