Rabbi Jonathan L. Hecht, Ph.D. was appointed the Dean of the Cincinnati Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, effective July 1, 2018, by Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D., z”l. Rabbi Panken made the appointment on April 19, 2018, just a few weeks before his untimely death on May 5, 2018.
In his announcement, Rabbi Panken stated, “Rabbi Hecht’s broad depth of experience as a congregational rabbi and builder of community, as a military chaplain serving all faiths, and as a professor and scholar of Jewish history will enrich his leadership of our Cincinnati campus and provide vision and strength to its students, faculty, programs, and research centers. His warmth, collaborative spirit, and welcoming and empowering outreach to others will make him a wonderful model for students and a tremendous leader who will build upon the many strengths of our Cincinnati campus in the years to come.”
Rabbi Hecht noted, “I am thrilled to be coming to HUC-JIR. One of our school’s most important contributions is the training of Jewish leaders and scholars of all faiths who can help others navigate the challenges of life in a rapidly changing world. HUC-JIR produces graduates who blend passionate faith commitment with deep knowledge of Judaism. I look forward to being a mentor and guide to these students, as I work closely with faculty, staff, board members, and donors.”
Rabbi Hecht became the rabbi at Temple Chaverim in 1992, serving Eastern Nassau and Western Suffolk Counties of Long Island, including Plainview, Old Bethpage, Woodbury, Syosset, Jericho, Dix Hills, Melville, and Farmingdale. Over the past 26 years, he created a vibrant and inclusive community that enjoyed exponential growth of its membership, by removing barriers both physical and spiritual, and by welcoming diverse gender expression and interfaith families. He participated in two capital campaigns; played a central role in the planning, design, and building of its new facility; and guided strategic planning and visioning. He worked collaboratively to implement digital distance learning in the Religious School; innovative b’nai mitzvah workshops and teen engagement programs; creative programming for adults; and successful social action efforts and mitzvah day opportunities.
HUC-JIR awarded Rabbi Hecht with the Doctor of Divinity degree, honoris causa, in 2012 for his 25 years of distinguished service to the Jewish people. Very active in the Jewish and broader community on Long Island, Rabbi Hecht is a past President of the Long Island Board of Rabbis and currently serves on the Board of the Mid-Island Y JCC. He has represented his congregation through involvement with UJA-Federation, the Plainview – Old Bethpage Interfaith Clergy Coalition, the Chamber of Commerce, and through work with local politicians.
Rabbi Hecht served as a Chaplain of the 106th Air Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard, where he held the rank of Major, from 1987-1998. He received the Air Force Achievement Medal in 1997 for his dedicated service, including the creation of the Suicide Prevention and Holocaust Remembrance Day programs. He has appeared on television and was a consultant and featured expert in the History Channel’s production, Bible Battles. He has taught for many summers at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Eisner and Crane Lake Camps.
Rabbi Hecht succeeds Rabbi Jonathan Cohen, Ph.D., who served as Dean for the past seven years.