Rabbi Neil P.G. Hirsch ’10, Rabbi Liz P.G. Hirsch, Rabbi Matt Cutler ’90, and Rabbi Greg Weisman ’11, ’13 lobbying on Capitol Hill at the RAC Day of Action.
At URJ Eisner Camp, sitting at the blue picnic table by the office usually meant you were in trouble – unless you were being recruited to HUC-JIR by then Dean of Admissions Rabbi Aaron Panken, z’’l. Every summer when he visited the camp, Rabbi Liz P.G. Hirsch ’15 would meet with the beloved former HUC-JIR President, a role model and mentor to her, at that picnic table, and he would tell her “There’s a place for you at HUC.”
Eisner Camp played a significant role in Rabbi Hirsch’s journey to the rabbinate. She started there as a camper and returned every summer until she became a staff member. After her ordination, she became the camp’s Rabbi and Assistant Director. She shares, “When I was a camper and young staffer, the faculty showed me what a rabbi could look like. Playing guitar, having fun at the pool, but also teaching really inspiring Torah. They were real people. I thought, ‘That’s the kind of rabbi I want to be. Real and true to myself while helping others to see the world through a Jewish lens.’”
Rabbi Hirsch identifies as a proud product of the Reform Movement and is the new Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ), a network of thousands of members representing hundreds of sisterhoods and women’s groups throughout North America. She is the seventh Executive Director in the organization’s 110-year history.
Rabbi Hirsch (right) at Eisner with rising fourth-year rabbinical student Yael Farber (left) and Mikah Atkind ’19 (back) who worked on the summer Jewish education team together.
One of the ways WRJ’s philanthropic impact strengthens the Reform Movement and ensures the future of Reform Judaism is through the YES (Youth, Education, and Special Projects) Fund. Rabbi Hirsch shares, “WRJ has long been a strong supporter of HUC-JIR. I received one of WRJ’s scholarships as a rabbinical student myself.”
Rabbi Hirsch reflects fondly on her time at HUC-JIR. “I’m a bible person through and through. Rabbi Andrea Weiss, Ph.D., Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost and Associate Professor of Bible, was my thesis advisor. I learned to take a critical and feminist approach through the incredible work she did on The Torah: A Women’s Commentary with Rabbi Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, Ph.D., The Effie Wise Professor Emerita of Biblical Literature. WRJ commissioned the work of the world’s leading Jewish female Bible scholars, rabbis, cantors, theologians, historians, philosophers, sociologists, poets, and archaeologists, which resulted in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary. Rabbi Weiss taught me how we could take high-level scholarship and translate it into something meaningful and accessible. She and Rabbi Lisa Grant, Ph.D., Director of the New York Rabbinical Program and Eleanor Sinsheimer Distinguished Service Professor in Jewish Education Coordinator, taught a course about teaching Bible to adults that was foundational to me in the congregation that I served for the past several years. What I learned in that course came directly to bear in the way I teach Torah and Jewish values.”
Rabbi Liz P.G. Hirsch
Rabbi Hirsch’s path to the rabbinate was clear from a young age, so she was encouraged to study something complimentary as an undergrad. At Brown, she was an Environmental Studies major because there is a strong Jewish connection to caring for the Earth, and the topic has always been important to her. She has also always been passionate about Hebrew. “I encourage prospective students that the higher the Hebrew level they are able to come in with, then the better experience that they will have. It has given me higher access and knowledge, and I am able to connect with Israeli colleagues and current events.”
Rabbi Liz P.G. Hirsch after her ordination with DHL student Rabbi Neil P.G. Hirsch ’10.
Rabbi Liz P.G. Hirsch met her husband, Rabbi Neil P.G. Hirsch ’10 (current Doctor of Hebrew Letters student), as adults at Eisner Camp, and together, they have been instrumental in the planning of HUC-JIR in the Berkshires, taking place July 27-30. She says, “For so many, the Berkshires is core to their Reform Jewish identity, whether they went to camp, came for NFTY, or as a personal place they visit or have a residence in. The past few summers, we’ve been exploring ways to gather here and connect. This is the first summer we are building beyond the social component. We have worked throughout the year with the team at HUC-JIR to build out a wonderful learning weekend.”
Rabbi Hirsch leading Havdalah at Tanglewood. During HUC-JIR in the Berkshires, participants will also experience Havdalah at Tanglewood.
She continues, “I am particularly excited about the program, Connect and Create: WRJ and Lilith Salon and Writing Workshop. WRJ and Lilith magazine have had wonderful partnerships in these salons, having open discussions about a piece of writing in a recent Lilith issue. At that program, I will speak in conversation with Sarah Seltzer, Executive Editor at Lilith, discussing a piece she wrote using it as a spark for others to write and explore the feminist angle on writing and storytelling.” I’m honored to represent both WRJ and as an alum and member of the HUC-JIR in the Berkshires planning team.
It’s not too late to attend HUC-JIR in the Berkshires – register here today!