HUC-JIR Presents Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, to B. Elka Abrahamson

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, awarded Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson with the Doctor of Divinity at Graduation Ceremonies in New York on Thursday, April 29, 2010, at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York.  Rabbi Abrahamson was honored for 25 years of scholarly distinction as an alumna of HUC-JIR.

Rabbi Abrahamson received her MAHL degree from HUC-JIR/Los Angeles in 1983 and, two years later, she was ordained at HUC-JIR/New York.  Following ordination, Rabbi Abrahamson began working at Peninsula Temple Beth El, where she founded the Ganon Infant and Childcare Center and PAJE, the Combined Adult Jewish Learning Initiative on Peninsula.  In 1993, Rabbi Abrahamson relocated to St. Paul, MN to become the Co-Senior Rabbi at Mount Zion Hebrew Congregation, where, in a unique partnership with her husband, Rabbi Misha Zinkow, she was jointly responsible for all aspects of a senior rabbinate in a congregation of 750 households.  At Mount Zion, Rabbi Abrahamson successfully revived the worship experience with participatory Shabbat services and she created “Gesher” and “Kulam,” programs for congregants and religious school children with special needs. 

Rabbi Abrahamson currently works at the Wexner Foundation in Columbus, OH.  She was the Director of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship from 2001 through 2005.    She developed the Graduate Fellowship program, recruited applicants, mentored fellows, and represented the program to the larger community.  During her tenure as Director, Rabbi Abrahamson assisted in establishing a partnership with Bill and Karen Davidson Family Foundation, expanding the program to include a cohort of Davidson Scholars.  Since 2005, she has been the Vice President of Leadership Programs at the Wexner Foundation.  She is responsible for the programs, policies, and strategic planning for the Foundation’s leadership initiatives, a major component of the Foundation's activities.  In her role as Vice President, she supervises the Directors of the Wexner Heritage Program, the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Program, and the Wexner Israel Fellowship Program as well as the Israel Fellowship Harvard Coordinator.

Rabbi Abrahamson was the Alumna-in-Residence at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles in 1990 and at HUC-JIR/New York in 2002.  She participated in Hadassah’s Commission on The Jewish Woman.  She has been published in Shma, Moment, and the CCAR Journal.  She received the Bernard Reisman Award for the Outstanding Jewish Communal Professional and gave the Graduation Address at Brandeis for the Communal Service Program in 2005. 

Rabbi Abrahamson is the mother of Elan, Amir, Yael, and Maya.


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 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 Jacob Rader Marcus Center of 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