Tuesday, November 8, 2022
Five new rabbis for Israel’s Reform Movement were ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) at the Ordination and Academic Convocation at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem at 13 King David Street on Thursday, November 10, 2022. This was HUC-JIR’s first Israeli rabbinical ordination class in which all the ordinees are products of the Israeli Reform Movement and reflect Israel’s broad ethnic diversity: David Azoulay, Yael Gamon, Michal Talya, Leora Bondy-Barash, and Sivan Navon-Shuval. Their ordination brought the total to 126 Israeli Reform rabbis ordained to serve 52 Reform/Progressive congregations, schools, and communities throughout Israel. The convocation also featured the 14 graduates of RIKMA, the M.A. in Pluralistic Education, in partnership with the Hebrew University, and the 12 graduates of Sugiyot Chayim, the bibliotherapy program preparing pastoral counselors for Israeli society.
Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center since 2002, received the Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree in recognition of her vital role in advancing religious pluralism in the State of Israel by winning recognition of Reform and Conservative conversions and leading the struggle against gender segregation in the public domain, including on public buses, airplanes, and a national radio station. Read her speech in English and Hebrew.
Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean of HUC-JIR’s Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem, was honored for promoting Reform Judaism’s values in Israel through her leadership of HUC-JIR’s Israeli programs preparing Reform rabbis, pluralistic educators, pastoral caregivers introducing the role of chaplain to Israeli society, and Jewish, Muslim, and Christian teachers educating for tolerance in Jerusalem’s schools.
Ordination Class of 2022 – HUC-JIR/Jerusalem
David Azoulay was born in 1978, the fourth of six children, and grew up in the Religious Zionism of his Orthodox kibbutz, Sha’alvim. A medical crisis and instability in the kibbutz prompted him to explore issues of faith and spirituality, and to question the day and evening religious studies and afternoon studies of his Orthodox Yeshiva. The exclusion of the arts, particularly the synagogue music he loved, including Ashkenazi from the kibbutz, Moroccan from his grandfather, and Yemenite from his grandmother. Nigunim (melodies) anchored his relationship with God. Several experiences led him to his current path: his army service where he met people who were not like him, the independence he felt during his post-army trip to the Far East, and the range of his formal education from the Orthodox Yeshiva, to college at the secular Seminar Kibbutzim, to his M.A. from the Conservative Movement’s Schechter Institute, and, lastly, to HUC-JIR’s Israel Rabbinical Program. These learning opportunities exposed him to more than one way to be Jewish and to connect with God, even if everywhere he was, he heard and sang the same nigun (melody). He and his wife Efrat are the parents of three daughters, Reshit, Klil, and Asif.
Yael Gamon was born on the island of Djerba in Tunisia and immigrated to Israel when she was five years old. An educator with a Master’s degree in Jewish education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, and a bachelor’s degree in Bible and the history of the people of Israel from Ben-Gurion University, Yael studied Judaism at the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem, was in the founding group of “Mizrach Shemesh,” and graduated from the “Tehuda” program – a national Jewish community leadership training center. She previously worked as a director of missions at the Union of Jewish Federations of North America, as educational director at the Kol HaNeshamah congregation in Jerusalem, as a social and cultural coordinator at the Ulpan Etzion Absorption Center, and as an instructor in the “Nitzanim” course at the Jewish Agency’s Department of Education. Yael currently manages the culture department at the Ginat Ha’Ir community administration.
Michal Talya was born and grew up in Israel. She graduated from the Hebrew University with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in clinical psychology and then studied anthroposophy at the David Yellin College of Education. Upon concluding her psychology studies, Michal embarked on a spiritual quest, as she opened up to the world of esotericism and spiritual observation of the world and of humanity. From 2000-2005, she was a founding member of the Yeshiva-ashram located in the Judean Desert. She studied Hassidut and Kabbalah and gradually embraced the role of prayer leader and facilitator based on Jewish sources, in a Neo-Hassidic approach. During these years, with the support of the desert-based center and other partners, she developed an innovative project in the domain of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel. The project continues to engage in processes of healing collective trauma and transforming conflict-mindset patterns into reconciliation-mindset constructs. In this setting, over the past 20 years Jewish and Arab Israelis have been meeting every year on Memorial Day and Independence Day for a one- or two-day retreat, confronting together the paradox deeply embedded in Israeli existence: the pain of the Nakba and the joy of Independence. For years, Michal was also involved in moderating an alternative ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day in the spirit of Etty Hillesum, a Jewish woman who perished in the Holocaust and left behind a diary. This project has been operating in Israel for 15 years, bringing together Jews, Palestinians, Germans, and people of other nationalities. The event, commemorating the Jewish Holocaust, is held in a universal spiritual approach and emphasizes endeavors aimed at healing the collective trauma on all sides. Michal is the mother of two daughters; aside from her rabbinical work she also has a private psychotherapy practice.
Leora Londy-Barash was raised in the United States in a Conservative, egalitarian, and Zionist home with two clergy parents, alumni of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Her deep love for Judaism and for the Jewish people inspired her, upon finishing high school, to move to Israel to immerse herself in its richness and the complexity. She attended the Nativ gap year program, where she studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and then went on to complete a B.A. in Government and Diplomacy Studies and Middle Eastern Relations at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya (Reichman University.) Leora has an M.A. in Jewish Studies from Ono Academic College. She is also a graduate of HUC-JIR’s Sugiyot Chaim bibliotherapy program. She was introduced to the Reform Movement in Israel through her work at the Israel Religious Action Center, where she learned about Israeli society on a grassroots level and the immense potential and need for religious and societal change. She further pursued this kind of grassroots work while studying for a teaching certificate at Levinsky College of Education through the Hotam-Teach First Israel program, where she found and cultivated a passion for education and community work that has carried into her rabbinical work as well. Leora found a community and religious progressive home in the Beit Daniel congregation in Tel Aviv. She began working at the Daniel Centers for Progressive Judaism in 2016, where has worked as the community coordinator, Director of Family Education, and the rabbi of its Kehillat Tiferet Shalom community, where she continues to work closely with families of B’nei Mitzvah. She is a published writer and is passionate about creating community through a ritual and spiritual framework and in working in the field of mental health. She lives in Givataim with her partner, Omer, and their three young children.
Sivan Navon-Shuval has always been passionate about Jewish heritage and identity. She grew up in a religiously diverse neighborhood in Jerusalem, and came from a mixed Sephardic and Ashkenazi background, which exposed her to a wide variety of traditions and views about the practice of Judaism. Learning and exploring the array of Jewish communities and putting the pieces of the puzzle called Judaism together is her calling. Sivan is an experienced Jewish educator in both formal and informal settings, and ran various educational projects for Jewish youth and young adults from around the globe. Her academic path has focused on Jewish thought and education. She graduated with B.A. in Jewish Philosophy and the History of Art from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and continued for her M.A. in Jewish Philosophy at the Tel Aviv University and the Hartman Institute’s “Melamdim” (Teaching) program. Jewish renewal in the Israeli society is Sivan’s rabbinical mission. More specifically, she focuses on promoting the unique feminine identity to be recognized and expressed in the Jewish praxis and theological language. At HUC-JIR, as part of this mission, Sivan researched the myth of the abyss (Tehom) in Jewish literature and has used this research to enrich the religious language and to provide accessibility to the Jewish female voice. Sivan is currently the Rabbi at Kehilat Shir Hadash in Zur Hadassa. Sivan lives in Jerusalem with her husband Oren, and their three daughters.
Certificates for Graduates of “Rikma” –
M.A. in Pluralistic Jewish Education,
Joint Program with the Melton Centre of Hebrew University
Aviv Ben Or
Reut Ben Yosef
Gonen Nofar Landow
Nissan Nir Sabo
Certificates for Graduates of The Blaustein Center for Spiritual Counseling
Levana Tova Vindver
Yael Katz Ben- Yitzchak
Hadas Laor Ashur
Vardit Lurie Vaytsman