The Professor Sara S. Lee Chair for an Emerging Scholar in Jewish Education - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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The Professor Sara S. Lee Chair for an Emerging Scholar in Jewish Education

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Established in loving tribute by alumni of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, the leadership of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and leading donors to Jewish education across the country, The Professor Sara S. Lee Chair for an Emerging Scholar in Jewish Education acknowledges her lifetime of achievement in raising the level of leadership in Jewish education among the generations of students she has taught.   Professor Lee’s name is synonymous with excellence in Jewish education.  We are so proud of all that she has done to make the Rhea Hirsch School of Education the premier school of Jewish education in the country.  Professor Lee has been acknowledged with many significant honors during the 27 years she served as Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education.  This honor, initially bestowed upon Professor Lee at her retirement in 2007, established the chair and provided partial funding to ensure that her legacy lives on at the College-Institute.  With a generous gift by a donor devoted to Jewish education and matched by alumni, the Board of Overseers of the Los Angeles campus of HUC-JIR, and other donors, primarily in the Western Region, the chair is now funded.  Rabbi Tali E. Zelkowicz, Ph.D., was installed as the inaugural recipient of the Professor Sara S. Lee Chair in a ceremony on March 22, 2010.  This chair has secured the resources necessary for the Rhea Hirsch School of Education to advance in its efforts to provide exemplary educators for the future for our Jewish community.

Professor Sara S. Lee, M.A.J.E., M.S.Ed.

Professor Sara S. Lee is Director Emerita of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education and Adjunct Professor Emerita of Jewish Education at the Los Angeles campus of HUC-JIR. Her academic areas of specialization are curriculum, organizational and sociological phenomena, and education leadership as they relate to Jewish education.

Professor Lee is co-author with Dr. Mary C. Boys of Christians & Jews in Dialogue: Learning in the Presence of the Other, and has edited three books: A Congregation of Learners (with Isa Aron and Seymour Rossel), Touching the Future: Mentoring and the Jewish Professional (with Michael Zeldin), and Communities of Learning: A Vision for the Jewish Future.   She served on the National Commission on Jewish Identity and Continuity, the Wexner Foundation Graduate Fellowship Committee, and was a Vice Chair of the URJ Commission on Lifelong Jewish Learning.  She is a past President of the Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education.

In the area of religious education and interreligious dialogue, Professor Lee is the author of several articles that have appeared in Religious Education and has served as Chairperson of the Editorial Committee of the Religious Education Association. The Lilly Endowment awarded Professor Lee and Dr. Boys of Union Theological Seminary two grants to support a two-year colloquium for Catholic and Jewish educators.

In June 1997 Professor Lee was awarded the Samuel Rothberg Prize in Jewish Education by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In January 1999 Professor Lee received the degree of Doctor of Hebrew Letters, honoris causa, from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. The President of the State of Israel, in cooperation with the Education Department of the Jewish Agency for Israel, awarded Professor Lee the Pras HaNasi, the President's Award for Distinguished Leadership of Jewish Education in the Diaspora in February 2005.

Rabbi Tali E. Zelkowicz, Ph.D.

Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Rabbi Tali E. Zelkowicz (neé Hyman), Ph.D., completed her undergraduate work in Sociology at the University of British Columbia before attending HUC-JIR/Los Angeles.  Dr. Zelkowicz received an M.A. in Jewish Education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education in 2000 and was ordained as a rabbi in 2002.  She earned her doctorate at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development (2008) as a Wexner Graduate Fellow.  She received the 2006 Young Scholar's Award from the Network for Research in Jewish Education and was granted a Writing Dissertation Fellowship for the 2006-2007 year from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture.

Dr. Zelkowicz has been involved in educational leadership positions including elementary, teen, and adult settings for over ten years, ranging from rabbinical pulpits and classrooms to summer camps.  A member of the faculty of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, she teaches Sociology of Jewish Education, Professional Learning, and an Introduction to Jewish Education course to second-year rabbinical students.  She co-teaches Curriculum Design with RHSOE Director Dr. Michael Zeldin.  She also serves as the Director of Jewish Programming for DeLeT (Day School Leadership through Teaching), an innovative graduate level program designed to recruit, prepare, retain and professionalize teachers for Jewish day schools.  She coordinates California state credential courses, integrating classes such as “Health and Physical Education” with Jewish content, and teaches “Liturgy or Lethargy: Which Did We Learn? Which Do We Teach?” and “Day School and Society.”  She also teaches a Survey in Biblical and Rabbinic Sources to students in the School of Jewish Communal Service.


Established in loving tribute by alumni of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, the Professor Sara S. Lee Chair for an Emerging Scholar in Jewish Education was bestowed upon Sara in 2007 at her retirement. Sara's devoted alumni contributed, at that time, nearly $400,000 of the $900,000 raised. A recent gift of $300,000 was given to Rabbi David Ellenson as a challenge grant to help complete the funding of the $1.5 million chair. This was matched in a two-month campaign by contributions in excess of $350,000. Contributors included 22 members of the Los Angeles Board of Overseers who met the donor's requirements for the match with gifts of at least $7,500, plus an additional 8 Overseers participated, for a total of $214,000. Alumni, many of whom had generously donated during the original campaign, contributed another $75,000. The remaining gifts were from supporters of the Rhea Hirsch School, primarily in the Western Region.

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.