Winter 2022 Update

Dear HUC-JIR Community,

In 2020, as COVID-19 exacerbated our long-standing financial challenges and brought to the fore critical questions about how we operate as an institution, HUC-JIR restarted its strategic planning process with the aim of preparing our beloved College-Institute to meet the challenges of the 21st century. We embarked on a year-long process with numerous planning committees and working groups, engaging over 350 stakeholders along the way, including faculty, administration, lay leadership, students, and alumni. This work led to the establishment of four strategic goals – advancing educational excellence, strengthening student support, growing our impact, and achieving fiscal sustainability – to which we later added a fifth, ensuring a sacred and respectful culture.

At the February 2021 HUC-JIR Board of Governors meeting, our Board embraced these strategic goals, numerous quick-start initiatives, and a commitment to building our internal capacity in fundraising, recruitment, admissions, marketing, and finance.  At the same time, we launched four task forces chartered to think through important and sensitive issues. The task forces, each co-chaired by a Board member and a faculty member or senior administrator, delivered their work to the Board between October 2021 and February 2022.

We are now moving into a pivotal phase of strategic decision-making. After extensive research and deliberation, all of which was informed by input from stakeholders, the administration presented a set of recommendations to the Board at its January and February 2022 meetings. The recommendations were developed to help the College-Institute achieve its strategic goals and respond to dramatic changes in the Jewish world, changes that have affected HUC-JIR and led to fewer faculty, students, and financial resources, particularly over the last 15 years.

The recommendations presented to the board include:

  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.

In preparation for the April 2022 Board meeting and the Board of Governor’s consideration of these proposed recommendations, the administration is conducting briefings, town hall meetings, and conversations with students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and Reform Movement partners to solicit and receive broad-based input regarding its recommendations.

Our goal is to share information with our community and to listen with open ears, hearts, and minds. Change can be both an inspiring opportunity and an unsettling challenge, and we believe the best way to address this is with transparent information sharing, robust and respectful dialogue, and creative thinking.

After April, we will continue our decision-making process, exploring other vital opportunities to leverage our nearly 150-year history of innovative leadership, scholarship, and learning to strengthen our institution and the Jewish world in the next century.

Together, we can enhance the College-Institute’s future as a vibrant center for intellectual and spiritual exploration, preparing the exceptional Jewish leaders who will shape the next era of modern Judaism and redefining our College-Institute to lead the Jewish world. We look forward to your engagement in this process as we move forward.

Sue Neuman Hochberg, Chair, Board of Governors 

David Edelson, Chair-Elect, Board of Governors 

Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D., President