From President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D.: An Important Message Regarding Emergency Management Team for Planning and Preparedness

March 6, 2020

Dear HUC community,

Over the last few days, you have received a number of important messages from Marviette Johnson, our Director of Human Resources, and from our Deans, concerning our response to the Coronavirus outbreak.  I am writing today to explain in more detail the reasons for the decisions we are making as we manage this emerging situation for our community.  I hope that by bringing some more transparency to the process we can help reduce our anxiety and concern during these uncertain times.

Earlier this week, I appointed Liz Squadron, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and External Relations, to lead an Emergency Management Team in close coordination with our interim Chief Financial Officer, David Hoguet, and Marviette Johnson, Director of Human Resources. The emergency advisory team is comprised of the President’s Cabinet along with additional key personnel whose expertise and areas of management are critical to community welfare, continuity planning, and communications.  (A full list of the Emergency Management Team appears below.)   This team provides information and feedback, ultimately recommending courses of action to me when we face decision points, and manages the communication throughout our system.  During this process, I am keeping our Board Chair, Sue Neuman Hochberg, and officers on our Executive Committee of the Board informed of key decisions and in real time when possible.

Our primary concern is the health and welfare of our students, faculty, and staff, as well as our collective responsibility to the communities we serve.  A secondary but very important concern is promoting calm and stability during a time when the anxiety about the virus threatens to be greater than the actual threat of the virus itself.

Since HUC is not an expert in epidemiology, we are following the recommendations issued by public health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control, along with similar public Israeli institutions.  Since we operate in four different geographical locations, each of which is and will be affected differently by this outbreak, we are also following the recommendations of our partner and proximate institutions (USC, UC, NYU, and Hebrew University in particular) along with the local communities in which we operate.

We will also use local information to guide our institution-wide responses when appropriate.

Our decision yesterday to cancel participation in all international flights for HUC programs or business (along with recommendations that our community do the same for their own voluntary international travel) emerged from recommendations made by the University of Southern California and the Israeli government. This approach minimizes the risk to our own community and to the many communities that our students serve.

In addition to this process of review and feedback, and as communicated to you in our first email, we are using this crisis to ensure that we have continuity of operations throughout the institution.  This includes strengthening our ability to support distance learning through video technology so that students and staff who may be a risk to others, or at risk themselves, can continue to do their work with minimal disruption.

We are also keenly aware that in times of crisis, the sense of crisis itself can become its own risk.  We have thus resisted some suggestions made when they have not emerged from the public health community.  And, as Marviette Johnson communicated to our community yesterday, we must also strongly resist any attempt to stigmatize entire populations based on their race or other physical characteristics.

I take some guidance to our approach to this crisis from this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh.  Tetzaveh describes the garments worn by the priests as they performed their most important ritual duties.  On these garments, Aaron is instructed to affix stones representing the 12 tribes of Israel.  In doing so, the presence of the entire community was kept front and center, brought into the most sacred and holy areas of the Jewish people, even when the work of the priests was done behind closed doors.

Just as the entire community was represented even in the most secretive processes of our tradition, so too is the welfare of our entire community and those we serve being kept front and center in the decisions we are making.   The process of necessity requires us to move quickly and often without the ability to be fully transparent in the moment.  This communication is meant to help make that process a little less opaque, a little more transparent.  We will continue to provide feedback and information as we receive it, as well as any significant changes that we are making in our decision process should they occur.

Even as we focus on preventing harm to our community and those we serve, let us not forget the thousands who have been affected by this outbreak.

May those who have lost loved ones be comforted by their memories and the legacy they leave  behind.

May those who are suffering from this virus experience a refuah shleima, a complete recovery.

And may all of us have a peaceful Shabbat and restful weekend ahead.

Shabbat shalom,

Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D.President

Emergency Management Team

Reporting to the President
Chaired by Liz Squadron, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and External Relations
In coordination with David Hoguet, Interim Chief Financial Officer, and Marviette Johnson, Director of Human Resources

The President’s Cabinet

Campus and Academic Leadership
Rabbi Andrea Weiss, Ph.D., Provost
Rabbi David Adelson, D.Min., Dean of the New York Campus
Rabbi Jonathan Hecht, Ph.D., Dean of the Cincinnati Campus
Dr. Joshua Holo, Dean of the Skirball Campus, Los Angeles
Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean of the Taube Family Campus, Jerusalem
Dr. Madelyn Katz, Interim Dean of the Skirball Campus, Los Angeles (while Dr. Holo is on Sabbatical)
Senior Administrative Leadership
Rabbi Adam Allenberg, Senior Director of Admissions and Recruitment
Lissie Diringer, Vice President of Institutional Advancement
David Hoguet, Interim Chief Financial OfficerLiz Squadron, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and External Relations
Michelle Slocum, Controller (on Cabinet until a permanent CFO is in place)

Additional Crisis Management Leadership

John Bruggeman, Director of Information Technology
Dganit Jenshil, Chief Operating Officer of the Taube Family Campus, Jerusalem         Marviette Johnson, Director of Human Resources
Andrea Kann, Executive Secretary to the Board of Governors
Rabbi Elliott Kleinman, Chief Engagement Officer
Einav Lahav, Chief Financial Officer of the Taube Family Campus, Jerusalem
Jeanie Rosensaft, Assistant Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs
Rabbi Gary Zola, Ph.D., Executive Director, American Jewish Archives