Each year, HUC-JIR's stateside campuses celebrate the enduring vision of Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, founder of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, founder of the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.
HUC-JIR's Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles hosted a Founders' Day celebration on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, with guest speaker Rabbi Joel Simonds '09, Rabbi of the Skirball Campus Synagogue and the Founding Director of Jewish Center for Justice. Rabbi Simonds spoke about "Learning From the Past as We March towards the Future," and engaged in conversation with a panel of students.
Rabbi Simonds said, "Every generation is called to re-interrupt the text in our own time. And to implement the ethical teachings of our forbearers into an ever-evolving society. The question, for our way of Judaism is not 'If we engage.' The question must always be 'How we engage?'"
"Founders Day is an opportunity for our campus community to pause and reflect on the important achievements of those who built our fine institution," said Dr. Madelyn Katz, Associate Dean of the Skirball Campus. "This year, in March, our community was honored to hear the words of one of our alumni, Rabbi Joel Simonds, who currently serves as the Rabbi of our Synagogue and is the Executive Director of the Jewish Center for Justice. It was thrilling to have a relatively recent alumnus return to share about his experiences, to look back on what our Founders had in mind, and to share how we, together, can continue that sacred work into the future."
On Thursday, March 7, 2019, HUC-JIR/New York celebrated Founders' Day and the establishment of The Rabbi Dr. Eugene B. Borowitz Chapel Endowment Fund, generously created by the Borowitz family to sustain the spiritual home that was so loved by Dr. Borowitz. The fund supports worship at HUC-JIR’s New York campus, from maintaining the Torah scrolls and prayer books to creating opportunities for learning, experimenting, and innovating within the Chapel and its affiliated programs.
Dr. Borowitz' granddaughter, Rabbi Emily Langowitz '17 of Temple Solel in Paradise Valley, Arizona, gave the Founders' Day address, entitled "Where Are We Moored? Reform Judaism in the 21st Century and Beyond." "I believe, like our Founders, that we are obligated to prophetic ethics, to the powerful and historical connection that Judaism, and especially Reform Judaism, has had with the teachings of ethical monotheism. And I believe, like my grandfather, that we are obligated to covenant: to the voice which commands out of a lasting and loving relationship with us as individuals and with our people."
Rabbi David Adelson, D.Min., Dean of HUC-JIR/New York, shared these words about Rabbi Langowitz: "It was so wonderful today to welcome back our recent alum, Rabbi Emily Langowitz, to deliver the Founders’ Day address. It was so special to have here because we also dedicated a fund to support our Chapel in the memory of her grandfather, Dr. Eugene Borowitz. But, best of all was her address itself. Rabbi Langowitz offered new theology of her own. She suggests that we are commanded by the silence of all of the voices that were not included in our sacred texts and our canon: the voices of women, of queer people, of non-Jews in our community, of people of all minority categories. It is brilliant young leaders like Rabbi Emily Langowitz who should give us confidence that we are creating a Judaism that will speak to the generations to come."
On Thursday, April 7, 2019, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise and his induction into the Jewish-American Hall of Fame. Rabbi Lance J. Sussman '80, Ph.D. '87, Senior Rabbi of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, PA, gave an address entitiled "From Protest to Partnership: Isaac Mayer Wise and Rabbinic-Lay Leadership in 19th-Century American Reform Judaism." Honored guests included Louise Bettman, a direct descendant of Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, and Mel Wacks, Director of the Jewish-American Hall of Fame.
Nine rabbinical alumni also received their Doctor of Divinity Degrees, honoris causa, for 25 years in the rabbinate. Marilyn Krider and Allan Satin were recognized for their years of service to the Klau Library.
Dean of HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, Rabbi Jonathan Hecht, Ph.D., shared his thoughts on why celebrating Founders' Day is important: "There is nothing more important than remembering where we came from and the important work of those who came before us. On Founders’ Day, remembering the contributions of Isaac Mayer Wise and Stephen S. Wise to the formation of American Jewry, helps us focus what we are doing today. They were change agents. That was the legacy they bequeathed to us. Our goal is to continue to innovate and change and build a strong Jewish community going forward."
Watch the recordings from New York and Cincinnati: