Hebrew Union College (HUC) was established in 1875 in Cincinnati by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the founder of American Reform Judaism, and is the first permanent institution of higher Jewish education in America. HUC was headed by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (1875-1900); Acting President Rabbi Moses Mielziner (1900-1903); Acting President Rabbi Gotthard Deutsch (1903); Rabbi Kaufman Kohler (1903-1921); and Rabbi Julian Morgenstern (1921-1947), who rescued scholars and students from Nazi Europe.
The Jewish Institute of Religion (JIR) was founded in 1922 in New York by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise (1922-1948), a pioneer of the American Zionist Movement and a social justice activist.
The merger of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion took place in 1948, headed by Dr. Nelson Glueck (1947-1971), a renowned biblical archaeologist who established HUC-JIR’s campuses in Los Angeles (1954) and Jerusalem (1963). He was succeeded by Dr. Alfred Gottschalk (1971-1996); Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman (1996-2000); Acting President Rabbi Norman J. Cohen, Ph.D. (2000-2001); and Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D. (2001-2013). Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D. (2014-2018) served as the 9th President in HUC-JIR’s history. Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., served as Interim President of HUC-JIR (2018-2019) after Rabbi Panken's death. Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D. is the 10th President of HUC-JIR, as of April 1, 2019.