HUC-JIR Celebrates Vision of Founders Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise at Founders' Day - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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HUC-JIR Celebrates Vision of Founders Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise at Founders' Day

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Each year, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion celebrates the enduring vision of Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, founder of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, founder of the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.

The New York campus of HUC-JIR is commemorating Founders’ Day with a celebration of JIR at 90, the ninetieth anniversary of the founding of the Jewish Institute of Religion, on March 18. The event will include a student-led service with the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music Choir.  Following the service, the New York campus will host a panel discussion on "JIR: History and Legacy," focusing on the founding and history of the Jewish Institute of Religion with an eye towards how it informs the present moment in American Jewish life.  Panelists include Dr. Jonathan Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and Chief Historian of the new National Museum of American Jewish History; Dr. Mark A. Raider, Professor of Modern Jewish History in the Department of History at the University of Cincinnati and a Research Associate in the University’s Center for Studies in Jewish Education and Culture; and Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Dean, HUC-JIR/New York.  The panel will be moderated by Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., President, HUC-JIR.  Dr. Sarna will provide context for the emergence of JIR as a pluralistic Jewish institution in the early 1920s. Rabbi Idelson will focus on the early history of JIR, while Dr. Raider will concentrate on Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, with a particular emphasis on the 1930s.

Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Dean, HUC-JIR/New York, stated, “JIR pioneered a new approach to rabbinical training for twentieth century American liberal Jewry.  In many ways, the JIR vision remains as relevant today as it was ninety years ago; of course, much has changed, too.  As we look to current and future challenges, I hope this celebration will enable us to find inspiration in our founders' mission and their courage to make it real.  Their aim was to prepare students in contemporary ways to meet the critical needs of the Jewish community of their time, and this remains our task today.
"As we celebrate our past," Idelson said, "we commit ourselves to to providing exemplary training to another generation of Jewish religious leaders who promise to ensure a strong future for progressive Judaism and for our people."

We are grateful to Rabbi Herbert and Esther Rose for underwriting the festivities in honor of Herbert's father, Rabbi Morris M. Rose, who was a member of JIR's Class of 1926, the first JIR class to be ordained as rabbis.  Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff, Vice President for Special Projects, noted, "Five members of the Rose family have been ordained as rabbis by HUC-JIR.  Theirs is an historic legacy of rabbinic education."

The College-Institute will also honor the Stephen S. Wise Free Synagogue, which, working under Stephen S. Wise's leadership, established JIR by contributing not only their rabbis' time and energy for this purpose, but also their lay leadership, generous financial backing, and the building that would house JIR throughout the school's history and after the merger with HUC, until the New York School moved to it’s current home at West Fourth Street.

The Jack H. Skirball Campus of HUC-JIR in Los Angeles will celebrate Founders’ Day with speaker Robin M. Kramer, Commissioner of the Port of Los Angeles and an independent organization and management consultant, during the 2013 Fisher Family Lecture on March 19. Kramer will present “Jewish Wings and Feet in The City of Angels.”

Robin M. Kramer has been a creative leader in Los Angeles for more than three decades, combining her love of and commitment to the community with varied experience in the public, private, philanthropic, and nonprofit sectors. She currently divides her time as a Commissioner of the Port of Los Angeles and as an independent organization and management consultant, where the work centers on assisting imaginative organizations in fomenting focus, creating opportunity and nimbly embracing challenges.  Robin holds a BA in Political Studies and Journalism from Pitzer College and an MA in Urban Studies from Occidental College.  Robin and Neil Kramer live in Los Angeles and have three terrific sons, Gabe, Daniel and Ben. 

Dr. Joshua Holo, Dean, HUC-JIR/Jack H. Skirball Campus/Los Angeles, explained, “The Fisher Family Lecture was designed to engage with intellectual and community leaders on matters of civic and cultural moment on Founders’ Day. I can hardly imagine a better person to address those issues than Robin Kramer. Chief of Staff to two mayors of Los Angeles (one from each party), a former President of Temple Israel of Hollywood, and one of our mostly highly regarded civic leaders, Robin brings to the Skirball Campus a perspective that will inform the education of our students in ways that none other can.”

During the ceremony at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati on March 21, the College-Institute will recognize Alvin Lipson, President of Midwest Centers, Ltd., and Urban Management, Inc., as its special honoree. Mr. Lipson is Governor Emeritus of the HUC-JIR Board of Governors and Chair Emeritus of the HUC-JIR Central Region Board of Overseers. His long career in real estate includes serving as President of the Cincinnati Apartment Association and as a member of the American Institute of Architects, The International Council of Shopping Centers, and the City of Cincinnati zoning board. He has also served as co-chair of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s Shomrim Division and as a board member of the Glen Manor Home for the Jewish Aged and the Isaac Mayer Wise Temple. He and his wife Gloria have three children and reside in Cincinnati.

In addition, the Cincinnati campus will present honorary doctorate degrees to alumni who have taught the faith, culture, and ethics of Reform Judaism for 25 years. Rabbi Jonathan Cohen, Ph.D., Dean, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, noted, "We are so proud and delighted in the achievements of our alumni, and look forward to recognizing them as models of Jewish leadership and service on our historic Cincinnati campus." 

This year, eight alumni will be so honored:

  • Rabbi Gary Joel Robuck, M.A.H.L., Senior Rabbi, North Shore Temple Emanuel, New South Wales, Australia
  • Rabbi Susan Miller Rheins, Jewish Community Educator, Chai Mitzvah, Denver Coordinator, Englewood, Colorado.
  • Rabbi David A. Lipper, M.A.H.L., Interim Rabbi, Congregational B’nai Israel, Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Rabbi Sharyn Henry, Associate Rabbi, Rodef Shalom Congregation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Rabbi Janice B. Garfunkel, Former Rabbi, Temple Sholom, Springfield, Ohio
  • Rabbi Steven W. Engel, Senior Rabbi, Congregation of Reform Judaism, Orlando, Florida
  • Rabbi Lucy H.F. Dinner, Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Or, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Rabbi Kathy Schwartz Cohen, Temple Emanuel, Roanoke, Virginia

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.