Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) awarded Rabbi Erica Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to the Reform Movement and the Jewish people. The presentation was made on May 3 at HUC-JIR’s Graduation Ceremonies at Congregation Emanu-El in the City of New York.
Rabbi Ellenson stated, “Rabbi Yoffie’s rabbinate and leadership serve as a model of commitment to the Jewish people. His concern for Jewish continuity is reflected in his abiding dedication to Torah and tradition. As a spokesperson for American Jewry, he has been a pioneer in interfaith relations and has launched Movement-wide dialogue with both Christians and Muslims. His deep attachment to the State of Israel informs his devotion to pluralism for the sake of the Jewish people.”
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie was installed as President of the Union for Reform Judaism, the congregational arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in North America representing 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues across North America, in June 1996 and will complete his tenure of 16 years of distinguished leadership in June 2012. Rabbi Yoffie has led the Reform Movement in exciting new directions, moving congregational life toward greater attention to Torah study and adult literacy. He has spearheaded a major expansion of the Union's summer camping program. In 2005 he introduced the Sacred Choices curriculum to teach sexual ethics to teens in camps and congregations.
Rabbi Yoffie has announced two worship initiatives. The first, in 1999, was designed to help congregations become "houses in which we pray with joy." The second, eight years later, encouraged congregations to rethink their Shabbat morning worship and fostered Shabbat observance among individual Reform Jews.
Rabbi Yoffie has been a pioneer in interfaith relations and has launched Movement-wide dialogue programs with both Christians and Muslims. In 2005, he was the first Jew to address the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. In 2006, he accepted the invitation of the Rev. Jerry Falwell to address the students and faculty of Liberty University, where he spoke frankly of areas of agreement and disagreement. In 2007, Rabbi Yoffie was the first leader of a major Jewish organization to speak at the convention of the Islamic Society of North America.
Rabbi Yoffie has also been deeply involved in issues of social justice and community concern. A prominent spokesperson for sensible gun control, he was the only religious leader to speak at the Million Mom March in Washington, DC. He has also worked tirelessly on behalf of the Jewish state and the rights of Reform Jews in Israel, and meets frequently with Israel's elected officials.
Raised in Worcester, MA, Rabbi Yoffie was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 1974, and served congregations in Lynbrook, NY, and Durham, NC, before joining the Union in 1980.
Rabbi Yoffie is a regular blogger for the Huffington Post and the Jerusalem Post.