Joel Kushner, Psy.D.

Director; Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health; Director, Institute for Judaism, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity

Contact Information

department: Dean's Office
academic field: Professional Development
campus: Los Angeles

Dr. Joel L. Kushner (he, him, his) was appointed the Director of the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in 2013. There he manages the pastoral internship program for rabbinic students on the Los Angeles campus as they complete a variety of programs including hospital chaplaincy, jail chaplaincy, spiritual counseling in rehabilitation setting, as well as other field placements. Dr. Kushner has also successfully developed and produced a biennial event called “Jewish Wisdom & Wellness – A Festival of Learning” that explores the themes of Judaism, health, and healing which has offered 250 programs to over 8,500 people in the greater Los Angeles area. 

Dr. Kushner originally came to the College Institute in 2005 to found the HUC-JIR Institute for Judaism, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity, opening up a unique online resource center at the intersection of LGBTQ+ issues and Judaism. He continues to consult with a variety of Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, locally and nationally on LGBTQ+ issues and has lectured on LGBTQ+ education and inclusion across the country. Previously, he sat on the National Religious Leadership Roundtable of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Executive Board of California Faith for Equality, Nehirim, and LAGPA, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy Association. He has also consulted with the staff and boards of JQ International and A Wider Bridge. 

Trained in counseling, clinical and organizational psychology, Dr. Kushner holds graduate degrees in counseling and clinical psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University and from the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University. From this training and his ten years of management consulting experience, he also offers executive coaching particularly in the area of senior executive job change, supervision, and employee performance. Additionally, he holds certificates in Intensive Case Management and in Human Resources Management.

Thirty years after his initial chaplaincy training at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, Dr. Kushner returned to chaplaincy and clinical pastoral education (CPE) in 2013 and completed a half unit of CPE at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. In 2017, he completed training as a Spiritual Director in the Morei Derekh program of the Yedidya Center for Jewish Spiritual Direction and now sees Jews and non-Jews in his spiritual direction/spiritual companioning practice. For two years, he led a class on spiritual reflection at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of American Jewish University and has also lectured on LGBTQ+ issues and spiritual direction for Spiritual Directors International. 

Always seeking meaning and authenticity, creativity has been an essential path of learning and growth for Dr. Kushner, and led him to pursue a two year training to become a Jewish Studio Process Creative Facilitator. He is passionate about sharing this methodology with others to help them experience new ways to connect to Judaism, to deepen spiritual companioning work, and to help people find their creative place and reach unique understandings of themselves and the world around us.

LGBTQ+ Inclusion

Creative Process in Spiritual Direction