53 Students Comprise the Los Angeles Contingent of the 149th Class of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

The event shared the day with Yom HaZikaron, offering a powerful mix of sadness and celebration.

May 15, 2024

Los Angeles, CA—Following a moving and inspirational ordination ceremony on Sunday, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion held its graduation ceremony on Monday, May 13th at the Los Angeles campus. The event fell on Yom HaZikaron, Israel Memorial Day, which lent special significance as this class goes out into a world with Israel at war.

LA graduation class 2024

In delivering the Invocation, Miriam Heller Stern, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Educational Strategy and the National Director, School of Education set the tone for the day, noting “Memory is not limited to how we tell the stories of the past and previous generations, but how we shape the story of today, to be remembered by future generations.”

President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D. noted the unique role of HUC-JIR graduates in the world, saying of the alumni honorees and graduates, “ We celebrate our students’ commitments and honor your achievements. Let us celebrate today the contributions of our alumni still in their prime, the future of our graduates with their potential stretched before them, and our cherished values.”

Marcie Zelikow, Board of Governors; President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D., Graduation Speaker Janice Kamenir-Reznik ’75, MAJNM/MSW, JD, Rabbi Joshua Garroway ’03 Ph.D., Interim Dean, and Provost Rabbi Andrea Weiss offered words of wisdom at graduation.

Marcie Zelikow, Board of Governors; President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D., Graduation Speaker Janice Kamenir-Reznik ’75, MAJNM/MSW, JD, Rabbi Joshua Garroway ’03 Ph.D., Interim Dean, and Provost Rabbi Andrea Weiss offered words of wisdom at graduation.

Rabbi Joshua Garroway ’03, Ph.D., Interim Dean, Jack H. Skirball Campus, welcomed graduates with stirring remarks that also acknowledged the inherent contradictions of the day. “As the Talmud recognized long ago, sometimes a wedding and a funeral occur on the same day. One of the great joys and challenges of being a Jewish leader is finding meaning in that messiness of life, and even more importantly, helping others to do the same. So today, even as we mourn, we celebrate, rejoicing in the achievements of our graduates and honorees, and in our hopeful anticipation of what they will accomplish.” View full welcome remarks.

In total, the ceremony recognized 53 graduates.

Honorary degrees for 25 years of service were awarded by President Rehfeld and Rabbi Garroway:

  • Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, were awarded to Scott Hausman-Weiss, Moshe Heyn, Jonathan Franklin Kupetz, and Jessica Spitalnic Mates.
  • Doctor of Jewish Religious Education, honoris causa, were awarded to Ellen Cindy Lefkowitz, Debra Sagan Massey, and Renee Rubin Ross.
  • Doctor of Jewish Nonprofit Management, honoris causa, were awarded to Robyn N. Altmann, Rachel Chertkoff, Sara Greene, and Stacy Ilana Katz.
Honorary degrees were awarded to esteemed alumni for their 25 years of dedicated service to the Jewish People

Honorary degrees were awarded to esteemed alumni for their 25 years of dedicated service to the Jewish People

For the Zelikow School of Nonprofit Management, Rabbi Shirley Idelson ’91, Ph.D., Director, Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management, and Mandi Richardson ’97, MAJCS/MSW, Associate Director, Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management awarded:

  • Master of Arts in Jewish Nonprofit Management to Mickey Rachel Benson, Olivia Esther Bernheimer, Abby Sara Gore, Talia Michal Israel, Micah Victor Cohen Sallus, Bari Rose Sigal, Jared Matthew Stern, and Megan Elizabeth Steron
  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Innovation to Joy Linda Allen, Iryna Belskaia, Vivien Claire Braly, Nicole N. Erdfrocht, Emily Simons, Melina Adissi Sternberg, and Sumiko Ruiz Zayon

For the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, Miriam Heller Stern, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Educational Strategy and the National Director, School of Education; Rabbi Laura Novak Winer ’94, ’95, Ed.D., Director, Master of Educational Leadership Program; and, Lauren Applebaum, Ed.D., Director of DeLeT Programs awarded:

  • Master of Educational Leadership to Elana Beame, Abraham Julius Kaplan, and Rebecca Marcus.
  • Master of Arts in Jewish Learning to Abraham Julius Kaplan
  • Master of Arts in Teaching to Hillary Elizabeth Chesler, Allison Paige Elbaz, Geanna Levin, Valeria Xcaret Nevarez, Eden Puchiu, Amanda Rose Sabel, Stephanie Beth Shearer, Madeleine N. Steckley, and Christine F. Wedner

For the Rabbinical School, Rabbi Dvora Weisberg ’11, Ph.D., National Director, Rabbinical School, awarded:

  • Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters to Paige A. Beame, Alyssa Rose Schwartz Feigelson, Julie May Fishbach, Elizabeth Frankel, Tori Greene, Leah Rose Julian, Allyssa Brooke Karpel, Julia Y. Knobloch, Shoshana Jordan Levine, Sarah Rachael Livschitz, Rebeca Orantes, Jake Alexander Petzold, Hannah Pomerantz, and Erika Purdy-Patrick

For the Louchheim School for Judaic Studies, director Leah Hochman, Ph.D, awarded:

  • Bachelor of Arts, Jewish Studies at USC to Angela Marie Hernadez.

The graduation address was offered by Janice Kamenir-Reznik ’75, MAJNM/MSW, JD, Co-Founder, Jewish World Watch and Co-Founder, Jews United for Democracy and Justice, who took a serious and considered look at the protests roiling American campuses and Jewish campus organizations. “Today, on our university campuses, faculty and students are targeting Jewish students either because the Jewish students support Israel or because the students are presumed to support Israel, and all her policies. It seems that in many instances, the nuance and individuality of Jews are erased, leaving us frightened that we are reliving the trauma of Jews in ages past when one Jew was no different from another and all Jews were deemed to be members of the unpopular, despised political or religious “other” of its time.”

She then asked of honorees and graduates, “The question is: how do we deal with this? Or more aptly to you graduates: how will you deal with this?…What is the foundational core of our post-October 7 Jewish identity?…What does being a Jew mean post-October 7 in the public or civic sphere?” View full remarks.

Abby Gore gave the student address

Abby Gore gave the student address

Student speaker Abby Gore who received her MA from the Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management, offered a powerful reflection to her classmates and guests, “As this part of our journey comes to a close and we continue on our paths, it is my hope for my fellow graduates that we exude strength individually and collectively, quietly and assertively, and when it’s easy and when it’s hard. May we fill our days with work and community that inspire us, and may we restore our souls with rest. May the brokenness in our world call us to action, and may we experience profound joy. Ken yehi ratzon.View full remarks.

Marcie Zelikow, addressed the students on behalf of the Board of Governors

Marcie Zelikow, addressed the students on behalf of the Board of Governors

Marcie Zelikow, Co-Chair, Institutional Advancement Committee, Board of Governors, offered inspiring words as the graduates prepare to step out into a complicated world. “You have all chosen a life of service to the Jewish people and your community. And, you’ve chosen to do so at a time of great upheaval and change in the Jewish world. Now, more than ever, we’ll need leaders like you to take us forward into a new future.” View full remarks.

Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss ’93, Ph.D., Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Provost, closed with a benediction, saying, “At this time of transition for our graduates, at this milestone moment for our honorary degree recipients, at this harrowing, heartbreaking juncture in the history of our people Israel and the wider world, may blessings strengthen each of us for what lies ahead.”

HUC-JIR culminating ceremonies turn to the Cincinnati campus, with graduation on May 31 and ordination on June 1.

View the full LA graduation livestream.

Graduates will receive a link to select their own photos.