From left: Uri D. Herscher, Founding President and CEO of the Skirball Cultural Center; Josh Holo, Dean of the Jack H. Skirball Campus of HUC-JIR in Los Angeles; and Rabbi David Ellenson, President, HUC-JIR
The HUC-JIR/Los Angeles campus was named in tribute to and loving memory of Jack H. Skirball in a ceremony on Sunday, February 6, 2011, attended by members of the Boards of Governors and Overseers, faculty, students, and civic leaders of the Los Angeles community.
Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President, stated, "It is truly fitting that this campus be named after Jack Skirball, whose vision and philanthropy guided the creation of this campus and played a central role in acquiring its location. The Jack H. Skirball Campus pays tribute to his devotion and commitment to Jewish life and American society as a whole, and we are honored that his name will add to the prominence of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in the Los Angeles community and the larger world. We are enormously grateful to the Skirball Foundation for their generous gift of $10 million to sustain this campus and its mission to train the intellectual, spiritual, and professional leaders for the Reform Movement and klal Yisrael."
Dr. Uri D. Herscher, Founding President and Chief Executive of the Skirball Cultural Center, noted, “Jack H. Skirball believed deeply in the values of the Jewish tradition. He was often heard to say that the Jewish tradition has so much to contribute to the ideals of peace, social justice, integrity, and moral concepts. He felt it was essential for Jews and the rest of the world to be aware of the deep roots of the Jewish story. By having an integral role in the development and growth of the College-Institute throughout the decades, he had an opportunity, in his own way, to have a share in the telling of that story, a grand story the world would continue to relish.”
Born in Homestead, PA, Jack Skirball (1896-1985) was ordained at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati in 1921. After serving the congregational rabbinate for 12 years, he became the manager of Educational Films Corporation, a pioneer in the field of audiovisual education, and produced Birth of a Baby in 1938, the first motion picture to show the actual birth of a child and a cinematic landmark that prompted the opposition of religious groups. As President of Skirball Productions, he produced such film classics as Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942) and Shadow of a Doubt (1943). Beginning in the 1950s, he began his successful career as a real estate developer and created Vacation Village in San Diego, which became a model for family resorts across America. Skirball remained active in the Reform Movement, serving as Regional President for the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, assisting in the creation of new congregations, and generously supporting HUC-JIR.
He was responsible for securing the California state charter for HUC-JIR's Los Angeles campus, which was established in 1954 to strengthen and provide leadership for the proliferation of Jewish communities and Reform congregations throughout the Western United States. He was the guiding force behind its move to its five-acre current site, adjacent to the University of Southern California, in 1971. He established the Skirball Museum at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, the Skirball Museum at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, and the Skirball Museum and Center for Biblical and Archaeological Research at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem. The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles was named in Jack H. Skirball's honor, in recognition for his invaluable contributions at its inception and in tribute to his lifelong devotion to Jewish education and culture.
With its Rabbinical School, Rhea Hirsch School of Education (founded in 1970 to train educational leadership for the Reform Movement), and School of Jewish Nonprofit Management (founded in 1968 as the first professional school of Jewish communal service in the United States), this campus has prepared professionals to lead hundreds of Reform congregations and schools as well as Jewish communal organizations and agencies throughout North American and around the globe. The Jerome H. Louchheim School of Judaic Studies functions as the undergraduate Judaic Studies department for the University of Southern California (USC); the Edgar F. Magnin School of Graduate Studies offers graduate programs in Judaica and provides continuing education for alumni.
The campus's cutting edge research centers include the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health, advancing students' training in pastoral care and counseling and the exploration of religion, healing, and ethics for religious and health professionals; and the Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation, founded in 2000 to help educate HUC-JIR students on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues and to promote inclusivity of LGBT people within communities and congregations. The campus’s unique relationship with the University of Southern California provides for five dual degree options for HUC-JIR’s Jewish Nonprofit Management students, including an MBA (with the Marshall School of Business), an MPA (with the School of Planning, Policy, and Development), an MSW (from the School of Social Work), an MCMGT (from the Annenberg School of Communication), and an MPAS (from the Roski School of the Arts). HUC-JIR is also a partner with USC in the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, a joint project of HUC-JIR, USC, and the Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation and the only Muslim-Jewish think tank in the U.S. that benefits from the equal investment of both faith communities.