HUC-JIR Cincinnati Campus

HUC-JIR’s Strategic Direction for the Future

After a two-year strategic planning process that included engagement, listening, analysis, and deliberation with hundreds of community stakeholders, the HUC-JIR Board of Governors approved a new path forward for the College-Institute in April 2022.

HUC-JIR will be building on its historic strengths – outstanding graduate programs that train Jewish leaders and scholars, world-class academic resources, and field-leading faculty – to bring increased innovation and flexibility to the institution, embracing a future where technology allows us to build communities of spiritual and academic inquiry that are not limited by our historic four-campus footprint.

We are consolidating our three U.S. rabbinical programs into one national rabbinical school operating on two residential campuses and creating a curriculum that is more flexible and outcomes-based, creating a new academically rigorous flexible residency clergy program to open up the rabbinate and cantorate to students who cannot relocate to a campus city, and reimagining our historic Cincinnati campus to ensure our world-class library, archives and museum serve students, scholars, and community learners in new and innovative ways.

Through a strategic planning process that began in 2020, HUC-JIR adopted the following goals for our work over the next five years.

  1. Educational Excellence: Strengthen Academic and Program Excellence in All Areas

    Why: To ensure the formation of innovative, inspirational, learned Reform clergy, Jewish leaders, and scholars who shape the evolving spiritual, organizational, cultural, and educational landscape of 21st-century Jewish life in North America, Israel, and beyond.

    How: Through a vibrant and dynamic faculty and student body, exceptional educational programs, field-leading academic scholarship, and a learning community actively engaged in Jewish life.

  1. Student Experience: Strengthen the Student Experience at HUC

    Why: To create vibrant learning communities that ensure the conditions for robust learning, spiritual growth, and professional development, which nurture and sustain our students during their education at HUC.

    How: By creating an inclusive HUC community that appropriately supports and challenges students intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. By ensuring our culture fosters strong personal relationships among classmates and with faculty and instills confidence in each student’s ability to pursue their professional calling and career upon graduation and ordination.

  1. Growing Our Impact: Expand the Reach of HUC’s Impact throughout the Jewish World

    Why: To cultivate and revitalize Jewish learning and Reform values throughout the Jewish world through the work of our graduates, and our faculty’s scholarship and thought leadership.

    How: Through the ordination, graduation, and placement of Jewish leaders to meet the spiritual and communal needs of our people, and by building public awareness of their work and ours through the teaching and writing of our faculty and students, to strengthen the student pipeline, support of our alumni, engagement with donors, and Jewish communities.

  1. Financial Sustainability: Manage HUC to Be Resilient and Financially Well-positioned for Our Future

    Why: To meet the unprecedented financial challenges of this moment, responsibly leverage and steward the sacred resources entrusted to us by donors, demonstrate mission impact that will present a strong case for giving, and ensure the thriving of our College-Institute for the next century.

    How: By striving for operational excellence, making strategic decisions to live within our means while investing in our future, optimizing our resources, and growing revenue through transformational fundraising and other revenue opportunities, all in response to our new and changing financial reality.

  1. Ensuring A Sacred And Respectful Culture: Secure HUC as a supportive learning community where all can thrive

    Why: To create a supportive and respectful environment at the College-Institute, recognizing that all of us, in all of our diversity, are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God.

    How: By an ongoing, steady approach to listening and learning in order to change our culture and align our actions to the highest ethical commitments of our institution. By combatting all abuses of power, bias, and discrimination, including those based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disabilities, national origin, and other important personal characteristics, and by setting expectations and holding each other accountable for our actions.

HUC-JIR developed the following initiatives to help us accomplish our strategic goals. These initiatives have broad consensus among our constituencies and many are already underway.

Goal 1: Educational Excellence

  1. Create a center for pedagogy and learning to support faculty becoming excellent teachers for internal programs and external audiences.
  2. Develop preparatory online courses for potential incoming students in Hebrew, Judaica, and other needed areas.
  3. Redesign and update our approach to faculty by leveraging best practices for hiring, performance evaluation, recognition, and reward.
  4. Begin consideration, design, and research for the creation of additional low-residency programs aimed at students for whom current programs are not accessible.

Goal 2: Student Experience

  1. Create a holistic structure of student development opportunities equally available to all students that include spiritual direction, writing tutoring, executive function coaching, assistance for mental health support, academic advising, professional supervision, and Jewish life mentoring.
  2. Create an Office of Student Support to support all students academically, emotionally, and spiritually.
  3. Create an environment where all students will thrive and seek to attract and enroll students from diverse populations (e.g. race, age, gender identity, ability, religious background).
  4. Create system-wide standards of quality when it comes to student fieldwork experiences (supervision, training, etc.).

Goal 3: Grow Our Impact

  1. Build our recruitment pipeline to meet the increasingly diverse needs of our congregations and communities.
  2. Expand alumni learning and create a HUC Speaker’s Bureau to match HUC resources with congregational needs.
  3. Partner with organizations that may be reaching a target audience of ours, to enhance visibility and recruitment – in Israel, stateside, and online.
  4. Ensure that programs already started (website, online learning, donor stewardship programs) are maximizing outreach to potential donors and alumni.
  5. Develop more joint programming with URJ, CCAR, and other Movement partners and create more clarity around roles so programming can be complementary and not competitive.

Goal 4: Financial Sustainability

  1. Improve financial management and reporting.
  2. Start to develop a fundraising approach and campaign built on HUC’s new strategy and 150th anniversary in 2025.
  3. Build a stronger HR function to create a more positive culture for faculty and staff.
  4. Continue the creation of an IT master plan to support new and existing initiatives with technology that is cutting-edge, accessible, and reliable.
  5. Centralize certain specific regional operations that currently create unnecessary bottlenecks or duplications, and create more organizational clarity.

On April 11, 2022, HUC-JIR’s Board of Governors voted to approve recommendations proposed by the Administration that position the College-Institute for a sustainable and vibrant future. These recommendations included: developing a flexible residency clergy program to serve students who cannot relocate to a campus city, sunsetting the College-Institute’s residential rabbinical program in Cincinnati after 2026, and reimagining our Cincinnati campus in ways that elevate our world-class academic resources located there – the Klau Library, American Jewish Archives, and Skirball Museum.

Throughout our two-year strategic planning process, we listened to hundreds of stakeholders, reviewed reams of data, and learned about our strengths and areas for potential growth. The process included two distinct phases: Phase 1) Stakeholder engagement, assessment and research; and Phase 2) presentation of recommendations to the Board of Governors and broad community engagement.

Phase 1 of the process included interviews and assessments, the development of our four strategic goals (educational excellence, student experience, growing our impact, and financial sustainability), and commitments to implement 17 quick-start initiatives and to build out internal capacity to support the goals in financial reporting, communications and marketing, development and alumni affairs, and recruitment and admissions.

Stakeholder Engagement

Over 350 interviews and focus group conversations were conducted during Phase 1 of the planning process with approximately 250 unique individuals. The following is a breakdown of participation:

  • 4 campus deans
  • 8 program directors
  • 32 faculty and staff from the HEART team
  • 18 members of the Strategic Planning Advisory Committee (SPAC) of the Board
  • 4 SPAC members comprised an additional financial advisory group
  • 4 additional Board members
  • 5 students (interviews)
  • 45 students (focus groups including a brief survey)
  • 2 representatives from the URJ
  • 6 funders/donors
  • 15 faculty and administrators from the Faculty Consultation Group
  • 10 members of the Boards of Advisors
  • 15 alumni from the Alumni Council
  • 46 Rabbinic alumni from the President’s Rabbinical Council
  • 40 faculty in the faculty meetings
  • 94 staff in the stateside staff meeting
  • 6 Jerusalem staff in a Jerusalem staff meeting
  • 7 cantorial stakeholders in a designated meeting

Phase 2 of the planning process included: 1) the presentation of recommendations by the administration to the Board to improve the fiscal health and educational excellence of HUC-JIR and, 2) a community engagement process to capture feedback from HUC staff, students, and faculty, alumni, donors, Movement partners, and other interested parties in relation to the administration’s recommendations.

Stakeholder Engagement

Over 25 stakeholder meetings were conducted during Phase 2 of the planning process that engaged hundreds of students, staff, faculty, alumni, movement partners, and supporters. Those meetings included:

  • Four briefing sessions for students, faculty, and staff
  • Follow-up listening sessions with students of each campus
  • Two faculty meetings
  • Seven meetings with Movement partners including URJ, CCAR, ACC, PRC, NATA, ARJE, ECE-RJ, WRJ, and Reform Rabbis of Canada
  • Meetings with Western, Central, and Eastern Region Board of Advisors
  • Three alumni town hall meetings
  • An open forum at the 2022 CCAR Conference
  • Additional individual and small group meetings with alumni and supporters

April 2022

  • The HUC-JIR Board of Governors voted to approve the Administration’s recommendations of consolidating residential rabbinical education on the LA and NY campus, sunsetting residential rabbinical education in Cincinnati after 2026, developing a flexible residency clergy program to serve students who cannot relocate to a campus city, and elevating the academic resources on our Cincinnati campus – the Klau Library, American Jewish Archives, and Skirball Museum – to serve a broader range of researchers, students, and community learners.

March 2022

  • Stakeholder engagement continues through town hall meetings, meetings with Movement partners, and the gathering of feedback through the HUC-JIR website.

February 2022

  • Administration shares additional details on their recommendations with the Board for the February Board Meeting, where continued discussions take place.
  • Stakeholder Engagement begins, including:
    • Briefings on recommendations provided to HUC-JIR staff, students, and faculty
    • Continued engagement opportunities scheduled with staff, students, and faculty
    • Meetings and town halls to capture feedback are scheduled with the HUC-JIR Board of Advisors, Reform movement partners, and HUC-JIR Alumni
  • Israel Task Force report shared with the Board

January 2022

  • For the January Special Meeting of the Board, administration delivers the first of what will be several recommendations for the future of HUC-JIR.

Fall 2021

  • October Board meeting includes a focus on strategic decision-making.
  • A Special Board meeting is held in November for continued conversations about key challenges and opportunities for HUC-JIR. Faculty representatives and Rabbinical School Configuration Task Force members are invited guests.
  • Documents produced as part of the Rabbinical School Configuration Task Force deliberations are shared with the Board.
  • Financial modeling to achieve a balanced budget issued to the Board.
  • Morgan Lewis report released; findings are synthesized with strategic planning and an additional goal of creating a sacred and respectful culture is developed.
  • Library task force completes its work and issues report.

Summer 2021

  • The finance team and senior leadership work through scenario building for five options, with a group of board members advising on the process.
  • Deborah Naish engaged as a consultant at the end of August 2021 to bring the planning process through the next phase of strategic decision-making.

June 2021

  • The Board of Governors charges the administration with developing up to four scenarios to achieve a break-even budget by FY26.
  • Cabinet convenes in Pearl River, NY over three days for discussion and planning.

April 2021

  • Strategic planning update town hall meetings with President Rehfeld for students, staff, and faculty.

February 2021

  • Phase 1 of our strategic planning process comes to end. Four goals are embraced. Quick-start initiatives and capacity-building directives are set.
  • Four task forces launched on a shared governance model, bringing faculty, administration, and board members to look at four key areas of the organization: Israel Programs, Real Estate, and Property Management, Libraries, and the Configuration of the HUC-JIR Rabbinical School.

December 2020 / January 2021

  • In December the Strategic Planning Advisory Committee met to discuss priorities for HUC’s clergy programs
  • Wellspring continued to collect and aggregate a range of data to support goal-setting and specific initiatives for the strategic plan
  • Wellspring held a meeting with stakeholders from the Cantorial School to think about growing the Cantorial School and increasing rabbinic and cantorial student meaningful interaction as part of clergy formation
  • Wellspring continued to engage with leadership on the Jerusalem campus about ways to increase the utilization and impact of the campus in Israel
  • During January, a set of draft goals were considered and refined in multiple meetings:
    • Two meetings of the staff and faculty working group
    • Two meetings with the Board’s Strategic Planning Advisory Committee (SPAC)
    • One meeting of the Board of Governors
    • Meeting of the Alumni Leadership Council
  • The draft goals continued to evolve into early February as more feedback was received from the community

November 2020

  • The Working Group (President’s Cabinet + Faculty Representatives) came together for another session, as did the SPAC (the Board’s Strategic Planning Advisory Committee)
  • Wellspring met with a group of Israeli students to solicit their input
  • Wellspring joined a Board meeting to host a discussion around key strategic decisions
  • A finance sub-committee of the board convened with Wellspring several times to continue advancing relevant financial modeling
  • Wellspring continued to collect and analyze more data, including on student recruitment and job placement, and institutional finances

October 2020

  • Wellspring held two meetings that were open to all faculty, and one that was open to all stateside staff, to solicit broader input into key strategic questions
  • Wellspring met with senior staff from the Jerusalem campus
  • The Working Group (President’s Cabinet + Faculty Representatives) came together for another session to discuss new data and thinking
  • Wellspring held a session with representatives from the Boards of Advisors
  • The Faculty Consultation Group met with President Rehfeld to deliberate on key issues
  • Wellspring brought its current financial modeling to a finance sub-committee of the Board of Governors for feedback
  • Wellspring continued to collect and analyze more data, including benchmarking other rabbinical and cantorial programs and models

September 2020

  • Two focus groups solicited input from stateside students, and another engaged HUC’s Boards of Advisors
  • Wellspring facilitated a meeting with the Board of Governors to update them on the strategic planning process and receive their input
  • Wellspring has begun conducting interviews with funders to understand their perspectives on the organization, its challenges, and opportunities
  • New data relating to HUC’s financials have been analyzed
  • Over the next two modules, Wellspring will be taking a deeper dive into the Jerusalem campus.

August 2020

  • Module 2’s 41 interviews were completed, which included staff, faculty, Board members, students, and alumni
  • Wellspring shared findings with and received input from the HEART group (program directors and senior managers), the President’s Rabbinical Council (alumni), and the Alumni Leadership Council
  • There were two intensive sessions with Wellspring and the SPAC (the Board’s strategic planning and advisory committee) and a kick-off meeting with a financial modeling subgroup of the Board
  • Wellspring also reviewed and analyzed a broad range of new data, including HUC-JIR’s historical financials, endowment, and restricted funds’ composition and trends, rabbinic admissions data, longitudinal enrollment numbers, job placement statistics across HUC-JIR programs, URJ congregational data, and internship and student pulpit placements

July 2020

  • Module 1 interviews were conducted with 12 staff and Board members
  • Module 2 interviews will last through mid-August.  There are 41 interviews in all, which include staff, faculty, Board members, students, and alumni
  • In the next two months, Wellspring will facilitate several focus group meetings with alumni and students
  • In September, Wellspring will speak with approximately 12 external experts to gather their views.  These will include institutional funders, individual donors, and others who are knowledgeable in the field
  • Full staff and full faculty meetings will be hosted by Wellspring in mid-October, to share findings and receive input regarding the strategic questions for the project
  • Other work that will happen between now and December includes financial modeling, benchmarking of other institutions facing similar challenges, mapping the landscape, and sizing the market for students
  • We expect the work to be completed by the end of 2020, with a final presentation to the Board in early 2021

Phase 1 Working Groups And Committees

In partnership with Wellspring Consulting

Strategic Planning Advisory Committee

  • Larry Tarica, Vice Chair, Board of Governors; Chair, SPAC
  • Sue Neuman Hochberg, Chair, Board of Governors
  • Patty Beck, Board of Governors
  • Andy Berger, Former Board Chair; Chair, Nominating Committee
  • Marty Cohen, Chair, Buildings and Grounds Committee
  • Cary Davidson, Chair, Western Region Advisors
  • David Edelson, Vice Chair
  • Ken Gilman, Treasurer
  • Joy Greenberg, Chair, Communications Committee
  • Michael Halpern, Chair, Recruitment, Admissions, and Placement
  • Karen Hoguet, Chair, Audit Committee
  • Yaron Horovitz, Chair, Israel Board of Advisors; Co-Chair, Israel Committee
  • Rabbi Lewis Kamrass, HUC-JIR Rabbinic Alum
  • Matt Louchheim, Vice-Chair, Development Committee
  • Rachel Margolis, RJE, MAJE/MAJCS, Immediate Past Chair of the Alumni Leadership Council
  • Kevin Penn, Co-Chair, Investment Committee
  • Rabbi Amy Perlin, HUC-JIR Rabbinic Alum; Co-Chair, Israel Committee
  • Dr. Bruce Phillips, Faculty Chair
  • Cantor Sarah Sager, HUC-JIR Cantorial Alum
  • Rabbi Ronald Segal, HUC-JIR Rabbinic Alum; Chair, CCAR
  • Debbi Sorrentino, Chair, Central Region of Board of Advisors
  • Marcie Zelikow, Co-Chair, Development Committee

Internal Working Group

  • Rabbi David Adelson, D.Min., Dean, New York
  • Rabbi Adam Allenberg, MAJE, Director of Recruitment and Admissions, National
  • Sarah Benor, Ph.D., Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies, Los Angeles
  • Rabbi Joshua Garroway, Ph.D., Professor of Early Christianity and the Second Commonwealth, Los Angeles
  • Amy Goldberg, Chief Financial Officer, National
  • Rabbi Andrew Goodman, Director of Student Support in the Office of the Provost; Dean of Students, New York
  • Alyssa Gray, Ph.D., Emily S. and Rabbi Bernard H. Mehlman Chair in Rabbinics; Faculty Chair, New York
  • Rabbi Jonathan Hecht, Ph.D., Dean, Cincinnati
  • Joshua Holo, Ph.D., Dean, Los Angeles
  • Rabbi Naamah Kelman-Ezrachi, Dean, Jerusalem
  • Rabbi Dalia Marx, Ph.D., Rabbi Aaron D. Panken Professor of Liturgy and Midrash, Faculty Chair, Jerusalem
  • Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D., President, National
  • Michelle Slocum, Controller, National           
  • Liz Squadron, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and External Relations, National         
  • Rabbi Mark Washofsky, Ph.D., Solomon B. Freehof Professor of Jewish Law and Practice; Faculty Chair, Cincinnati
  • Rabbi Andrea Weiss, Ph.D., Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Provost, National
  • Rabbi Gary P. Zola, Ph.D., Executive Director, Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives; Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professor of the American Jewish Experience and Reform Jewish History, Cincinnati

Faculty Consultation Group

  • Joshua Holo, Ph.D., Dean, Los Angeles; Chair, FCG
  • Rabbi David H. Aaron, Ph.D., Professor of Hebrew Bible and History of Interpretation, Cincinnati; Co-Chair, Editorial Board for the HUC Press
  • Dr. Rachel Adler, Rabbi David Ellenson Professor of Jewish Religious Thought, Los Angeles
  • Dr. Alyssa Gray, Emily S. and Rabbi Bernard H. Mehlman Chair in Rabbinics; Faculty Chair, New York
  • Dr. Leah Hochman, Director, Louchheim School for Judaic Studies; Associate Professor of Jewish Thought, Los Angeles
  • Rabbi Michael Marmur, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Jewish Theology, Jerusalem
  • Dr. Bruce Phillips, Professor of Sociology & Jewish Communal Service, Los Angeles; Faculty Chair, Board of Governors
  • Rabbi Haim Rechnitzer, Ph.D., Professor of Modern Jewish Thought, Cincinnati
  • Rabbi Richard Sarason, Ph.D., Director, Pines School of Graduate Studies; Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Thought and The Deutsch Family Professor of Rabbinics and Liturgy, Cincinnati
  • Cantor Benjie Schiller, Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman Professor of Liturgy, Worship and Ritual and Professor of Cantorial Arts, New York
  • Rabbi Joseph Skloot, Ph.D., Rabbi Aaron D. Panken Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish Intellectual History, New York
  • Liz Squadron, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and External Relations, National, Ex Officio
  • Rabbi Andrea Weiss, Ph.D., Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Provost, National, Ex Officio
  • Dr. Sivan Zakai, Sara S. Lee Assistant Professor of Jewish Education, Los Angeles
  • Rabbi Gary P. Zola, Ph.D., Executive Director, Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives; Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professor of the American Jewish Experience and Reform Jewish History, Cincinnati


Task Forces

Israel Program Evaluation Task Force


  • Yaron Horovitz, Chair of the Jerusalem Board of Advisors
  • Miriam Heller Stern, Director, School of Education

Summary: The mission of HUC-JIR as affirmed by the Board in 2017 commits us to work in North America and Israel without differentiation.  And our work in Israel has significantly expanded over the last decades of the 20th century.  This task force seeks to prioritize the work we are doing and ask what is essential that we continue, what opportunities we have to expand our mission impact, and what programs might be better suited to partner with other institutions to do more effectively.

Real Estate And Property Management Task Force


  • Marty Cohen, Chair, Buildings and Grounds Committee
  • Amy Goldberg, CFO

Summary: With new opportunities arising for partnerships, and the nature of work and study changing during the pandemic, as well as the changing texture of life in US cities, there are questions about whether our current buildings and locations allow us to maximize mission and financial impact.

Libraries Task Force


  • John Kampen, Past Chair, Alumni Leadership Council
  • Joshua Holo, Dean, HUC/Los Angeles

Summary: The HUC-JIR library system counts among our most prominent mission-based assets. Our faculty and external community have identified three key benefits to our maintaining our library collection: the holdings themselves are an important academic resource for our students and faculty; the library enhances HUC’s reputation as a serious scholarly institution, and it is important for HUC to maintain ownership of this precious resource as a legacy for the Jewish People. As we face maintaining a library system that fewer people are using, the Task Force will ask some fundamental questions concerning how to increase its use and impact, reducing our costs or both, and possibly in partnerships with other academic institutions.

Task Force on the Configuration of the HUC-JIR Rabbinical School


  • Rabbi David Stern, Member, Board of Governors; Former Chair, CCAR
  • Dr. Rabbi Andrea Weiss, Provost

Summary: Our institutional goals, current trends, and the exigencies of the moment mandate that we confront the most sensitive and challenging topic facing the College-Institute: the configuration of the rabbinical school. This task force will examine the benefits and costs of maintaining North American rabbinical programs in three locations. The task force will assess our ability to achieve our strategic goals and fulfill our academic mission in our present three-campus model or alternative configurations. The task force will make a recommendation regarding the number and location of stateside rabbinical school sites that we conclude we can successfully and responsibly manage while achieving educational excellence, providing a high-quality student experience, and ensuring that we can achieve financial sustainability.

Recommendations For HUC-JIR’s Future

For nearly 150 years, HUC-JIR has embraced the spirit of dynamic innovation at the heart of religiously progressive Reform Judaism – a spirit that propels us forward as we make decisions about the future of the College-Institute.

After two years of sustained work on a strategic planning process, the administration of HUC-JIR shared initial recommendations for the future of the institution with its Board of Governors on January 9 and February 6, 2022. Our work to date has included research, data analysis, stakeholder meetings, and much reflection on how best to fulfill our mission for the future.  The next phase in this process is engagement with our many stakeholders, followed by decision-making. Once we commit to a path forward, we can continue to plan and build together to make our dreams for HUC-JIR’s future a reality.

The Administration’s Recommended Path

In the face of the opportunities and challenges before us, the administration of HUC-JIR has presented its Board of Governors with a recommended path forward. These recommendations are the first of several being developed over the coming months.

The administration recommends:

  1. Restructure the Rabbinical School with residential programs in Los Angeles and New York.
  2. Reimagine the Cincinnati campus as a center for research and educational engagement, including strengthening the impact of the Klau Library, Skirball Museum, and American Jewish Archives (AJA), and creating new opportunities for rabbinic students, graduate students, visiting scholars, and Reform movement partners to study on our historic campus.
  3. Explore the development of a new academically rigorous, low-residency clergy program, enabling students to prepare as rabbis and cantors in communities with URJ congregations across North America and increasing our ability to serve more parts of the country.

This recommendation was developed after extensive investigation and research and will advance the strategic goals set through our planning process: advancing educational excellence, strengthening student support, growing our impact, achieving financial sustainability, and ensuring a sacred and respectful culture.

The key drivers of this recommendation include:

  1. Enrollment realities: While we remain the largest progressive seminary in the country, the number of rabbinic students enrolled at HUC-JIR declined by 37% over the past 15 years (mirroring trends across all liberal Jewish seminaries), while competition for students has increased as more seminaries and other options for rabbinical ordination have opened.
  2. Stretching limited resources across three campuses: Dispersing our relatively small numbers of students and faculty across three stateside campuses decreases the size, strength, and vitality of our learning communities.
  3. Benefits of vibrant learning communities: Consolidating our residential rabbinical program on two campuses would create larger and more diverse student bodies in each location, increase the collective strength of the HUC-JIR faculty, and allow us to better establish an overarching culture of sacred and respectful communities– an area in need of immediate attention as highlighted by the recent Morgan Lewis investigation into allegations of harassment and discrimination at HUC-JIR.
  4. Opportunities to enhance program quality: Consolidating our residential rabbinical program would enable us to strengthen the curriculum and be more innovative and responsive to students and the evolving Jewish landscape, ensuring that wherever students study, they have access to the experiences that we consider critical for rabbis in formation.

To learn more, read A Recommendation for Restructuring HUC-JIR’s Rabbinical School.

Why Field Residential Rabbinical Programs in LA and NY, and not in Cincinnati?

After exploring a range of possible options for HUC-JIR’s Rabbinical School, the President’s Cabinet, including our provost, deans, and other senior leadership, modeled five possible scenarios, including consolidation of our residential rabbinical program onto only one campus. After determining that consolidation to two locations would best position us to advance our strategic goals, and recognizing that each city offered distinctive advantages, we then evaluated the tradeoffs involved in leaving each campus city.

In order to compare the campus cities according to the criteria deemed most important for rabbinical education and the larger mission of HUC-JIR, we focused on these key variables:

  1. Impact of proposed changes on other academic programs on the campus
  2. Depth and breadth of the surrounding Jewish community
  3. Benefits of nearby Jewish seminary and academic connections and resources
  4. Cost of living, quality of life, and other factors that influence campus preference
  5. Implications of rabbinical job placement patterns on our ability to serve Jewish North America
  6. Philanthropic impact, including new funding opportunities and funds that may be lost

After carefully evaluating these factors, we concluded that HUC-JIR would be best served by restructuring the residential rabbinical programs in Los Angeles and New York.

To read more about the research and evaluation process that supported this location recommendation, read Location Recommendation for HUC-JIR’s Restructured and Reimagined Rabbinical School

Growing From Strength to Strength: Reimagining Rabbinical Education in Cincinnati and Creating a Low-Residency Clergy Program

From every challenging decision comes an opportunity for growth and renewal.  The administration of HUC-JIR is poised to develop a series of proposals to grow our educational impact, improve our ability to serve Jewish communities throughout North America, and ensure our most treasured collections, the Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, and our Skirball Museum in Cincinnati, can continue to inspire and be used by a large number of scholars and learners, both inside and outside of the HUC-JIR community.

Research has begun to explore the establishment of a high-quality, academically rigorous Low-Residency Clergy Program that would allow students to become HUC-JIR ordained rabbis and cantors in any number of North American communities that are home to Reform synagogues. This would enable us to welcome more students who are called to the sacred work of the rabbinate but are unable to geographically relocate to a campus city, while also expanding the number of communities served by rabbinical and cantorial student leadership. This program would combine online coursework, in-person intensives several times a year in Cincinnati taught by faculty from all campuses, supervised fieldwork and mentorship at local URJ synagogues, and other features that go into rabbinical formation.

Additionally, our historic Cincinnati campus is the ideal location for a HUC-JIR First-Year Orientation Program where all first-year rabbinical, cantorial, and education students can start their HUC-JIR journeys by learning about Reform Judaism, exploring our academic treasures, and getting to know one another before departing for the Year-In-Israel.

Further programs we intend to explore include: Cincinnati Summer Session with courses for HUC-JIR and other seminary students designed to make the most of the history, academic resources, and cultural richness of the Cincinnati campus; Student Research Fellowships to allow HUC-JIR students to spend an extended period of time doing thesis research at the Klau and AJA; HUC-JIR Faculty Gatherings in Cincinnati to provide opportunities for study and sharing, strengthening academic and collegial connections, and advancing institutional projects and priorities; and Alumni Homecomings created in conjunction with our Reform movement partners to help us build community and provide ongoing professional enrichment for our alumni.

Finally, our research collections currently operate as a center for research on Jewish civilization and American Jewish history, serving our entire four-campus system as well as thousands of users around the world each year.  Recognizing the potential that we have to elevate these collections, we are actively exploring educational partnerships with the University of Cincinnati and others to advance scholarship about Jewish civilization, a core part of our mission.

Path Forward

By restructuring the Rabbinical School in New York and Los Angeles and reimagining rabbinical education and scholarship in Cincinnati, these recommendations aim to make the most of our priceless resources and our celebrated past as we move toward an innovative and sustainable future. We appreciate the continued constructive engagement with our many stakeholders as we move ahead together.

Supporting Documents

Is the proposal to restructure HUC-JIR’s Rabbinical School being driven by the goal of educational excellence or financial sustainability?

The proposed changes to our Rabbinical School program are designed to help us achieve all of our strategic goals: advancing educational excellence, strengthening student support, growing our impact, achieving financial sustainability, and ensuring a sacred and respectful culture.

Restructuring our residential rabbinical program to two locations will allow us to create more vibrant and diverse learning communities, and advance desired innovations to the Rabbinical School curriculum.  The development of a low-residency clergy program option will help us grow our impact, attracting more students and serving more areas of the country.

The recommended changes to the Rabbinical School will also enhance our sustainability in the years ahead and reduce our pre-COVID structural deficit by at least halfway through the reduction of costly duplications in programming and resources across our three campuses. This, along with the adoption of a centralized management approach, will enhance our ability to attract donors who are committed to training Jewish leaders for the 21st century and feel confident that we are responsibly managing the institution.

Does the recommendation to restructure the residential rabbinical program do enough to address HUC-JIR’s financial situation?

Restructuring the residential rabbinical program will play an important part in reducing the College-Institute’s annual costs and enabling other financial solutions to take place. However, it is important to understand that the educational and operational benefits of operating two larger residential rabbinical programs, rather than three smaller ones, are critical drivers of the proposal, in addition to the financial imperatives.

After average annual structural deficits of about $1.5 million per year in FYs 2010-20 and an operating deficit of nearly $4 million in FY 2021, HUC-JIR faced a projected 8.8 million dollar deficit in FY 2022. The proposed changes to the residential rabbinical program would result in annual savings of at least half of our pre-COVID annual structural deficits by FY 2026. Restructuring programs will also allow us to make important decisions about how we use our real estate, which we anticipate will lead to additional cost savings decisions in the future. Additionally, by consolidating our residential programs into two locations, we build confidence with philanthropists who have expressed an unwillingness to fund HUC-JIR because of our current three-campus Rabbinical School with the duplications and high overhead costs it entails.

How do the recommended changes improve HUC-JIR’s competitive position among liberal seminaries?

The consolidation of the residential rabbinical program into two locations will create greater student and faculty density, increasing the vibrancy and diversity of our campus learning communities. The choice of maintaining residential rabbinical programs in Los Angeles and New York is driven by the factors that contribute to rabbinical formation and training, and the projected impact on admissions of leaving either one of these locations at a time of increasing competition in those regions.

Liberal seminary students today, regardless of their denomination, are drawn to innovative, dynamic, flexible programs with diverse student bodies that are situated in geographical regions they find attractive. The proposal to maintain residential rabbinical education in Los Angeles and New York is also driven by a growing collaborative spirit among other Jewish seminaries in those regions, which we believe will be essential to the future strength of liberal seminaries in the next few decades.

How will restructuring of the Rabbinical School impact the Pines School of Graduate Studies?

An attractive feature of the Pines School of Graduate Studies is the opportunity for masters and doctoral students to study with rabbinical students in courses taught by the Rabbinical School faculty. We recognize that this feature of the Pines School would change if the Pines School were to stay in Cincinnati without a residential rabbinical program.

In the strategic planning process, we prioritized rabbinical education and decisions about the structure of the Rabbinical School as the first key step in the strategic decision-making process.  Part of the reason we believe we can sustain a loss of rabbinical program in Cincinnati more so than in Los Angeles or New York is because we can offer a Ph.D. degree in other locations, and our co-located programs in Los Angeles and New York would be far more significantly impacted were the Rabbinical School to leave those campuses.

At a minimum, we believe we will be able to maintain our joint Ph.D. program with the University of Cincinnati in Modern Jewish History and Culture since it is tied to the American Jewish Archives. After the Board makes a decision about the Rabbinical School and we conduct a program review of the Pines School, we will evaluate our options for the best future for HUC-JIR’s Ph.D. programs.

It is important to note that all students currently enrolled in the Pines Graduate Studies Program will be able to complete their studies in Cincinnati. The faculty will continue to support students through the completion of their dissertations.

Can the American Jewish Archives (AJA) and Klau Library thrive without local students in residence?

The AJA and the Klau serve HUC-JIR through their extraordinary collections and exceptional staff, which will remain in place regardless of the presence or absence of a residential rabbinical program in Cincinnati.

Based on data compiled by its staff, fewer than 17 percent of all researchers at the AJA have a connection to HUC-JIR. That 17 percent includes HUC-JIR Board members, donors, AJA council members, and faculty and students from other campuses.  The actual number of faculty and students in Cincinnati who use the AJA for research is a much smaller number.  The AJA has established itself as an international center for research and scholarship on the American Jewish experience thanks in part to its growing digital presence and educational programs, and nothing in the administration’s current recommendation threatens this work.  Additionally, students and faculty from our New York and Los Angeles campuses currently utilize Klau’s collections for both research and teaching through remote access.

Put simply, the AJA and Klau do not depend on local students in residence to remain at the intellectual heart of HUC-JIR. Both are used widely by our communities on all stateside campuses and beyond.

Isn’t closing the Cincinnati residential rabbinical program just one step toward the closure of the Cincinnati campus?

Absolutely not. Our vision for the Cincinnati campus is to continue a different kind of rabbinical education there and expand the research impact of the already strong AJA and Klau.

This administration is committed to a vibrant future for the Cincinnati campus and believes that a wide range of scholarly programs are possible on the campus, with or without the residential Rabbinical School. Our Cincinnati campus will remain home to the Klau, AJA, and Skirball Museum — which are treasures to HUC-JIR, the broader academic world, and the broader Jewish community — and we want more students to benefit from their collections, even if they are not in residence on a full-time basis. We also envision the campus as a site for future college, high school, and congregational learning opportunities.

Why not consolidate to one residential Rabbinical Program, rather than maintain two?

While we explored this option, we concluded that the potential advantages of operating our residential rabbinical program on a single site would be outweighed by the potential disadvantages. We believe it would be a mistake at this moment to reduce our rabbinical program to a single location because of its potentially detrimental impact on co-located academic programs, admissions (if we leave a competitive regional market), our ability to cultivate donors, and our current and potential institutional partnerships.

Why keep all three North American campuses instead of selling a campus?

We see tremendous potential for future development in all three stateside cities where we currently operate. In Cincinnati, specifically, the Klau, AJA, Skirball Museum, and our back office are significant parts of HUC-JIR’s operations and without duplication anywhere in the system.

We intend to conduct a review of all our programs to ensure they can operate with the greatest mission impact. As we do, we will be able to assess our facility needs, recognizing that right now we have too much infrastructure for the programs we offer. As our Real Estate Task Force completes its evaluation and brings proposals to the Board, we should expect changes in how we use our infrastructure.

Will currently enrolled students be able to complete their studies in Cincinnati if the Board approves this recommendation?

Yes. We are committed to supporting current Pines School and rabbinical students, as well as those accepted for admissions in the Fall of 2022 until they complete their studies. We anticipate that many of HUC-JIR’s senior faculty will stay in Cincinnati, which will enable them to teach and advise Pines School and rabbinical students until they complete their degree programs.

Won’t this proposal harm midwestern Jewish communities and congregations where our Cincinnati-based students currently serve?

While our primary goal as an institution is to provide an outstanding education for our students, we take our responsibility to the communities where our students serve in congregations, religious schools, and community organizations extremely seriously. If we transition out of the residential rabbinical program in Cincinnati, we will look at a range of solutions to continue serving midwestern and other communities throughout the country, including ensuring students on our New York and Los Angeles campuses can travel to serve pulpits in other regions, creating summer residency opportunities for students to serve in a diverse range of communities throughout the country, and exploring the creation of a low-residency rabbinical program to allow students to train as rabbis in communities across North America.