Members of the Board of Governors Israel Committee traveled to Israel for four days of intensive meetings with governmental leaders of the State of Israel, heads of Israel’s academic institutions, and leaders of Israel’s Progressive Movement, culminating in the Jerusalem School’s Ordination and Academic Convocation on October 28, 2010. Led by Committee Co-Chairs John Golden and David Harman, the delegation included Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President; Irwin Engelman, Chairman, Board of Governors, Rosalyn Engelman; Dr. Jane Karlin, Vice President for Institutional Advancement; Governors Burton Lehman, Frederic Lane, Martin Cohen; and New York Overseer Sam Simon and Susan Simon.
The mission began with a seminar with Dr. Zvia Walden, head of the Institute for Initiatives, Language and Computers and Senior Lecturer at Beit Berl College and Ben Gurion University, who received an honorary doctorate from HUC-JIR at the Ordination Convocation. The group met with leaders of the Israel Renaissance Movement, including Dr. Moti Zeira of “Midrashah” in Oranim; Rabbi Motti Bar Or of “Kollot”; Eiran Baruch of “Binah”; Eli Bareket of “Mizrach Shemesh”, and Dr. Ruhama Weiss, Director of the Mezorim Program of the Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem.
The Committee was updated on the political, sociological, demographic, and geographic aspects of Jerusalem 2010 by Dr. Elan Ezrachi, followed by a tour of the renovated Israel Museum, lunch with Dr. Nava Ben Zvi, President of Hadassah College, and a meeting with Anat Hoffman, director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and Women of the Wall.
A panel discussion with journalists and Middle East experts included Ethan Bronner of The New York Times, Eeta Prince Gibson of The Jerusalem Report, and Charles Levinson of The Wall Street Journal.
The mission provided insight into the Jerusalem campus’s broad range of programs, including a presentation by Dr. Marc Rosenstein, director of the Israel Rabbinical Program (IRP) and dinner with the IRP students, as well as an introduction to the Year-In-Israel Program and a reception with its 62 students spending their first year of study in Jerusalem.
A day in Tel Aviv included a meeting with U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham; a visit to Mechina, the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism’s Pre-Army program in Jaffa and a meeting with 50 young adults committed to liberal Judaism and preparing for service in the Israel Defense Forces; and lunch at Congregation Beit Daniel with HUC-JIR alumnus Rabbi Meir Azari to learn about the expanding Reform presence reaching thousands of Israelis in the greater Tel Aviv area.
The Committee met with the Oversight Committee of Amuta, including Leslie Sacks, Dorit Carlin, Avichai Rosenthal, and David Harman, Chairman of the Jerusalem Board of Overseers.
The delegates had the opportunity to join with the Year-In-Israel students in a session on “Memory and Memorial.”
Major Israeli leaders met with the group, including Cabinet Ministers Yitzhak (Buji) Herzog (Social Welfare), Avishai Braverman (Minorities Affairs), and Members of Knesset representing Israel’s diverse political parties, including Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), Yohanan Plessner (Kadimah), and Shlomo Mula (Kadimah). They were accompanied by Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), and Anat Hoffman of IRAC.
The Israel Committee met jointly with the Jerusalem Overseers and IMPJ Board, and dined with Israeli alumni and faculty of the Jerusalem campus.
President Shimon Peres received the delegation and the four Israeli rabbinical students to be ordained the next day at his official residence. Professor Ben Sasson, President of the Hebrew University hosted a luncheon with the group at the Mount Scopus campus, in conjunction with the Melton Centre for Jewish Education, HUC-JIR’s partner in the joint M.A. program in Pluralistic Jewish Education. They also met with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at City Hall.
The culmination of the mission was the Ordination and Academic Convocation, preceded by dinner with he ordinees and those receiving honors and honorary degrees the evening before. The mission concluded with tea at the YMCA with Forsan Hussein, its first Muslim Executive Director and Friday night services with the Year-In-Israel students.