A HANUKKAH REDEDICATION CEREMONY IN MEMORY OF DR. ALFRED GOTTSCHALK
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2009 at THE JACOB RADER MARCUS CENTER OF THE AMERICAN JEWISH ARCHIVES
The sixth night of Hanukkah was particularly memorable on the historic Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College this year. A moving program in memory of Dr. Alfred Gottschalk took place on Wednesday evening, December 16, 2009 in The Marcus Center’s Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati International Learning Center. The program was preceded by a Hanukkah reception. The event, chaired by Richard Weiland, provided an opportunity for nearly sixty attendees—including Mr. Tom Cody, Executive Vice-President of Macy’s, the Honorable & Mrs. S. Arthur Spiegel, several HUC-JIR Board members, faculty, students and staff of HUC—to pay tribute to the life and career of the late Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, who died on September 12, 2009. The evening included remarks from Dr. Michael Berenbaum, former Director of the United States Holocaust Research Institute at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and now Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute on the Holocaust at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, where he also serves as a Professor of Jewish Studies. (Berenbaum is also Executive Editor of the New Encyclopedia Judaica that reworked and broadened the classic 1972 work.)
Dr. Berenbaum spoke to the gathering via video-conference from Macedonia in the AJA’s Electronic Classroom. Dr. Berenbaum entitled his remarks, Remembering My Friend and Colleague—Dr. Alfred Gottschalk.
Berenbaum recalled his colleague as a mensch—a man known to all by his kindness, friendliness, warmth and wisdom. Dr. Gottschalk, he said, used his manifold gifts to become one of the most effective, innovative and dynamic Jewish leaders of our time.
Berenbaum shared his remembrances of working with Dr. Gottschalk during the earliest days of planning the proposed U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum in Washington. (From 1988–1993 Dr. Berenbaum served as Project Director of the Museum, overseeing its creation.) In 1978—as head of HUC-JIR—Dr. Gottschalk was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. It became an effort to which Rabbi Gottschalk gave enormous time and energy. Though Rabbi Gottschalk had significant demands on his time with four campuses to operate and oversee, he nevertheless embraced the proposed Museum as a calling. Dr. Berenbaum remembered how Dr. Gottschalk made the staff of HUC-JIR available to the Museum for planning its new Library and Archive.
Dr. Gottschalk accepted a leadership role of the Museum at a critical moment of leadership transition, following the 1986 resignation of Elie Wiesel. Gottschalk agreed to serve as Council-appointed interim chairman for a critical three-month period— until a new chairman was selected by President Reagan. Dr. Gottschalk regarded this period as the highest point of his service to the Museum, steering the Council leadership through a difficult leadership void and paving the way for a relatively smooth transition. His considerable efforts ensured that the Council would indeed overcome the challenging strain it was under and continue to function—even thrive.
Event attendees also heard how under Dr. Gottschalk’s leadership, the HUC-JIR was set on firm financial footing. During his remarkable tenure, he opened both the Rabbinical and Cantorial School to women and ordained the first woman rabbi of the contemporary era (Sally Priesand). He also established the first school of Jewish Communal Service and also was the first to train Israelis for the Reform rabbinate in Israel. (The first Israeli woman Reform rabbi was ordained in 1992.)
The evening’s program also included a brief video tribute to Dr. Gottschalk. The tribute is posted online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNXBr8-6gOA.
According to Dean Kenneth Ehrlich, the Hanukkah evening event was the first of several such programs that will be held throughout 2010 to honor the 135th anniversary of HUC in Cincinnati. The anniversary celebrations will culminate at the Cincinnati Associates’ gala dinner event that will be held on October 24, 2010. Funds raised at the gala will be dedicated towards permanently memorializing Dr. Gottschalk's name in association with the School of Graduate Studies in Cincinnati. For more information, please contact Phyllis Volan at 513-487-3032.