"RETROSPECT AND PROSPECT: The Future Lies Ahead" -- Founders' Day Address by Prof. Gerald Bubis

Thursday, August 27, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

RETROSPECT AND PROSPECT:

The Future Lies Ahead

 

 

 

FOUNDERS’ DAY ADDRESS

 

 

10 February 2009

 

Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion

Los Angeles, CA

 

 

By Gerald B. Bubis

 

Founding Director,

School of Jewish Communal Service &

Alfred Gottschalk Professor Emeritus of Jewish Communal Studies

 

Retrospect and Prospects:

The Future Lies Ahead

 

10 February 2009 — HUC-JIR

 

            It is indeed a great honor to have been asked to speak on Founders’ Day, the observance of the 134th anniversary of HUC’s founding, and the 60th anniversary since the Jewish Institute of Religion was merged with Hebrew Union College. Three weeks ago we witnessed the beginning of a tsunami of change in America. A visionary born of black and white parents. He has helped sensitize us all that we stand on shoulders of those who came before us. Even as we share his visions, he iterates the debt to be paid to those who dreamed dreams and acted on those dreams. This day and these comments are a small and modest attempt to emulate that lesson.

            I first want to spend some time reminding you about our founders, Isaac Mayer Wise and Stephen S. Wise. I will then move on to relate to the founding and philosophies of the School of Jewish Communal Service, in this, its 40th anniversary year of accepting the first student body into the School, and some lessons learned regarding leadership styles and roles. 

            Isaac Mayer Wise[1], Bohemian born in 1819, received his smicha from the Prague Beit Din. His early education was with his father and grandfather. (I have written about the Jewish family and was struck by the force and influence of 2 generations in shaping the heart and mind of Wise.) 

            After smicha, he served as a rabbi in Radnitz, Bohemia for two years, before emigrating to the United States in 1846, at the age of 27. It is estimated that there were 15,000 Jews in the U.S. in 1840, but by 1848 the number had grown to 50,000[2]

            Later in the year, Wise moved to Albany, NY as a pulpit rabbi. Ordained as an Orthodox rabbi, early on he began agitating for, and introducing reforms, into the congregation, including mixed seating and counting women in the minyan. By 1850 a split had developed in the community, to the point that Wise and his president had a fist-fight, which resulted in the forming of a second congregation by his supporters. (To my knowledge the next fist-fight between a rabbi and a president took place in a Miami Conservative congregation over a decade ago. Equal time, even if separated by nearly a century and a half). 

            In 1854, Wise left to become the rabbi of the Bnei Jeshurun congregation in Cincinnati for the remaining 46 years of his life. He led the envisioning and building of the Plum Street synagogue in 1866. 

            Among his other accomplishments, other than establishing Hebrew Union College, included: the publishing of a prayer book intended for all American Jews, which he called, Minhag America; his formation of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), precursor to the present Union for Reform Judaism (URJ); and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). 

            Stephen S. Wise[3], the founder of the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Budapest in 1874, also of a long line of rabbis. He was brought to the U.S. as a 1-year-old, pursued his undergraduate studies at Columbia University and his post-graduate work at Oxford University. Afterwards, he completed his rabbinic studies in Vienna, where he was granted smicha by the Chief Rabbi there and later completed his doctorate work at Columbia University in New York.

            His first post as rabbi was in New York City at B’nei Jeshurun, where he served for six years, then moved to Portland, Oregon and served in a pulpit there for another six years, later returning to New York City, where he founded the Free Synagogue in 1906 where he served until his death in 1949. 

            He founded the Jewish Institute of Religion in 1922 as a liberal seminary, which, however, was guided much more by traditional practice and infused with a Zionist ethos, contrary to Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. In 1948, the Jewish Institute of Religion  merged with Hebrew Union College.  

            While Wise established JIR, his most powerful influence was two-fold. He was a mighty voice for justice for all, shaped by the prophetic message of Judaism.  Also, he was a great orator and Zionist, and played an influential role, as a Zionist leader on behalf of the establishment of the State of Israel, which he saw come into being in the year before his death. 

            He was among the founders of organized Zionism in America, and took part in the second Zionist Congress in Basel.  His role in both the Zionist organizations devoted to social justice for workers and minorities, was legendary. One of his most memorable speeches was a keynote address to Jewish communal professionals in 1908. He castigated them for not working more assiduously on behalf of the garment workers, in pursuing adequate working conditions on their behalf. He reminded the communal workers that Jewish teachings and values should be driving their actions. 

            I have shared these two thumbnail sketches of our founders, whose memories we honor today, as a precursor to identifying some of the differences in the two men, as they pursued their respective visions. 

            As noted, Isaac Mayer Wise founded many of the institutions which continue to serve the Reform movement to this day. His vision for an American Judaism for all Jews never came to pass, for reasons I need not review here. (Those who do not yet know, might review the “treyfe banquet”, for all its subsequent consequences.) The essential point to me was, while his boldest dream for Jewish institutions in America did not come to pass as he envisioned, he did not lose hope and channeled his passions and talents to become the single most important figure in shaping what was to become the Reform movement in America. His focus remained on the Jews of his day and what he perceived to be the institutions and teaching tools which would best serve those Jews—HUC, UAHC, CCAR, a prayerbook, a newspaper, to mention the main contributions that resulted from his drives and passions.  The principles and teachings of Reform Judaism which grew out of his beliefs emphasized a prophetic vision for all and a rejection of nationalism, as emphasized by the centrality of Jerusalem in the future redemption of the Jews.

            Stephen S. Wise, a product of another time, with a different complex of world events, had a broader focus in his visions.  His lifespan covered the huge deluge of Eastern Europeans into America, the flowering of early Zionism, the growth of trade unionism and the early development of a class society within the Jewish community, because of the growth of capitalism, socialism, and communism during his lifetime. 

            Isaac Mayer Wise sharpened his organizational and ideological tools primarily within the Jewish community.  Stephen S. Wise moved onto a larger canvas, mastering the American political system and learning its ways, so as to influence Supreme Court Justices, congressmen, senators, and even presidents.  Thus, we can see the overlapping yet different leadership styles, each crafted in response to different times and somewhat differing needs. He emphasized the concept of Jewish peoplehood even as he fought for the betterment of society as a whole. 

            This prologue is a segue into the present, where today, even as we honor the founders of the HUC-JIR, we also observe the 40th anniversary of the School of Jewish Communal Service.  I will not be discussing the role of Alfred G. Gottschalk, former dean of the California School, later president and now chancellor emeritus of HUC-JIR. I want to note the fact that he is the real founder of the School of Jewish Communal Service and I dedicate today’s remarks to him. Our prayers for his full recovery are in our hearts and on our minds, even as I speak.

            As I review the various attempts to form institutions and training educational institutions in this country, I am conscious of the constancy of change. I will not rehearse all that has happened to the world in the past century or so. Suffice to say that the velocity of change, accompanied by the nature, extent, and impact of these changes, was mostly unanticipated and therefore were unplanned. Certainly when reviewing the two plus decades which marked my tenure as director, I can but both marvel and tremble at the enormity of all that happened from 1968 to 1989 and certainly the last two decades since my retirement.

            Early on, in the American Jewish experience, leaders of the American Jewish community recognized the need for organizations to represent Jews within the larger community; to take care of the sick, the elderly, the widows, children and the poor. At first, most of the institutions were run by volunteers, but as time went on, people were hired full-time to head up and staff the YM-YHA’s, Jewish settlement houses, benevolent societies, orphanages, consumptive relief societies, homes for the aged, fundraising organizations, agencies dedicated to relations to other religious and minority groups, and the like. Not until early in the 20th century was a school or program established to educate communal staff in the name of and on behalf of the Jewish communities.          The short-lived and only American based kehillah, which was instituted in New York in the first decade of the 20th century, established a program to train and educate communal professionals. A decade earlier a number of enlightened Jewish professionals and lay leaders, organized an umbrella organization to serve the “professional needs” of those working on behalf of Jews in America. The kehilla and its training program lasted but a few years, even as the umbrella organization itself flourished and exists to this very day. 

            Isaac Mayer Wise had envisioned HUC to be an educational institution to produce rabbis, cantors and social workers. It was not until 1913 that a program geared to educating Jewish social workers was introduced in Cincinnati in connection with the newly-established Cincinnati Jewish Federation. This effort also failed after a few years.  In 1925 a visionary layperson, Felix Warburg, together with a visionary executive, Maurice J. Karpf, formed The Graduate School for Jewish Social Work.  The school lasted for 15 years, but with the death of its patron, Felix Warburg, closed its doors in 1940, after having produced many graduates who went onto illustrious careers in Jewish communal service. 

            In 1947, shortly after WWII, a coalition of major national Jewish organizations came together to form the Training Bureau for Jewish Communal Service, directed by George Rabinoff, which lasted until 1951. Within months of its demise, Yeshiva University opened the first, and still only school of social work within a university and under Jewish auspices. It has grown into a fine and prestigious school, with a large student body. Its program is open to all, regardless of race, creed, or national origin. It prides itself on being a social work school, preparing people to work in all settings. It has always had a modest program geared to Jewish communal service, but relatively few students have enrolled in this track over the years. Many Wurzweiler graduates went into the field of Jewish communal service without benefit of the Jewish communal track.

            At this point, I interrupt the narrative about communal service, leading up to the formation of our own school, because I want, for the moment, to return to the two founders. I do this to ruminate about leadership styles that they represented and which came to be part of the ethos of our School of Jewish Communal Service. 

            There are common attributes, as well as disparities, between the styles of the two men.  Each in his own way was single-minded, as each pursued his own vision. At the same time, each adapted to the realities which he confronted. I. M. Wise, new to the country, perceived a strong need to create institutions to bridge the past with the present. In the process he hoped  that the unique cultural climate of America would respond to his institution's vision. He was prepared to drop those teachings of the Jewish past which would preclude Jews from making the most of the opportunities in America.

            He felt Jews should embrace their opportunities to become part of the larger society, rather than turning inward and separating the Jewish community from that society.  The ritual articles of clothing, eating strictures, language barriers and the like, were to be discarded. The “modern” would prevail. Logic and rational thought would guide teaching and learning, but the essence of God’s prophetic message to the world through the Jews, would be continued. Thus he not only engaged in radical thinking, but was at the center of creating the very institutions which he foresaw as essential to shaping and conveying this message into the future.

            At the same time he was politically savvy. He attempted to convince potential allies to join in his vision for a new Judaism, which would be adopted by all Jews in America. When he finally realized this was not to be, he adjusted to the realities of the very schisms which he hoped his visions would heal. One could conclude  that he was unconscious of the various leadership styles and tools he embraced. Nevertheless he was a role model, an innovator, a contrarian, while attempting to consolidate his supporters as he tried to clarify his intentions, visions and goals.  He had innate organizational skills and seemed to appreciate that, whatever his intentions were, he would need coalitions of supporters and adherents to his dreams. He was dealing primarily with a newly arrived central European community, overlaid on top of a Sephardic community,  which had  built institutions following traditional Sephardic teachings. There were relatively few Eastern European Jews in America at the time. 

            Stephen S. Wise, for all practical purposes, was American born, yet, typically, was a cosmopolitan. His academic roots were both in Europe and America. He, too, had been raised Orthodox in his early days. He cannot be equated to Isaac Mayer Wise in the “builder or founder’s role”, in the sense that his legacy takes on another emphasis. It is true that he founded the Free Synagogue and the Jewish Institute of Religion; his most noteworthy efforts were focused on co-founding and/or shaping of American Zionism, while articulating a mighty universal message with his clarion calls for social justice for all. He never forgot the needs of the downtrodden Eastern European Jews who had flooded America. Thus the community he spoke for, and to, was the relatively uneducated Eastern European Jews. These were the Jews the German Jews were so ambivalent about. Wise spoke truth to power. He confronted the German Jewish establishment, even as he challenged the anti-Zionists, while inspiring and fighting for  the downtrodden Eastern European Jews and other immigrant groups. He learned the arcane ways of American politics and politicians, as well as those engaged in worldwide activities through the evolving worldwide Zionist mechanisms. He made much more comprehensive use of his multi-organizational tasking than was the case with Isaac Mayer Wise. 

            I’ve tried to identify some overlapping and differentiating leadership styles as a perhaps overly long preface to the beginnings of the School of Jewish Communal Service and the visions, philosophies and actions I brought to the School.  I will now become autobiographical and pick up the narrative in first-person terms. As Dean of the Los Angeles campus, Alfred Gottschalk’s dreams for a School of Jewish Communal Service had come together when Nelson Glueck, then president of Hebrew Union College accepted the principle of sponsoring a School on the L.A. campus.  To this day, I doubt Glueck truly appreciated what the potential ramifications of his decision would be. 

            Fred Gottschalk and I had met in Jerusalem shortly after the Six-Day War. While we had both been in Southern California for some time, and knew of each other, we had never met.  Months after this meeting, he approached me and offered me the position of director of the School. After I accepted, he gave me an unusual gift. He asked me to begin work July 1st, 1968, with a two-week vacation and then to devote a year to read, travel, interview lay and professional leaders all over the continent, while  analyzing  the histories of prior programs.

            The goals were: 1) to assess the past failures of educational programs for Jewish communal service, which by then had been five in number; 2) to study those who had shaped these programs as to their philosophies and goals; 3) to listen carefully to communal leaders as to their ideas for shaping a curriculum, their readiness to support such a School and help to recruit candidates. 

            The intention, initially, was  that the School focus on people already in the field who would benefit from what I hoped would be a syncretic curriculum with Jewish and professional roots and tools. In that year, I wanted to take the measure of the readiness of these leaders to support the enterprise fiscally. It is important to remember that in 1968 the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University perceived itself, as it does today, as a school of social work open to all. During that same period of time, Brandeis University established the Hornstein Program for Jewish Communal Service, which I was unaware of at the time. 

            At the end of six months, I had assembled a national professional advisory committee and a local lay advisory committee. Gottschalk had given me wide latitude. I soon realized, with all due respect to my colleagues at HUC, that my field was the only one which had no experts on any of the HUC campuses. This reality emboldened me. I developed what is now called a vision and mission statement, which follows (my gender focus and lack of sensitivity to gender issues unfortunately reflected the time). 

            The statement, only now, has been appropriately “modernized”, by Richard Siegel, but the essence of its intention remains intact. I must note this revision, as part of his brilliantly developed proposed strategic plan, still resonates to the statement which follows.

  • The School of Jewish Communal Service at HUC-JIR was created to help meet the personnel needs of the American Jewish community agencies.  It is dedicated to the enrichment of American Jewish life.
  • The School seeks to awaken its students to their Jewish heritage and values, and to prepare them for service in the Jewish community.  The School will concentrate on the values, knowledge, and skills most likely to develop a commitment to careers in Jewish community service. 
  • Eclectic in its approach and contemporary in its outlook, the School hopes to contribute to its students’ independence of thought and inquiry, to their creativity and open-mindedness, and to their desire to serve the American Jewish community and their fellow man. 

The School of Jewish Communal Service hopes to develop and transmit:

  • Knowledge and understanding of the internal and external forces contributing to the survival of the Jew through history.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the American Jew, his growth and development, his social institutions, and their historical antecedents.
  • Awareness of and familiarity with contemporary Jewish communal services in the U.S. and Canada, and their developmental history.
  • Understanding of issues, conflicts and ideologies within Jewish life here and abroad.
  • Knowledge and appreciation of Jewish values, culture, practices, and beliefs. 
  • Proficiency in synthesizing the application of these objectives with the values, knowledge and skills acquired in schools of social work or related fields, and in bringing them to bear in practice.
  • A positive attitude towards the goals of Jewish Communal life.

            It must be remembered that Fred Gottschalk envisioned a school sponsored by the Reform movement specifically dedicated to serving all expressions of American and world Jewry. The student body has reflected indeed that the achievement of that goal, even to this day. It also must be noted that from the very beginning of the school there were those within the College family who opposed its presence. Unfortunately that remains the desire of some to this day.

            600 to 650 students and forty years later, I do not intend to review the history of the School. Rather, I wish to examine, as best I can, my leadership style and what I think I learned  in my 21 year long tenure as director  and through the soon-to-be 20 years since my “retirement.”

             I learned early on that rhetoric and reality sometimes do not meet promises. Leaders in the field, had urged me to concentrate on developing a School. They assured me the fiscal resources would be available through their good offices and thus relieve HUC of the financial responsibility for scholarship funds. The promise quickly faded. Lesson learned: Hope for everything;expect nothing. You’ll never be disappointed and often will be pleasantly surprised.

            The first three years of the program solely involved a two summer certificate program.  The bulk of the students were in the field and essentially their attendance was underwritten by the respective agencies in which they worked. The School’s contribution underwrote a modest stipend for living cost during the two eight week summer sessions. Two people outside the school were of particular help to the  program and to me personally. 

            Bert Gold, who conducted the initial feasibility study on Gottschalk’s behalf, left his post at the LA JCCA to head up the American Jewish Committee. He underwrote students for many years from AJC and released senior staff to teach in the summer sessions, underwriting their salaries while we underwrote out-of-pocket expenses. 

            Ted Kanner became Executive Director of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation shortly after my tenure began. He convinced his board to underwrite the attendance of two staff each summer, later released a senior staff to teach for us and still later, when we had double Masters’ degrees in place, was instrumental in helping me convince the L. A. Jewish Federation to allocate $100,000 annually for field work stipends. ( Later on, this sum, which was meant  to assure stipends at $3.75 a hour, the minimum wage then, was shared with AJU (then U.J.) and is now down to $60,000).

            I quickly learned another lesson about leadership; Use relationships to help actuate your goals and don’t feel the need to be in the forefront in the process. 

            I soon also realized that the accident of timing and the location of the School in Los Angeles had their unique impacts, which I capitalized upon.  The Six-Day War had brought Israel front and center. There were few professionals who had ever been to Israel and they in turn, were among the few who had any real understanding of the history, complexities and realities facing Israel internally and externally. More of this in a moment... They also were, in most instances, highly trained professionals, with a minimal Jewish background. 

            Gottschalk had played a strong leadership role in bringing HUC downtown from the Hollywood Hills and developing a memorandum of understanding, leading to HUC’s becoming the Jewish Studies Department of USC.  (He had earned his PhD at USC, and this, in turn, made things easier). 

            With his encouragement, I set out to bring the memorandum to life.  I negotiated for the partnering of two dual-degree programs; one in social work and the other in gerontology. The latter never flourished for reasons I will not discuss here, but the HUC-USC double masters in Jewish Communal Service and Social Work flowered (I have recounted elsewhere the initial resistance of Jewish faculty to the partnership). 

            Over the years, another partnership was formed with the School of Public Administration, including their option of one year on USC's Washington- based program. (After my tenure, still others have been developed and today four double-masters degree programs with USC are in place). 

            At HUC, Bill Cutter was very instrumental in helping bring into existence a joint degree in Jewish education and Jewish communal service, which was built upon later by his successor, Sarah Lee.

            I envisioned the possibility of crafting partnerships throughout the continent with other schools of social work. One really flourished for a time with George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. Arrangements in principle were reached with the University of Pittsburgh and San Fransisco State University, but they never evolved. 

            Ironically, I had tried to effectuate the same model through a federation and a university in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Toronto. In almost every one of these cities, the idea seemed to resonate so well that most of the communities  subsequently developed a program with a local university. In most cities they have not flourished, were rarely supported seriously from a financial point of view, and many of them have closed. Lesson gained. One can fail but must never fail to try.

            Early on, Professor Moshe Davis, the founder of the Center for Contemporary Jewry at Hebrew University, approached me. Ruby and I had attended the first seminar ever held for world Jewish communal professionals in 1967. He had come to realize he could not successfully recruit from Israel and asked us to co-sponsor the program, as a result. Out of that grew the biennial winter program in Israel as a compulsory experience for communal service students. 

            The integration of the seminar cemented the link to Israel and remains significant to this day. I indicated this was not meant to be a recounting of the School’s history as such. I have done that in section of my memoirs, Guide Yourself Accordingly, pp 199 -224.  My intention here has been to emphasize styles of leadership.

            The faculty and I, each in different ways, dealt with this issue in both Jewish and general terms. We never discussed this at faculty meetings, yet there was a meeting of the minds as a rule. The emphases was on power sharing, delegating power and authority, grounded in trust with  transparency and accountability articulated or implied. I must note especially my late colleagues Judah Shapiro, Jack Dauber, Stanley Chyat, Norman Mirsky, Abe Zygelbaum and Michael Signer for their unique contributions in highlighting these issues, directly or obliquely in their respective  classes

            I believe as time has gone on, the field has ,more often than not, strayed from the initial thrust the School’s curriculum reflected, based upon the input from the field itself.

            The outcome, has often  been a blunting of creativity and, the norm more often than not, has been a hierarchical approach to institution building. This has resulted in a diminution of freedom to make judgments and discourages change from the ground  up. The result is often less risk-taking and more technocratic and bureaucratic thinking.

            The task and function of any professional education program must be to expose students and the field it serves to the new, the unanticipated and the possible. In that regard, I’m proud that Bruce Phillips and I encouraged so many of our students to research issues often not discussed publicly in Jewish organizational circles. Theses on addictions, family violence including wife abuse and other issues were frequently the first of their kind in the country. In some instances, new resources came into being as a result. I am also proud that within HUC we were the first  to, admit gays and lesbians into our program.

             As time went on I became increasingly attracted to the area of governance and leadership in the Jewish Community. 

            Jewish life in America has had many leaders, two of whom I briefly mentioned. From the time I entered the field over 60 years ago, I saw the flowering of attempts to try various forms of representative bodies and organizations. Increasingly, there were more self-styled leaders. There was a spectrum of leadership styles, some in my mind worthy of emulating and working with, and others who increasingly combined charisma with appeals to the fears of Jews. 

            This affected what I came to feel the school would have to emphasize in parts of its curriculum and ambiance. At the school’s beginnings, I consciously began opportunities for shared leadership—both on the faculty and student body levels. 

            There was frequent evaluation of the School’s curriculum by the students. Camp weekends were introduced. There was a very strong informal environment. At our first commencement ceremony I unconsciously hugged and kissed students—male and female, even-  though were only two women in each class in the student body, at the time. Two memories, one of our long-time summer faculty, one of the great figures and curmudgeons in American Jewish life, Judah Shapiro, objected to the constancy of my need for frequent evaluation. One day he remarked, “Jerry, if you constantly pull carrots up out of the ground to examine them, they’ll never grow.” Lesson learned; leaders sometime not only should curb their enthusiasm but also be consciously patient.

            My other quote is from the late Nathan Cohen, then Dean of UCLA’s School of Social Welfare and a long-time colleague from Jewish Welfare Board days. He was one of the founders of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). He spoke at one of our culminating exercises. After seeing me hug and kiss the graduates, he asked me, “Are you running a graduate school or a summer camp?”, to which I replied, “A little bit of both.” Lesson learned; warmth and sincerity are cultivatable attributes.

            I do not place myself in the company of our founders. I do feel I have been more conscious of leadership styles that go beyond the charismatic. Process leadership is an overlay to the most successful of leaders and, I maintain, while not celebrated in the writings about our two Wises, this had to be present in their styles to assure the continuity of what they accomplished. Stakeholders had to be found to claim and celebrate their ownership of what they came to see as their future as built upon the builders' visions.

            In the literature on leadership, there is no one style which is “Torah-true.” The most successful leaders who left behind institutions which they founded or shaped seem to share a number of styles and tools. They are passionate; they listen; they advocate; they identify needs and articulate ways of responding; they listen; they learn and fail and they learn and try again.  They listen. They risk. They think about the impossible and the unlikely, and evolve ways of bringing visions into reality. They listen to others; they listen to their hearts and thoughts. At times they are lonely, but they risk by trying the improbable, while convincing others to share in the adventure of building tomorrow’s community and institutions.

            I have tried to classify four types of leaders that I have seen over the decades. When one discusses leadership I cannot emphasize enough my belief that leadership can come from within  the ranks, rather than from the titled leaders of a given organization. Nachshon, the first to go into the Red Sea, was one such. It was not Moses who went first, but rather someone who believed and was ready to risk by acting, taking the first step without fear because of his beliefs.  Two of the other categories describe most of us most of the time and the third some of us, some of the time. The Nachshonism - those who are not afraid to confront the new, by setting an example and risking being first in effectuating change. The Bonim - those who build on the ideas of others by learning to distill the wisdom and utilize it in their workplace. The Achronim - those who wait, seek out options and follow those from whom they get knowledge and inspiration and often learn to emulate.

            And finally the Akshanim - who find it difficult to change and adapt to change or who truly believe they are correct in their beliefs or perceptions and are prepared to stand up for their positions.  

            In truth, most of us are an amalgam of the four.  At one time or another we slip in and out of the four roles. If we’re insightful enough, we do this consciously, avoiding the Akshan role if it is based on stubbornness alone. 

            I can but list some of the issues I feel the School must help address in the years ahead. These issues include:

  • the ramifications of changing Jewish demography, the numbers, changing family structures, birth rates, longevity,   Jews of Color, to name but a few..
  • Attitudes toward Israel.
  • Attitudes toward gays, Lesbians, and  transgender Jews.
  • Redistribution of wealth and the ramifications on the future generations and institutions,
  • The accelerated development of “non-traditional” organizations and systems, (e.g. independent minyanim, independent Jewish NGO’s, attitudes toward “organized Jewish institutions”, unaffiliated Jews)
  • Jewish communal service itself, its schools and training programs, roles of  professionals and lay people.
  • The use and misuse of business models in the non for profit sector.

            Few of us will be the kind of founders like the Rabbis Wise. The very scale of accomplishments of both men boggles the mind. Yet, most of us will have the opportunity to be builders of something within and /or outside of the “established Jewish settings and system.”  There are attributes and styles of leadership which build upon the capacity to assess the situation and provide the opportunity to act accordingly.

            Ron Heifetz, a long time student of leadership styles and roles, speaks of the need to sometimes get in the balcony. He means to develop the ability to withdraw from action and learn to assess more carefully, what is actually taking place. One’s abilities to adapt, rethink, reshape and learn is then enhanced. The result is a more conscious use of one’s own beliefs, principles and abilities.

            May we have the capacity and wisdom to consciously choose the roles most appropriate to life’s challenges.. May the memories and accomplishments of the leaders and the models our founders have bequeathed us, embolden us to have our own visions and act upon them to the greatest level of our own capacities.

            I hope the school, its administration, faculty and students continue to flourish as they continue to build upon the foundations of the past forty years. Let the future continue to unfold with values intact, vision ever-evolving, changes being effectuated while dreams continue for all who serve our Jewish people and human kind.

 

Keyn Yehi Ratzon! And let us say together. Baruch Atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu v'kiy'manu v'higianu laz'man hazeh.

 

A special thank you to Benjamin E. Bloom, MAJCS '09 for his assistance in editing and for


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first 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 American Jewish Archives, 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