Historic First Ordination in Los Angeles
How the West Was Won: The HUC-JIR Story,
Dr. Steven Windmueller
HUC-JIR/Los Angeles Historical Timeline
Tribute to Dr. Avraham Biran
Faculty Essays on Judaism and Time
Time, Space, and the Memory of God,
Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman
Dr. Reuven Firestone
Ordination Sermon Excerpts, Anita Diamant
Graduation/Ordination/Investiture Photo Album (available in PDF only)
New Directions for Jewish Education: The New York School of Education
Faith First: Second Career Rabbinical Students (available in PDF only)
Recruiting Reform Leaders of Tomorrow
200 Years of Jewish Music in America, Dr. Mark Kligman
As I write these words, I am sitting on our HUC-JIR campus in Jerusalem and gazing upon the walls of the Old City. There is so much beauty and goodness in the world, and this site itself remains a source of endless optimism and hope. Yet, at the same time I reflect upon the past year and focus for a moment upon the seemingly endless tragedy and fear that mars our world. It is difficult at such moments of contemplation not to surrender to despair.
In the midst of these contradictory and disturbing thoughts, my mind recalls a specific rabbinic argument recorded in tractate Rosh Hashanah of the Babylonian Talmud. I share it with you now for the instruction and inspiration this passage affords. In these pages of our Tradition, Rabbi Joshua and Rabbi Eliezer debate the question as to when the world was created. Rabbi Joshua holds that the world was fashioned during Nisan as Spring burst forth. He reasons that Spring is a time of birth – the season when the trees blossom and when the earth awakens from its winter slumber and begins to yield its produce. It is a time of confidence where one can effortlessly recite a blessing that praises God for supplying the world with
all its needs. It is easy to believe in rebirth during the Spring.
Nevertheless, Rabbi Eliezer disagrees with his colleague and asserts that it is with the advent of Tishri in the Fall that the world was formed. Rabbi Eliezer maintains that we must believe in rebirth even during a period when the days shorten and when nature is preparing to be dormant. How difficult it is to believe in renewal when the harshness of winter is on the horizon.
Yet, this is precisely what Judaism prescribes. Jewish law follows the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer, and Jewish tradition from time immemorial has celebrated yom harat ha-olam – the birth of the world – during the autumn festival of Rosh Hashanah. In taking this stance, Jewish tradition teaches that hope and confidence for the promise the future holds must never be abandoned. A realistic assessment of the present must never yield to desolation and hopelessness – a sober yet joyful optimism is always required.
These words of Rabbi Eliezer and the decision made by Jewish tradition to observe the birthday of the world in the Fall embody a crucial message that must be heeded by us all as the New Year approaches. Jews and other persons of good faith must acknowledge and confront the horrors of terrorist activity as well as the other evils that tarnish our world. We must not turn away from them.
At the same time, it would be too easy in light of so many sad chapters that stain our lives both past and present to submit to what the late Salo Baron of Columbia University once perceptively labeled “a lachrymose view of the world.” This dean of modern Jewish historians – speaking in the same voice that marked Rabbi Eliezer – asserted that such submission would be inappropriate, for Judaism promotes a positive ethos that demands that Jews and non-Jews alike affirm life. Each of us is called upon by God to renew our efforts to improve the human condition – even in an era such as our own when it would be so easy to mire ourselves in despair.
These pages of the HUC-JIR Chronicle provide a message of hope in keeping with the sensibility expressed by Rabbi Eliezer as well as Professor Baron. In these articles, we rejoice with a Los Angeles campus that has expanded its rabbinical program and a New York campus that has developed its education offerings so as to better serve the entire Jewish community. We also take great pride in the tales and testimony offered by our second career students as they devote themselves to Jewish study and prepare for lives in Jewish professional fields. HUC-JIR is also grateful that speakers such as Anita Diamant and Thomas Friedman have graced our platforms in Cincinnati during this past year, and we are happy to share their insight and wisdom with you.
As we face the New Year, let us then do so in a spirit of optimism. Let us remember that the world remains a good place, and let us not forget that it is our human responsibility – as the ancient rabbis in their commentary on Creation put it – to make the world “very good.”
Burt and Brenda Lehman, my wife, Jackie and I – along with our children Ruth and Robert, Micah, Hannah, Naomi, and Rafi – pray in the spirit of Ashkenazic tradition that all of you be “written and inscribed for a good and sweet New Year.” And in the words of Sephardic tradition, we ask, “She’tizku l’shanim rabot – that you and your loved ones merit many happy and healthy years.”
Rabbi David Ellenson
How the West Was Won: The HUC-JIR Story,
Dr. Steven Windmueller
As American Jews have developed new institutions and transported and expanded older ones, i.e. the HUC-JIR/LA campus, they are also reshaping the constellation of Jewish energy and influence. These demographic and institutional realities should not only be defined as part of the “East-West” transition but must be seen as a fundamental change in the character and shape of Jewish communal life in North America, where multiple centers of Jewish creativity and organizational growth have emerged.When HUC-JIR/Los Angeles ordained its first class of rabbinical students on May 5th, it marked a historic moment for the College-Institute and the Reform Movement. This event reaffirmed an important transition taking place in Jewish life, the evolving and changing character of Jewish influence and power in America.
Unlike some of the recent points of conflict between some of the New York “national” Jewish institutional systems and their Los Angeles “regional” counterparts, the HUC-JIR story can be understood as a conscious, planned approach in empowering the Los Angeles campus and, in turn, the West Coast Reform Jewish community.
The creation of a full rabbinical program on this coast reflects the cultural realities, and institutional and religious needs of a different type of constituency. If one understands that “not all Jewish communities are the same” and that regions within this country still reflect distinctive patterns of practice, behavior, and culture, then national organizational systems can thrive and grow.
There has existed for a period of years a battle over where Jewish authority and power ought to reside. Clearly, New York remains “the home” to most national Jewish institutions, excepting AIPAC, B’nai B’rith, and the Jewish War Veterans, all of whom claim Washington to be their primary base of operations.
But South Florida, the West Coast, and other regions or sectors of this nation have added significantly to their Jewish population base. As these areas have increased their financial influence, a series of “wars” have escalated within American Jewish institutions over issues involving the control of resources, institutional policy, and organizational management.
The view that “Jewish communities are different” has not always resonated with national organizational leaders who, while often selected from the New York metropolitan area or other established Eastern and mid-Western centers of Jewish life, tend not to appreciate or understand the unique characteristics that define sun-belt communities and the cultures found in some of these new and emerging areas.
Higher non-affiliation patterns and lower per-capita Jewish giving records are but two of the contributing factors that define these communities’ social and demographic realities. A key factor can be seen, as well, in the absence in some of these communities of the depth and breath of peer relationships, so central in forming and nurturing communal systems of engagement and participation. Contrastingly, these emerging communities are often the home to many grassroots, innovative organizational models and are also the locus where experimentation has become synonymous with institution building.
There has always been the need for both creating and sustaining national systems in support of Jewish life. Of some historic interest, the Jewish community has always sought to emulate the American governmental system employing the idea of “separation of powers” as different Jewish entities, for example, were charged with various aspects of communal responsibility. The shared agendas of the Jewish people, namely Israel, Jewish education and religious life, public policy and community relations, were divided amongst institutions and groupings of organizations, similar to the separation of responsibilities found in our political system.
Similarly, the “levels of governance” in the Jewish community can be equated to the geographical divisions found in our federal system. Local and/or regional tasks assigned to Jewish organizations can be understood in comparative ways to the public sector’s focus on city and state concerns, while national Jewish policy matters can be aligned with the federal government’s roles and functions. Therefore, it was only natural for Jewish institutions to create operational units in the West, along with the expansion of services elsewhere in the country, using this “federalist” model of governance and management.
This system however could only work as long as the “citizenry” accepted the central authority as defined by New York’s role as the “Jewish” capitol. As communities and regional organizational structures began to express their desire for “self-rule” or greater autonomy and as resources became increasingly constrained, the issues of “sovereignty” and even organizational separation have become more explicit.
In contrast to these ideas about “national” Jewish systems, the HUC-JIR four-campus model may offer a different perspective. The significance and success of the HUC-JIR experience can be linked to three interesting characteristics.
First, Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the founder and first president of the College- Institute and his seven successors, all understood the idea of institutional transformation. HUC-JIR has always seen itself as an educational experiment, not fixed in place or time. This principle has allowed its leadership to create, for instance the first Israel-based rabbinical program among America’s Jewish seminaries, along with a number of other educational and organizational initiatives unique to the College-Institute.
Secondly, the College-Institute, unlike most American Jewish institutions, was not “of New York,” as the College was founded in Cincinnati, one hundred and twenty-seven years ago. HUC would only become a part of the New York scene following its merger in 1950 with the then New York-based “Jewish Institute of Religion.” This historic reality presents a significantly different model than any other American Jewish institution. The New York experience for HUC can be seen as a part of the College-Institute’s continued plan of expansion
Third, HUC-JIR established its West Coast presence in 1954, nearly fifty years ago. From the outset, the College-Institute was seen as linked to the Reform Jewish community in the Los Angeles area, and not as a totally new, disconnected academic institution. The key to HUC-JIR’s success, and now its growth in the West, has always been this extraordinary relationship.
Of particular interest are the significant numbers of Reform rabbis who today serve Western congregations, who either grew up in this region and/or who studied at HUC-JIR/LA and now have returned to this part of the country, creating a unique “home grown” constituency. Over the years, these men and women have been committed to promoting the Los Angeles School’s case within the national priorities of the College-Institute. We can extract from this experience that institutions require such core communities of interest if they are to flourish.
The ordination of our first West Coast class of Reform rabbis is truly a historic moment, but this event occurs against the backdrop of the geographical transformations and institutional issues that are now defining Jewish life. This occasion allows us to review the unique factors that have shaped HUC-JIR and, more specifically, the story of its Los Angeles campus.
HUC-JIR/Los Angeles Historical Timeline
The UAHC establishes a teacher training and adult education school named the College of Jewish Studies (CJS). The faculty is part-time and made up mostly of local rabbis.
The CJS comes under the joint auspices of HUC-JIR and the UAHC.
The first appropriation from the HUC-JIR budget – $10,000 – is made to the Los Angeles school.
May 29 – Jack Skirball, a prominent filmmaker who had been ordained at HUC-JIR and a chief proponent of a HUC-JIR/LA campus, leads a group that secures a state charter for a “California School” of the College-Institute. Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin becomes Dean of the combined institution offering teacher-training, adult education, and degree granting programs.
Fall – Formal pre-rabbinic classes take place for the first time. The initial group consists of four students and is taught by Dov Bin-Nun.
The HUC-JIR/LA Department of Sacred Music is organized under the leadership of Cantor William Sharlin.
The degree program in Jewish education is launched.
Samuel S. Cohon joins HUC-JIR/LA upon retiring from the HUC-JIR/Cincinnati faculty. He donates his collection of nine thousand volumes to become the nucleus of what is currently the Frances-Henry Library.
The Appian Way property in the Hollywood Hills becomes the first HUC-JIR structure.
Fall – HUC-JIR classes begin at Appian Way.
Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk succeeds Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin as HUC-JIR/LA Dean.
HUC-JIR/LA enters into an “arrangement” with USC whereby students are offered the possibility of simultaneous enrollment in both institutions with reciprocity of course credits towards graduate and undergraduate degrees.
The School of Jewish Communal Service is formed. Gerald Bubis is appointed Director (1968-1989). The program is the first of its kind and has an initial class of 15 students.
The Rhea Hirsch School of Education is founded, initiating a three-year full time M.A. program. Rabbi William Kramer serves as the Director, succeeded by Dr. William Cutter (1970-1980). The RHSOE becomes involved with UC Santa Barbara in the Ford/Esalen project in Humanistic Education. From 1974-1980 it provides teacher enhancement resources for use in national summer institutes.
Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk is appointed HUC-JIR President. Rabbi Lewis M. Barth succeeds Rabbi Gottschalk as HUC-JIR/LA Dean (1971-1979).
The new HUC-JIR/LA campus, adjacent to the University of Southern California, is opened.
HUC-JIR functions as USC’s undergraduate Judaic Studies arm, later named the Louchheim School of Judaic Studies. The Louchheim School currently educates over 600 USC students of all faiths. This is the only arrangement in the U.S. in which a Jewish seminary provides exclusive instruction in Judaica for students at a secular university.
The HUC-JIR Museum, originally located in Cincinnati, re-locates to become the HUC-JIR Skirball Museum at HUC-JIR/LA.
The Master’s program in Jewish Communal Service is offered.
The School of Jewish Communal Service offers a Dual Masters degree program in social work with USC and a joint Masters degree program with the Rhea Hirsch School of Education.
The School of Jewish Communal Service sponsors its first Seminar in Israel.
The School of Jewish Communal Service offers a Dual Masters degree program in social work and Jewish Communal Service with the George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University, St. Louis.
The School of Jewish Communal Service offers a Dual Masters degree program in gerontology and Jewish Communal Service with the USC School of Gerontology.
The Rhea Hirsch School of Education and Skirball Museum create the Museum Utilization for Student Education (MUSE) program. Funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, the program trains docents and public school teachers to utilize museum resources in educating children, and educates hundreds of public and Jewish school students about multicultural life.
Rabbi Uri Herscher is appointed HUC-JIR/LA Dean (1979-1985).
The Rhea Hirsch School of Education establishes the Tartak Learning Center, providing media and instructional resources for part-time teachers.
Sara Lee is appointed Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education (1980 to present).
The School of Jewish Communal Service offers a Dual Masters degree program in public administration and Jewish Communal Service with USC’s School of Public Administration.
The Rhea Hirsch School of Education offers a Ph.D. program in Jewish Education.
The RHSOE, in co-operation with Project Discovery (co-sponsored by Wilshire Boulevard Temple and the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles), institutes a program in which a Jewish education student serves as a Judaic Studies teacher and resource person in two Catholic high schools.1984 The School of Jewish Communal Service offers a Dual Masters degree program in social work and Jewish Communal Service with the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work.
Rabbi Lee Bycel is appointed HUC-JIR/LA Dean (1985-1997). Rabbi Uri Herscher is appointed HUC-JIR Executive Vice-President (1985-1995).
The Rhea Hirsch School of Education inaugurates a summer certificate program to train Jewish day school teachers and principals and hosts the first national conference for directors and other personnel of Reform Day Schools throughout North America.
Ted Kanner is named Director of the Daniels School of Jewish Communal Service (1989-90).
Dr. H. Jack Mayer is named Director of the Daniels School of Jewish Communal Service (1990-1994).
The School of Jewish Communal Service and USC School of Public Administration add specialization in synagogue management to the Double Masters Degree program.
The School of Jewish Communal Service and USC create the Tom Bradley Internship Program through which multiethnic USC students and HUC-JIR students engage in dialogue and joint seminars. The USC students serve summer internships in Jewish agencies and the HUC-JIR students serve internships with organizations representing diverse ethnic groups in Los Angeles.1992 The School of Jewish Communal Service offers a Dual Masters degree program in communications management and Jewish Communal Service with the Annenberg School of Communications at USC.
The Rhea Hirsch School of Education creates the Day Schools for the 21st Century project that works to intensify the Jewish character, expand the Jewish mission, and create both a community of
Jewish learning and learning organization with the participating day schools.
The Rhea Hirsch School of Education creates a Postgraduate Residency Program, placing graduates in Jewish Day Schools.
The RHSOE creates Experiment in Congregational Education, “to bring together a small number of Reform congregations to re-think and re-structure the full range of their educational programs, as they affect all age groups” with the ultimate purpose “to widen the definition of education in the congregational setting, and to assist congregations in their efforts to transform themselves into learning communities.” This program receives generous support from the Mandel Associated Foundations and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.
Marla Abraham is named Director of the Daniels School of Jewish Communal Service (1994-1995).
Dr. Steven Windmueller is named Director of the Daniels School of Jewish Communal Service (1995 to present)
The HUC-JIR Skirball Cultural Center opens.
The Rhea Hirsch School of Education receives a $250,000 grant from the Righteous Persons Foundation to support the continuation of the Postgraduate Residency Program.
Rabbi Lewis M. Barth is appointed HUC-JIR/LA Dean (1997 to present).
Rabbinic Ordination at HUC-JIR/LA is approved.
The School of Jewish Communal Service offers a Dual Masters degree program in Business Administration and Jewish Communal Service with the Marshall School of Business at USC.
The School of Jewish Communal Service offers a track in informal education with the Rhea Hirsch School of Education.HUC-JIR/LA creates Sexual Orientation Issues in Congregations and Community Initiative.
Agnes and Rabbi Erwin Herman fund the creation of the Virtual Resource Center for Sexual Orientation Issues in the Jewish Community, an on-line educational resource for HUC-JIR students, faculty, and alumni in working with issues relating to the gay and lesbian communities of all faiths.
The Kalsman Family endows HUC-JIR’s Lee and Irving Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health, an innovative center for the exploration of religion and healing, advocacy, and training for religious and professional healthcare leaders.
May 5 – the first ordination of HUC-JIR/LA at Wilshire Boulevard Temple; eight new Reform rabbis (3 men, 5 women) are ordained.
Tribute to Dr. Avraham Biran
“It gives me the greatest joy to congratulate our teacher Professor Avraham Biran on this Yom Ha’atz’ma’ut (Israel Independence Day). He is so richly deserving of the prestigious Israel Pirze, and we at the College-Institute bask in the rays of his glory and celebrate his accomplishments on this day. His work in the field of archaeology has brought great distinction to HUC-JIR, and has contributed so richly to the cultural heritage of the Jewish people. We applaud Professor Biran today, and give thanks for his energy, his character, and his knowledge. In the words of our tradition, we thank God, ‘she-halak meihachmato li’rei’av — who shared divine wisdom with humans.’ May Professor Biran continue to grow from strength to strength.”
Dr. David Ellenson, President
Prominently located at the most copious of the Jordan River’s headwaters, Tel Dan has intrigued generations of explorers and archaeologists. Its identification with Biblical Dan by Edward Robinson in 1838 conjured up images of a thriving Israelite cult center rivaling the temple in Jerusalem. In 1966, with the site threatened by military activities related to its forward position on the Syrian border, Dr. Biran, then director of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums, embarked upon salvage excavations which developed into a full-fledged and still active research project. Tel Dan has revealed an almost uninterrupted sequence of occupation from the Neolithic period through the late Roman period in a series of unique discoveries whose full implications are only just beginning to be understood.Avraham Biran, a third generation Israeli, received his M.A. and Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University under William Foxwell Albright and was Thayer Fellow in the American Schools of Oriental Research, Jerusalem, 1935-37. Formerly Director of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums, he is Director of HUC-JIR’s Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem. He participated in the excavations of the University of Pennsylvania in Iraz, Tepe Gawra near Mosul, and Khafaje near Baghdad, and in the American Schools of Oriental Research excavations near Irbid in Jordan. He accompanied Nelson Glueck in his epoch-making discoveries at the head of the Gulf of Eilat. Professor Biran directed the excavations of Anathoth, Tel Zippor, Ira, Aroer, the synagogue of Yesud Hama’alah, and the longest ongoing excavations in Israel at Tel Dan (1966 to the present day).
Dr. Biran’s book, Biblical Dan (Israel Exploration Society/Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 1994) is a chronicle of Tel Dan’s history: its initial settlement at the dawn of civilization, its first urban episode in the Early Bronze Age, the massive earthwork fortifications and unique mud-brick gate of the Middle Bronze Age through which Abraham is said to have walked, the tombs of the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, the evidence for the migration of the tribe of Dan in the early Iron Age, and finally, the rise of a national cult center in the Israelite period in all its architectural and artifactual glory. In 1993 at Tel Dan, the northernmost city in the biblical kingdom of Israel, Dr. Biran discovered the “House of David” stele. The inscription on this stele, written in early Aramaic paleo-Hebrew script and dating from the 9th century B.C.E., is the first archaeological evidence supporting the existence of the House of David.
We began digging at Tel Dan the year before the Six-Day War. We didn’t go there because it was the site of Biblical Dan or even because that’s where we thought it was. It was near the border with Syria and Lebanon, at the source of the Jordan River. The army had been digging trenches and putting up gun emplacements facing the Syrian positions. Some kibbutzniks from Kibbutz Dan, a couple of miles from the tell, came and told me that the army was destroying the tell. So we decided to do a quick little excavation to see what we could learn before either the army destroyed much of the evidence or who knows what the result of a war could be. If war broke out, we might not be able to go there. So we rushed to do what we call a rescue dig. Of course, we knew from the Bible that Jeroboam had set up the golden calf at Dan [1 Kings 12:28-30]. We thought it might be interesting to see if we could find the locality where the golden calf would have been set. Could we find the sanctuary or the high place where the cult rituals took place?
Deep in your heart, you always think, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find the golden calf.” We went to the northern edge of the tell [an ancient mound composed of remains of successive settlements] where the springs were. We wanted to work there, but the army wouldn’t let us because this faced the Syrian positions. The army said that if we started working there and bringing in a lot of people, it might become a cause for war. So we said to the army, “So where can we dig?” They said on the southern slope. Okay, so we went to the southern slope. But it is about 200 yards long – where to begin? We saw two huge rocks – built stones – jutting out of the slope. So we said if we can cut a trench between these two blocks of stone, maybe we’ll learn something without doing any damage. It happened that it was a very fortunate choice because we discovered over the years that these stones were part of the gate from the Israelite period.
Common sense is a very important element in excavating. Obviously these built stones represented some construction. To remove them would be against everything that you’ve been taught. So we chose an area that was between them.
Whenever you dig, you destroy. All excavation is a destruction. We cut a trench through the southern slope to see whether we could learn something about the construction of the ramparts that protected the city. We could have started at the bottom, at the foot of the rampart. Had we done that, we might have discovered in 1966 the inscription that we found in 1993 that mentions the “House of David.” Who knows? It’s all chance, whatever you do.
After the Six-Day War, the army said we could dig anywhere we wanted. We’ve been digging at Dan now for 36 years. People ask me today, “When are you going to stop?’ I say that it reminds me of an old Jewish story of a guy desperately fighting with a bear. His friends keep yelling at him to let go of the bear. “I want to,” he says, “but the bear won’t let me go.”
Time, Space, and the Memory of God,
Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman
Every Rosh Hashanah, we say that God remembers. But how can God, who is beyond time, remember? Isn’t memory a temporal function, so beyond God who is eternal?
Human thought differentiates time from space. Time, we think, is a video strip, passing frame by frame through the window of consciousness. Time “passes;” space does not. With space, we can “expand our horizon” – “see the whole picture.” Time, by contrast, “comes,” then goes forever. In space, we get to revisit the sites we like; not so time, except in memory which becomes just the imaginary revisiting of time past. Memory is what is left of yesterday’s movie show.
But if you are a physicist, you know that space and time is really a single continuum. And if you are God, you know that too, because you are melekh ha’olam, “Ruler of the universe.” Would an earthly king who ruled the whole earth be melekh ha’olam? The answer is, no, because such a ruler would hold sway only over the space of the earth, but not its existence in time, whereas God is ruler of both. Olam, for God, is the time-space continuum. Time as a frame- by- frame video that passes irrecoverably into the past turns out to be a fiction dictated by the limits of human consciousness. For God, time is like space – it is all there all at once. God, then, does not “remember,” the way we do.
How, then, does God remember, and what does it mean to say, as we do, that our prayers remind God to do the remembering? Take the liturgical words zekher and zikaron, which mean “remembrance.” We say of Shabbat, for instance, that it is zekher li’tsiyat mitzrayim, “a remembrance of leaving Egypt” and zikaron l’ma’asei vereshit, “a remembrance of creation.”
Because we mistake time for a video, it is as if we doze off for a Shabbat nap, thinking dreamily, “This must have been what it was like when God rested that first Shabbos afternoon.” Our state of mind is something between “I remember Mama,” and “Remember the Alamo!” – more pressing than nostalgia but less demanding than a matter of moral duty. If nostalgia turns out to be less than what it used to be, we can ratchet up the rhetoric by advocating “Remember!” as an ethical obligation; and when the force of history weighs us down, we can frequent therapists to put old memories to rest. We can variously live in the present, or the future, or the past, as our mental health requires. We do, in fact, live in that video-like reality of time. We have no choice. We are human.
Not so God, who is eternal and sees it all at once. To remind God of something is therefore not just to dredge up some old memory. Reminding God about an instance in time is like pointing out a distant place on the map of space. Zekher or zikaron, with regard to God, then is not so much “remembrance,” as it is a signpost directing God’s attention somewhere on the time-space continuum.
Space and time are only two maps of the human spirit. There are others. In the realm of logic, for instance, you get synapses of reason that are charted on maps of mental acuity. Apply logic to life, and you get a map called Halakhah. Join two points in the map of Halakhah and you have a logical demonstration. Like the dots in a connect-the-dots game, things make sense only when they are joined together. The line we use to join the dots depends on the nature of the map. The map of time uses lines of memory; space features highways, shipping routes, and air corridors; logic uses Aristotelian propositions, algebraic equations, and halakhic hermeneutics.
And in the map of Halakhah, we find this rabbinic axiom: im em r’ayah ladavar, yesh
zekher ladavar: literally, “Though there is no proof for a thing, there is zekher of it.” Clearly zekher, is not “remembrance,” here, but “pointer.” Physics speaks of a weak and a strong force; so too in halakhic prooftexting! One would prefer a strong proof, but in its absence, the Rabbis cite a biblical verse that is no airtight demonstration, but is a zekher, an “indication,” that at least points the way to the thing under discussion.
Now we know what it is for God to remember us, or for us to remind God to remember. Since God cannot forget, God can neither remember, as we do, nor be reminded as we are (for being reminded presupposes that God had forgotten).
Our prayers, however, can be pointers, directing the mind of God to the things on the time-space continuum that matter. The liturgy lists several: the covenant, for instance, but most of all, ourselves.
When we say, for instance, that God “remembers the righteous deeds of our ancestors” (zokher chasdei avot), it is not that God flips through a picture album to recall the good old days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Imagine God instead surveying space like time, and looking first at our ancestors and then at us, and then applying the connective tissue of divine grace between one and the other. It may be, therefore, as Avinu malkenu asserts, that em banu ma’asim, “we have no good deeds” with which to plead our own merit, but trust God to be compassionate anyway on account of Abraham and Sarah who are not dead and gone, but still alive and well somewhere else on the map which God alone can fathom.
The gift of Rosh Hashanah is this sweeping vision of space and time that is knowable all at once, only to God. But we can weigh the relative significance of different points on the map, “reminding” God to attend to this quadrant rather than that. Liturgy reshapes the cosmic map; that, in part, is what it means to be partners with God in creation.
It follows also, that human beings are not mere statistics in a universe that is too impersonal and too large to keep us in mind. We are always in the divine mind. That is the point of Rosh Hashanah. Its liturgy is the means by which we are pointed out, visited, remembered, even saved. There can be no nobler hallmark of the human spirit than this conviction that every one of us is worthy of God’s attention, and that we gather in prayer so as to be pointed out on the divine map of eternity.
Dr. Reuven Firestone
Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and other great religious traditions all teach the virtue of patience in the face of life’s adversities. Patience and fortitude are prominent themes in the Bible and represent enduring traits of the religious personality. The biblical term for this is, literally, “hoping (or waiting) for God,” as in the famous passage in Genesis 49:18: “I wait/hope for your deliverance, Adonai” (liyshu’atkha kiviti, Adonai). The great biblical prophets, known for their extraordinary sensitivity to life’s trials and sufferings, teach not only the uncompromising need for social justice and compassion, but also the need for patience and hope in God. Micah, for example, at a time of corruption in the courts, lack of proper nutrition in the homes and even terrible cases of family violence, proclaims, “Yet I will look to Adonai, I will wait for the God who saves me; my God will hear me.” This is neither a renunciation of responsibility nor a longing for otherworldly salvation. On the contrary, learning to have patience in God helps us to find the fortitude to deliver ourselves and our fellows from the evils that seem to be an inherent part of real life. There will be a day, says the prophet, when such evils will cease, and that day is sometimes described metaphorically in miraculous terms such as when lions will lie peacefully with lambs, but even that glorious day is understood biblically as a recognizable world Ñ not as a metaphysical world of the spirit that is somehow severed or removed from material life.
The sublime and magnificent artistry of biblical literature has inspired every generation, and its nature as well as its essence has been read and interpreted in various ways throughout the ages. Patience and hope for God’s deliverance has taken on somewhat different meanings among the many religious communities that evolved directly or indirectly out of biblical religion. In Christianity, God’s salvation has a far more otherworldly sense than in Judaism, and patience for God’s salvation is more stoic and passive, based on the faith that God will bring about an entirely new world of the spirit through the messianic return of Jesus. The Christian is called upon to remember one’s faith and patience in the hope of redemption [1st Thessalonians 1:3] and to suffer and even glory in suffering, for “…tribulation works patience, and patience, experience, and experience, hope” [Romans 5:1-4]. Salvation and eternal life itself is earned through patience and suffering; it is not the assertive, but rather the patiently meek who shall inherit the earth.1
Islam, too, places great emphasis on sabr, the classical qur’anic term for patience, tenacity, and resignation, for which divine reward is given.2 As in the Bible, sabr is associated with God, one of whose “ninety-nine beautiful names” is al-sabur, the Patient One, and the role of the religious Muslim is to develop one’s own full sense of sabr in a variety of ways. These include patience in the task of accepting religious dogma, endurance in working to fulfill the divine law, steadfastness in refraining from forbidden acts, resignation in the face of calamity, and tolerance for one’s fellow creatures, including non-Muslims.3 Islam, then, calls for patient fortitude in the obedience of God’s demands while awaiting eternal reward.
Rabbinic Judaism, like its sister-monotheisms, resonates deeply with the biblical call for patience and hope in God’s redemption, and the Talmud certainly extols patience as an important personal trait as well. But there is a certain edginess to rabbinic fortitude in awaiting God’s redemption that is realized in a kind of un-stoic, activist impatience with the setbacks and vicissitudes of life, a greater willingness to get involved in other peoples’ business because one should care about one’s fellows, a readiness even to rebuke one’s neighbor when it appears that a wrong may have been committed. It is a feistiness that feels sometimes like nosiness, a Jewish trait that is anything but the bland and indifferent American axiom, “I’m OK, you’re OK.” A classic example of this trait may be found in a talmudic story that expresses the complexity and ambivalence of the Jewish position.
The story is prefaced with the statement that the early sages were willing to go to great (and therefore commendable) extremes in order to sanctify God’s name. The narrative that follows ends with a triple, bilingual play on words, where a woman’s name, Matun, is also recognized as meaning “patient and moderate” in Hebrew, a trait that the main character of the story does not have, and meaning “two hundred” in Aramaic, half the sum of money that he was fined for his zealous lack of moderation.
Rav Ada bar Ahava once saw a non-Jewish woman wearing a forbidden type of clothing in the market. He thought she was a Jew, so he jumped up and tore it off of her. It turned out that she was in fact a non-Jew [who according to her custom was free to wear that type of clothing]. He was therefore fined four hundred zuz [for infringing on her freedom to dress in her ethnic custom. Later on, in the courtroom, we assume,] he asked her, “What is your name? She answered, “Matun.” So he said to her, “Matun, matun, equals four hundred zuz.” [Berakhot 20a]
The punch line is a brief and typically eliptic talmudic understatement. It should be translated into something like: “You are Matun; were I also matun (a bit more cautious and discreet), I would have saved twice ma’tun!” (meaning four hundred zuz)! Rav Ada’s lack of discretion, even his error with its requisite punishment, is nevertheless considered by the rabbis of the Talmud to be a positive quality. Patience is indeed a noble trait, and Judaism teaches patience and forbearance, but it does so in dialectic tension with the equal Jewish expectation that we must jump up and get involved. We will inevitably err occasionally, and our error may even cause some damage to ourselves and to others, but we must, nevertheless, patiently insist on never accepting life as anything less than what it should be.
Ordination Sermon Excerpts, Anita Diamant
It is a great honor to be asked to address you today. After all, I am not a rabbi, nor do I play one on TV. When I speak to groups of Jews, my portfolio is that of a writer – recently, as a novelist, but for many years before that, as a non-fiction writer of Jewish life-cycle books. In that role, I have always seen myself as a journalist, an anthropologist of sorts, describing the choices that American Jews are making for themselves and for their families.
Today, speaking to a very special audience, to a congregation of new rabbis, I wondered what I could offer as you begin your sacred work as teachers and leaders in the Jewish community. And I decided to speak to you as a member of your congregation – who happens to be a writer.
When Rabbi Dan Plotkin sent me an email with the parasha for this Shabbat, I smiled. Truly, there are no “coincidences.” This week’s portion appears in my second novel, Good Harbor, as the basis for a sermon.
It is the sermon of a young rabbi, barely a year out of school, in a fictional congregation in Gloucester, MA. Rabbi Michelle Hertz, in her first pulpit, prints out the portion and distributes it to the people who have come to Friday night service.
Though the rabbi plays a pivotal role, she is a minor character in the book. The novel is told from the perspective of two women who happen to hear this sermon. Joyce and Kathleen.
Kathleen Levine is a long-standing member of the congregation but not a regular at services; she comes this particular Friday night because she felt the need to sit give thanks for receiving good medical news. As her name suggests, she is a convert to Judaism.
Rabbi Hertz describes Aaron’s reaction:
“Let’s assume for a moment that Aaron isn’t a bad guy,” she said. “He doesn’t run off congratulating himself on his good luck while Miriam’s skin turns white and she goes to solitary confinement for seven days. � Aaron is horrified by what happened to his sister and � he suffers for her.
“What does Aaron think of the God they’ve been chasing around in the desert? A God who would do such a terrible thing to his kid sister, the only one in the family who can sing, who composes beautiful songs in praise of Adonai?
“What kind of deity am I serving, he thinks. What kind of God punishes Miriam and not me?
“Maybe Aaron wonders if he could have protected his sister. Maybe he’s thinking, ‘Why didn’t I challenge God and ask why she got zapped and I didn’t?’ Maybe Aaron suffers over what he perceives is his own cowardice.”
Kathleen is listening to all of this and reacts:
“Kathleen’s cheeks burned. She felt as if the rabbi were speaking directly to her and almost looked around to make sure no one was staring at her. But everyone seemed intent on the rabbi’s story. Even Ida, notorious for fixing her lipstick during sermons, was listening.
Kathleen struggled with the rabbi’s words. Why didn’t I argue with God about my cancer? She had been frightened and worried, but she’d borne her cross (hah!) without complaint, like some Catholic martyr.
But she knew why she didn’t argue. She believed her cancer was a punishment.
Of course, the rabbi in my novel has no idea what’s going on in Kathleen’s mind. The two of them meet for the first time after the service ends. And yet, Kathleen feels Rabbi Hertz has spoken directly to her. The rabbi’s words have helped set her on a path that unwinds throughout the rest of the book, the rest of her life.
What I want to talk to you about today, rabbis, is the ineffable, unknowable, profound power of your words. From this day forth, your words can change hearts, minds, and the destiny of the world. It is a great power.
You are like a whole class of Spidermen and Spiderwomen. Because as those of you who have seen the movie or read the text know (as it is written), “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Unlike Spidey, your new power comes of your own choosing. No genetically altered arachnids were involved in your transformation. No one forced you to become rabbis. And yet, this new super-power that you have clearly brings with it many responsibilities.
All teachers wield this kind of power. Teachers have no idea which student will respond to their lessons. In my fictional sermon, Rabbi Hertz certainly wasn’t speaking directly to Kathleen, and yet, the potential of opening a heart as she did, is in your mouth, from now on.
The words of a rabbi are more heavily freighted than the words of an unordained teacher. You are not your congregants’ parents, and yet, your role has parental resonance regardless of your chronological age. You do become, metaphorically, fathers and mothers for members of your congregations (and by “congregations,” I include Hillels, classrooms, community groups, as well as synagogue communities – wherever your rabbinate takes you).
And while you should all be pretty clear by now that you are not, individually, God, it’s pointless to fight the fact that you speak with God’s voice.
Rationally, we congregants know better. We don’t really think that that you are, literally, God’s mouthpiece. The more democratically you run your shul (or community group, or school) the more approachable the rabbi, the more humble, the more a teacher than a priest, the better.
Secretly, unconsciously, we do believe that the rabbi is God’s stand-in. That’s why the addition of a soprano voice on the bimah was such a revolutionary development in Jewish history. The reason the woman’s voice from the pulpit was such a threatening prospect, and why it’s been such a healing sound, too, is because the voice of women shattered a supposition about God’s maleness.
The female voice of the rabbi demonstrates that God is neither female nor male. God is God. The diversity of the rabbinate – the mixed chorus of rabbi’s voices – is a lesson in the universality of God, and also the underlying Oneness of God.
I think everyone is most aware of the rabbi’s voice during sermons. This is certainly where the rabbi’s language is most self-conscious, and usually, most formal. A sermon is a performance, after all. It’s where you get judged for succeeding or failing at moving the heart, touching the soul, rousing the spirit.
It’s not fair that sermons are so much like final exams, especially those dreaded high holiday sermons. (Some of you are already working on them, aren’t you?)
It’s such a tiny fraction of all the words you will speak in a year, and yet those are often the only words upon which all those twice-a-year members will make their determination of your intellect, humor, talent.
But you do speak in God’s voice when you sermonize from the bimah. And so does the baby wailing away in the back of the sanctuary just as you reach for your most subtle and sublime insight.
God is often eloquent when given voice by pre-school children. But God also may be heard in ungracious criticism by the most obstreperous person on your board of directors.
Maybe this is the reason why our sages paid such enormous attention to the transgressions of lashen hara. According to Psalm 24, the whole world is full of God. Since our voices are part of that world, using God’s voice to harm another human being becomes an unspeakable sin.
A rabbi’s greatest challenge is to discern God’s voice in the people around her. And then to show all of those voices the respect that God is due. And also to teach us, your congregants, that we have a responsibility to listen for God in each other’s voices.
I became a serious Jew because of the words of an alumnus of this institution. My first contact with Rabbi Lawrence Kushner was over the phone, doing an interview for the Boston Phoenix about why unaffiliated Jews feel the need to go to services at the high holidays.
Rabbi Kushner was most gracious with his time. (Free advice: Always talk to the press. It expands your pulpit and you never know who might be listening.)
A couple of years after that first conversation with Rabbi Kushner, while I was preparing for my wedding, I asked him what I should read about Jewish marriage ceremonies. And he said: You should write a book about Jewish weddings because the books out there are lousy.
And he changed my life. Given that The New Jewish Wedding is still in print, and rabbis tell me that they’re still recommending it to couples 20 years later, his words changed a lot of other lives, too.
I am the daughter of Rabbi Kushner’s words in so many ways, and I will always be grateful to him. And standing here, knowing that my words are reaching some of his teachers, I must acknowledge my debt to my grandfathers on the faculty.
Not every sermon touches the heart. Not every suggestion made to a congregant in the rabbi’s study will lead to the publication of a book. But you’ll never know.
Words are over-determined in our tradition. God creates by speaking. We pray daily that the words of our mouths are acceptable, we pray to keep our tongues from evil.
When I learned that the Hebrew word davar means both word and thing, I felt that I had learned a foundational truth about Judaism and about how Jews function, create, do business, even dream. We Jews are obsessed with the word, and thus with speech, the tongue, the voice.
No surprise then that there are so many examples in our texts and in our traditions about language, lips, words, voices. One of the best-known of these, and one of the happiest, is the seventh wedding blessing, which enumerates seven voices: The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bride and the voice of the groom, the rapturous voices of the wedded from their bridal chambers, and of young people feasting and singing. (Rachel Adler translation)
The rabbi speaks in seven voices, too.
Not all of the rabbi’s voices can be joyful, but all of them count. The rabbi’s voice can heal and challenge, can soothe and provoke, can build and honor.
The seven voices of the rabbi include the voice of celebration, and the voice of consolation. The voice of hilarity, and the voice of exhortation. The voice of the teacher, and the voice of imagination. And finally, the rabbi’s own voice, his authentic voice, her authentic voice.
The voice of celebration.
One of the great pleasures of being a rabbi is helping people shape their joy. The joy of weddings, births, bar/bat mitzvah. The joy of the holidays, of welcoming converts to Judaism, of marking time with delight.
One of the most fundamental religious impulses, one of the reasons we seek out rabbis, is to help us name our deepest happiness, our most profound gratitude. The rabbi helps us give shape to joy, which has no shape, with ritual and words both ancient and contemporary. Convening far-flung families to gather and to say yes to life, the rabbi gives us permission to weep in delight and to sing with happiness.
This is the icing on your cake as rabbis. This is what gets you through rough times and reminds you why you love being a rabbi. This is all about opening doors into Jewish life and meaning.
Oh rabbis, don’t be shy with your words on joyful occasions. Take a lesson from the seventh wedding blessing, which is an embarrassment of riches. Given the economy of most rabbinic language, the ten synonyms for happiness are a kind of word-orgy; a mantra of the varieties of human joy. The enumeration of good feeling that ends the ceremony is a kind of incitement for the guests to live up to their responsibility to entertain and rejoice with the bride and groom.
Of course, even in its excess the blessing is only a few lines long. So be brief and succinct and be specific. Don’t flinch from naming the source of our happiness, which is not in the heavens but here on earth; the body, the heart, the passion, the new, the real. Davar means thing as well as word.
I wish you an abundance of joyful tidings, rabbis. And don’t forget to dance.
The voice of consolation is the other side of the coin, the mirror image of the voice of celebration. The consoling voice of the rabbi is the other fundamental reason many people find their way back to the synagogue, back into Jewish community. Where else can we find words for the unspeakable pain that is part of life, too. The rabbi’s voice can help to express the lowest ebb of life’s emotional range.
The rabbi gives a name to heartbreak. But even more, the rabbi is there to hear the voice of the bereaved, to witness the shattered heart, to hold the racking sob without shattering himself and thus be a model of survival, patience, and faith.
Through illness, disappointment, divorce, family crisis, death, people will come to you and ask you to explain. And you should say . as little as possible, actually.
In the home of the broken heart, the rabbi listens a lot and whispers a little. The rabbi’s presence is very often the only eloquence required. What you say will be far less important than the fact that you showed up.
I remember nothing of what anyone said to me the week after my father died. Including the comments of my very eloquent rabbi. We sat the kitchen table. We took a walk around the block together.
The rabbi’s voice is the voice that intones the consolation of Kaddish. And there it is more the mere sound of your voice, not the words very much, the sound of Kaddish, that matters most.
The comforts of the mourner’s Kaddish are rooted in preverbal ways of knowing. Like a mother’s heartbeat against the infant ear, Kaddish makes an elemental sound — natural as rain on a wooden roof but also as human as a lullaby.
It is your privilege to lead mourners through this lullaby. And if you are honest as well as gentle with your words, with your voice, you will never experience more profound gratitude.
The voice of hilarity?
There are funny people, and people who can’t tell a joke to save their lives, but you rabbis, you are required to master the voice of hilarity. It’s in the fine print of your contract, found in the tractates devoted to the celebration of Purim.
Purim may be your greatest challenge. As soon as Simchat Torah is over, it’s not too soon to start planning your Purim costume, finding the right mask, the loudest noisemaker. I’m not kidding, and I’m not talking about the kids either.
Purim has become the premiere pediatric Jewish observance. The little ones are undeniably adorable parading around the synagogue in their costumes. But Purim did not start as a kiddie holiday. The Book of Esther is a bawdy burlesque that should get an R-rating for its depiction of drunkenness, harem sexuality, and violence. And then there’s the fact that we’re supposed to get falling-down, drooling stupid drunk on Purim.
Purim has room for children, but it requires that grown ups act the fool, and sing “Adon Olam” to the tune of “I’ve been Working on the Railroad.” You rabbis, you need to read Mad Magazine from the bimah and teach the jokes in the Talmud.
This foolishness is the stuff of religious devotion. Once a year, Purim comes along to tell us stop posing as a nation of priests, to wipe the smirk off our collective faces and replace it with an idiotic grin. Get down and boogie with You-Know-Who, Who certainly loves to laugh. I have no other way to explain the belief that Purim will be the only holiday celebrated after the messiah arrives and redeems the world.
I’ve often wondered whether redemption might be kind of boring. God must know we need to keep laughing at ourselves, no matter what. Maybe the world to come will turn out to be a friendly asylum staffed by the Marx brothers, assisted by the likes of Molly Picon, Henny Youngman, and Lenny Bruce — whose collective memory is a riot.
This is serious nonsense! If you rabbis don’t deliver a creditable sermon on Yom Kippur, you will probably get the boot from your congregation. If you don’t do something really outrageous on Yom haKippurim, you ought to get the hook.
You have to teach this lesson to your Jews.
It is your sacred responsibility to remind us that laughter is holy. That hilarity belongs in shul. That we are not Episcopalians, all due respect to those of you celebrating with us today. And the only way to teach this lesson is by being funny, by treating the small adversities of life with a light touch, by laughing out loud as often and as loud as possible. On Purim in particular, but not only then. I’m perfectly serious.
Take my tsuris. Please.
The voice of exhortation. Laughter shakes us out of our normal way of breathing. And there are times, rabbis, you need to knock the wind out of us and make us catch our breath. There are times you need to thunder from the bimah and make us really uncomfortable.
You have to do more than merely quote Isaiah: you must become him:
“Behold, on the day of your fast you pursue business as usual and oppress your workers. Behold you fast only to quarrel and to fight, to deal wicked blows.
Is this the fast that I have chosen? Is this the affliction of the soul? Is it to droop your head like a bulrush, to grovel in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call fast, a fast that the Lord would accept?” (Isaiah 57-58)
You need to challenge us in class, too. And in your study. And in your meetings with the teachers you supervise.
The voice of exhortation is not always an easy voice for liberal rabbis to use. The authority of the clergy is, in most places, no longer an absolute. This is a good thing. Autocrats and dictators make bad rabbis.
But it is not a good thing for a congregation or any organization to be leaderless, or to be led by a person without a strong sense of right and wrong, better and worse.
Historically, the role of the rabbi had a lot to do with declaring things kosher or not kosher: This chicken is okay. This bottle of wine is trafe. You can’t marry her. You have to do business with him.
But this is an American rabbinate that you enter, with American Jews in the pews. Mostly, people don’t care if you think their choices are kosher or trafe. And yet, it would be truly awful for us as Jews, and for Judaism as a whole, if you were to become nothing more than our spiritual/religious chauffeurs, taking us only where we want to go, avoiding any turn that drives through the slums, ignoring the pain we create in our own families through pettiness or arrogance or neglect.
Yours is the task of asking parents whether it’s more important to them that their kids grow up to be life-long soccer players or life-long Jewish learners.
Yours is the task of chastising your community about being complacent in the face of public education that is excellent in the suburbs but substandard in the city.
Your job includes demanding that the Jewish Federations of your community help pay for special education for kids enrolled in religious schools and day schools. And that everyone in your congregation registers and votes, and donates blood
It goes on and on.
I’m not talking about wheedling or nagging, or guilt-tripping. Those noises come from throats choked by insecurity and doubt. The voice of exhortation may be angry sometimes, but it is never petty and it is grounded in the most basic values of Torah:
That which is abhorrent to you, don’t do it to your neighbors. Remember you were a stranger. Teach your children. Remember Shabbat. Do not forget that we are only the custodians of this planet, of these bodies.
The voice of exhortation, the prophetic voice, speaks truth to power. This is not easy. But if you don’t get into hot water from time to time, rabbis, you’re not doing your job.
The voice of the teacher. Teaching is an art and a mystery. I am in awe of great teachers and I wouldn’t dare tell you how to do it. You will each find your own pedagogy, your own style of instruction.
But I will encourage you to teach what you love. And I hope that you will teach, most of all, what you are excited about learning yourself.
As you assume the voice of the teacher, remember that the best teachers reveal themselves as serious students. (Serious here does not mean pompous or elite; it includes getting down on the floor and playing with the alef bet blocks with the preschoolers, it means being goofy with the high school kids.)
With the title of Rabbi, your status as a teacher is a given. But if you can be a role model as a student of Judaism, as a fellow-traveler on the unending pathway through Jewish life, as an acolyte rather than as a master, you will give the Jewish community a great gift.
The voice of the teacher-who-is-still-a-student retains the enthusiasm of the beginner. It is a voice still able to ask naive questions, and it is a voice that is sometimes wracked by doubt.
The voice of this kind of teacher is humble because serious Jewish students know that there is no end to study, no end to mitzvot, no end to tikkun olam.
This is a relatively insecure voice. This is the voice in the wilderness. This is the voice of someone who knows how little she knows, how little he knows. This is the voice that longs for God, that struggles with the notion of the sacred and reveals how his/her mind grapples with unanswerable questions.
Teach as a student, and they will come to study with you, not only to gather the pearls of wisdom from your lips, but to watch the way you tie your shoes.
The voice of imagination.
This is the voice of liberal Judaism in general, of Reform Judaism in particular. Yours is the voice of 21st century Judaism, and we need rabbis who can dream out loud, to dare great things within your own rabbinate, and to challenge those that you will reach and teach to do great things as Jews and as human beings.
The voice of your imagination can lead us to experiment with liturgy and ritual, music and silence, governance and organization. From you we expect not only books, but vision and passion wedded together in new Jewish formulations.
You are not required to complete the tasks you imagine. But you are required to inspire imagination in others. To keep your eyes peeled for commitment and nurture it. To seek out talent and foster its Jewish expression.
What do I mean? I mean .. Ask one of the non-Jewish members of your synagogue, the one who has served on a dozen committees and closes his eyes for the Shema; ask that person, “Can you imagine yourself as a Jew yet?”
I mean ask high school students .. “Have you ever imagined yourself as a rabbi, a cantor, a Jewish educator?”
I mean, challenging the wealthy people you encounter to think about their money in Hillel’s terms: “All a person truly possesses for eternity is the money he gives away.”
To ask the people in your pews to think about living in the service of something more meaningful and sustaining than material success alone.
You are in a great historical moment for this voice, rabbis. The Jewish imagination is alive and well. In the arts, in publishing, in theology. There is energy to reinvent our institutions. There is self-confidence for creating new rituals, new gateways to meaning.
You new rabbis must cultivate this growing edge of our people’s souls by speaking with the voice of possibility, of youth, of hope, of risk-taking. The voice of imagination will help keep us alive into the 22nd century and beyond. We are counting on your voices.
Finally, the seventh voice, the rabbi’s own voice. The phrase, “finding your own voice” is much in vogue.
“Finding one’s own voice” means not being derivative or plagiarizing. It means surpassing your sources, your teachers, your mentors sources – even as you cite your sources and teachers.
But finding your own voice isn’t so much about being “original,” as it as about being true to yourself and trusting the notion that we are all created in God’s image.
This doesn’t require talking about yourself all the time. The confessional sermon, like the confessional memoir, has its limits. Referring to your own experience as a starting point is a good thing in a sermon. But boundaries are good, too. And reaching beyond the self is essential.
The parasha this week has something to teach us about the rabbi’s authentic voice. In the aftermath of God’s judgment upon Miriam, we have three examples of “rabbinic” voices in response.
First Aaron; the priest. Aaron addresses Moses, not God. Aaron says:
“Please, my lord,
do not, pray, impose on us guilt-for-a-sin
by which we were foolish, by which we sinned!
Do not, pray, let her be like a dead child
Who, when it comes out of its mother’s womb
Is eaten up in half its flesh!
(Everett Fox translation)
This entreaty comes right after God has chastised Aaron and Miriam for daring to speak against Moses for his marriage to a Cushite woman. (A sin of speech, which they share with the rest of the Jews.)
Aaron does not speak to God directly, but beseeches his brother on his sister’s behalf and on his own. It is a heart-felt plea, but I think you can hear, just behind his concern for Miriam, something self-defensive. Aaron implicitly asks Moses to tell God “Don’t strike me down with leprosy, too.” He is almost whining. He is terribly afraid.
Next we have Miriam’s voice, which is to say, we have Miriam’s silence. As is the case in so many places in our texts, the voice of the woman is missing. Miriam, the prophet who sang by the sea, sings nothing here.
She suffers, ultimately she is separated from the community for a week, she takes the fall for Aaron and pays for her own indiscretion. If she spoke at this moment, it was not recorded. It is left to us to imagine her tears, her entreaties, her mortification(?), her accusation(?) her prayer.
Or perhaps we are meant to listen to her silence as an answer: an admission (?) an acceptance of responsibility(?) Her silence remains an open question, a mystery here.
Then there is Moses, who offers a striking contrast to Aaron’s fear-filled speech. Moses’ voice comes up several times in the Torah. He complains that he is slow of speech; commentators have speculated that perhaps he even had some kind of impediment. He complains to God that the people don’t heed his voice, even when is taking God’s words directly to them.
Moshe cried out to YHVH, saying:
O God, pray, heal her, pray.
This is Everett Fox translation again, and the note gives the transliteration; El na rafa na la. Fox writes. “I could not find a way to reflect the sound of the Hebrew.
El, God. Na, please. Rafa heal, Na. Please. Her. La.
So simple. So economical. So musical. So heart-felt. So simply human.
Rabbis, this is your challenge, too. To find your voice – on the bimah and off – and to speak as honestly as Moses.
In classrooms and in living rooms. At town meeting and at congressional hearings. In pastoral counseling and in conversation with people of different faiths, in consultation with our brothers and sisters in Israel and in the letters to the editor of your local paper.
As rabbis, what you say will have significance in ways you never intend. Maybe you’ve already had a sense of this in your student pulpits, when a congregant quotes you back to yourself, or when a parent effuses about some random compliment you paid his child.
The power of your words is staggering. You can make terrible mistakes. In fact, you will make terrible mistakes. You will make a joke that will be taken the wrong way. You will use a word that will be misheard. You will say something hurtful, something insensitive, something unintentionally cruel. How could it be otherwise? You will be talking so much, and your words are so over-determined.
I don’t mean to scare you. I pray you will not parse or over-think every syllable you utter. The voices of imagination and exhortation must be brave.
So when you do mess up, clean up after yourself right away. When you are misunderstood, or if you misspeak, apologize. Immediately. In person, and then in writing. Do it in public, in front of the whole community, if necessary. And then put your mistake behind you.
Because it is crucial for you all to take risks with your words. We cannot afford a timid rabbinate. We need rabbis who are willing to jump off tall buildings, hanging by the strong threads which were woven for us by our ancestors and our teachers, and which will only become stronger through your courage in testing their limits.
You must be able to speak openly and joyfully about sex. You must talk about grief and doubt and agony, in tears perhaps, but without flinching. You’ve got to dress up as the Energizer bunny and make yourself laughable. You have to challenge Jews to be Jews. You have to stick out your neck and speak truth to all the powers that confront you to your board of directors, to the mayor of your city, to the leaders of our movement, to the prime minister of Israel.
Every single sound you make alters the universe forever. The vibration of your vocal chords sets off a chain of physical events that reverberate until the end of time. And that is nothing compared to the effect you’ll have on the hearts, and minds, and souls around you.
Be careful with your voices, rabbis. But be reckless. Be humble, rabbis. Be confident. And fear not.
Unlike Spiderman, you will always be working with a net. You have all us with you, around you, under you, above you. Rooting for you, waiting for you, loving you.
Mazal tov to you and to your families. Mazal tov to all of us Jews, for whom you will be our rabbis. I look forward to hearing from each one of you.
New Directions for Jewish Education: The New York School of Education
By Ruth Friedman
“We want to be seen as a full partner in the greater New York area community working toward alleviating the severe shortage in experienced educators for the Reform Movement,” states Jo Kay, the Director of the New York School of Education (NYSOE). Awarded the prestigious 2001 Covenant Award for outstanding Jewish Educators in North America, Kay has been praised for “[having] modeled Jewish education’s finest practices.”
That’s what she is doing for the NYSOE – strengthening the master’s and continuing education programs in Jewish Education. Complem-enting HUC-JIR’s Rhea Hirsch School of Education in Los Angeles, the NYSOE offers unique options to its students: an education core and a specialization core in Family Education, Adult, Informal Education, and Day School Education, which are areas of expertise among the program’s faculty.
Kay is also creating a “Gateways to Learning” Continuing Education program for professionals to advance within the field of Jewish Education, and is planning to develop a M.A. in Teaching (MAT) in partnership with a local school of education.
The NYSOE’s distinguished faculty, expanded course work, study in Israel, and flexible options for full- and part-time study, as well as the extensive internships available in the New York area are offering new and exciting opportunities for recruiting and training Jewish Education professionals. In the words of Dr. Jonathan Woocher, President of the Jewish Education Service of North America: “HUC-JIR’s newly redesigned and expanded M.A. program could not be more timely or more welcome….The program will help address the acute shortage of quality teachers and educational administrators, as well as the rapidly expanding need for family, adult, and informal educators. The positive impact of this program will be felt throughout North America.”
UJA-Federation has awarded the NYSOE a $168,000 grant for four years to initiate its Educators Outreach Initiative, which will recruit students for master’s, continuing education, and professional development programs. One approach will be to teach in communities to educate lay learners with the hope of recruiting some of them to the School.
The School aims to attract those already working in the field of Jewish education and others who are contemplating a career change or starting a new career. Offering full- and part-time options, students may choose to continue working while also attending school.
Evening courses will begin this fall, to help facilitate the schedules of working students. For those already teaching at synagogues, many are being encouraged to pursue continuing education so that they can become professional educators or Directors of Education.
With the generous support of a $180,000 three-year grant from the Covenant Foundation and a $30,000 three-year grant from the Gimprich Family Foundation, the NYSOE has the resources to develop its Continuing Education Program for Jewish Educators. Students can choose to enroll in courses needed to complete Certificates in Adult, Family, and Informal Education.
Continuing Education and Professional Development opportunities will significantly expand during the summer of 2003, with the opening of the school’s Summer Institute Program. Two three-week summer sessions will provide study options for educators already in the field and for those contemplating Jewish teaching careers.
The School has begun to implement the new, more intensive, master’s program. Students spend the first year of study in Israel or participate in an eight-week summer study program there (for those unable to leave their job or their families). Students then return to New York. The full-time program takes two or three academic years of study to complete, and includes courses in Bible, History, Jewish Education, Teaching and Learning, Hebrew, Philosophy, Rabbinic Texts, Theology, Midrash, Liturgy, Hebrew Literature, Administration and Staff Development, among others. Kay is working with Dr. Lisa Grant, Assistant Professor of Jewish Education, to develop new courses, which integrate the most current educational research. This fall, for example, the NYSOE will offer courses in Educational Leadership and Supervision, Curriculum and Evaluation, the Changing Needs of the American Jewish Family, and Foundations in Jewish Education, to name a few. Degree requirements have gradually increased over the past several years from 32 to 70 credits, and more rigorous prerequisites to enter the program have been instituted.
Placed in clinically supervised internships in their specialization areas, education students work closely with mentors and experts in Family and Adult Education or work with experts in Informal Education (to work in youth programming, camping, Israel trips, JCCs, museum education, or any other educational setting outside the traditional classroom).
Education students are an integral part of HUC-JIR/New York’s community. They study together with rabbinical and cantorial students, participate in monthly symposia and daily tefillot with them, and work side-by-side in the student governing councils.
The NYSOE has already begun to forge collaborative relationships with other organizations. These partnerships include working with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) on an annual Early Childhood Educators Conference as well as working with the UAHC’s Youth Division to develop and evaluate curriculum. The NYSOE is also partnering with the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, where students from the former Soviet Union have placements to teach families, adults, and teens in their camp program, and with Avoda: Objects of the Spirit and the Hillel at New York University’s Bronfman Center, to develop courses and seminars connecting the arts to Jewish study and learning.
For further information on the New York School of Education, please contact Jo Kay, Director, at (212) 824-2213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior Practica of Recent Graduates of the NYSOE
As part of the new program at the NYSOE, the Senior Education Practicum (equivalent to the Senior Sermon for rabbinical students and the Master’s Recital for cantorial students) demonstrates education students’ expertise in a particular area and gives students the opportunity to present their Master of Arts in Religious Education Thesis/Project research and its application to Jewish education:
“Teaching Sephardic Lifecycle Rituals”
Keith Breese (’02), Grants Manager and Adult Education Director, Colorado Agency for Jewish Education, and Curriculum Writer for the 7th grade, Temple Emanuel, Denver, CO
“Re-Envisioning Jewish Family Education: How Jewish Identity Development Research Should Affect Jewish Family Education Practice”
Joanne Doades (’01), The Education Project Specialist and the Chai Curriculum Project Coordinator, UAHC Department of Education, New York, NY
“The Voices and Images of Women as Healers”
Maggie Duwe (’02), Adult Educator, Central Agency for Jewish Education, St. Louis, MO, and Outreach Coordinator and Teacher, Central Reform Congregation, St. Louis, MO
“The Communicative Approach to Teaching Hebrew”
Carmit Federman (’02), Teacher, Solomon Schechter Day School, New York, NY
“To Those Denied: Teaching The Holocaust to Russian (Soviet) Immigrant Jews”
Vladimir Golender (’01), Educator, Temple Beth El of Fairfield, CT and Congregation Beth Ahm, Washington Heights, NY
“Education for All: Special Needs Education as Seen through Our Sacred Texts and Applied to Our Congregational Schools”
Tobi R. Innerfield (’01), Educator, Temple Emanu-El of Lynbrook, NY
“The Sacrifice of Isaac: How to Make This Biblical Narrative Meaningful to Middle School Students”
Marina Inzlikhin Dvorkin (’01), Former Education Director, Congregation Beth Am of West Essex, Verona, NJ, and Israel Educator, Boston, MA
“A Study of the Jews of India: Do Ritual Observances Contribute to Jewish Identity?”
Elena Schwartz, Educator, Temple B’nai Chaim, Georgetown, CT
Recruiting Reform Leaders of Tomorrow
“Becoming a chazan encompasses every good human quality needed in the world today,” says Cantor Rachelle Nelson (SSM ’84). She believes that the cantorate has an enormous impact on turning people on to Judaism and touching the lives of thousands of people, helping them to become more knowledgeable and better Jews. Who could resist this inspiration to serve the Jewish people?
Nelson knows about the power of mentorship. She cites her parents, who raised her in a very spiritual Jewish home, as her first “mentors” who cultivated her love for Judaism. In addition, one of Nelson’s first professional mentors was Cantor Jacob Bornstein (SSM ’52), z”l, of Temple Israel of Greater Miami.
She, in turn, encouraged Cantor Hollis Schachner (SSM ’01), and several others, to come to the School of Sacred Music. Schachner began studying with Nelson at Temple Beth Am in Miami, Florida when she was a student at the University of Miami and wanted to learn more about Judaism. Nelson instructed her in Hebrew, cantillation, and Jewish music, and prepared Schachner to become a bat mitzvah at the age of 22. After college, Schachner went to Israel for a year of study and then sang as a soloist at Temple Israel in Miami before applying to cantorial school with Nelson’s guidance.
Schachner, currently the cantor at Temple Shir Tikva of Wayland, MA, noted: “Rachelle opened every door for me, and gave me the cantorate as a tangible goal. She helped me to see that her work combined my love of Judaism with my passion for the arts, and from her example I realized without a doubt that this was my path. My gratitude for her guidance and support has only grown since becoming a cantor myself, and she continues to be my role model and teacher.”
When someone shows an interest in the cantorate, Nelson sees someone who has a “Jewish soul” or the intense spirit and desire to help others, she works closely with them by providing mentorship.
Remembering how she wanted to be involved with Judaism from the time she was a little girl, she motivates young children to get involved by having them sing and pray at the synagogue.
She advises her colleagues to get students involved – by sharing the pulpit with talented students and accommodating the interests of “musical students who have a love and a spark for Jewish music.”
Cantor Sheldon F. Merel (SSM ’52) reconnected with a former bar mitzvah student from Toronto, Cantor Mark Childs (SSM ’91), many years later when Childs was a music student at the University of California at San Diego and Merel was the cantor of Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego. Childs filled in for one of the choir members at Merel’s synagogue; he remembered Merel and approached him for assistance in preparing to chant the Sheva Brachot at his sister’s wedding. As they developed a close friendship, Childs informed Merel that he was interested in entering the cantorate.
Merel mentored Childs and helped him with the application process to the School of Sacred Music. They kept in touch throughout Child’s studies at HUC-JIR and Merel invited Childs to sing with him on his pulpit on many occasions.
Merel commented, “My greatest reward was when Mark asked me to participate in his installation ceremony in his new pulpit in Santa Barbara. I was certainly very proud of his accomplishments and growth. Cantor Childs is a credit to our school and profession.”
Childs remarked, “Cantor Merel was certainly an inspiration for me to enter HUC-JIR and a role model for a successful and long career. Shelly has remained a dear friend, colleague, and teacher. His encouragement and mentorship were a big part of my decision to pursue the cantorate and he will be a part of every one of my students who will some day follow the same path.”
Merel suggests that cantors talk to Jewish music students at local colleges, encourage students to study music, and work with Hillels to recruit musically talented students.
According to Jonathan Cohen (MAJCS/MSW ’91), sometimes recruiting is as easy as saying to a promising teenager: “You would be great at this. Have you ever considered becoming a Jewish communal professional?” He strongly believes that educating people of all ages about the Irwin Daniels School of Jewish Communal Service (SJCS) and the career options it offers are the first steps to successful recruitment.
As the first graduate of the SJCS to work for the UAHC, Cohen is often the first SJCS alumnus that many of his colleagues have met. During his eleven years on the UAHC staff, the last two as Director of the UAHC Henry S. Jacobs Camp, he has sought to educate his colleagues about a program that many would not have known much about otherwise. In fact, it was his childhood camp director and Dr. Gary Zola (formerly National Director of Admissions) who came to his camp to recruit and influenced his decision to become a Jewish communal professional.
As a camp director and former Director of the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), Cohen recruits students through camp and NFTY programs and looks for students who show an interest in becoming a Jewish professional, have a high level of intelligence and maturity, and a good sense of self. He emphasizes the importance of presenting an honest portrayal of the demands as well as the emotional rewards of Jewish communal work.
Cohen believes it is his role as a camp director to build and strengthen Reform Judaism and the ranks of Reform Jewish professionals to serve the Movement. According to Cohen, more jobs within the Reform Movement, both in the congregational and organizational spheres, need to be filled with Jewish communal service professionals. He encourages HUC-JIR’s communal service alumni to get the word out about the work they do and the possibilities for pursuing a rewarding career in the field.
A member of the first graduating class from the SJCS, Howard Charish (SJCS Certificate, ’70) notes that his education at the SJCS “was transformational.” Charish, Executive Vice President of the UJA-Federation of Bergen and North Hudson Counties, says that the SJCS provides an “outstanding curriculum taught by role models both in Jewish Communal Service and Jewish Studies.”
As a recruiter, Charish recalls the influence of Professor Gerald B. Bubis on his decision to pursue formal Jewish communal studies. He and his mentor remain closely in touch today. Charish notes that alumni recruiters should keep up-to-date with the SJCS program’s curriculum and growing professional opportunities for graduates. Another key selling point, according to Charish, is the number of “stellar graduates” the school has produced. When recruiting, he looks for people who want to make a long-term commitment to Jewish communal service and are interested in professional development.
He maintains contact with the students he recruits.
Charish thinks that prime recruits are people who have leadership qualities but need formal training. He suggests that fellow alumni recruiters need to emphasize the importance of becoming life-long learners. He highlights the ability of the SJCS to base “all professional work in a Jewish context, which the school provides with excellence.”
Only 20% of Jewish educators in formal Jewish educational settings have graduate degree or credentials in education and Judaic studies. Roberta Louis Goodman (MAJE ’81), the Director of Distance Learning at Siegal College of Judaic Studies in Cleveland, is working to change this. Goodman recruits Jewish educators to the Rhea Hirsch School of Education (RHSOE) through her formal role as a HUC-JIR representative to the joint UAHC/CCAR/ HUC-JIR Task Force on the Shortage of Jewish Professionals, her work with other Jewish organizations (Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE) and the National Association of Temple Educators (NATE)) that focus on recruitment and retention of Jewish educators, and through her informal role as a recruiter of promising Jewish educators.
Goodman emphasizes the importance of retaining educators in the field. She noted that CAJE is analyzing professional standards such as salaries, benefits, and contracts to help retain these education professionals. In addition, the Jewish Federation in St. Louis has allocated $1 million to address the issues of recruitment and retention of Jewish communal professionals.
In a study she conducted for the Schusterman Foundation, Goodman found that recruiters should identify potential candidates by looking for skills, ability, interest, values, and knowledge of the field. “We already have so many people who are exposed the field through teaching religious school, serving as camp counselors or youth group advisors, being b’nai mitzvah tutors, and more, who we need to show the career potential and paths,” remarked Goodman.
In her evaluation of the CAJE Schusterman College Program and JESNA’s Lainer Interns in Jewish Education – two programs that recruited college students into the field of Jewish education – Goodman found that 70% of the respondents “felt that someone was particularly helpful or interested in their pursuing a career in education,” while “over 50% indicated that a Jewish professional had maintained contact with them over the years.” Nonetheless, more information and support was found to be needed from the Jewish professionals.
For her colleagues, Goodman recommends taking a personal interest in promising candidates – by studying with them, helping them find scholarships, and introducing them to others who are interested in becoming Jewish educators. In addition, she values conferences that expose college students to the field.
200 Years of Jewish Music in America, Dr. Mark Kligman
The history of Jewish music in America can be divided into four periods, each about 50 years in duration. The first period, 1800-1850, was a reflection of the largely German immigrants. Liturgical music consisted of traditional chant singing and early reforms, most significantly heard in the hymn singing. The Protestant style of worship was the model for emancipated Jewry.
The change to the second period, 1850- 1900, began with the publication of Salomon Sulzer’s Schir Zion (1840). His significant contribution was twofold: 1) some compositions kept traditional melodies but added harmonization showing classical and romantic musical influence; 2) new liturgical compositions that artfully expressed the liturgy with cantor, choir, and later organ. Composers in both Central and Eastern Europe (Naumbourg, Lewandowski, Gerovitch, and Nowakowsky) furthered these developments. Jews in America were recipients of the European music changes – as people immigrated to America they brought their music with them.
A transition to the third period, 1900-1950, was the Golden Age of the Cantorate (1880-1930). This phenomenon coincided with the largest wave of migration of Jews from Eastern Europe to America. The cantors of this era combined the traditional nusach with operatic embellishments. This liturgical style gave way to an American liturgical style where some compositions made use of nusach and others were newly composed works that explored new harmonies, colors, and textures. Many of the composers of this era (Binder, Freed, Fromm, Piket, and Helfman) were founders and active faculty members of HUC-JIR School of Sacred Music.
The fourth period, 1950-present, has been a post World War II circumstance where European musical traits are less common. During this period liturgical music was met with an interesting challenge. As synagogue attendance declined, music was typically seen as the “culprit.” In the 1970s a younger generation of American-born Jews saw themselves as “American Jews” and crafted a new sound to express this new identity. The NFTY camp music had a significant impact on the Reform movement, yet the phenomenon was simultaneous in all corners of the Jewish community. At present, the challenge of synagogue music is no different from the same challenge of synagogue life: to create a service where music draws from the past but is rooted in modern sensibilities, with an aesthetic that is inviting yet distinct from other parts of life.
Outside the synagogue, Jewish music has grown significantly in the 20th century. European genres of Jewish music (cantorial, klezmer, hassidic, and Yiddish) were seen as harbingers to the past in the last few decades of the 20th century. In the realm of popular and artistic forms of Jewish music, songwriters, performers, and composers seek to draw eclectically from the past yet form new dimensions to the growth of Jewish music. Composers Ernst Bloch and Leonard Bernstein put aspects of Jewish music in the concert hall; Sam Adler, David Diamond, Steve Reich, and others have continued this trend.
Recorded Jewish music has increased greatly since the 1970s. Some have estimated that well over 10,000 recordings of Jewish music have been made in the last thirty years. Another way to view the impact of Jewish music in America popular culture is to see the growth of klezmer music, now regularly part of concert series not only in communities but in concert halls and jazz clubs, as well. Liturgical music too has made an impact on popular music. Kenny G has recorded a Shabbat service and Barbara Striesand’s recording Higher Ground includes a rendition of Max Janowski’s Avinue Malkeinu.
HUC-JIR and Faculty Publications
Winter 2001-Summer 2002
Yaacov Chefetz: There They Will Try to Change Your Name (Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum/New York). The exhibition catalog for Chefetz’s art installation with essays by Professor Samuel Bacharach and Hana Kofler.
Dr. Susan Einbinder, Beautiful Death: Jewish Poetry and Martyrdom in Medieval France (Princeton University Press). An examination of Hebrew poetry, written by medieval French Jews during the time of the Crusades, which reflects responses to persecution, encouragement for resistance, and commemoration of Jewish martyrs.
Dr. Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ed. Minhag Ami: My People’s Prayer Book, Vol. 5, Birkhot Hashachar (Morning Blessings) (Jewish Lights Publishing). This volume provides the Hebrew text with a new translation and helps readers find meaning in the prayers through commentaries from scholars with traditional, modern, feminist, halakhic, Talmudic, linguistic, biblical, Chasidic, mystical, and historical perspectives.
Dr. Lawrence A. Hoffman, The Journey Home: Discovering the Deep Spiritual Wisdom of the Jewish Tradition (Beacon Press). An exploration of the Jewish way of living which addresses the Jewish relationship to God and questions of purpose in life, as well as the importance of blessings, study, spirituality, and Israel.
Dr. David Levine, Communal Fasts and Rabbinic Sermons – Theory and Practice in the Talmudic Period (HaKibbutz HaMeuchad). A literary, halakhic, and historical study of communal fasting as a social and religious response to public misfortune or calamities.
Jozeph Michman and Marion Aptroot, Eds., Storm in the Community: Yiddish Polemical Pamphlets of Amsterdam Jewry, 1797-1798 (HUC Press). A bilingual edition of weekly satirical dialogues in Yiddish between members of the “established” and “breakaway” Jewish communities in late 18th century Amsterdam.
Dr. Natan Ofek, Kafka and Jewish Existence: The Abused, Rupture and Hope(Tzivonim). An examination of the dilemmas of modern Jewish existence through an analysis of Kafka’s life, and a contribution to the understanding of his work.
Rabbi Margaret Moers Wenig, Ed., A Reader and Web/Bibliography on Gender Identity, the Intersexed and Transsexuals: Religious, Legal and Policy Issues. Testimonies and accounts of legal, medical, and psychological issues, as well as Jewish sources, on transsexuals and the intersexed.
Rabbi Nancy H. Wiener and Daniel Judson, Meeting at the Well: A Jewish Spiritual Guide to Engagement (UAHC Press). A guide for couples to apply the wisdom and traditions of Judaism, drawn from examples in biblical and classic rabbinic texts, to gain insight into and strengthen their relationships, and to build their Jewish lives together.
Dr. Gary P. Zola, Ed., Dr. Fred Krome, Managing Ed., The American Jewish Archives Journal. Volume LIII, Nos. 1&2 (The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives). The history of the American Jewish experience explored through writings exploring motion picture reform, Jewish social services in Atlanta, Jewish women and vocational education, among other topics.
Dan Geller, generous benefactor and beloved member of the Los Angeles Board of Overseers and San Francisco Associates.
Sidney Meyers, devoted Honorary Chairman of the Board of Governors, who served on the Board since 1949.
Dr. Eugene Mihaly, esteemed former Executive Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs of HUC-JIR; Professor Emeritus of Jewish Rabbinic Literature and Homiletics in Cincinnati, where he taught for over 40 years.
Ambassador Maxwell M. Rabb, loyal member of the Board of Governors and honorary alumnus of the College-Institute.
Audrey Skirball-Kenis, beloved Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors and its Library, Museums, and Archives Committee, distinguished founder of HUC-JIR’s Los Angeles campus, and visionary patron of HUC-JIR’s Skirball Museum Cincinnati, Skirball Center for Biblical and Archaeological Research and Museum in Jerusalem, and Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
Ambassador Marvin L. Warner, former member of the Board of Governors.
It is with deep sadness that the HUC-JIR family mourns the tragic deaths of HUC-JIR/Jerusalem family members in the June 18 bus bombing:
Baruch Garawani, beloved brother of Moshe Garawani, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem maintenance (1963-2002), and of Rachamim Goren, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem maintenance (1965 to present).
Shiri Nagari, 22-year-old cousin of Mati Nagari, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem electrician.
Hamakom yinachem etchem betoch sh’ar aveylu Zion v-Yerushalayim.