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Announcing 2018 Ordination and Academic Convocation at the Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's (HUC-JIR) Jerusalem Ordination and Academic Convocation will take place on November 7, 2018 at 6:00 pm at the Blaustein Hall at Merkaz Shimshon Beit Shmuel.  HUC-JIR's Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem is the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism in the State of Israel. It prepares Israeli rabbis, educators, and pastoral counselors who are building religious pluralism in the Jewish State; welcomes HUC-JIR's North American rabbinical, cantorial, and education students for their first year of study before returning stateside to the Cincinnati, Los Angeles, or New York campuses; and invites the larger Israeli community to educational and cultural programs.  

The Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, will be presented to:

Professor Hanna Kehat, Ph.D. is a Senior Lecturer in Jewish Thought, Bible, and Gender Studies at Givat Washington, Kibbutzim College, and Achva College. Professor Kehat holds a Ph.D. from Hebrew University in Jewish Thought. She has written dozens of articles in the various fields of research she deals with: Jewish Thought, Bible, and Gender and has published four books in these areas. Her last book, When Torah Became a Torah Study, was awarded the 2016 Matanel Prize as the best book in Jewish thought. Dr. Kehat founded and formerly chaired for ten years the Kolech Feminist Movement. She motivated the feminist revolution in the religious sector and led the struggle against discrimination, exclusion, and harm of women and their rights in the name of religion and halakhah. Dr. Kehat was one of the founders of the Takana Forum and is active today in the advancement of women and in the struggle against gender violence in Israel. In the field of education, Dr. Kehat founded an academic track to train teachers in humanistic Jewish education at Orot College. She founded Hartman Seminary, a religious feminist high school for girls, and was a partner in the establishment of a primary school that integrates special-education children with other children. Professor Kehat is the recipient of the President's Award for Volunteerism, and has received important awards and prizes, including the Rappaport Prize and an honorary doctorate from the Weizmann Institute. 

The Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, will be presented to:

Rabbi Reuven Bar Ephraim was born in Amsterdam and grew up in the Liberal Jewish Congregation. He was very active in the youth group of the congregation, as well as in Habonim. After school, he made Aliya and settled in Kibbutz Yahel, where he lived for ten years. After receiving his B.A. in Jewish History and M.A. in Biblical Bible Studies from Hebrew University, he received his rabbinical ordination from HUC-JIR in Jerusalem in 1993. In Israel, Bar Ephraim served congregations in Nahariya Emet v’Shalom, Har Chalutz, and Kiryat Tiv’on, Kehilah Chadasha. In 1995 he moved to The Hague where he served the liberal congregation ‘Bet Jehuda’ for eleven years and was at the same time employed by the Ministry of Justice as a prison chaplain. He has served the liberal congregation Or Chadasch in Zurich since 2007. From 2014 and 2018 he sat on the Executive Board of the EUPJ as its rabbinic advisor. Between 2016 and 2018 he served as the founding Chairperson of the ERA. Before in The Hague, and now in Zurich, Bar Ephraim is deeply involved in interreligious interfaith work. He is a member of the Municipal Council for Religions in both cities. Rabbi Bar Ephraim is married to Sylvia Dym, and they have five children and seven grandchildren.

Rabbi Maya Lebovitz is the first Israeli born woman ordained by HUC-JIR in Jerusalem in 1993. She was born in Ramat Gan and is a graduate of both Tel Aviv University (Comparative Literature) and Hebrew University (Jewish Philosophy). Prior to her rabbinical studies, she taught in schools both in Israel and abroad, was CEO of the Educational Department of the Israeli Reform Movement and the Educational Program Director of the Union of Reform Judaism and coordinator of its activities in the Former Soviet Union. She is editor in chief and annotator of both the Siddur and Machzor used by Reform congregations in the FSU. Maya built and directed Kehilat Mevasseret Zion (KMZ), a congregation on the outskirts of Jerusalem which started with six founding families and grew to 200 families. Their synagogue is on Reches Halilim in Mevasseret Zion. The congregation is active in the fields of religion (regular services and life-cycle events); education (a system of pre-school classes, active youth movement and courses to teach young people to be Torah readers and Trope teachers), social (a Time Bank in partnership with the local municipality) and cultural. Maya is co-editor of the books: "Blessed is He Who has Made me a Woman?" (Yediot Acharonot and Sifrey Hemed), "Who is A Jew in Our Days" (Yediot Acharonot and Sifrey Hemed), "Gog and Magog" (Yediot and Sifrey Hemed) and Parashat Hamayim (Hakibbutz Hameuchad). Since her retirement in 2015, Maya serves as Summer Rabbi for Temple B'nai Israel in Northern Michigan. She is on the board of Woman to Woman shelter for battered women and volunteers in The Alyn hospital (a rehabilitation center for disabled children). She is married to Menachem, mother of Itzhak, Gil'ad, Avishag, and Iftach, and grandmother of seven. 

Five new rabbis for Israel’s Reform Movement will be ordained:

David BenjaminDavid Benjamin was born in 1966 in East London, South Africa, the son of Rabbi Myer (Sonny), z"l, and Nina Benjamin. Growing up in South Africa and the UK, he was involved in synagogue and Jewish activities from a young age. At Temple Israel, Cape Town, he taught in the Hebrew School, sang in the choir, and coached B'nai Mitzvah. He was also active as a youth leader in the NETZER (“Maginim”) Reform Zionist Youth Movement in South Africa, serving as director of the movement in Cape Town and of the national summer camp. While at university, he was co-editor of the Jewish student newspaper and led and took part in several student trips to Israel. After completing law school, David followed his parents and siblings to Israel in 1989, and in the same year enlisted in the IDF. In a military career spanning twenty years, with a two-year break during which he backpacked and worked in a Tel Aviv law firm, David served in a number of senior positions in the IDF Military Advocate General’s Corps. These included Chief Legal Advisor for the Gaza Strip, Head of the Strategic-International Branch in the International Law Division, and Military Judge. He retired from the IDF in 2009 with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and continues to serve as a reservist to this day. Today, David is a practicing independent international consultant on international law, the law of armed conflict, and counter-terrorism. He also lectures widely and has given numerous media interviews. He serves as a Rabbi for Kehilat Brit Olam, Kiryat Ono, Israel, after having served as a volunteer lay-leader and cantorial soloist in Kehilat YOZMA, Modi’in, and other congregations. David is a member of the Israel Bar Association and holds a B.A. in Political Studies and LLB (Law) from the University of Cape Town and an LLM (Law) from Tel Aviv University. He is also a graduate of the IDF Command and Staff College. A keen singer, David has studied music and voice and is the bass soloist for the Tel Aviv Vocal Quintet as well as a singer in the Tel Aviv Chamber Choir. He completed the HUC-JIR/IMPJ Shlichei Tzibur Program in 2012. David was an HUC-JIR Golden Family Hanassi Fellow at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, CA. He volunteers widely in Jewish and Israel advocacy work and is a member of the Board of Governors of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists. David lives in Modi’in, Israel. He is married to Nancy with three children: Naor, Danit, and Ron.

Rachel Honey Fishbein DruckRachel Honey Fishbein Druck, an American in Israel and a Modern Orthodox-raised Reform rabbi, has devoted her life and rabbinical work to forging connections between her worlds. Rachel discovered the joys of the Reform Movement when she started working as Rabbi Rachel the Camp Educator at Camp Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA. Rachel worked at the camp for six glorious summers and maintains close ties with Temple Rodef Shalom and Rabbi Amy Schwartzman. Rachel earned her B.A. in Yiddish Language and Literature from Barnard College, and will be pursuing an M.A. in Yiddish Literature through a joint program between Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University run by the Goldreich Family Institute. During her studies at HUC-JIR, Rachel served as a Golden Family Hanassi Fellow at Larchmont Temple in Larchmont, NY. Rachel is starting a new Reform community in Givatayim in partnership with the Reform Movement in Israel and the City of Givatayim. Additionally, Rachel has always been an avid reader, and her career in recent years has focused on spreading Jewish knowledge and values through the written word. Rachel is the editor of the Communities Database at Beit Hatfutsot-The Museum of the Jewish People, where she is responsible for collecting, writing about, researching, and editing information about Jewish communities around the world, past and present. Articles she has written for the museum’s blog have appeared on Haaretz’s print and online editions, including “The Lynching of Leo Frank” and “Just Like the Ones I Used to Know? Christmas Music and its Jewish Songwriters.” She is also the content editor at the Israel Religious Action Center. Rachel is originally from Englewood, NJ, and currently lives in Givatayim with her spouse, Shay. She is grateful for all of the love and support that she has received throughout this process from her family.

Tamar Gur-Krause Tamar Gur-Krause grew up in Haifa in a secular family strongly connected to its roots. In her youth she was very involved in creative fields – art, poetry, and theater. At the end of high school (Leo Baeck High School) and after participating in a visit to the U.S. with the national council of students, of which she was a member, Tamar discovered the Jewish world for the first time. She discovered that she is drawn towards prayers at synagogue, towards the zmirot and hymns and towards spirituality. After discovering this new-old world, Tamar joined the Masorti (Conservative) Movement's youth movement, Noam, as a youth counselor and a central participant at the Conservative synagogue in Haifa. Tamar did her service year at the Beit Yisrael urban kibbutz at a pre-army academy that has both religious and secular participants, and worked with children and youth at risk. Since then, Tamar has worked in many frameworks that address the connections between Jewish identity, Israeli identity, and social action. Tamar has worked at different organizations such as Gesher, Tzav Pius, Elul, Kolech, the AVI CHAI foundation, the Masorti Movement, and more. In addition, she has led programs for youth and adults on identity, Judaism and gender and has run empowerment workshops for girls and young women. Her roles included working as a counselor, coordinator, and content developer. In addition, she has assisted in establishing schools that integrate religious and secular students throughout Israel. Over the years, Tamar has continued to serve as a cantor and prayer leader at various synagogues, to give lectures throughout Israel, and to engage in activism on religion and state. Tamar has a bachelor's degree in Education, History, and Biblical Studies and a master's degree from the Ruderman honors program in American Jewry at Haifa University, and served as an HUC-JIR Golden Family Hanassi Fellow at Temple Judea in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Tamar served as a fellow with different social-political leadership groups such as Kriat Kivun - Preparatory Program for Public Leadership, the late President Shimon Peres's Young Leaders' Forum, and more. Tamar is a social activist in various fields and believes in the importance of different parts of Israeli society meeting one another and in the ability of interpersonal connections to enable healing and tikkun on a personal and societal level. Tamar has guided and married hundreds of couples and today she is one of the leading women in the field. Tamar sees her work with couples as a special calling, both as pluralist and feminist tikkun olam and in advancing the status of female rabbis in public ceremonies, as well as the opportunity to put meaning into this moment in life and through it to help couples find the connection to Judaism and to meaningful content. Tamar is dreaming and planning to expand this field and to create a center for guiding couples at various stages of life and for using textual and Jewish tools to create deep and conscious relationships. She wrote her thesis on the center for couplehood and its various possibilities. Tamar believes in the power of pluralist Jewish discourse that is down to earth and is tailored to meet the life needs of the public, to be a tool for promoting social, personal and spiritual change – and she acts accordingly. She believes in the great importance of women within this world and its tikkun. Tamar lives in Bat Shlomo, is married to Ariel, and is the mother of Avigail and Naomi. 

Inbar Bluzer Shalem grew up in the mountains of the Galilee in a 1980s pioneering village in a secular Zionist family. From the Gesher seminar in high school with religious youth, to four years of military service with the diverse faces of Israeli society, Inbar began a personal identity journey to her family roots. In Kathmandu she learned Rashi script in chavruta with a Chabad Rabbi, an experience that opened the gates to studying Torah and Jewish culture. These gates became a journey, as a student and facilitator at the pluralist batei midrash, including: Elul, Beit Hillel, Memizrach Shemesh, Leo Baeck, HaMidrasha at Oranim, Alma and Kolot. After two shlichuyot, the first as a campus shlicha in the United States and the second with the Conservative movement in London, Inbar founded Beit Hillel in Haifa with a unique community model, and created a conversion program at the Technion. Believing that the future of Israel depends on its shared values as a society, and understanding that spiritual and strategic leadership are the tools to make this happen, Inbar decided to move to Jerusalem and join the benches of HUC-JIR's rabbinical school, while also joining the strategic leadership of Jewish renewal. In Jerusalem, Inbar became a founding partner and director of Rashut Ha'Rabim, a partnership of over 30 Jewish renewal organizations working together to create a Jewish and democratic city that is more open and moderate. By empowering the organizations, partnerships inside and outside of civil society and strategic work with the Jerusalem Municipality, the organizations in Rashut Ha'Rabim are succeeding in turning the mosaic of organizations and communities in Jerusalem into a critical mass, into a stream that is sweeping the city. Inbar has a bachelor's degree in Economics and Management from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, a certificate in social sciences and humanitarian work in an Israeli-Palestinian program, and an additional master's degree in pluralistic Jewish education from HUC-JIR and Hebrew University. Inbar is in the midst of setting up a center for Jewish pluralism, a shared work space for organizations in the field that will serve as a magnet for building a future for Jewish renewal through new partnerships, a professional development center and creating collective impact models. Inbar is married to Rachel, mothers to three Jerusalemites: Uriah, Aluma-Esther, and Yahel-Menachem.

Yael VurganYael Vurgan was born and grew up in Rishon LeZion in a secular family, the middle of three children. Her mother was born in Turkey, thus endowing her with Sephardic heritage, and her father was born in Israel to parents from Eastern Europe who were farmers and public figures in Rishon LeZion. From her parents Yael received large doses of love of Israel, love of the Hebrew language and the written word, love of music and great respect for knowledge and learning. Yael attended the renowned Reali School and in her youth was active and a leader in the local Tzofim (Scouts) chapter. From a young age she was involved in leading and running social action and value-based activities and ceremonies. This continued during her army service in the Education Corps, in which she served as an Education Officer at an academy for commanders in Har Gilo. During this time she met and got to know religious people, learned about Jewish rituals and content that she was unfamiliar with, and was drawn to learn more about them. Upon completing her service, she studied Judaism at Midreshet Ein Hanatziv, and began working as a facilitator at Gesher at meetings between secular and religious youth. She has a B.A. in Jewish Thought and Hebrew Literature and an M.A. in Contemporary Judaism, both from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At the beginning she lived a religious-Orthodox way of life for a few years. Afterwards she sought a meaningful Jewish way of life that combines spirituality and tradition with humanist values, a commitment to social activism, and a high degree of personal freedom and choice. During a two-year stay in New York during which she worked as a teacher at Jewish schools, she for the first time got to know Jews who belong to the liberal streams of Judaism in the United States. Upon returning to Israel, Yael worked as a project and program director and coordinator for a number of educational-social institutions: the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, the Mandel Leadership Institute, the Adva Center for social research, as well as in the framework of the Reform Movement managing the Kehilat Tzedek (Community of Justice) project, when she got to know Reform Judaism in Israel and "fell in love." In addition, for many years Yael has been active in peace, coexistence and human rights organizations and initiatives. In 2007 she moved with her partner and son to Modi'in, and the family joined the Achva Congregation – an independent traditional egalitarian congregation. There she first felt a sense of belonging to a Jewish community of prayer, and took her first steps as a prayer leader. During her rabbinical studies, Yael worked at Rabbis for Human Rights, took part in rabbinical work with bar and bat mitzvah students at the YOZMA Congregation in Modi'in, served as a Golden Family Hanassi Fellow at Woodlands Community Temple in Ardsley, NY, and in the last year served as a student rabbi at Kehilat Hashachar in Even Yehuda. Yael has two sons: Shachar and Michael.

Eleven students received the M.A. in Pluralistic Jewish Education, a joint program with the Melton Centre of Hebrew University:

Noa Alexandre-Fuxman
Zvika Angel
Meirav Shveiky Fishman
Maya Gafni-Mor
Mor Gamliel
Ophir Hacohen
Orli Moss
Mor Sagi
Inbar Bluzer Shalem
Hadas Wolff Yitzhak
Shlomo Zagman

Thirteen students will receive certificates from the Blaustein Center for Spiritual Counseling Sugiyot Chayim Program:

Gili Amit-Doari 
Naomi Efrat
Osnat Eldar
Naama Etsion 
Tamar Gur-Krause
Ortal Hackshur
Ayelet Lin 
Osnat Michaely 
Dahlia Shaham 
Tamar Shani
Ariella Adelman Stone
Naama Yinon
Moshe Zehavi

Questions? Contact us at 02-620-3333 or Jerusalem@huc.edu.

Please arrive at Blaustein Hall by 5:45 pm. The ceremony will last approximately two hours. Parking will not be available at HUC-JIR. Please allow enough time for parking.


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, 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. www.huc.edu