For the past eight years, a very special partnership has developed between HUC-JIR and the Society for Classical Reform Judaism (SCRJ). The SCRJ, now in its tenth year, has emerged as the recognized and respected voice within the international Reform Movement for the reclaiming and renewal of our shared heritage of universalistic spiritual ideals, and distinctive worship and music traditions. Led by SCRJ Director Rabbi Howard A. Berman, and under the administration of the Ackerman Professorship of the American Jewish Experience and Reform Jewish History, initiated by the Society and held by Dr. Gary Zola of the Cincinnati Campus, the Society sponsors a variety of programs for the future leaders of Reform Judaism. Through forums on HUC-JIR campuses, credit courses, Fellowships and worship resources, our students are challenged to encounter and engage in their heritage as Reform Jews as they shape their identities and commitments as rabbis, cantors and educators.
The 7th Annual SCRJ Institute was held at HUC-JIR’s Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem on March 16-20. With the devoted support of Dean Naamah Kelman and the faculty, the focus of these programs was an introduction to Reform history, liturgy, and thought for both the first-years students in the Year-In-Israel Program as well as those in the Israeli Rabbinical Program at HUC-JIR. Highlights included a joint Shabbat Morning Service with Kehilat Har-El in Jerusalem, Israel’s pioneer Reform congregation, now celebrating its 60th Anniversary year; presentations to the classes by Rabbi Berman on the spiritual foundations of Progressive Judaism in the Torah’s ethical ideals, as embodied in Kedoshim, the “Holiness Code”, from Leviticus 19; and the 6th annual Concert of Music of the Reform Jewish Heritage- which has become the culmination of these annual events. Under the inspiration and guidance of Cantor Tamar Havilio, HUC-JIR cantorial and rabbinic students engaged in the study of the broad range of the historic repertoire of the Reform Synagogue, spanning the 19th-21st centuries, and prepared a major concert that each year draws an increasing audience of music lovers from around Israel. Following the success of last year’s sell-out performance at Tel Aviv’s major congregation, Beit Daniel, the program was held this year, for the first time, at the National Library at Hebrew University. A large crowd was inspired and moved by the magnificent singing of our students, accompanied by piano and brass, in the beautiful setting of the Library’s monumental Ardon Hall-fittingly dedicated in memory of the famed American Zionist leader and Classical Reform Rabbi, Abba Hillel Silver. The program was entitled “Hayashan Yitchadesh: And the Old Becomes New”... a perfect expression of the vision of renewing our shared heritage as Reform Jews!