February 18, 2009 – The Los Angeles campus observed its annual Founders Day program on Tuesday, February 10th, in conjunction with a major conference in honor of the 40th Anniversary of the School of Jewish Communal Service and paying tribute to its Founding Director, Professor Gerald Bubis. Following a Founders Day worship service, led by HUC-JIR President David Ellenson, Professor Gerald Bubis delivered the annual Founders Day address. Focusing on the leadership attributes of HUC-JIR’s founding Presidents, Rabbis Isaac M. Wise and Stephen S. Wise, and describing the key elements that led to the creation of the School of Jewish Communal Service, Professor Bubis offered a special tribute to the creative and significant role played by Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, the sixth president of HUC-JIR and Chancellor Emeritus of the College-Institute, in helping to shape the formation of this school. Citing Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise’s desire to train and educate not just rabbis, but communal professionals as well, Professor Bubis noted the efforts by the College in the early part of the 20th Century to create in Cincinnati one of the first training programs for this nation’s communal leaders, leading ultimately to the establishment in 1968 of America’s oldest program for the training of Jewish professional leadership.
Bringing greetings from the College-Institute, Rhea Coskey, Chair of the SJCS Advisory Board and a member of the LA Board of Overseers, acknowledged the work of the School’s Interim Director, Richard Siegel in creating the new strategic plan for the SJCS and in planning the day’s activities. Some 125 community and alumni guests joined students and faculty for this occasion. In his luncheon remarks, President Ellenson announced that the College-Institute will be awarding the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Chair in Jewish Communal Service to Dr. Windmueller in March during the meetings of the College’s Board of Governors in Los Angeles.
The day-long festivities were co-sponsored with the Jewish Communal Professionals of Southern California, an association of over 250 Jewish community professional leaders, many of whom are alumni of HUC-JIR. The lunch session featured the first public presentation of the JCPSC’s newly drafted “Brit Miksoah – The Covenant of Jewish Professional Leadership.” The panel of Michael Hirschfeld, President of the JCPSC, and alumni Marsha Rothpan and Abigail Fleishman, and chaired by Richard Siegel generated a lively discussion about the values and context of the field of Jewish communal service.
The Chairman of the Board of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, and former HUC-JIR Board of Governors Chair, Stanley Gold, offered his perspective as lay leader on the re-visioning of the LA Federation. In an interchange with Dr. Steven Windmueller, Dean of the Los Angeles campus, Gold provided some insights on leading the community through the Madoff scandal and the current financial crisis and other critical issues pertaining to the future of the federation system.
The closing panel, chaired by Marla Abraham, a 1985 alum of SJCS and the immediate past Interim Director of the School, focused on the changing professional character of the field of communal service, highlighted by a discussion related to the emerging role that the millennial generation will play in reshaping the professional and programmatic directions of this field. Among the panel’s participants was the current President of the LA Federation, John Fishel, David Levy, a 1987 SJCS alum, and Sally Weber, an instructor on the HUC-LA campus and a senior staff member of the Jewish Family Services of Los Angeles. The proceedings from this symposium will be part of a special issue of the Journal of Jewish Communal Service in honor of the SJCS’s 40th anniversary to be published in Fall 2009.