Students across HUC-JIR’s stateside campuses have begun their studies for the 2021-2022 academic year. We are excited to welcome our students back to in-person learning. Before returning to campus, students, faculty, and staff submitted proof of vaccination or an Exemption Request and Waiver form approved by HUC-JIR as well as a signed COVID-19 Safety Guidelines Acknowledgement form, acknowledging that they will adhere to all requirements put in place to ensure a safe environment for our community.
HUC/Cincinnati students at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Our Cincinnati campus had a full week of orientation, filled with activities to facilitate relationship-building among rabbinical and graduate students. They had the opportunity to explore the city on the Loveland Bike Trail, through a spirituality and golf workshop at Losantiville Country Club, during an excursion to the Cincinnati Zoo, and by visiting the libraries at the University of Cincinnati. Students experienced the depth of HUC’s resources on tours of the American Jewish Archives, Klau Library, and the Skirball Museum. They also engaged with our Central Region Board of Advisors and Board of Governors at a cocktail party and met community rabbis.
HUC/Cincinnati students with Central Region Board of Advisors and Board of Governors.
Abigail Bacon, Head of Public Services and Outreach at the Klau Library, is thrilled students are back. “The library is finally reassembling after a long disruption when seating areas were closed off, magazines, newspapers, and journals withheld, and exhibits shuttered,” she shared.
Our Los Angeles students had an exciting return as well. Ahead of orientation, Joshua Holo, Ph.D., Dean of the Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles said, “We look forward to welcoming our new and returning students to the Skirball Campus in Los Angeles, both in-person and online. We also welcome our new Professor of Modern History, Dr. Ben Ratskoff, who will be teaching in the Louchheim and Rabbinical Schools. Dr. Ratskoff earned his doctorate this summer in Comparative Literature from UCLA and he has written on and taught in the fields of Black and Jewish Studies. We are pleased to host our colleague, Dr. Aaron Hagler of Troy University, as a visiting professor of Islamic Civilization and History for the coming academic year.”
RHSOE students during the Cutter Colloquium.
The Rhea Hirsch School of Education students utilized orientation as cohort and culture building. Miriam Heller Stern, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Educational Strategy and National Director, School of Education, shared, “Plato is known to have said, ‘The beginning is the most important part of the work.’ In that spirit, we have designed our Cutter Colloquium, the annual RHSOE retreat, and Intensive Week schedule so that we can begin and end the week together as a RHSOE community, as well as have time to connect with other students from the LA campus community.”
The first-year students on our New York campus also began the school year with orientation. This included activities such as volunteering at the Soup Kitchen, a Student Support Q&A with Director of Student Support, Rabbi Andrew Goodman, a Student Association Happy Hour, a tour of the Museum at Eldridge Street Synagogue, and various workshops.
New York students were welcomed by the annual two-day Kallah retreat. This year it was hosted at Prospect Park in Brooklyn and co-chaired by fifth-year rabbinical students Alexandra Stein and Jill Rubin.
Students outside of Eldridge Street Synagogue.
Fourth-year cantorial student Emma Maier and third-year rabbinical student Jamie Field took over our Instagram stories each day to show some highlights of the retreat. You can view these short videos as a highlight on our Instagram page. This year’s theme was Reframing Shehecheyanu. “Often, we bring in the shehechyanu prayer at times of celebration and joy, a herald of happiness, a trumpet of triumphant celebration for all of the good things that we have. In the face of the year we’ve all survived, we are aiming to focus more carefully on Reframing Shehechyanu, and what it means to take ownership of these familiar words…” explained the organizers. They aimed to explore the following ideas:
Shehechyanu: We have been preserved — we acknowledge that all of us have been through something terrible, tragic, and traumatic. To truly understand “shehechyanu”—“we have been preserved”— we aim to understand that there was a threat to that preservation: a danger through which we persevered.
New York students gather during Tefilah.
V’kiyamanu: We have been sustained and established – we seek to understand what that means as we reframe our experiences, our community, and our learning opportunities. What does it mean to say “v’kiyamanu”—“we have been established”? What might our reestablishment look like when we take it into our own hands?
V’higianu lazman hazeh: We have been brought to this moment — together we are beginning a new story, aiming to focus on what is now [the present], and what comes next [the future]. How can we enact the values of “v’higianu lazman hazeh”—“we have been brought to this moment” as we start off this year? What does it mean to be present? To focus on the now? To enjoy every moment?
This academic year will be one of growth and renewal. We wish our students, faculty, staff, and our entire community a year of good health, happiness, and blessings.