HUC-JIR Community Participates in Day of Learning
November 9, 2023
During the week of November 6, students and faculty across the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion stateside campuses participated in a Community Day of Learning. With the goal of building a culture of belonging, sanctity, and respect, these required sessions worked toward creating new opportunities for fostering camaraderie and inclusivity. HUC-JIR remains steadfastly committed to training leaders who can help heal this world. An important step toward doing so is by creating a respectful, sacred, and loving community within our own walls.
Each campus focused on a distinct theme selected by the student and faculty planning committee. At our Jack H. Skirball campus in Los Angeles on November 7, focusing on the theme of disability and disability inclusion, participants participated in small group text study as well as small group discussions following a lecture on “Disability Studies and the Hebrew Bible” by Professor Jeremy Schipper of the University of Toronto.
HaKesher, the LA Student Association, worked in tandem with Dean Rabbi Joshua Garroway, Ph.D. to brainstorm and create a day that would be both meaningful and reflective for our campus community.
Fourth-year rabbinical and education student Yael Farber says, “The best part of the day was getting to learn alongside students of different class years as well as staff, faculty, and administrators. The chance to sit and learn with our entire campus strengthened our conversations around inclusion, deepening our discussions and expanding our perspectives. Given the tense atmosphere of our world right now, this day of learning was an especially welcome opportunity to be together as a full campus community.”
Also on November 7 in New York, the Day of Learning allowed for deep, multi-disciplinary learning about the concept of brit as a foundational Jewish communal structure. Participants studied and celebrated their own campus brit, created out of dozens of conversations with faculty and students over the last nine months.
Programming included an update from Israel, a beit midrash with Provost Rabbi Andrea Weiss and Professor Alyssa Gray, group prayer, and a session exploring the contours of the campus brit. The day concluded with a celebration of the brit, expressing gratitude to the persistent work of the Student-Faculty Brit Committee who have taken up the work of articulating a shared set of values and actions to guide campus relationships.
Adriane Leveen, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer in Hebrew Bible, reflects on the New York day of learning and the creation of the new community brit.
“From comfort to community leads us directly to now, to a room full of students and faculty prepared to take upon ourselves a commitment to the values and goals embedded in our tradition that will lead us to a flourishing community with a shared purpose within the walls of HUC.”
The Day of Learning in Cincinnati on November 9 included a workshop on how clergy professionals respond to trauma led by Rabbi Samuel Joseph, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Jewish Education and Leadership Development, and Dean Rabbi Jonathan Hecht. This topic was chosen because last year at the Rabbinic Executive Committee (REC), student leadership requested a formal opportunity to learn about and gain skills in responding to organizational trauma. This topic is particularly relevant as we have been living through an intense period of change.
Rabbi Hecht says, “Change is the one thing that is permanent in our lives and, when it is really significant, can lead to stress. We know that from our personal lives, and the same is true for institutions we serve. In Cincinnati, we are using the day of learning to investigate how Jewish institutions navigate traumatic change — the sudden loss of a cherished spiritual leader, the merger of two congregations, the difficult decision to downsize or consolidate.”
These communal experiences were particularly meaningful opportunities for group learning and reflection in these challenging times.