Four Israeli Reform Rabbis Ordained at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Four Israeli Reform Rabbis Ordained at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem

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Monday, November 1, 2010

(From left to right: Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean of HUC-JIR/Jerusalem; Rabbi Haim Shalom; Rabbi Zohar Ufaz Lipsky; Rabbi Myra Hovav Katz; Rabbi Gaby Dagan; Rabbi David Ellenson, President of HUC-JIR; Rabbi Mark Rosenstein, Director of the Israel Rabbinical Program at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem)

The Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion held its Ordination and Academic Convocation on Friday, October 29, 2010 at 13 King David Street, Jerusalem, Israel.  Please click here to view the 2010 program. 

Four new Israeli Reform rabbis were ordained: Zohar Ufaz-Lipsky, Gabriel (Gabby) Dagan, Myra Hovav, and Haim Shalom.


Zohar Ufaz-Lipsky was born and raised on Kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar in the Upper Galilee. Her parents, Aviva and Gad Ufaz, are the children of pioneers who came to the country from Europe, and were key figures in the spiritual and cultural life of the region and the kibbutz movement. Zohar was educated in the “communal education” of the kibbutz movement, studying in the local elementary school and in the regional junior-high school in Kfar Blum. She attended high school in the neighboring town of Hatzor Haglilit, and lived in the town as part of a commune for 12th-grade students.

After completing her studies, Zohar worked as a counselor in the Kibbutz Section of the youth movement Hanoar Ha’oved Vehalomed. She performed her military service in the Nachal Brigade as a platoon commander. After her release from the army, and a further year working as a counselor with young kibbutzniks, she began BA studies in criminology, sociology, and Jewish philosophy at Bar Ilan University. During her studies, she was a political activist in organizations opposing the occupation.

Zohar’s friends and her former charges in the youth movement encouraged her to take part in establishing the Midrasha at Oranim Teachers' Seminary. In addition to her informal education work in the field of Jewish identity, Zohar also began to teach in schools and to train teachers. Together with her friends at the Midrasha, she sought educational and communal tools that could enhance Jewish identity and reflect the emerging bond with the Jewish sources.

Zohar married Baruch, a teacher and historian. The couple have three children: Ido, Yair, and Hagar. They have made their home in Kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar. Zohar gained an MA in Jewish philosophy from Haifa University, and in 2002 the family traveled as educational emissaries to the Jewish community school in Toronto, Canada (CHAT). During their time in Toronto, the family was exposed to the world of North American liberal Judaism. Her membership in Beit Reyim Synagogue and her experiences in Ramah summer camp led Zohar to rabbinical studies.

Since returning to Israel, Zohar has worked as a teacher and educator at Anne Frank High School in Kibbutz Sasa. She leads Kabbalat Shabbat services for her kibbutz community and meets the needs of many local residents seeking an egalitarian Jewish way to mark lifecycle events.

Gabriel (Gabby) Dagan was born in Hatzor Haglilit, a development town in northern Israel, in 5729-1968. He grew up in a traditionally religious home. His late mother, Esther, came to Israel from Morocco, while his father is of Persian origin. Gabby studied at state-religious schools in Hatzor and at the Bnai Akiva yeshiva in Kfar Haro’eh, as the student of Rabbi Moshe Zvi Nerya.

After completing his military service as a chaplain, Gabby decided to leave the Orthodox way of life. He embarked on academic studies, completing a BA in sociology, anthropology, and political science at Haifa University. He recently completed (cum laude) an MA in Jewish history. During his studies he worked as a research assistant and teaching assistant in the field of international relations.

In 1997, Gabby was among the founders of Ma’arag, an association that seeks to promote multiculturalism in Israeli society. He worked to encourage intercultural dialogue in Israel in the field of the absorption of immigrants from Ethiopia and the Former Soviet Union and to promote Jewish-Arab dialogue, particularly in northern Israel. Gabby developed curricula and worked as a group facilitator, leading hundreds of counselors and educators in dozens of programs designed to inculcate an awareness that intercultural encounters form a vital part of our life in Israel. Gabby was introduced to Reform Judaism through his work in Ma’arag and decided to continue his path within the movement.

Gabby’s rabbinic thesis, under the devoted supervision of Professor Yehoyada Amir, discusses the role of the revelation at Mt. Sinai in the literature of the Sages, the Middle Ages, modern times, and in the shaping of his own liberal theology. This study seeks to create a bridge between the Orthodox world to which he formerly belonged and the liberal world in which he now operates. Gabby’s interpretation of the revelation at Sinai, his effort to identify its function and ramifications, and his use of its lessons all serve to offer innovative liberal spiritual and religious meaning.

In the past two years, Gabby has served as the rabbi of Ohel Avraham Congregation in the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa. Next year, he will begin to work as the rabbi of the junior-high section at Leo Baeck.

Gabby is married to Lilach. They have two children: Gal (14) and Yam (8).

Myra Hovav was born in Jerusalem and holds BA and MA degrees in linguistics from the Department of English at Hebrew University. In her “former life,” she worked in computer programming, among other fields.

Myra was raised in a completely secular environment, but in a home that treasured the Jewish tradition and encouraged study in this field. As a young adult, Myra made an unsuccessful attempt to reject Jewish tradition entirely and live a liberated, secular life. She eventually found her way to the Reform community – firstly as an active lay member, and later in professional positions, the first of which was directing kindergartens in the Gannei Telem network.

During her studies in the Israel Rabbinical Program, Myra was involved in diverse fields: Jewish enrichment in early childhood; integrating people with special needs in the praying and studying community; working with Bnai and Bnot Mitzvah; developing a community support network; training musicians to accompany services and ceremonies; running services and ceremonies, and so forth. She is also currently completing her studies for an MA in Talmud and Midrash from the Schechter Institute.

Myra is active in the world of music and sees the musical experience as the most meaningful aspect of prayer. Her main effort in her work is to open doors to the world of liberal Judaism for the secular Israeli public and to make Jewish themes relevant and meaningful for this public.

Over the past year, Myra has led the community activities at Mishkenot Ruth – Beit Daniel in Jaffa, including Kabbalat Shabbat services and musical ceremonies, with an emphasis on modern Israeli content. In recent months she has worked as a community rabbi in the emerging new community in Gedera, as it takes its exciting first steps.

Myra continues to be active in various activities in the Zur Hadassah Congregation, where she first became involved in the Reform movement. She sees this community as her home and as a base for activities, experiments, and learning. She lives in the town with her family – her partner Gilad and their children Yael, Alon, Naomi, and Matan.

Haim Shalom was born in one of the coldest, darkest, wettest recesses of Jewish Exile – the English city of Manchester. There, he grew up in the Reform Youth Movement, RSY-Netzer. In 2002, after completing degrees in Jewish History and Middle Eastern studies at the University of London, at the heart of the second intifada, he thought it would be a good idea to make Aliyah. He now lives in Jerusalem with his partner Debbie and their son Aviv. Haim began his studies in the Israeli Rabbinical Program in 2006. Haim set out on his path at HUC with a naïve declaration that he intended to revolutionize the rabbinate from within and democratize Jewish community. He would like to use the Ordination ceremony as an opportunity to thank the College for allowing him to attempt to realize his dream.

Haim sees his rabbinical mission as lying in the field of education. Accordingly, he chose to study in the joint program for pluralistic Jewish education of HUC and the Hebrew University. He currently works in the field of education in various institutions, all connected with the Reform movement in Israel and around the world. He is currently the Education Director of the Reform Gap Year Program, Shnat Netzer, and is the Rabbi in Residence of the Israeli Reform Movement's Beit Midrash program for the North-Western Negev region. He will shortly start work as the Education Director of the Jerusalem synagogue, Mevakshei Derech. In between these various functions, Haim finds time to work as director of student recruitment at HUC, Jerusalem. He sees this position as an opportunity to help shape the future generations of the Reform world, and is proud to represent HUC, which has given him so much as a student.

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.