Seven alumni of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and David J. Gilner, PhD, National Director of Libraries, HUC-JIR, were honored at the annual Founders’ Day Ceremonies on Thursday, March 30 in the S.H. and Helen R. Scheuer Chapel on the Cincinnati campus.
On Founders’ Day, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion honors distinguished alumni for 25 years of service as preservers and teachers of Judaism – its faith, its culture, and its community ethics, and devoted lay leaders for their lifelong commitment to the College-Institute.
Rabbi Jonathan Cohen, Ph.D., Dean of the Cincinnati campus, began the service by commenting that, “today we celebrate the spirit of the founders of this institution, Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise.” He also noted that, “The ceremonies will focus on two years: 1992 when today’s honorees were ordained 25 years ago, and 1972, the year Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger was ordained and the year that Dr. David Gilner arrived on this campus.”
Rabbi Ken Kanter, Associate Dean and Director of the Rabbinical School on the Cincinnati campus, led the service along with Sara Otero, class of 2018. Throughout the service, current students read portions of addresses from past Presidents of HUC-JIR, beginning with a passage from Isaac Mayer Wise upon the founding of Hebrew Union College in 1883 and including one from Dr. Stephen S. Wise to the graduates of the Jewish Institute of Religion in 1926.
Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger, Rabbi Emeritus of Beth-El Congregation in Fort Worth, Texas, delivered the Founders’ Day address. Rabbi Jonathan Biatch, Rabbi Amy Bigman, Rabbi Ilene Bogosian, Rabbi Michael Dolgin, Rabbi Bonnie Margulis, and Rabbi Susan Oren received Doctor of Divinity degrees, honoris causa. Cantor Judith Meyersberg received a Doctor of Music, honoris causa.
The honorary degrees were presented by Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, PhD, President of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, to the seven honorees who “have been teachers and leaders for 25 years.” He stated, “We celebrate you and are grateful for 25 years of extraordinary gifts each of you has given.”
Rabbi Panken also paid tribute to Reverend Lowell McCoy, z’’l, and said, “We remember him with great reverence.” Reverend McCoy was Professor Emeritus of Speech on the Cincinnati campus.
David J. Gilner, PhD, National Director of Libraries, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, was honored for his almost 45 years of service to the Klau Library and HUC-JIR. In recognizing Dr. Gilner, Rabbi Panken commented, “Jews are people of the Book, and David Gilner is a person of the Book.” He continued, “You have been extraordinarily generous in your time here, you have guarded our tradition, and you have inspired your staff and helped build the right resources.”
The HUC-JIR annual Founders’ Day Ceremonies celebrate the vision of Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, founder of the Hebrew Union College in 1875 in Cincinnati, and of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, founder of the Jewish Institute of Religion in 1922 in New York. Inspired by their legacy, the College-Institute’s academic programs, faculty and students are committed to fulfilling the mission of a Judaism responsive to modernity.