Sunday, November 13, 2022
President “Bougie” Herzog;
Jerusalem City Councilor Laura Wharton;
Juddson Taube & Shana Penn of the Taube Foundation and Taube Philanthropies;
Jerusalem Foundation CEO Shai Doron;
Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC Chancellor Emeritus;
Chair of our Board of Governors, David Edelson;
Past Chairs, Sue Neuman Hochberg, and Burt Lehman, and other Members of the Board of Governors who have traveled to be with us;
Members of HUC’s Israel Board of Advisors;
Alumni, faculty, students, administration, and friends:
Bruchim habaim, Bruchot Habaot…Welcome to the Taube Family Campus on this milestone occasion—the opening of its entry gates and plaza—a tribute to the vision and dedication of our leaders – past presidents, Board members, and generous donors – and generations our faculty and students who have drawn deeply from our Torah on this very campus. We are so grateful to all of you who are here today and have supported us on this journey.
We begin with our tremendous thanks to Tad Taube and the Taube Family, represented by Tad’s son Juddson Taube and Executive Director of the Taube Philanthropies Shana Penn, for their extraordinary investment in this campus and its sacred mission. Judd and Shana, would you please stand to be acknowledged?
We deeply appreciate the commitment of:
Marian Scheuer Sofaer and Abe Sofaer, and recognize the presence of Richard, “Dick” J. Scheuer’s grandson Adam Scheuer and his wife Shreya Mitra, representing the Scheuer Family’s multi-generational devotion to HUC in Jerusalem;
Marty Cohen, Chair of the Board’s Buildings and Grounds Committee;
Rabbi Amy Perlin, Co-Chair of the Board’s Israel Committee; and
Yaron Horovitz, Co-Chair of the Board’s Israel Committee and Chair of our Israel Board of Advisors, for strengthening our work in Israel.
A project like this takes the work of dozens of workers, laborers, craftspeople, and designers. We will have a moment later to hear from Moshe Safdie, who designed this space. This project was completed because of the exceptional leadership of Dganit Jenshil, the COO of our Taube Family Campus, supported by Nami Kelman, Einav Lehav, Yaron Horovitz, and Salim Yagador [say something personal]. And our partnership with the Jerusalem Foundation, led by Shai Doron, and Roi Singer….your advocacy, guidance, and support helped us build this inclusive, pluralistic, and tolerant space for our work and the City of Jerusalem.
And can we please recognize the day laborers, the construction workers, those who toiled day and night, and even at some physical risk, to put these stones in place, align those beams, weld those hooks, and hoisted this magnificent sail! You are the ones who took a vision and made it a reality!
And look, I appreciate that given supply chain delays, and some unexpected holdups, despite their tireless work night and day, there are still a few, shall we say, “finishing touches” left to do? Well in the Talmud (Baba Batra 60 b) we are taught to leave a little bit undone when we construct a building to remember the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Specifically, Rav Hisda said: “This should be visible to all opposite the entrance.” My friends, let it be never said that HUC is not a Talmudic institution!
In truth, the opening of the Taube Family Campus entrance plaza revitalizes and beautifies our “front door” on King David Street, Jerusalem’s premier boulevard and sends a powerful message of inclusion for all to enter.
We are in the center of Jerusalem’s cultural and educational corridor, stretching from the Bezalel dance school in the North to the Jerusalem Theatre in the south. You are located here in the center of a cluster of transformative pluralistic educational institutions, providing an inclusive and modern path into Torah, spirituality, and a confrontation with the Infinite:
the Pardes Institute, led by its President, HUC graduate Rabbi Leon Morris, who is here with us today;
the Shalom Hartman Institute, led by Donniel Hartman, also here today;
the Fuchsberg Center for Conservative Judaism, just up the street.
All of us together advancing pluralistic Jewish education, that provides a modern path to draw from the rich well of our tradition between
secularism on the one hand and fundamentalist orthodoxy on the other.
The vision for this campus was first expressed seventy years ago by President Nelson Glueck, when our Board approved the establishment of an “HUC House” in Jerusalem, the building completed in 1963, designed by Heinz Rau. We expanded to the Safdie designed space just behind you in 1986. And today, it is gratifying to see how the Taube Family Campus has grown as a thriving laboratory for intellectual inquiry, academic research, spiritual exploration, community education, and culture.
This campus embodies our commitment to fostering within our students ahavat Yisrael and a commitment to Zionism. That is why, since 1970, our North American rabbinical students and later our cantorial students have spent a full year in Israel – fostering a deep appreciation for the Jewish state and our Jewish People.
This campus also represents our dedication to building progressive Judaism in Israel. The Israeli Rabbinical Program ordained five new Reform rabbis this week. They join a community of Israeli Reform rabbis that is now 126 strong, including the first woman ever ordained a rabbi in Israel, our own Dean, Rabbi Naamah Kelman! Together our Reform Rabbis are leading 52 progressive congregations, bringing a modern pathway to meaningful Jewish living for communities across this country. I want to thank Rabbi Talia Avnon Benvinisti for her leadership!
And we are building an approach to Applied Jewish Wisdom:
In 2005 HUC created the Blaustein Center for Pastoral Care, bringing forth 145 graduates who are using our sacred texts to advance spiritual counseling for Israelis. I thank Ruchama Weiss for her leadership of this program.
In 2008, in partnership with the Melton Center at Hebrew University, we launched RIKMA – the master’s degree program in pluralistic Jewish education. Its 93 graduates are now advancing modern, pluralistic values throughout Israel’s schools and educational institutions.
And when Shira Banki was tragically murdered in 2015 during the Jerusalem Pride March, we partnered with the Jerusalem Municipality Department of Education and Jerusalem Foundation to create the Teachers’ Lounge – a program that brings Palestinian and Jewish Israeli teachers together to learn about and from each other. Today, 320 Jewish, Muslim, and Christian educators have been trained to build understanding and strengthen the multi-faceted, pluralistic character of the city, with 50 more teachers currently enrolled in this program and expansion to new cities underway.
I thank Professor, Dr. Michal Muzkat Barkan for your vision and leadership on both of these programs.
These programs speak to our vision for an applied approach to Jewish wisdom, using our tradition to address the most pressing problems of our world today. They are all advancing a shared society, pluralism, justice and understanding. But we are just getting started, and through our partnerships, our work is made stronger.
The Taube Family Campus joins our campuses in Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and New York as living laboratories for spiritual exploration and academic inquiry. In Israel, our campus serves as the global flagship for the Reform Movement in the Jewish State, serving as the headquarters for the Israel Religious Action Center, and key Reform Institutions. I want to recognize our partners who join us today, please stand as I call on you:
Rabbi Ayalah Samuels, President of MARAAM, the professional organization of Reform Rabbis in Israel.
Ana Kislanski, CEO of the Israeli Movement of Progressive Judaism, and its board chair Yair Lootstein;
Orly Erez Likohvski, Director of the Israel Religious Action Center.
They join us along with the leadership of our Reform Movement partners in North America who are here this morning:
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union of Reform Judaism
Rabbi David Stern, Past President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
As you can see, this campus and our work have been built, much like Tel Dan, layer upon layer, expansion upon expansion, program upon program, partner upon partner.
…The last layer upon which this plaza is built was the vision of my predecessor, Rabbi Aaron Panken, of blessed memory, 9th president of Hebrew Union College. Aaron was just hitting his stride when he was killed in an accident on May 5, 2018. Just two days before his tragic death, as he recounted the tragedies that befell our people, President Panken urged us that at an hour of despair we should turn to hope:
“To mourn when we must, but never to forget; to rebuild and build anew in brighter and ever more meaningful ever more lasting ways.”
In completing this plaza we are not only ensuring his legacy is never forgotten, we are building our future in brighter and ever more meaningful ways.
And what is that future? Today we are signaling hope, inclusivity, and commitment – in the heart of Israel’s capital city. Our work here could not be more critical today, as intolerance and division are casting shadows across this land, the United States, and many western democracies.
Reform Zionism’s mission of promoting progressive values, religious pluralism, and inclusion in Israeli society, as well as its universal values of justice, are deeply planted and flourishing here. Our goal is to inspire and engage Israelis and visitors from around the world with tradition and innovation, continuity and creativity, diversity, human rights, and social engagement.
The Taube Family Campus stands as a living symbol of our abiding devotion to this nation. It is my greatest honor to have arrived at this moment with you all today, bringing Aaron Panken’s vision into reality, and standing ready to share the gifts of this campus with all who will walk through this magnificent gate.