Message From the Dean and the YII Director - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Skip to main content

You are here

Message From the Dean and the YII Director

Main Content

From Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem

Dear Students,

Our ancestors began their journey to the Promised Land wandering for 40 years in the wilderness. We are asking you to do the opposite; start in the Promised Land and then journey home. This two-way journey can serve as a great backdrop to your story.

You have entered the "Promised Land" as you have been accepted to professions that are much more than professions. As future Cantors, Educators, Rabbis and Communal Workers you will dedicate your lives to the Jewish People; this is a sacred mission. We want this year to serve as the foundational experience for this lifetime commitment of service or "shlichut" (in Hebrew). Yet, as many of you know, and some of you will experience for the first time, Jerusalem itself is surrounded by the wilderness. This is the constant reminder of the call of the unknown, the mysterious, the uncertain, as it borders the majesty and constancy of a rebuilt Jerusalem. Jerusalem can present so many challenges and dilemmas, and suddenly there is something so reassuring about the hills that surround it,

We are asking you to leave your familiar, your family and friends and join a new community.  Hopefully this will become over time and with effort a community of colleagues and fellow travelers. Some of you will bring your loved ones along for the year or part of the year. We thank your spouses, SO's, and children in advance for supporting you on this journey.

This year, with all its demands and some built-in frustrations, is a gift. A year to give yourself the languages of the Jewish people: Modern Hebrew, Biblical Hebrew, Talmudic Hebrew, and Litugical Hebrew. This chorus of voices is meant to be just that, the chorus that will give moments for solo work, and just be the back up "singers" for your ongoing teaching, preaching, and leading.  We want you to know the modern State of Israel with a critical eye and a loving heart. We hope what emerges at the end is your unique voice, as you begin to pack your bags with the spiritual, intellectual, and academic materials that you have garnered.

Sometimes this year will feel like 40 years of wandering, at other times a great homecoming, gone in a flash. The faculty and administration in Jerusalem are honored and humbled year after year to launch our first year students on their sacred journey- from home to homeland and back!


Rabbi Naamah Kelman



From Dr. David Mendelsson, Director of the Year-In-Israel Program

Dear Students,

Congratulations on being accepted to the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion. Welcome to the Year-In-Israel program and your first year of studies at the College-Institute. My hope is that the year will be one of personal, spiritual and intellectual growth; a year in which you develop the multiple skills necessary to begin your journey as educators, rabbis and cantors. Our purpose is to facilitate this growth and we shall do our very best to provide the necessary conditions to prepare you for your future leadership roles in the Jewish community.

HUC-JIR maintains that you, the future professional leadership of the Reform Movement, cannot assume your responsibilities without acquiring a suitable level of knowledge and understanding of the Hebrew language. Towards this goal, the faculty and staff hope to foster an immersive, supportive environment for you to acquire and refine your Hebrew skills during our year together.  We also feel strongly that you, as future leaders of the Jewish people, must  begin to process and incorporate Israel – the people, land and state – into your own personal vision for the Jewish community.  Our hope is that being in Israel for the year, experiencing the rhythm of the Hebrew calendar and the privileges and responsibilities of living in a Jewish state will help you to define the role that Israel will play in your future careers.

Take advantage of being here.  Embrace each and every opportunity for learning, both in the classroom and outside. Your year here will offer a wealth of experiences, not only in our city of Jerusalem, but beyond. The faculty and program staff will facilitate many experiential learning opportunities, but, of course, many of the most valuable experiences will be dependent upon you and your own commitment to seeking them out. Students often struggle to find a balance between their studies and other outside activities, but, although your classes and school work will continue stateside, your year living here in Israel will likely be a unique and rare opportunity.

We wish you every success for the year ahead and pledge our support in making this a meaningful, significant and reflective year.

Dr. David Mendelsson,
Director, Year-In-Israel Program