During this season of Elul and preparation for the High Holy Days, a time of renewal and change, President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D. announced that Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean of our Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem, will retire from her role as Dean on June 30, 2023, at the end of our current academic year. During her 37 years with HUC-JIR, Rabbi Kelman shaped a remarkable presence for the College-Institute and the Reform Movement in the State of Israel and throughout the Jewish world.
The College-Institute will commence the search for a new Dean after the High Holy Days. More information about the search process will be shared at that time.
Rabbi Kelman has been a transformative leader for HUC-JIR and the Reform Movement in Israel. A brief overview of her path and impact appears below. We look forward to celebrating her groundbreaking accomplishments more fully in the year ahead.
Born and raised in New York, Rabbi Naamah Kelman moved to Israel in 1976, where she worked to found the Egalitarian Minyan and helped to build the Progressive Jewish education system in Jerusalem. In 1986, she enrolled in HUC-JIR’s Israeli Rabbinical Program, and in 1992 became the first woman ordained in Israel and a tenth-generation Rabbi in the Kelman family.
After ordination, she staffed several positions in the Israeli Reform Movement and the College-Institute: Director of Education at the Israeli Reform Movement; Rabbi of the first Jerusalem Progressive Tali school; Year-In-Israel Director; and others. In 2007, she was appointed Associate Dean, and the following year succeeded Rabbi Michael Marmur as Dean.
Rabbi Kelman’s many years of service were marked by tremendous growth and creativity. Under her leadership, the Israeli Rabbinical Program flourished and has ordained 121 Israeli rabbis to date. Rabbi Kelman seeded and cultivated an array of creative initiatives that strengthened the Year-In-Israel Program and transformed the Jerusalem campus, among them: The Blaustein Center for Spiritual Counseling; Rikma, a joint M.A. in Jewish Education with the Hebrew University; the Teachers’ Lounge, a bridge-building program for Palestinian and Israeli teachers; Sugiyot Chayim-Talmudic bibliotherapy, and others.
During her tenure, Rabbi Kelman has overseen two major renovations of the campus, the newest of which will put our King David Street Taube Family Campus at the forefront of Jerusalem’s architectural and urban consciousness.
Throughout her deanship, Rabbi Kelman continued to serve as a rabbi in various capacities on campus and around the Jewish world, promoting interfaith work and feminist causes. One of her crowning projects is overseeing the production of Dabri Torah (דברי תורה), the Israeli version of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary.