Communication from Rabbi Andrea Weiss, Ph.D.: Projected Plans for Spring, Summer, Fall 2021

Dear Students,

Since we started confronting the pandemic and its ramifications, I have found solace in the poignant question repeated in Psalm 13 and numerous other psalms of lament: “How long?” Nearly a year later, we continue to ask the same question as we face the reality of being—in the words of our teacher Rabbi Rachel Adler in her scriptions essay —“embodied, fragile humans who inhabit an unpredictable world.” These have been trying times for everyone.

Knowing that there are many unknowns about the future and many factors beyond our control, this email sets out the College-Institute’s tentative plans for the coming spring, summer, and fall.  We invite your feedback by March 5, which you can share with your dean or program director, or provide through the anonymous COVID 19 suggestion box.

These plans are contingent, depending on what public health and safety permit. As such, some of these plans may change as we respond to shifting circumstances in multiple locations. We will update you in a timely manner as provisional plans become definite decisions, and we will strive to give you as much advance notice as possible if we are forced to alter any plans or decisions.

Spring 2021

  • Ordination: Conditions permitting, we hope to have a small, in-person ordination ceremony for each campus on the scheduled ordination dates (May 2 in New York, May 8 in Cincinnati, May 23 in Los Angeles). The stateside Deans and Rabbinical and DFSSM Program Directors will provide more information to the ordinands on their campuses by March 15.
  • Graduation — Here are the tentative plans for the graduation ceremonies originally scheduled for April and May 2021. These plans were made by School/Program Directors and Deans, in consultation with students. Deans will provide further details as they become available.
  • New York: There will be an online graduation ceremony on April 29, 2021 for the NY School of Education students and cantorial and rabbinical students earning their master’s degrees this spring.
  • Los Angeles: Students earning their master’s degrees in the Zelikow School, EMA, Rhea Hirsch School of Education, and Los Angeles rabbinical program will participate in an online graduation ceremony on May 24, 2021.
  • Cincinnati: This spring’s graduation ceremony will be postponed until October 3, 2021, when we hope to have an in-person graduation ceremony for Pines students from 2020 and 2021 who have earned doctorates or master’s degrees, current 4th year Cincinnati rabbinical students, and alumni from 2020 and 2021 receiving their honorary doctorates.
  • DMin: Graduation plans for DMin students are still in process and will be announced by March 1.
  • Alumni who would have come to Los Angeles or New York to receive their honorary doctorates in Spring 2020 or 2021 will be invited to participate in what we anticipate will be in-person graduation ceremonies in New York on May 5, 2022 or in Los Angeles on May 16, 2022.

Summer 2021

  • Zelikow School: Due to the ongoing uncertainty about travel and gathering in person in June and July, the Zelikow School’s Summer Session 2021 will move to virtual instruction.
  • DeLeT: The DeLeT summer program will be online. If the public health situation allows, optional in-person extracurricular activities will be considered. Dr. Lauren Applebaum will apprise DeLeT students and faculty of any possible in-person activities.
  • EMA: The June courses will be online this summer.
  • Beit Midrash: The LA Beit Midrash will be conducted virtually again this summer.
  • Year-In-Israel: Plans for our incoming first year students will be announced no later than March 15.
  • Online Summer Session: We again will offer an assortment of online electives for all HUC students during the summer, with a focus on Hebrew and High Holy Days. Watch for more information by the end of March.

Fall 2021

Based on realistic estimates regarding vaccine implementation, we expect that some form of on-campus instruction and assembly will be possible during the fall.  Therefore, we plan to reinstate our residency policy for the 2021-2022 academic year.

As conditions evolve and we finalize our decisions, we will revisit our current protocols for in-person activities. We anticipate making accommodations for those for whom it is medically inadvisable to travel to or be on campus. That means that we expect that certain classes or other campus activities will be in a hybrid modality until everyone can return safely to our campuses.

All 2021-2022 fieldwork sites will be required to sign an agreement to comply with strict reopening protocols established by the College-Institute, based on CDC recommendations, prior to participating in the placement process. Fieldwork directors for all programs will continue to work closely with fieldwork sites and students to ensure that if in-person responsibilities are reinstituted, the student is comfortable with the arrangements and the fieldwork site has met CDC safety standards and arranged for safe travel and accommodations (as necessary).

We have many details to work out and decisions to make, which we will strive to do in a timely manner as we continue to monitor the situation and wonder: “How long?” We welcome your comments and suggestions by March 5.

We recognize how challenging it has been to be a student during these precarious, unpredictable times. Please continue to take care of yourselves and your loved ones, as you derive sustenance and support from your studies, your field work, and from being part of this sacred learning community.

With hope for health and strength in the coming months,

Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Ph.D. (she/her)

Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost

Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion