President's Report 2003-2004

President's Report 2003-2004 Cover

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ADA Version of President’s Report 2003-2004



Burton Lehman, Chair
Howard M. Bernstein,Vice Chair
Robert M. Blatt, Vice Chair
Barbara Friedman, Vice Chair
Frederic S. Lane, Vice Chair
Jerome S. Teller, Secretary
Samuel Perelson, Treasurer

Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., President
Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk, Ph.D., Chancellor Emeritus

Rabbi Michael Berk
Richard Lyie Berkman
Mark Biderman
Elliott Broidy
Stanley M. Chesley
Rabbi Jerome K. Davidson
Yoram Dinstein
Cynthia Edelman
James O. Freedman
Howard I. Friedman
Rabbi David J. Gelfand
Rabbi Laura J. Geller
Stanley P. Gold
John A. Golden
Roberta Goodman Norman Gross
Jerome Gumenick
Rabbi Leslie Y. Gutterman Robin Harvey
Robert M. Heller
Frances A. Hess
Rabbi Nancy A. Kasten
Robert C. Kopple
Sheila S. Lambert
H. Jerome Lerner
Laurie F. Lieberman
Alvin Lipson
Rabbi Janet Marder
Manuel D. Mayerson
Bradley Mindlin
Rabbi David M. Posner
Rabbi Sally J. Priesand
Lawrence J. Ramer
Terry Rosenberg
Kenneth A. Ruby
Theodore L. Schwartz
Rabbi Barton A. Shallat
Evely Laser Shiensky
Russell Silverman
Sara Crown Star
Nicki Tanner
Bonnie Tisch
Helene Hahn Waranch
William S. Weprin
Dolores Wilkenfeld
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
Rabbi Deborah E. Zecher


Gerard Daniel
Donald S. Day
Richard England
Allan B. Goldman
Alan V. Iselin
Burton M. Joseph
S L Kopald, Jr.
Norma Levitt
Stuart M. Matlins
Melvin Merians
Claire G. Miller
Isadore E. Millstone
Anthony Montag
Charles Rothschild, Jr.
Charles Rutenberg
Richard J. Scheuer
Jerome H. Somers
Donald J. Stone
B. J. Tanenbaum Jr.
Charles H. Tobias, Jr.
Lester Ziffren


Leslie E. Bider
Marion Blumenthal
Neil K. Bortz
Barbara B. Dobkin
Dorian S. Goldman
Marvin Israelow
Peter A. Joseph
Laura H. Lauder
Rabbi Brian L. Lurie
Morton H. Meyerson
Lisa Perry
Richard Ravitch
David I. Saperstein
Elizabeth H. Scheuer
Lynn J. Schusterman
Jeffrey E. Schwarz
Dov L. Seidman
Alan B. Slifka
Jay Stein
Andrew H. Tisch


David Ellenson, Rabbi, Ph.D., President
Alfred Gottschalk, Rabbi, Ph.D., Chancellor Emeritus
Norman J. Cohen, Rabbi, Ph.D., Provost
Nina Hanan, Ph.D., Chief of Staff
Gregory N. Brown, M.P.A., Vice President; Chief Administrative Officer
Erica S. Frederick, M.P. A., Vice President for Development
Robert J. Goldsmith, M.B.A., Vice President of Finance
Paul M. Steinberg, Rabbi, Ed.D., D.H.L, Vice President for Communal Development
Sylvia Posner, B.A., Assistant to the President; Administrative Executive to the Board of Governors
Jean Bloch Rosensaft, B.A., Senior National Director for Public Affairs and Institutional Planning
Lewis M. Barth, Rabbi, Ph.D., Dean, Los Angeles
Kenneth. E. Ehrlich, Rabbi, M.A.H.L., Dean, Cincinnati
Michael Marmur, Rabbi, M.A., Dean, Jerusalem
Aaron Panken, Rabbi, Ph.D., Dean, New York
John Braunstein, M.B.A., Associate Provost for Enrollment and Planning
Susan Milamed, M.A., Assistant Vice President for Development
Gregg Alpert, M.A.J.E., M.A.J.C.S., National Director of Distance Education
Andrew Grant, Ph.D., National Director of Institutional Giving
Joy Wasserman, M.A.J.E., National Director of Alumni Relations
John Bruggeman, M.A., Director of Information Systems
David J. Gilner, Ph.D., Director of Libraries
Gary P Zola, Rabbi, Ph.D., Director, Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives

Cover: HUC Scroll XVII-5, Megilat Ester (Esther Scroll), Italy, 1767/68, Scribe: Mosheh ben Mordekhai of Kali Painted illuminations on parchment. Klau Library, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion/Cincinnati

The College-Institute regrets any errors or omissions to these donor lists. Please be so kind as to bring them to our attention in order that we may correct our records and make note in a future publication. Please contact: Diane Bongard, HUC-JIR Development Information Services Office, 3101 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45220-2488; (513) 221-1875, ext. 343; fax (513) 221-1847;


Dear Friends,

As we reflect on the accomplishments of the past year and look toward the challenges ahead, the publication of this Annual Report coincides with Tu B’Shevat, one of the four days designated in the Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah1:1) as a Jewish New Year.

Three of these New Years were set as the first day of their respective months. The first of Nisan was recognized as the New Year for Jewish kings, for the religious calendar for festivals, and, according to the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 7a) as the New Year for the purchase of congregational sacrifices with the shekalim collected in Adar and for the renting of houses. The first of Elul was determined as the New Year for the tithing of cattle. The first of Tishri was set as the New Year for the civil calendar, for the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, for the planting of fruit and vegetables, and as the religious New Year, for on that day “all the world is judged” (Rosh Hashanah 1:2).

The fourth New Year, Tu B’Shevat (the 15th of Shevat) was chosen by Bet Hillel as the New Year for trees, because most of the annual rainfall in the land of Israel was deemed to have fallen by that date (Talmud Rosh Hashanah 14a, Rosh Hashana 1:2) and thus, the fruits of the trees blossoming after this date were part of the new year for purposes of tithing. Over the centuries, Ashkenazic communities have marked this occasion by eating 15 different kinds of fruit, while Sephardic communities, under the influence of the kabbalists of Safed in the 16th century, devised The Feast of Fruits, modeled on the Passover seder with four cups of wine and special readings of poems (complas), piyyutim, and midrashic literature. From the late 19 century on, this New Year has taken on new meaning with the revitalization of the land of Israel and Jewish national aspirations realized through the establishment of the State of Israel.

In the context of Tu B’Shevat, the College-Institute is blossoming as well, as we nurture the professional development of leaders for the Reform Movement and klal yisrael, promote the scholarship of our distinguished faculty, strengthen the resources of our libraries, archives, museums, and research centers, build a liberal Judaism in the State of Israel, and ensure the vitality of our Jewish values and heritage.

I am delighted to share the fruits of the 2003-04 academic year with you:

  • We have admitted 119 students (53 rabbinical students, 15 cantorial students, 24 education students, 9 communal service students, and 18 graduate studies students); 69 of them are spending their first year of study in Jerusalem in the Year-In-Israel Program.
  • We have ordained 32 rabbis, invested 9 cantors, and presented master’s degrees to 16 education students and 10 communal service students, and 21 graduate degrees (3 Ph.D., 5 Doctor of Ministry, 10 M. Phil., 1 M.A., and 2 M.A.J.S.).
  • We have ordained 5 Israeli rabbinical students (see pages 16-17); another 25 are currently enrolled in our Israel Rabbinic Program.
  • A Master Plan has been developed to revitalize the Cincinnati campus as an unparalleled center for research and teaching for the American Jewish community. Historic gifts of $6.5 million from the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati and $5 million from Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson place the College-Institute well within sight of the projected cost of $17.2 million (see pages 10-11).
  • We have renewed our faculty with gifted emerging scholars, including Dr. Sarah Bunin Benor, Assistant Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies, whose research interests in Jewish languages, linguistics, and Jewish ethnography, will enrich her teaching.
  • We have created two new, endowed professorships: The Rabbi Jerome Davidson Chair in Social Responsibility (see page 5), through the generosity of his devoted congregants,Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Litwin and an anonymous donor. The David and Roslyn Sonabend Professorship for an Emerging Scholar (see pages 16-17), established by their daughter and son-in-law, Sheila and Bill Lambert, will support a young scholar who will teach at the Jerusalem School.
  • The Croll Center for Jewish Learning and Culture has been endowed at the New York School by the Irma L. and Abram S. Croll Charitable Trust in support of our adult learning and cultural programs.
  • The UJA-Federation of New York has made groundbreaking gifts to support educational programs on both coasts (see page 3): the Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE) under the auspices of our Rhea Hirsch School of Education, to guide synagogues in the New York area in revitalizing into communities of learners; and the second, an historic transdenominational partnership with the Jewish Theological Seminary, under the auspices of our New York School of Education, addresses the need for professional leadership in congregational schools.
  • The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling, now in its fifth year, has succeeded in teaching an array of concepts, practical skills, and approaches that, according to student surveys, students now use with congregants in student pulpits and with rabbinic al mentors. In Cincinnati, we are poised to become the first Jewish seminary fully accredited as a training site for Clinical Pastoral Education.
  • In Jerusalem, we have pioneered, through the generosity of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, a special program to enrich Jewish life in the Former Soviet Union (FSU), bringing our Russian-speaking Israeli students to the FSU to work with Jewish camps, Hillels and congregations (see page 17).
  • We have appointed our first associate provost for enrollment management and planning, John Braunstein, who has built an international team of admissions professionals on all four of our campuses.
  • We have organized the third “Great Scholars Series,” cosponsored with Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and Jupiter, FL. The theme of the series was “The Middle East: Region of Many People with One Beginning,” which featured faculty members, Dr. Reuven Firstone, Dr. Adam Rubin, Prof. Paul Liptz, and Dr. Mark Kligman.
  • The HUC-JIR Museum in New York has featured a yearlong exhibition, entitled, The Art of Aging, representing the lifelong journeys of acclaimed Israeli and American artists, which is now traveling to selected cities around the United States.
  • The National Department of Distance Education has created Mechinah: Preparing Oneself, a unique online program for HUC-JIR’s graduate and professional students as well as serious adult learners (see page 9). Offering a structured approach for thinking about Judaism and Jewish life and for the acquisition of Judaic knowledge and pioneered by an international team of faculty and distance education specialists, Mechinah’s first module is currently being field tested by HUC-JIR’s students in Israel.
  • We have launched a strategic planning process, co-chaired by Governor Barbara Friedman and Chief Adminstrative Officer Gregory N. Brown, and enlisting the participation of a broad base of volunteers, administrators and faculty. Its goals are to focus priorities for the College-Institute’s programs and resources, address concerns of accrediting bodies, and create a blueprint for realizing our future.

As we revision and renew our goals, we are grateful for your support, which makes all of these accomplishments possible. Thank you for joining us in our sacred mission. Together, may we see the continued flourishing of Jewish life and learning in a world blessed by peace.

David Ellenson

Burton Lehman
Chair, Board of Governors


Federation Grants Further HUC-JIR’s Mission

The College-Institute is grateful for its partnerships with many Federations throughout the country, including the Federations in Cincinnati and Los Angeles, whose regular support significantly advances HUC-JIR’s educational objectives. Within the past year, HUC-JIR’s partnership with UJA-Federation of New York has been particularly fruitful, as this Federation’s Commissions have proactively reached out to HUC-JIR to partner on three innovative projects. “We are grateful for these landmark grants, which will engender transformative impact on the Reform Movement and klal yisrael,” says Rabbi Ellenson.

A $1.8 million grant has established the Leadership Institute for Congregational School Principals, a historic, transdenominational program jointly sponsored by HUC-JIR and the Jewish Theological Seminary. Initiated by a planning grant from UJA-Federation of New York’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal (CoJIR), the Leadership Institute addresses the need for professional growth in Jewish educational leadership for Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Orthodox congregational and communal schools in New York, Long Island, Westchester, and the greater metropolitan area extending to New Jersey and Pennsylvania—an area that serves nearly 35,000 students. Forty congregational leaders will be selected to participate in the two-year program, taught by faculty drawn from the scholars and educators at HUC-JIR and JTS. The mission of the Leadership Institute is to ensure that congregational school principals master critical competencies in the core areas of leadership, pedagogy, and Judaica, and develop the attitudes and skills for further professional development.

The Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE), an innovative project of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education with over 10 years of pioneering experience in synagogue transformation, guides congregations to revitalize themselves by bringing Jewish learning to every aspect of congregational life. A grant of $1,050,000 from UJA-Federation of New York for ECE—Re-Imagine supports a 24-month project to engage synagogues of all denominations in the New York area in a systemic process of reimagining their congregational education, focusing specifically on the religious school through a combination of Internet-based distance education and management tools with print materials and direct consultation. The goal is to develop and test a scalable model to reach more congregations of various sizes across denominations.

Community service has long been a required part of the Year-In-Israel Program curriculum for all first-year rabbinical, cantorial, and education students. Courses, special seminars, and field study programs stress the concepts of achdut and areivut – Jewish solidarity and mutual responsibility, which are core values for individuals preparing for positions of Jewish leadership. The implementation of an integrative core curriculum for the five-year rabbinical program that takes a new look at how students learn and develop their personal vision for Jewish life led to the reshaping of the Jerusalem community service activities after American models for service-learning programs, which do not commonly exist in Israel. A $50,000 grant from UJA-Federation of New York’s Solelim Venture Philanthropy Group supports the implementation of this innovative program. The grant has enabled HUC-JIR to have a coordinator, Elaine Matlow Tal-El, who through personal interviews with students and intensive outreach to the wider community, has been able to place 69 Year-In-Israel students in a variety of social welfare agencies and non-profits that serve poor, elderly, and immigrant Israelis from all walks of life – ranging from organizing the Ethiopian community and working with prisoners and parolees to assisting a restaurant that feeds the homeless. With travel funds, this program has been able to broaden its geographical outreach, going as far south as Kibbutz Lotan, where students work on ecological projects. Students meet for Wednesday seminars on topics including “Social Gaps in Israel” and “Problems in Israel as a Welfare State,” as well as in small groups facilitated by faculty to share their experiences and discuss problems and issues that arise.

HUC-JIR’s mission of higher Jewish education, leadership training, and community outreach is meaningfully fulfilled through these three initiatives, whose impact will be felt by communities far and wide for years to come.


Repairing the World: The Rabbi Jerome K. Davidson Chair in Social Responsibility

The College-Institute’s dedication to tikkun olam, repairing the world, has been reinforced by the generosity of Leonard and Ruth Litwin, along with an anonymous donor, who have donated $1.5 million to endow the Rabbi Jerome K. Davidson Chair in Social Responsibility, the first of its kind at HUC-JIR. Their landmark gifts express a shared belief in Jewish ethical values and recognize HUC-JIR’s distinguished alumnus, teacher and role model: Rabbi Jerome K. Davidson.

“These contributors are active members of my congregation and lifelong social activists in the community,” notes Rabbi Davidson. “Their support will be responsible for strengthening HUC-JIR’s core curriculum with a foundation in social responsibility. Their gifts demonstrate that congregants understand the importance of training Jewish professionals. I hope that this generosity encourages other alumni to reach out to congregants who are able to help HUC-JIR and support the creation and amplification of programs.”

Named the “Suburban Activist” in Murray Polner’s book, Rabbi, the American Experience, Rabbi Davidson has served as Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth-El of Great Neck since 1971 and has exerted strong leadership in the community and in the field of social service. Ordained at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati in 1958, he is a devoted alumnus and serves on the Board of Governors, as chair of the Rabbinic Board of Alumni Overseers, and as founding chair of the Alumni Council, and continues to mentor students through courses on practical rabbinics, social justice, and biblical literature. For over a decade, Rabbi Davidson, together with Albert Vorspan, Vice President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism, has brought the mission of social action within congregational life to the fourth-year rabbinical students at HUC-JIR. Through their team-taught course, Tough Choices, Social Action in the Community, they have helped generations of students prepare for the realities they will one day face as religious and professional leaders.

As part of the new Chair, a national Planning Committee on Social Responsibility has been formed to “shape the guidelines for learning modules, text study, required coursework, field work, and public programming that will then be implemented in an integrated program of required professional development for rabbinical students,” notes Dr. Norman Cohen, HUC-JIR Provost. The Committee is comprised of faculty, students, and administrators who serve as representatives from each stateside campus, as well as several alumni who are renowned social activists, including Rabbi Davidson; Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism in Washington D.C.; and Albert Vorspan.

The Committee is exploring the development of two learning modules, “Rabbinic Leadership and Social Action” and “Rabbinic Leadership and Community Relations,” both of which will be required as part of the professional development courses for rabbinical students. Field work related to these professional development courses will be another aspect of the new Chair, in order to provide students with real life experiences and new perspectives on social responsibility and the issues covered in the forthcoming learning modules. The objective is for students to work with organizations including the Religious Action Center, Anti-Defamation League, and NAACP, among others, or to cultivate leadership skills in pre-existing social action-oriented activities such as the New York student-run soup kitchen. Guest lecturers and new programs are also planned to build upon the community service experience required of the students during the Year-In-Israel Program so as to broaden the mission of social responsibility on each campus.

The establishment of the Rabbi Jerome K. Davidson Chair in Social Responsibility is another step that HUC-JIR and its supporters have taken in order to provide tomorrow’s Reform Movement leaders with the necessary skills to help shape their rabbinate and transform Jewish communal and civic life.


MECHINAH: Preparing Oneself

Developed by HUC-JIR’s National Department of Distance Education and drawing upon the expertise of an international team of scholars, designers, educators, and technologists, Mechinah: Preparing Oneself is being designed to offer graduate and professional students entering HUC-JIR and serious adult learners a structured approach to deepening their Judaic knowledge. This new online learning experience, which is in the process of being field-tested, integrates uniquely crafted core content with multiple aspects of e-learning: interactivity, skill-building through the use of audio and video, immediate access to multiple layers of online reference material, and a flexible learning environment that recognizes the needs and styles of adult learners.

The two-semester online course, facilitated by an instructor, allows students to access materials at any time and anywhere in the world and to learn at their own pace while being part of a larger group of learners. The course is comprised of “Cycles and Rhythms of the Jewish Year and Jewish Life Cycle,” interlaced with seven “Enduring Understandings” – core principles of Judaism based on the concepts of texts, dialogue, prayer, halakhah and aggada, am v’eretz, community, and covenant.

Mechinah was originally designed as a high level “Jewish Cultural Literacy” program for students entering HUC-JIR’s professional graduate programs, which grew out of a faculty-directed, multi-year redesign of the Rabbinical Core Curriculum. However, it is also being developed to meet the needs of professionals serving Jewish communal organizations and synagogues as well as congregational educators who seek to strengthen their understanding of the Jewish values and teachings underlying their service to their communities.

Mechinah will offer a serious engagement with Jewish study that has the potential to make a profound and lasting change on participants by enhancing the meaning they draw from Judaism and enriching their sense of identity and connection as Jews. It represents a contemporary portal through which adult learners can enter into an age-old dialogue with the Jewish texts, scholarly writings, and cultural heritage that have inspired Judaic learning for generations.


Major Gifts and Master Plan Advance Cincinnati Campus Improvement

“Educational resources, including libraries, archives, museums, and research centers, are the heart and soul of academic institutions,” says Rabbi Ellenson. “They offer the insights of centuries of scholarship. As a guardian of Jewish heritage and learning, the College-Institute has a sacred responsibility to sustain and preserve these collections and resources and to expand their accessibility to students and scholars around the world.” Rabbi Ellenson spoke these words at a press conference announcing the receipt of two historic gifts that will transform the Cincinnati campus into an unparalleled, dynamic national center for research, teaching, and learning for the Reform Movement of Judaism and for students and scholars worldwide.

Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson’s gift of $5 million is one of the largest non-testamentary contributions that the College-Institute has received in its 129-year history. A gift of $6.5 million gift has been made by The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, the lead institutional benefactor for this project. With additional gifts from James and Sue Klau, Twink and Charles Carothers, and from members of HUC-JIR’s Cincinnati Board of Overseers, a record $12 million has been raised for the $17.2 million project through an unprecedented demonstration of local generosity. HUC-JIR now has the funding required to kick off this major campus improvement initiative, which will offer creative uses for existing campus buildings, renovation that will maximize the use of these aging structures, and construction that will ensure the College-Institute’s academic excellence.

The Master Plan and its adoption by the Board of Governors express HUC-JIR’s commitment to:

  • strengthen the vitality of Jewish life in Cincinnati, the birthplace of Reform Judaism;
  • provide new opportunities for cooperative programming and learning for religious, educational, and communal institutions and organizations in Cincinnati and throughout Ohio’s greater tri-state area;
  • bring the treasures of the Klau Library and The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives and the expertise of the faculty to communities worldwide through state-of-the-art electronic classrooms and new venues for distance education; and
  • enhance the intellectual and cultural life of the city’s larger community, thereby strengthening economic development and tourism on the local and regional levels.

Rabbi Isaac Meyer Wise first established HUC-JIR in 1875 in Cincinnati in the basement of the Mound Street Temple, then moved it to its own building downtown on 6th Street, and ultimately made its home in Clifton in 1912 with the construction of a mixed-purpose classroom/ administration/chapel building and a library building. Numerous additional facilities were added during the course of the ensuing decades. Since the 1990s, however, the campus has experienced burgeoning initiatives, expanding library and archives collections, growing faculty and student bodies, and increasingly popular community and professional education programs, which have outgrown the space available. In addition, it has not been possible to adequately adapt the aging facilities to accommodate the advent of the computer age’s new technologies.

The Master Plan will transform more than buildings, however. The revitalization of the Cincinnati campus will greatly enhance its academic environment and boost efforts to support its distinguished faculty, whose publications and innovative scholarship as well as gifted teaching and mentorship ensure the training of the spiritual, educational, and communal leaders of tomorrow.

The Master Plan will reconceive the entire campus and its functions through innovative design features:

  • creation of a research corridor by transforming the current Administration Building into a Center for Teaching and Research, connecting physically the Klau Library and The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives;
  • renovation and refurbishment of the Klau Library to meet its critical needs for space, technology, and programs and to increase its capacity to serve the public, a rare activity among university research libraries;
  • integration of the new Edwin A. Malloy Education Building of the Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives into its overall design;
  • conversion of the Sisterhood Dormitory into national and campus administrative offices as well as modern, residential suites for graduate students and visiting scholars;
  • construction of a new Cincinnati Campus Visitors Center by extending Mayerson Hall and the expansion of facilities for Mayerson Hall’s programs and the functions of HUC-JIR’s Board of Governors, admissions, and recruitment officers; and
  • creation of a conference-learning center by transforming the gymnasium into a facility housing a 400-seat auditorium and seminar rooms.

Manuel D. Mayerson, a member of the Board of Governors and an honorary alumnus of HUC-JIR, and his wife, Rhoda, are generous benefactors of the College-Institute and were major donors to Mayerson Hall, which houses HUC-JIR’s Skirball Museum Cincinnati, the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education, the HUC-UC Center for the Study of Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems, the Archaeology Center, and a broad array of community outreach, adult learning, and student programs.

“Manny and Rhoda’s openhearted generosity sustain every aspect of our institution,” noted Burton Lehman, Chair of the Board of Governors. “From Mayerson Hall to student scholarships, their unstinting support has made possible so many meaningful initiatives, including the Mayerson Field Work Program, which strengthens our students’ internships and mentorships, and the advancement of technology and distance education, which represents the new frontier in our recruitment, learning, and outreach. Truly, their heart is all over this Cincinnati campus, and it is so deeply felt and appreciated by all of us. We see it every day as it is reflected in their love for our faculty who teach here and our students who learn here.”

In reflecting on his catalytic gift, Mayerson said “Thank you for the opportunity to make the Cincinnati campus of HUC-JIR the most important Jewish institution in the world.”

The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati’s landmark gift for the Master Plan further cultivates the close bond it shares with HUC-JIR as a generous supporter of HUC-JIR’s programs, services, and mission. It previously donated $1.5 million for The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati’s International Learning Center, located in the Edwin A. Malloy Education Building. This facility expands HUC-JIR’s Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA), one of the world’s premier centers of preservation, publication, and scholarship in the study of the American Jewish experience. In addition, $150,000 has been given by the Jewish Foundation to the AJA for the indexing and cataloguing of the Holocaust documents of the World Jewish Congress.

Gloria S. Haffer, President of the Foundation, noted, “We are pleased to help create this international research complex on HUC-JIR’s Cincinnati campus. We know this gift will enhance HUC-JIR’s services to the Cincinnati religious, educational, cultural and corporate communities.”


Student Scholarships Support Study and Establish Meaningful Relationships

As a graduate student pursuing her master’s degree in social work at the University of Southern California, Dr. Louise Horvitz would often accompany a friend, who was a student in the School of Jewish Communal Service at HUC-JIR, to the College-Institute’s Los Angeles School and together they would sit in on Rabbi David Ellenson’s classes. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Dr. Horvitz had long been aware of the College-Institute and its mission to educate rabbis, cantors, educators, and communal professionals. It was a belief in the importance of education that led her back to HUC-JIR over a year ago, accompanied by Hugo de Castro, a longtime friend for over forty years and a member of the Los Angeles Board of Overseers. Dr. Horvitz met with Dean Lewis Barth and rabbinical student David Novak to begin a relationship that grew out of a rabbinical scholarship that she had endowed in memory of her mother.

Dr. Horvitz credits the influence of her mother, Eleanor Shone Siegman, of blessed memory, as her primary reason to support HUC-JIR. Eleanor was a strong role model for her daughter, encouraging Dr. Horvitz to return to school later in life and to pursue her doctorate in psychoanalysis, which she received three years ago. “My mother felt that education was of the highest priority. Her father was a rabbi but while her brothers studied Torah, she, as a girl, was not permitted a full Jewish education. This is why she pursued education all her life and why having a bat mitzvah at the age of 83 was so important to her,” Dr. Horvitz recalls. “It is in her memory that I have established the Eleanor Shone Siegman Rabbinic Endowed Scholarship to put forth that strong belief in education to benefit others who share the desire to grow and learn as a Jew.”

As a third-year rabbinical student and a second-career student, David Novak has a demanding schedule, which includes a student pulpit at Congregation Beth HaTikvah in Bremerton, Washington, in addition to his extensive academic responsibilities. The financial support he receives from the Eleanor Shone Siegman Rabbinic Endowed Scholarship helps lift some of the financial burden that goes along with a full-time commitment to his studies. Over 80 percent of HUC-JIR’s students receive scholarship assistance and/or financial aid in order to pursue their education and fulfill their aspirations of Jewish leadership.

Dr. Horvitz and David formed an instant connection at their first meeting. She vividly recalls his “capacity for attunement to people, his quick wit, excellent mind, and his sense of pride about his studies at HUC-JIR.” As a result of this bond, she invited David to be a tutor for her grandson, Mark, as he prepared for his bar mitzvah.

David has become a teacher, friend, and spiritual mentor for Mark, whose great-grandmother was a role model for his commitment to Jewish life. “It’s much more than just the prayers for my bar mitzvah: we talk about many of the core ideas of being a person of faith,” remarks David. “It’s been an inspiring experience for me because the ‘chain of tradition’ is not just a metaphor — in this case it is a reality.”

The meaningful relationship that has developed between this rabbinical student and the Horvitz-Fishman family reflects the impact that HUC-JIR’s students and alumni have on the lives of the people with whom they come into contact on a daily basis. Dr. Horvitz feels that the establishment of the Eleanor Shone Siegman Rabbinic Endowed Scholarship honors her mother’s values and enables students like David to forge their futures.


HUC-JIR in Jerusalem Vitalizes Pluralism in Israel and Former Soviet Union

“We are part of a great adventure of national rebirth, the greatest our people has seen in modern times,” stated Rabbi Ellenson at Ordination Ceremonies at HUC-JIR’s Jerusalem campus on November 12 . “Our institution and its graduates are playing a decisive role in the unfolding of life in the State of Israel and we feel privileged and blessed to be part of this extraordinary development in the history of our people. Here, in Zion, we are educating rabbis and liberal Jewish educators who will help guide the State in accordance with the highest and most humane values of our tradition. Judaism must flourish in this land, and we will continue to play our part in that historic process. In addition, we are committed to the renaissance of Jewish life in the Former Soviet Union (FSU), where Jewish communities are seeking Jewish identity and religious affiliation. As we prepare the professional leadership to fulfill our mission, we require a faculty who not only produce and publish works of innovative scholarship, but who also participate in the life of the Jewish community and are gifted teachers and transmitters of Jewish life and heritage.”

With these words, Rabbi Ellenson inaugurated the first new academic position at the Jerusalem School in over a decade, established by Sheila Lambert, a member of the Board of Governors, and her husband, Bill Lambert. They have endowed the David and Roslyn Sonabend Professorship for an Emerging Scholar, in honor of Sheila’s beloved parents. Set against the backdrop of the Old City, the dedication of the Sonabend Professorship represented the fulfillment of three generations of this family’s love and commitment to Israel – beginning with grandparents who supported Eretz Israel from 1936 on, the Sonabends’ first trip to Israel in 1953, to Sheila’s and her twin sister, Erica’s, first trip there in 1963, and the many, many long visits continuing to this day. The David and Roslyn Sonabend Professorship will enable the Jerusalem campus to support and nurture the scholarship and pedagogy of a young, emerging faculty member, whose teaching and mentorship will significantly strengthen the Israel Rabbinical Program as well as the Year-In-Israel Program for all first-year rabbinical, cantorial, and education students.

The bright future of Progressive Judaism in Israel, as well as its potential for growth in the FSU, was also celebrated with the ordination of five new rabbis, each of whom is ready to make a unique and significant impact on liberal Judaism. They are among the 38 Israeli Reform rabbis building and transforming Jewish life in the Jewish State and nurturing new liberal communities in the FSU.

Born in Jerusalem, Rabbi Yehoyada Amir is a third-generation Reform rabbi. His grandfather, Mannas Neumark, was ordained 100 years ago in 1904 by the Liberal Rabbiner Verein at the instigation of Rabbi Leo Baeck. His father, Yehoshua Amir, who served as the Liberal rabbi of Duisburg, Germany, had been ordained at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin in 1939, shortly before its destruction by the Nazis. After Amir’s military service in the artillery corps and completing his Ph.D. in modern Jewish Philosophy at The Hebrew University, he taught for several years in the Department of Jewish Thought at The Hebrew University as well as at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and at Beit Berl College. For two years he headed a task force that prepared a new Jewish studies curriculum at the Alliance School in Tel Aviv. The author of the recently published book, Reason out of Faith – The Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig, Amir has been an active member of the Progressive congregation Mevakshei Derech in Jerusalem for over twenty years and has chaired the parent steering committee of the Tali Bayit Vagan School. He has played a key role in the shaping of HUC-JIR in Jerusalem, where he will continue to serve as Director of the HUC-JIR Israel Rabbinical Program. Upon his ordination, he affirmed his commitment “to look to the future with faith, knowing that through the sanctity of the past and the full dynamism of the sanctity of the present, we have the strength to bring succor and redemption to our fellows and to society, and truth and peace to our people and all humanity.”

Rabbi Michal Conforti-Krik, born in Ramat Gan, served as a non-commissioned officer in the Israeli Army, where she was responsible for education and Land of Israel studies. After studying junior high school education and pedagogy at Levinsky College, she completed her M.A. in the Department of History at Tel Aviv University. Her first encounter with Progressive Judaism was at her younger brother’s bar mitzvah when, as part of his preparatory course, the whole family was invited to a morning service and later to kabbalat shabbat at the Beit Daniel Progressive congregation in Tel Aviv. She and her family chose to become active members of that Progressive congregation, where she has worked for five years in various congregational and educational functions. Currently the director of its Education Department, she has organized a group of young families who meet twice a month for Shabbat, supervised the congregation’s twelve pre-school classes, developed unique educational programs for early childhood, and prepared kits for running festival ceremonies in the family in an egalitarian and modern spirit. Having served for a year as rabbi of Brit Olam Congregation in Kiryat Ono, she is now working toward establishing a Reform day school in Tel Aviv. Her ordination speech stated “Over the past few years I have met many people who do not know that they can choose a different Judaism. People who feel they can only choose between ‘all’ or ‘nothing.’ People who did not know that they could choose a liberal, egalitarian, and modern way of life. We have chosen to be emissaries. Our choice, as a Movement, as an educational community, and as a religious congregation, is to offer every man and woman freedom of choice.”

Jerusalemite Rabbi Aharon Fox grew up in an Orthodox Zionist home and studied for six years in an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva. Fox spent ten years in the Israeli Army, serving in command HQ positions in the Paratroopers and in the Shaldag unit. He completed his B.A. and M.A. in the Department of Jewish History at The Hebrew University and is currently preparing to begin his Ph.D. studies. The desire to combine academic studies and activity in the educational, cultural, and communal spheres led Fox to the Kibbutz Givat Brenner High School, where he taught Talmud and the philosophy of the Sages. He was also a fellow in the Rikma program, which aims to rejuvenate Jewish life in Israel. His decision to study for the Progressive rabbinate was a further manifestation of his desire to help shape Jewish identity in Israeli society. He currently works as an educational consultant at Beit Morasha in the Israel Defense Force’s “Education and Destiny” project, continues to teach at Kibbutz Brenner High School, and teaches courses on moral dilemmas and attitudes to the ‘other’ at the pre-Army Mechinah course of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. At ordination, he said ”In a country where everything is divided into halves – right-and left-wingers, religious and secular, Orthodox and Reform, settler and non-settler – there is a need for connections and bridges. We need to break down the walls and achieve the simple and quintessentially Jewish understanding of what it means to be ‘one of a Minyan’ – to know that all these need each other.”

Rabbi Alona Lisitsa was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and immigrated to Israel in 1991. In addition to earning her M.A. in English linguistics at The Hebrew University, she studied in the Educator Course of the Institute for Jewish-Zionist Education, which marked the beginning of her career in informal Jewish education and led to her positions in the Jewish Agency, Gesher, the JDC, and the Tower of David Museum. After two years of serving the Conservative Masorti community as a community and youth coordinator, she decided to pursue her rabbinical studies at HUC-JIR and work toward an M.A. in Talmud and Halakhah at Machon Schechter. Lisitsa has served as Director of the Department of New Immigrant Activities in the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and currently serves as rabbi of Kibbutz Yahel. At HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, she is developing Reform spiritual leadership for the Jewish communities of the Former Soviet Union, with the generous support of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation. Lisitsa noted at her ordination that “My friends, my teachers, and colleagues have been with me throughout the journey…HUC-JIR and the congregations that have welcomed me as a member or a rabbi have provided wonderful laboratories in which I could grow, experiment, and, above all, take risks with the content of my work.”

Rabbi Sa’ar Shaked grew up in Netanya, the descendent of founders of that city. As a child, he was deeply influenced by the tradition of “Practical Zionism” as embodied by the elders of his family. His military service in the Armored Tank Corps was recognized by the Order of the Outstanding Soldier, bestowed upon him by President Ezer Weizman in 1996. After the Army, Shaked went to the United States, where he had his first encounter with the world of Progressive Judaism as a counselor at the Reform Movement’s Olin-Sang-Ruby Institute summer camp in Wisconsin. The sense of elation that he felt at the camp was the foundation for his decision to pursue the rabbinate. At the same time as he studied for a B.A. in History and Classical Studies at Tel Aviv University, he worked in informal education and youth counseling. He was active in the student struggles of 1998, and during this period was offered the opportunity to coordinate the Young Adult Leadership Forum of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism in Tel Aviv. This was the beginning of his involvement in Beit Daniel, the congregation that, until recently, served as both his spiritual and professional home. Shaked has studied Exegesis and Culture at Bar Ilan University, where he recently completed his M.A. and began his doctoral studies. He intends to write his thesis on the subject of “The Perception of Sanctity in the Transition from the Second Temple Period to the Mishnaic Period.” Shaked now serves as head of the Carmel Yeshiva, a new Zionist and Progressive study program for young Jews from the Diaspora operating under the auspices of the Lokey School of Jewish Studies at the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa. Haifa University has accepted academic responsibility for the program and has been involved on a conceptual level in its development. At ordination, he expressed his gratitude to HUC-JIR by saying “For me, this College-Institute represents the chain of transmission of study and thought, exegesis, debate, and profundity that are the pride of our ancient heritage.”