Faculty Spotlight: Joshua Holo, Ph.D.

Joshua Holo, Ph.D. (he/him)
Dean, Jack H. Skirball Campus;
Associate Professor of Jewish History

Please tell us about your Jewish journey and your journey to HUC.

I was raised in the Los Angeles Jewish community. I went to day school and studied Jewish studies as a graduate student. My entire life has been embedded in the Jewish community so it doesn’t feel so much like a journey as much as a way of being. Arriving at HUC was a bit less obvious, notwithstanding. I started off as a young kid in a family that was a member of a havurah. Among the members of that havurah in Los Angeles were the founding generation of HUC professors in Los Angeles. After finishing graduate school I began to teach at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, where I co-chaired a joint doctoral degree with the University of California at Berkeley. I got a call from HUC to see if I would be interested in running the Louchheim School of Judaic Studies on Los Angeles campus, which is the Jewish Studies undergraduate program for the University of Southern California, our partner institution, and I joined in 2005.

Please tell us about HUC Connect and what we can expect from Season Two.

HUC Connect originally responded to COVID by providing digital content in the form of webinars on all kinds of topics, from civic life, to arts and culture, and Jewish thought. During Season One we reached thousands of people under the leadership of Kristin Young, while at the same time I was continuing the College Commons Podcast. You can find archived webinars here, and can find College Commons Podcast wherever podcasts are found.

This year we’ve combined forces for Season Two, under one umbrella of HUC Connect, to build on that success. We also have three new exciting programs: One is called the Masterclass, which is exclusively for alumni to reconnect with their professors, to nourish their intellect, and to join their community of teachers and fellow learners. The second program that we’ve added is called Community Connect, which offers ready-made lesson plans for class sessions on various topics, for use in classroom discussion and courses in synagogues and communities. Community Connect links these lesson plans to our digital programs, that is, to Commons Podcast and Webinar episodes. We’re really excited for Season Two and we’re off to the races.

Finally, Kristin is hosting “Inside Connect,” for HUC employees to ask any questions about Judaism, and our faculty offer some answers. So far, we’ve discussed the Jewish New Year (why September?) and the Jewish Wedding (why do we break that glass?).
We look forward to seeing everybody log in and check out our offerings.

Why is HUC’s public engagement through HUC Connect so important?

HUC Connect with all its programs – the Masterclass, the Webinar, Community Connect, the College Commons Podcast, and Inside Connect – are important because HUC itself has an obligation to engage with the Jewish community at large. We are first and foremost an academic institution where we train and educate rabbis, Jewish educators, Jewish nonprofit professionals, cantors, and scholars to serve not only Reform synagogues but all types of communities throughout the world. HUC Connect supplements and complements our work by offering learning opportunities directly to our various publics – from alumni to lay individuals and communities. Even better yet, HUC Connect provides a tool to our alumni to teach their communities with HUC material, closing the circle among HUC, alumni and Jewish communities everywhere.
What is most challenging and rewarding about your role as Dean of the Skirball Campus?The two most rewarding aspects of my role as Dean of the Skirball Campus are related to the people. The faculty is a group of people whom I like as individuals and friends, and admire as scholars and intellectuals. It is a rare privilege to wake up every day and be able to spend time with the HUC faculty. Every conversation is an eyeopener, a lesson, and an opportunity to reinforce friendships and a shared vision of the world. With respect to the students, it is one of the great satisfactions of any professional to see the product of your work –  in my case, to see students at the beginning of their programs eventually emerge enriched, different, and prepared to lead the Jewish world in ways that we feel will make the world a better place.

Describe HUC in one word.


What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

In my free time I run, read, and listen to podcasts and books on tape. My family and I spend a lot of leisure time in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where my wife’s family is from.