Statement from the HUC-JIR Board of Governors upon the Ordination of the 100th Israeli Reform Rabbi - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Statement from the HUC-JIR Board of Governors upon the Ordination of the 100th Israeli Reform Rabbi

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Rabbi Aaron Panken at KotelDuring the egalitarian service at the Western Wall, as part of the celebration of the Ordination of the 100th Israeli Reform Rabbi of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), leaders of HUC-JIR and the Reform Movement from Israel and around the world were physically restrained by the Israel Police and the guards of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

The event took place at the end of the morning prayers at Robinson’s Arch, where hundreds of rabbis and leaders of the Reform Jewish world, including members of the HUC-JIR  Board of Governors and HUC-JIR students, came together to accompany the soon to be ordained Israeli Reform Rabbis to the Upper Plaza of the Kotel, for the continuation of the egalitarian prayer service. The security guards of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation attempted, by force, to stop the rabbis and lay leaders of the Reform Movement, who were holding the Torah Scrolls, from entering the Upper Plaza of the Kotel. The event ended with the brief detention and questioning of Rabbi Gilad Kariv, President and CEO of the Israel Reform Movement, by the Israel Police.

The HUC-JIR Board of Governors issued the following statement: 

“The Land of Israel will be small… but the people of Israel will make it great… Not in opulence, but in eminence, will their destiny be fulfilled, and the elixir of their pride will be distilled not out of dominion or far-flung borders, but out of the faithful and skillful building of the good society.” 

Our distinguished alumnus, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, uttered these words 70 years ago as the State of Israel was about to be born. He would have been happily surprised to know that the College-Institute now has an extraordinarily vibrant campus—one of four such centers around the world—situated in the heart of a re-born and thriving Jerusalem. Since 1875, HUC-JIR has ordained over 3300 rabbis worldwide. Today we reach an important milestone—more than 100 Reform rabbis have now been ordained in the State of Israel.

Our institution is a vital bridge between Israel and North America. Our decades-long insistence that our North American students spend their first year studying in Israel has had a profound and lasting impact on generations of Jewish leaders, both Israeli and American. In Jerusalem, we educate an expanding cadre of inspiring leaders who enrich Israel’s cultural, intellectual, religious and communal life, and contribute to Israel’s lively political and ethical discourse.

HUC-JIR graduates advance a progressive vision of Judaism, embraced by an increasing segment of the Israeli populace. They strengthen the Jewish and democratic nature of the state; demand equal rights for all Israelis regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, national origin, religion, or denominational affiliation; and promote a vision of Israel’s peaceful and secure coexistence beside its neighbors.

In contrast to the state-sponsored Orthodox rabbinate, they create meaningful egalitarian alternatives for conversion, marriage, burial, learning, and prayer.

With our growing student body, it will not be long before we ordain our 200th Israeli rabbi. We look forward to celebrating that occasion in a State of Israel filled with righteousness and fairness, democracy and pluralism—a safe and secure home for all Jews and citizens, linked, eternally and steadfastly, to Am Yisrael around the world.

Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D., President
Mr. Andrew Berger, Chair, Board of Governors


Watch a recording of today's event at the Kotel from News2. 

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 leaders to serve 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, museums, 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.