The havoc wreaked by Hurricane Sandy these past few days has been of catastrophic proportion. Our hearts and sympathy go out to all who have been adversely affected. Indeed, we are all surely devastated by the tragic loss of lives, and deeply saddened by the sight of homes and communities destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. For those who are still suffering from damage and disruption from the hurricane, please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you. In the face of this disaster, I can only express the hope that all of you who are reading this as well as your loved ones are safe and sound. .
Many of you who have contacted me have asked specifically about our New York School and the safety of our students. I am happy to report that all our students are safe. Dean Shirley Idelson and our New York Director of Operations Harriet Lewis have provided outstanding leadership and oversight to our New York campus from the moment that Hurricane Sandy hit, and they have been tireless in leading our HUC-JIR communal efforts to provide needed support for our students who are in distress. They have also been active in guiding our students towards community volunteer efforts in New York City and the greater New York area for the millions who are in need. I am grateful to both of them for their outstanding leadership in this crisis.
As I write these words, electrical power has not returned to lower Manhattan south of 36th Street. Consequently, the College-Institute, located on West Fourth Street, remains closed today and tomorrow, just as it has all week. Presuming that the electricity has returned by the week-end, our building will be reopen and classes in New York will resume on Monday.
Should electrical power not be restored, I am moved to report that Chancellor Arnold Eisen of the Jewish Theological Seminary spontaneously reached out to me and he and his staff have extended themselves to the College-Institute. They have graciously offered to host our faculty and students so that classes can be held next week on the JTS campus should power not be restored downtown by Monday. Regardless of what will occur during the next three days, I am grateful to Chancellor Eisen and the Seminary for this meaningful act of hesed. It testifies to the reality of the value of Jewish communal unity, “Kol yisrael areivin zeh la-zeh – all Israel is responsible for one another.” In the spirit of hakarat ha-tov, the recognition of the good, I would express my gratitude to Chancellor Eisen and all his staff for this generous and spontaneous offer of hachnasat orchim, the welcoming of guests.
Our history teaches us that there is an ineffable spark to the human spirit that allows us to respond to catastrophe with hope and a belief in the future. May these sparks of optimism and the good that are taking place even in the face of this horrific disaster light up these difficult days and give us all the strength to move forward as together we rebuild and repair our world.
With heartfelt wishes and warm regards,
Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., President
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. www.huc.edu