Partnership between HUC-JIR, Central Synagogue, and Hillel will bring Reform rabbis to the campuses of UCLA and Brandeis University - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Partnership between HUC-JIR, Central Synagogue, and Hillel will bring Reform rabbis to the campuses of UCLA and Brandeis University

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Alex Kress

Rabbi Alex Kress

HUC-JIR congratulates Rabbi Alex Kress '17 and Rabbi Evan Sheinhait '19, who were recently hired as Senior Jewish Educators as part of our ongoing partnership with Central Synagogue and Hillel International.

A multi-year grant of $1.4 million from Central Synagogue’s Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein Fund for the Renaissance of Reform Judaism, announced last June, provides training, placement and support to graduates of HUC-JIR to become Hillel Senior Jewish Educators on campus. The fellowship allows these rabbis to build personal relationships with hundreds of students, serve as role models and develop new models of Jewish life.

Rabbi Kress and Rabbi Sheinhait will join the talented staffs of UCLA Hillel and Brandeis University Hillel, respectively, and will be on hand to greet students at the start of the fall semester. Rabbi Eric L. Abbott, who was hired as a Senior Jewish Educator last year through this grant, will be returning to Johns Hopkins University Hillel.

In addition, the grant established the new Peter J. Rubinstein Fellowship through which three HUC-JIR rabbinic students will serve as interns at local Hillel campuses. The 2019-2020 interns will be serving on the campuses of The Ohio State UniversityPrinceton University and University of Southern California. Over the course of the academic year these interns gain valuable hands-on experience while assisting the full time Hillel staff to engage students in on-campus Jewish activities and programming such as Shabbat services, educational discussion groups, and social justice programming.  

“We are excited to partner with Hillel International and Central Synagogue to encourage inspiring Jewish educators to work on campus and support the next generation of Jewish life and foster the future of Reform Jewish leadership on the college campus and in North America as a whole,” said Andrew Rehfeld, president of HUC-JIR.

“I’m honored that Central Synagogue is supporting the growth of vibrant Jewish programming on college campuses and training future Reform Jewish leadership to lead these communities,” said Rabbi Emeritus Peter J. Rubinstein of Central Synagogue. “This innovative collaboration between Hillel and HUC-JIR provides Reform rabbi educators to strengthen Jewish engagement, celebrations and learning for our college students in service of their Jewish future and our people’s unparalleled mission.”

In addition to strengthening Jewish life on campus, the Senior Jewish Educators will:

  • Help Jewish students who come from Reform and secular backgrounds understand what it means to be a Jew in the world today
  • Work with students to incorporate Jewish values and practices into their lives on campus and beyond
  • Cultivate interest among Reform and unaffiliated students who show outstanding promise to seriously consider pursuing rabbinical school or other careers in Jewish education, the cantorate and non-profit leadership

Evan Sheinhait

Rabbi Evan Sheinhait

“This partnership between Hillel International and HUC-JIR, with the support of Central Synagogue, allows us to provide rabbinical role models who will be accessible to a diverse range of Jewish students on campus,” said Adam Lehman, interim CEO of Hillel International. “Our mission is to enrich the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world. These Senior Jewish Educators will do just that, by engaging Jewish students and strengthening their connection to Jewish life, learning and Israel.”

Hillel International’s research has shown that Senior Jewish Educators are critical in engaging students and have the greatest impact on students’ Jewish growth. On average, each educator connects 200 students per year to Jewish life, many of whom would not be engaged without their presence. The effect of an educator is much greater on a student with little or no prior involvement with Hillel or those with less developed Jewish backgrounds.

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.