Dr. Jonathan Cohen Appointed Dean of :Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati: :New Era of Leadership for Birthplace of American Reform Judaism

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dr. Jonathan Cohen, Associate Professor of Talmud and Halachic Literature, has been appointed Dean of the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) as of September 1, 2011.  

Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President, said, “Dr. Jonathan Cohen’s appointment represents a new era of vibrant leadership for our Cincinnati campus, the birthplace of Reform Judaism in America and an internationally renowned center for academic study, scholarship, and educational and cultural outreach that actively engages the Cincinnati community and larger region.  As the new Dean, he will continue to enhance the campus’s stellar academic programs, further develop HUC-JIR’s flourishing partnerships with the academic and religious institutions of Cincinnati, and implement his passionate commitment to fully integrate this campus into the larger Cincinnati community and the region. Dr. Cohen brings the best of Israeli and European intellectual traditions in his academic fields to bear on his study and teaching, and has found a way to communicate them brilliantly in a North American context.  As Director of the joint Ethics Center of HUC-JIR and the University of Cincinnati, he has strengthened relations with UC and other academic and cultural institutions throughout the city through significant national symposia, conferences, lectures, and other public programs exploring contemporary moral issues.  During the past year, as Director of Outreach Education, he has galvanized the Cincinnati campus, its faculty, and the research resources of the Klau Library, American Jewish Archives, and Skirball Museum to offer innovative public programming that has succeeded in attracting Cincinnatians of all faiths to the campus.  Dr. Cohen has represented HUC-JIR in the Strategic Planning Process of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and is on the Board of the University of Cincinnati Hillel.”

Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati was founded in 1875 by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the founder of American Reform Judaism, as the site of the first rabbinical seminary in North America.  Today the campus is renowned as one of the treasures of the city for its Rabbinical School and School of Graduate Studies and the Klau Library and American Jewish Archives, as an international center for advanced academic research and publication, and as a dynamic cultural and educational venue offering public programs fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. Dr. Cohen is the 4th person to serve as Dean of the campus since Hebrew Union College merged with the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 1950.  He succeeds Rabbi Kenneth E. Ehrlich, who will now serve as Counselor to the President.

Dr. Cohen stated, “Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Cincinnati campus is a historic and vibrant center for the education and training of liberal Judaism’s future leaders and the education of scholars of all faiths. Its faculty includes nationally and internationally recognized scholars in a variety of fields of Jewish and interfaith studies, its Klau Library and the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives constitute one of the finest research collections and facilities in Judaica and Hebraica in the world, and its Archeology Center and Skirball Museum display hundreds of remarkable artifacts collected over the past century. Our task is to build upon our strengths and successes in advancing the mission of the College-Institute and to enhance our school’s programs in Cincinnati. We have a mandate  to raise the profile of this campus as a center of study and innovation adding sustenance to the life of our greater academic community and transforming the religious and cultural experience of Jews and non-Jews in our region and beyond. It is an extraordinary honor and privilege to serve this unique center of Jewish scholarship and religious life.”   

An Israeli-born scholar and emerging major figure in the academic study of Jewish Law, Dr. Cohen’s interests include the history of law, law and religion, and, in particular, the evolution of Jewish law in Christian Europe.  His areas of expertise encompass Jewish law and modernity, medieval response, human rights and religion, and halachah and ethics.

Dr. Cohen was appointed Assistant Professor in Talmud and Halachic Literature at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati in 1998, promoted to Associate Professor in 2006, and granted tenure in 2010.  He has served as the Director of the HUC-UC Ethics Center since January 2001. In November 2003, he was awarded the Rabbi Michael Matuson Professorship for Emerging Scholars, and was named Affiliate Member of the Laboratoire des etudes sur les Monothéismes of the French CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) in August 2005.  

He read law at the University of Kent, Canterbury, and earned his Ph.D. (Law) from the University of Liverpool. His research focused on the evolution of restitution as a civil remedy in medieval Jewish law. At the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies he was the first David Patterson Junior Fellow in Jewish Law.

The editor of Studies in Jewish Commercial Law (The Jewish Law Association, 2009), Dr. Cohen has published articles on the status of Jewish married women, on the evolution of Jewish welfare law, on rabbinic perceptions of Jewish solidarity, on Jewish bioethics, and on Jewish law and modernity, and in human rights and Jewish law.

At the HUC-UC Ethics Center, he extended HUC-JIR’s renown by convening and participating in major national symposia on a broad range of issues, including poverty, welfare and religion; gender stereotypes; censorship and the visual arts; emergency care in time of war; the role of the media at times of war; education, discipline, and equal access; capital punishment; end of life treatment and care; ethical decisions in housing; and family violence.  

During the past academic year, Dr. Cohen spearheaded a revitalization of the campus’s community outreach through an exciting and popular series of lectures, concerts, film programs, and exhibitions that welcomed the Cincinnati community onto the campus.  He initiated the campus’s website (www.hucinci.org) and social media efforts to strengthen this outreach and build relationships with the larger community.  Through his efforts, the campus welcomed hundreds of new visitors and raised the visibility of HUC-JIR far and wide.

Dr. Cohen has presented at conferences internationally, including at New York University Law School, Hebrew University, the Academic Coalition for Jewish Bioethics, Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique, St. Thomas University School of Law, Xavier University, Notre Dame University, Council of Jewish Museums, National Conference on Nursing Administration Research, Conference of Central Conference of American Rabbis, Union for Reform Judaism Biennial Convention, National Archives and Records Administration, and British Association of Jewish Studies.

Dr. Cohen and his wife, Yael Senamaud, are the residents of Hyde Park and the parents of two sons, Eden and Yasha. French-born violist and viola teacher, Yael Senamaud is a member of the Orchesta de la Communidad Valenciana, led by Lorin Maazel and Zubin Mehta, since 2006. She was appointed to the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris in 2003. Starting in the late 1990’s, she has worked extensively with the Opera de Paris, Ensemble Intercontemporain, and Orchestre de Paris.  An experienced chamber musician, Yael has been playing a wide range or repertoires from baroque to contemporary music in a variety of ensembles. She is a founding member of the trio Interlude (flute, viola, harp) and of the Alizes and Albaran quartets. A graduate of the National Conservatory in Paris, she holds a Graduate Performance Diploma from Peabody Conservatory. Since her arrival in Cincinnati in 2007, Senamaud has played with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Concert Nova, the Constella Trio, and ProMusica in Columbus. She currently serves as Principal Violist in the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first 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