15 Rabbis and 6 Cantors Ordained in NYC as part of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion 149th Class

The inspirational event recognized the challenging moment these clergy are stepping into as they prepare to lead their communities through fraught times.

May 6, 2024

New York, NY—Following an inspirational graduation ceremony that balanced the seriousness of this particular moment for Jews in America, Israel, and around the world with the joy of celebrating the honorees, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion turned its attention to Ordination in New York, held at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York.

The ceremony filled with prayer and song began with emotional and stirring Welcome Remarks, by Rabbi David Adelson ‘99, D.Min. ‘16, Dean of the New York campus, who gave ordinees a potent reminder. “Beautiful students—now our colleagues and our teachers, you may well be apprehensive about assuming leadership in times such as these. But you have cultivated the deep habits of study, teaching, leading, and living in God’s presence. You have everything you need.”

The Ordination Ritual was led by Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss ’93, Ph.D., Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost; Cantor Jill Abramson ’02, Director, Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music; and Rabbi Lisa D. Grant ’17, Ph.D., Director, Rabbinical Program, New York. All told, 15 rabbis and 6 cantors were ordained, their diverse identities, ideologies, and priorities exemplifying Reform Judaism’s deep commitment to serious learning and meaningful inclusivity.

Rabbinical class

Rabbinic ordination was bestowed upon: Gabrielle Jona Cohn, Jamie Michelle Field, Ezra M. Leventhal, Gabriel Matthew Miner, Shoshana Nambi, Alissa Jane Platcow, Daniel Dolph Reichenbach, Sivan Rebecca Rotholz, Jack Elijah Sherratt, Ada Luisa Sinacore, Arielle Aviya Stein, Ilana Yael Symons, Lara Brooke Tessler, Kelly Norma Whitehead, Peter Erwin Young

Cantorial ordination was bestowed upon: Joseph Clark Flaxman, Iris Karlin, Kevin Daniel McKenzie, Shirel Meital Gidekel Richman, Gabriel David Snyder,
LTJG Sonya Elayne Zell*
*Lieutenant Junior Grade, U.S. Navy

Bios for all graduates can be found here.

The HUC-JIR & JTS Combined Choir brought music throughout the ceremony. Group of people singing.

Ordination class

In his Presidential Charge, President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D. spoke to the difficulty of the current moment and all the obstacles and challenges the class has faced, encouraging them to continue to “Offer your prophetic voice to a world in need of healing, find paths for engagement into the richness and majesty of Jewish life. Apply Jewish wisdom to the most pressing challenges of our day. And through that work, you will build and sustain robust and resilient communities and bring peace and justice to our world.” View full remarks.

Andrew Rehfeld at the podium at NY Ordination

The ordination speaker is traditionally chosen by ordinees, who selected Rabbi Norman Cohen, ’71, Ph.D. ’77, a distinguished scholar, beloved teacher and mentor to generations of HUC students, and a leader whose passionate commitment to the College-Institute’s mission has strengthened the institution for over 50 years. Rabbi Cohen was unable to offer the address in person this year due to illness, so his words were presented by Cantor Jill Abramson ‘02, Director of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music.

Recollecting the rabbis in the Midrash who tell us there are 10 songs that constitute all of Jewish history, Rabbi Cohen observed, “The moment of Ordination is indeed a consummate moment of song – that not only marks past achievement and forces us to reflect upon what brought us to this very juncture in our lives. But, even more so, it impels us to consider our actions and vision for the future and that which we hope to achieve. This moment is truly one of timelessness in time, in which each individual ordained as a rabbi and as a cantor is linked forever to generations of past leaders of our Jewish people and those who will come after us; to all those who enjoy the joy and the blessing of singing God’s song.” View full remarks.

“Now more than ever, we need cantors and rabbis who can find the right melodies and the right words to help us make sense of our lives and to help us sense something transcendent in the universe. We need rabbis and cantors who can build engaged and engaging communities, who can bring people together so we feel connected to others and connected to something larger and more lasting than our ephemeral selves. This is what it means to become k’lei kodesh. This is what it means to be linked in an ancient chain of tradition.”
-Provost Rabbi Andrea Weiss in her Kavanah
Read the full Kavanah

In his greetings, David Edelson, Chair, Board of Governors HUC-JIR, told ordinees, “You are poised to build vibrant Jewish communities. You will become leaders whose actions and ideals strengthen Jewish identity and engagement for generations to come. You will literally change lives and change the world.” View full remarks.

Sunday also saw the awarding of the Roger E. Joseph Prize for the 46th year, as part of a longstanding partnership that recognizes exceptional individuals and institutions whose work has made a lasting contribution to the causes of human rights and Jewish survival.

This year’s award was accepted by Lee Gordon on behalf of Hand in Hand, an organization whose mission is to build partnerships and equality between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel through a growing network of integrated Jewish-Arab schools and communities. The event was attended by members of the Joseph and Greenberg Families, who support ordination and the Joseph Prize. The prize and citation was presented by Sarah Zampell speaking for the Joseph family. Read the full citation.

Sarah Zampell presents the Roger E. Joseph Prize

Sarah Zampell presents the Roger E. Joseph Prize

Gordon offered a hopeful message, telling the attendees, “At this exact hour in Israel, over 2,000 Jewish and Arab youngsters are finishing their regular school day…together. We believe we will get through these hard times together because the future is that Arabs and Jews must be able to live together in partnership and friendship in Israel. There is no other way.” View full remarks.

A moment of remembrance was also observed by Rabbi Joshua Davidson, ‘97, Senior Rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York. Rabbi Lisa D. Grant, ‘17, Ph. D. offered a Prayer for Our Country, and Rabbi Wendy Zierler, Ph.D. offered a Prayer for Israel. Both expressed a desire to bring about justice, mercy, and peace in accordance with God’s purpose.

Ordination for the Los Angeles class follows on Sunday, May 12th, and Cincinnati on June, 1st.

View the full ceremony livestream.