President's Report 2004-2005

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ADA Version of President’s Report 2004-2005

Hebew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion

Annual Report 2004-2005

Dear Friends,

“It happened in the days of Ahashverosh – that Ahashverosh who reigned over a hundred and twenty-seven provinces from India to Nubia.” This opening verse of the Megillat Esther (Scroll of Esther), which illustrates the cover of this Annual Report, takes us back two thousand years, when the destiny of a Jewish community in the Diaspora was in jeopardy.

The Jews of Shushan (Persia) faced physical annihilation by their King and his evil advisor, Haman. Queen Esther (secretly Hadassah, a Jew) revealed her true identity and intervened with the King, who relented and allowed the Jews to defend themselves, thus altering the course of their fate.

The story of Purim resonates in our own day, as our College-Institute grapples with the challenges of strengthening Jewish identity and continuity throughout North America, Israel, and the world. Purim teaches us about Jewish heroism in overcoming oppression, expresses the imperative of affirming identity in the face of assimilation, and reminds us of the responsibility of the individual to take action on behalf of the well-being of others. These lessons lie at the heart of our sacred mission to train leaders who will shape the destiny of the Jewish people.

  • We have experienced significant advances in fulfilling our mission during the 2004-05 academic year:
  • We have progressed in our strategic planning process to focus priorities for our programs and resources, forge a vision for HUC-JIR’s future, clarify decision-making processes, and create a strategic plan that will ensure standards of excellence and financial sustainability;
  • We have renewed our faculty with gifted, emerging scholars who will strengthen the teaching and mentorship on all of our campuses (see page 16);
  • We have welcomed Dr. Nina Hanan as Chief of Staff, who serves as senior policy advisor to the President;
  • We have raised close to $16 million toward the transformation of the Cincinnati campus and chosen 2enCompass of Cincinnati in partnership with library experts Shipley, Bullfinch, Richardson, and Abbott of Boston to guide the renovation of our research and teaching facilities;
  • We have celebrated the inauguration of the Edwin A. Malloy Building of The Jacob Radar Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives as an international center for scholarship;
  • We have admitted 109 students (39 stateside rabbinical, 9 Israeli rabbinical, 8 cantorial, 18 education, 13 communal service, and 22 graduate studies) and are proud to have 57 first-year students joining 28 fourth-year students for a year of study at our Jerusalem campus, where they will be learning side-by-side with our 33 Israeli rabbinical students;
  • We have ordained 27 new stateside rabbis and 4 new Israeli rabbis (see page 15), invested 9 new cantors, graduated 11 new Jewish communal service professionals and 11 new Jewish educators, and bestowed 81 Master’s and Doctoral degrees on students in our graduate and professional programs;
  • We have developed an expert admissions team – Rabbi Kenneth A. Kanter in Cincinnati, Rabbi David Wilfond in Jerusalem, Dr. Matt Albert in Los Angeles, and Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz in New York – to strengthen our recruitment initiatives;
  • We have contributed to the renaissance of Jewish life in the Former Soviet Union, through the deployment of our Israeli rabbinical students and Year-In-Israel students to lead services, teach Torah, and build Jewish communities in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Latvia, with the support of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation;
  • We have circulated the HUC-JIR Museum’s art exhibitions and related educational programs to Jewish museums, synagogues, Jewish community centers, and university art galleries throughout North America, raising the College-Institute’s visibility far and wide;
  • We have appointed Dr. Joel Kushner as the first director of our Institute on Jewish Sexual Orientation, to develop resources and programs and enhance our students’ abilities to act as agents of change in the Jewish community;
  • We have organized the fourth “Great Scholars Series,” co-sponsored with Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and Jupiter, Florida, featuring the scholarship of Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, Dr. David Kaufman, Dr. Wendy Zierler, and Dr. Gary P. Zola;
  • We have launched the transdenominational Leadership Institute for Congregational School Principals, in cooperation with the Jewish Theological Seminary and funded by UJA-Federation of New York, to strengthen the pedagogy, leadership skills, and Judaic knowledge of synagogue school directors serving all denominations; and
  • We have accomplished all of this through remarkable gains in our development efforts: this year we have raised an unprecedented $33 million – $20 million in cash and an additional $13 million in pledges – to ensure the vibrancy of our programs and our ongoing commitment to excellence in preparing Jewish leaders for the future.

We truly have much to celebrate during the coming Purim holiday, which also offers us another tradition – that of Mishloach Manot, gifts of sweets and fruits that are shared bountifully with others. This tradition of generosity is reflected in the commitment of the College-Institute’s donors, whose beneficent gifts of spirit, resources, and friendship continue to guide our mission, strengthen our programs and faculty, sustain our students, and ensure a vital Jewish future. We are grateful for your support, which makes all of these accomplishments possible.

May the joy of Purim express our heartfelt aspirations for our students and alumni, as expressed in the concluding verse of the Megillat Esther, where it is written that Queen Esther’s uncle Mordecai “sought the good of his people and interceded for the welfare of all his kindred.”

David Ellenson

Burton Lehman
Chair, Board of Governors

February 2006/Shevat 5766

Vitalizing Community Outreach: The Croll Center for Jewish Learning and Culture

Al tifrosh min ha-tzibbur – do not separate yourself from the community.”
Pirkei Avot 2:5

Rabbi Hillel’s advocacy of communal engagement expresses the ethos of the Irma L. and Abram S. Croll Center for Jewish Learning and Culture at HUC-JIR/New York, which was established in 2004 by a generous gift of $2.25 million from the Irma L. and Abram S. Croll Charitable Trust and its trustees. By inviting the larger public to participate in its extensive educational programs, including Judaic studies courses, guest lectures, concerts, museum exhibitions, film screenings, student recitals, dance performances, and continuing education and preparatory classes, the Croll Center pays tribute to the Crolls’ values and their devotion to Jewish education and the arts.

The New York Kollel, the Center for Adult Jewish Studies, which is sustained by the Croll Center, offers adult learners of all backgrounds the opportunity to study Jewish texts, history, Hebrew language, philosophy, and literature in semester-long courses and seminars taught by a pluralistic faculty comprised of leading Jewish scholars. “Our mission is to provide the large number of Jews seeking to explore their religious and spiritual identities with a place for serious inquiry and discourse,” explains Rabbi Ruth Gais, Director of the New York Kollel and Community Outreach. “In addition to our classes, we offer free lectures ranging from new discoveries in biblical archaeology to human rights symposia, including a recent panel on ‘The Jewish Response to Human Trafficking.’ None of this would be possible without the support of the Croll Center, a place where learning for its own sake, Torah lishmah, the highest form of Jewish learning, can occur.”

Furthermore, the Croll Center offers a gateway for prospective applicants to HUC-JIR’s graduate and professional programs. Mechinah (preparatory) classes offer students a thorough grounding in the fundamentals of Judaism. Required courses in core texts, liturgy, philosophy/theology, Bible, Rabbinics (Talmud/midrash), and history, and a wide array of electives lead to certification and a strong foundation for advanced Judaic studies at HUC-JIR.

Recognizing that the visual arts are an important forum for the exploration of Jewish heritage, values, and history, the Croll Center also supports the HUC-JIR Museum’s exhibitions and related public programs. Recent and forthcoming exhibitions include Carol Hamoy’s meditation environment, inspired by Kabbalah and Judaism’s healing traditions; Paul Goldman’s photographic documentation of the birthing of the State of Israel; the impact of the Holocaust on contemporary artists’ creativity; innovative works of Jewish ritual art; Debra Band’s illuminated manuscript of the Song of Songs; and the graphic novel as an outlet for Jewish literary and artistic expression. These cultural resources are integrated into the courses taught by HUC-JIR faculty, enrich the learning experiences of HUC-JIR’s student community, and provide a welcoming destination for visitors of all faiths and docent-led group tours of all ages who seek to learn more about Judaism.

The Croll Center was created through the vision of Dr. Paul M. Steinberg, z”l, Dean of the New York campus and Vice President for over fifty years, whose warm friendship touched the lives countless people, including that of Irma L. Croll. He invited Mrs. Croll, an active member of Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York and its Women’s Auxiliary, to visit the College-Institute, meet with students and faculty, and learn more about HUC-JIR’s mission and goals. Mrs. Croll became a very generous supporter of HUC-JIR through the Croll Charitable Trust, which provided student scholarships and established the Dr. Paul M. and Trudy Steinberg Distinguished Professorship in Human Relations and Counseling.

By fulfilling Irma L. and Abram S. Croll’s legacy, the Croll Center’s programs and activities provide a dynamic bridge between the seminary and the outside world. The public has the opportunity to learn in the warm, invigorating, and intellectually challenging atmosphere of the nation’s oldest institution of higher Jewish education. As a catalyst for Jewish learning and culture, the Croll Center reinforces HUC-JIR’s mission to be a light unto the Jewish world and all humankind.

For upcoming educational and arts programs sponsored by the Croll Center, please visit HUC-JIR’s website at

L’Dor VaDor: Scholarships Sustain Successive Generations of Rabbis

“How do you take the measure of the work of a rabbi? A word goes forth from a rabbi’s mouth never to return. Who knows where it will take root, whether something beautiful will flower from it? And even our silences: they go up to the heavens, and God hears them. But this I do know without any ambiguity: I am grateful that a student on the way to becoming a member of the company of rabbis will find help in a scholarship that bears my name.”
Rabbi Leonard I. Beerman, Rabbi Emeritus, Leo Baeck Temple, Los Angeles, California

From generation to generation, the chain of rabbinical leadership – as educators, mentors, pastoral counselors, and spiritual guides – has sustained Jewish learning and heritage. The precious bonds linking teacher and disciple find a contemporary expression through the endowment of scholarship funds honoring esteemed rabbinical alumni by supporting the studies of their successors. With the establishment of the Rabbi Leonard I. Beerman Rabbinical Scholarship Endowment Fund, Rabbi Beerman’s name will forever be linked with generations of rabbis following in his footsteps.

“It honors the soul to be one of the leaders in the effort to establish this scholarship in tribute to an incredible human being, friend, and community leader,” states Los Angeles Overseer Suzy Marks, who, along with her husband, Wally Marks, and fellow congregants Mark Levy and Sandford Bothman, spearheaded the campaign to honor Rabbi Beerman. As a member of the Board that helped establish the Los Angeles campus fifty years ago, Rabbi Beerman has been a faithful supporter of HUC-JIR’s West Coast academic center. He is a witness to the campus’s growth as a thriving, vitalizing force advancing Jewish life in the Western states.

HUC-JIR/Los Angeles’s year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary of incorporation inspired an array of congregations and communities throughout California to mark this milestone occasion with the creation of rabbinical student scholarships in their rabbis’ names. In Northern California, Overseers Leonard and Roberta Cohn gathered families from their congregation, Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, California, to establish the Rabbi Roberto Graetz and Rabbi Judy Shanks Rabbinical Scholarship. This meaningful tribute will provide the vitally needed resources to educate the next generation of leaders who will make the Torah come alive.

Ken Ruby, a member of the Board of Governors from Los Angeles, led the campaign to establish the Rabbi Isaiah and Florence Zeldin Rabbinical Scholarship Endowment Fund. Fifty years ago, when Rabbi Zeldin began his rabbinical career, he was invited to serve as the first dean for a small program that later grew to become Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. He has been a role model as a distinguished community leader and spiritual mentor throughout his celebrated career at Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles. “It is a privilege to have my studies supported by this scholarship created in the name of someone who has contributed so much  to the Jewish community,” says rabbinical student Sari Laufer, LA ’06. “This scholarship is a reminder of the legacy and tradition of which I hope to become a part.”

Rabbi Hillel Cohn, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Emanu El in San Bernardino, California, reminisces that “the honor I cherish the most is that which was conferred on me at the time of my retirement – the establishment of a scholarship bearing my name for a student pursuing rabbinical studies at the Los Angeles campus. I am deeply indebted to a very dear and treasured friend, Los Angeles Overseer Leona Aronoff-Sedaca, for having chaired that fundraising effort so successfully. It means so much to me because of my love for HUC-JIR and my special connection with the Los Angeles School. The future of a dynamic, creative, meaningful Jewish life here and elsewhere is dependent on women and men who have chosen to serve our people as rabbis, cantors, educators, and communal service professionals.” The Rabbi Hillel Cohn Rabbinical Scholarship Endowment Fund was established by his devoted congregants at Congregation Emanu El of San Bernardino. This scholarship provided a model for friends of Rabbi Alfred, z”l, and Miriam Wolf of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Los Angeles, to establish a scholarship in their name.

These newest scholarship funds join those established in the recent past to honor distinguished founding rabbis in HUC-JIR’s Western Region, including Rabbis Wolli Kaelter, Steven M. Fink, Harold Schulweis, Mordecai I. and Eve Soloff, z”l, Henri Front, z”l, Brian Lurie, and Shimon and Carol Paskow, as well as more recently ordained rabbis Laurie and Philip Rice. Many rabbinical alumni have also been recognized by their congregations with named scholarships in honor of the 25th anniversary of their ordination from the College-Institute, including Rabbis Jonathan A. Stein, Stephen A. Chester, Allen I. Freehling, Eli Herscher, Mark S. Miller, and Deborah R. Prinz. Each year, the Los Angeles campus also pays tribute to Rabbi Max Nussbaum, z”l, through the Rabbi Max Nussbaum Memorial Lecture at Temple Israel of Hollywood.

Honoring those who came before, and sustaining those who will follow – these scholarships express the loyal affection of alumni for their alma mater, the commitment of their congregants to HUC-JIR’s sacred mission, and our students’ aspirations for a bright Jewish future.

Corporate Commitment Links Campus and Community

Im ein kemach, ein Torah; im ein Torah, ein kemach – where there is no substance there can be no Torah; where there is no Torah, there can be no substance.”
Pirkei Avot 3:17

Simon Lazarus, a rabbi and gifted businessman, may never have imagined that the apparel store he founded a hundred years ago would someday contribute to the advancement of his beloved Reform Judaism. After studying to be a rabbi in Wurtenburg, Germany, Lazarus relocated to Columbus, Ohio, in 1850, where a small congregation was searching for a spiritual leader. Lazarus served as the rabbi without compensation during the years 1851-1855 and at the same time launched his new store. Working closely with his two sons, Fred and Ralph, he served as President and owner of S. Lazarus & Sons until his death in 1877, when the store was renamed F. & R. Lazarus. Years later, F. & R. Lazarus & Co. merged with Abraham & Straus of Brooklyn, Filene’s of Boston, and Bloomingdale’s of New York to form the merchandising giant Federated Department Stores.

Simon Lazarus’s lifelong commitment to Reform Judaism continues to be sustained today through Federated Department Stores’ generous support for HUC-JIR’s academic programs and treasured research resources. This corporate support reflects the strong partnerships that have been forged between HUC-JIR and Cincinnati’s business community. It also demonstrates the corporate community’s appreciation for HUC-JIR’s significant contributions to the educational and cultural life of Cincinnati and the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana tri-state region.

During the past twenty-three years, the annual HUC-JIR Cincinnati Associates Tribute Dinner has honored a number of distinguished corporate executives in recogntion of their commitment to HUC-JIR’s mission. This past year, the honoree was Richard K. Davis, President and Chief Operating Officer of U.S. Bancorp, an exemplary model of civic and philanthropic leadership and achievement.

Millions of dollars have been granted to HUC-JIR throughout the years by neighbors and friends in the corporate community. American Financial Group, Inc.; Bartlett & Company; Cincinnati Bell; Cincinnati Financial Corporation; Cinergy; Cintas Corporation; Corporex Companies, Inc.; Federated Department Stores; Fifth Third Bank; Frisch’s Restaurant, Inc.; GE Aircraft Engine; National City Bank; Ohio National Financial Services; PNC Bank; Procter & Gamble; The E. W. Scripps Company; The Kroger Co.; Time Warner Cable; U.S. Bank; University of Cincinnati; Western and Southern Life Insurance Company; and Xavier University are just a few of those that have helped make many of HUC-JIR’s programs, centers, and exhibitions possible.

The potential for corporate partnerships is growing with the planned renovation and transformation of the historic Cincinnati campus. The development of innovative programming, educational facilities, and leadership training resources will further enrich the diverse religious, educational, and communal institutions and organizations of Cincinnati and will have an impact on the North American Jewish community and throughout the world.

Simon Lazarus’s legacy as a rabbi and businessman symbolizes the enduring symbiosis between the College-Institute and its corporate supporters, where the values of faith, education, culture, and heritage, together with the support of philanthropic resources, strengthen the foundations of community and ensure continuity. Simon Lazarus would surely be proud that his own aspirations are being fulfilled a century later by HUC-JIR’s training of rabbis who will lead Reform congregations, similar to the one he once served.

Compassion as a Catalyst for Change in Israeli Society: The Blaustein Pastoral Counseling Center Introduces Reform Rabbinical Care to Israel’s Secular Healthcare and Military Counseling System

Al sheloshah devarim ha-olam omed: al ha-Torah, al ha-avodah ve-al gemillut chasadim – the world stands on three things: on Torah, worship, and acts of loving kindness.”
Pirkei Avot 1:2

In the United States, pastoral care and counseling are established roles for the rabbi. In Israel, however, the function of chaplain does not exist and there is not even a Hebrew vocabulary for pastoral care, healing, and spiritual counseling. There is no infrastructure in Israeli society to encompass this critical area of rabbinical work. Israeli hospitals and hospices do not have chaplains, and palliative care does not involve rabbis. Within the Israel Defense Forces context, only Orthodox rabbis currently serve. In the midst of trauma due to successive wars and the Intifada, secular professionals have performed most of the clinical work. Some health professionals are wary of the spiritual dimension, and the Orthodox establishment does not welcome others offering a progressive orientation to spiritual sustenance. At the same time, there has been little or no available clinical education, mentoring, and supervision for Israeli Reform rabbis ordained by HUC-JIR who are attempting to serve in Israel’s hospitals, hospices, mental health centers, and senior care facilities. With the establishment of The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Pastoral Counseling Center at HUC-JIR’s Jerusalem campus, these critical needs will now be addressed.

The new Blaustein Pastoral Counseling Center at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem has been inaugurated through a major endowment gift of $2.5 million from the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation. Elizabeth Blaustein Roswell, a member of the New York Board of Overseers, and Arthur Roswell dedicated the Blaustein Center in a moving ceremony during Ordination Ceremonies in Jerusalem on November 4, 2005. This generous gift represents a strategic, pivotal role in shaping the direction of the liberal rabbinate in Israel and of Israeli society itself. It demonstrates that HUC-JIR is recognized as a leading force in Rabbinical Clinical Pastoral Development, as implemented by the Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling on the New York campus, the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health in Los Angeles, and the Clinical Pastoral Education program in Cincinnati, and has the unique capacity to adapt pastoral counseling into professional care giving in Israel.

Modeled after its counterpart in New York, the Blaustein Center in Jerusalem is embarking on a multi-year development process to plan and implement new courses, fieldwork placements, clinical supervision, and professional mentoring. The Israel-based center will have the additional function of working with the Israeli professional care giving community to craft a place for rabbinical pastoral counseling within the existing secular infrastructure and venues. The Blaustein Center is supervised by Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Director of the Year-In-Israel Program and Educational Initiatives at HUC-JIR/ Jerusalem, and coordinated by Rabbi Ada Zavidov, Coordinator of the first-year Israeli rabbinical students’ year-long orientation program, Field Placement Coordinator for second-through fourth-year students, and spiritual leader of Har-El Congregation, and by Michal Muskhat Barkan, a founder of the Hidush Organization for Educational Innovation, who is completing her doctorate in the area of clinical mentoring and supervision of teachers.

The Blaustein Center will:

  • Develop courses for pastoral counseling for the Israeli Rabbinical Program;
  • Provide intensive summer seminars in mentor training, taught by Dr. Nancy Wiener, Clinical Director of the Blaustein Center in New York, and Dr. William Cutter, Dr. Paul M. and Trudy Steinberg Distinguished Professor of Human Relations and Counseling and Director of the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health in Los Angeles, for practicing rabbis ordained by HUC-JIR’s Israel Rabbinical Program, who will then serve as mentors to current Israeli rabbinical students;
  • Organize fieldwork placements with rabbinical mentors in Israeli synagogues, and in educational and healthcare settings;
  • Establish a pastoral counseling laboratory-think tank through the development of a network of key stakeholders in Israeli care giving, provide orientation for Israel’s secular physicians, clinical psychologists, and social workers, and create partnerships with the Israeli Conservative Movement and its Machon Schechter, Ha Midrasha (the Center for Study and Fellowship at Oranim College of Education of the Kibbutz Movement), and Shiluv (the Center for Family Support and Therapy); and
  • Heighten public advocacy and awareness to stimulate and inform the growing Israeli interest in the North American exploration of the nexus between religion, spirituality, and healing, as part of a nascent “Israeli Movement for Judaism and Healing” in collaboration with Hadassah Hospital, the JDC-Brookdale, the UJA-Federation of New York Caring Commission, the Israel Trauma Coalition, and potential Orthodox partners.

As HUC-JIR’s newest center for applied research and professional training, the Blaustein Center will transform HUC-JIR’s Israel Rabbinical Program. The curriculum, which has been primarily text-study driven, will now be enhanced by adding the professional development and spiritual growth tracks that already characterize the stateside rabbinical programs. Courses on Life Cycle Rituals and Ceremonies, Spiritual Mentoring, the Human Life Cycle in Community, and Death and Jewish Mourning, as well as mentored field work at the hospice at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv and Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem, will expose students to such issues as loss, death, bereavement, trauma, and family and community systems in crisis, and provide them with the necessary expertise to address the challenges facing the Israeli rabbi. This Practical Rabbinics approach will groom Israeli Reform rabbis who are optimally trained to cope with life’s high and low moments.

By creating an infrastructure in Israeli society that will join the pastoral skills of the rabbi with the clinical skills of the secular care givers, a number of initiatives will be addressed:

  • The invention of a Hebrew vocabulary for pastoral care, healing, and spiritual counseling;
  • The incorporation of Hebrew texts – both classical and modern – that will serve professionals in a variety of settings;
  • The promotion of public awareness that spiritual professionals other than secular clinicians are needed in care giving settings;
  • The development of public support that will, in turn, encourage hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and senior homes and assisted living facilities to create opportunities for chaplains performing spiritual mentoring and care;
  • The coordination of efforts by different institutions for training and developing professional interventions; and
  • The creation of a clinical supervision program for HUC-JIR’s Israeli rabbinical students and rabbinical alumni.

The impact of the new Blaustein Center will be felt throughout Israeli society, as HUC-JIR’s rabbinical students and alumni with finely honed pastoral and counseling skills lead congregational pulpits, develop ‘community rabbinates’ serving diverse and unaffiliated populations, and assume leadership positions within communal organizations and educational institutions. Israelis now at a loss to find a liberal Israeli rabbi to perform the functions of a hospital or hospice visit, a shiva call, or a support group with spiritual dimension, will increasingly find a new spiritual and ritual connection to liberal Judaism through these rabbinical services of gemillut chasadim – acts of loving kindness.

Pioneering Pluralism in the Jewish State

“Im tirtzu, aiyn zo aggadah – if you will it, it is not a dream.”
Theodor Herzl

On the 25th anniversary of the ordination of Rabbi Mordechai Rotem as the first Israeli Reform rabbi, four new rabbis were ordained at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem. There are now forty rabbinical alumni serving Progressive Judaism in Israel today, with an additional thirty-three students currently immersed in their four years of study toward ordination. As pioneers promoting liberal Judaism, they are transforming the fabric of Jewish life in the Jewish State.

Each of these newly ordained rabbis reflects a different Jewish ethnic background, life experience, and orientation toward his or her professional goals. Most have been profoundly influenced to become rabbis by the vibrant Jewish life they discovered during their stints working in Reform summer camps in the United States or during their experiences living and studying stateside. Exposed to the vitality of synagogue life as a modem of Jewish continuity, the flourishing of Jewish spirituality and innovative ritual and practice within the Reform community, and the models of Jewish affiliation to the educational and cultural institutions of North American Jewish life, they have returned to Israel with the vision to bring these gifts to Israelis searching for an alternative to the polar extremes of Orthodoxy and secularism.

Stateside traditions of synagogue affiliation are not part of the Israeli culture. The burgeoning numbers of Reform Israelis participating in life cycle events, educational programs, and religious services at Israel’s Progressive congregations do not necessarily become ‘members’ in the North American fashion. HUC-JIR’s Israeli rabbinical alumni therefore need to construct innovative modalities to attract and steward growing relationships with those who are seeking Jewish tradition, spirituality, ethical guidance, and cultural heritage. Thus, the Israeli Reform pulpit is developing into a new, emerging position of the ‘community rabbi’ for many of these alumni. Others look to education as the forum for their outreach.

Strengthening this outlook are their first-hand experiences advancing the renaissance of Jewish life in the Former Soviet Union. As participants in HUC-JIR’s “Rabbinical Infusion” programs there, students and alumni have traveled to communities large and small in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Latvia to conduct holiday services, teach in the religious schools and youth groups, and forge links of Jewish solidarity and peoplehood. As witnesses to the passionate commitment to Judaism on the part of Jews deprived of their religious heritage by the Soviets, these Israeli rabbis want to spur that same drive among Israelis alienated by religious fundamentalism but hungering for a lost tradition via a liberal ethos.

How will these four new rabbis make a difference?
Rabbi Adi Cohen’s
 rabbinate is focused on Jewish education in the schools of the Sharon region, drawing upon his extensive expertise in formal and informal Jewish education. Acknowledging the complex challenges of infusing Judaism into the prevailing secular Israeli landscape, he says: “Just as the Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea on twelve paths – equal to the number of tribes – the path along which the Jewish people walk today also offers many routes to those who travel it: the path of faith, the path of knowledge, the path of commandments, the path of morality, the path of the individual, and the path of community.”

Mira Regev, born to a religious Zionist family, is integrating her concern for the environment and her advocacy on behalf of Arab-Jewish coexistence through her work at the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa. “I pray that we, as a Movement, will develop and uplift our unique voice, while listening to the other realities around us to create a beautiful quilt binding the diversity that is within and beyond us.”

Ofer Sabath-Beit-Halachmi’s family was among the pioneers who founded the Emek Hefer region and the Israeli transport system. As a medical organization officer in the Israel Defense Forces, he has witnessed the devastation of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. Nonetheless, he expresses his optimism in the future: “Faith in human liberty, in the need for change and the capacity of humans to influence their future for the better, can all be realized in a Jewish way only when two elements – spirit and action – meet in the present. In Jewish language, this meeting is called ‘commandment.’ Let us remember the act of the Covenant and recall our obligation to change that which can be changed.”

As a screenwriter of Iraqi-Zionist heritage, Ayala Sha’ashua-Meron seeks to replicate the vitality of Jewish life she discovered while living in Los Angeles by becoming a rabbi in her homeland of Israel. Her goal is to be the community rabbi of Rosh Ha’ayin, near Tel Aviv, by reaching out to those searching for Judaism’s spiritual and ethical values. “It took me some time to understand that the loyalty that Jeremiah describes does not imply that we must adhere forever to the status quo. This is a loyalty that requires us to move, change, and continue our journey.”

Such idealism reflects the spirit of the College-Institute as an academic institution of excellence that ensures the best professional and spiritual leadership for the Jewish future around the world.

Emerging Scholars Enrich Teaching and Scholarship

Asei l’chah rav; k’nei l’chah chaver – get yourself a teacher; acquire for yourself a friend.”
Pirkei Avot 1:6.

Our tradition teaches that we must actively pursue mentors in our lives, surrounding ourselves with teachers, rabbis, and leaders from whom we can learn and grow. The new full-time, ranked faculty appointments to HUC-JIR this year, including Dr. Sharon Koren, Dr. Joshua Holo, Dr. Steven M. Cohen, Dr. Yehoyada Amir, Dr. Jason Kalman, Dr. Haim Rechnitzer, and Dr. Aaron Panken, embody the College-Institute’s dedication to “asei l’cha rav.” More than ever before, HUC-JIR now attracts and retains top emerging scholars who will develop their careers here, contributing to the academic and spiritual lives of students and to the vibrancy of the institution at large.

We are honored to welcome these eminent scholars as faculty members of the HUC-JIR community. Their individual strengths increase our capacity to serve, educate, and inspire future generations of educators, rabbis, cantors, Jewish communal professionals, and scholars and to contribute to the ongoing transmission of Jewish scholarship.

“The excitement in the classroom at HUC-JIR is palpable,” says Dr. Sharon Koren, newly appointed Assistant Professor of Medieval Jewish Culture at HUC-JIR/New York. Dr. Koren is known for her work in medieval Jewish mysticism and women’s spirituality. Her doctoral dissertation, written at Yale University, explores the reasons for women’s exclusion from Kabbalistic speculation. Dr. Koren has been a guest lecturer at HUC-JIR since 2001, and taught previously at the University of Pennsylvania and Boston College.

“Teaching at HUC,” she states, “is truly my dream job. HUC-JIR differs from secular universities because what I teach here has ramifications outside the classroom. Students are on a spiritual quest; they are excited about Judaism in a unique way.”

Dr. Koren’s work on the nexus between medieval natural philosophy, Kabbalah, and gender perceptions, will soon appear in her article, “Kabbalistic Physiology,” in the forthcoming AJS Review.

Dr. Joshua Holo, formerly of The Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies at The Graduate Theological Union and Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, was recently appointed Associate Professor of Jewish History and Director of the Jerome H. Louchheim School of Judaic Studies at HUC-JIR/ Los Angeles. Dr. Holo, a scholar od medieval Jewish history who received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, was recently awarded the Koret Foundation Jewish Studies Publications program subsidy for his forthcoming book, Byzantine Jewry in the Mediterranean Economy (Cambridge University Press), examining the Jews’ economic and juridicial engagement with other communities and the wider Byzantine world.

Dr. Holo recalls that he was “attracted to HUC-JIR/Los Angeles by the vibrant and collegial setting, in which my colleagues are pursuing fascinating paths of research of the highest caliber.” Since joining the faculty, he has found the campus and the Louchheim School, which annually provides Jewish studies courses to over 600 undergraduate students of all faiths and ethnicities at the University of Southern California, to be “the kind of environment that encourages scholarly ambition and human warmth.” Dr. Holo encourages excellence among his own students, challenging them to reconsider preconceived notions of Judaism, and, by extension, to question other concepts that inform their worldview.

Dr. Steven M. Cohen, a sociologist of American Jewry, was appointed Research Professor of Jewish Social Policy at HUC-JIR/New York. Dr. Cohen, who has published widely since earning his Ph.D. in Sociology at Columbia University in 1974, divides his time between New York and Jerusalem, where he has served as Professor at The Melton Centre for Jewish Education at The Hebrew University since 1992. Prior to that he taught at Queens College, CUNY, and held visiting professorships at Yale University and The Jewish Theological Seminary.

Dr. Cohen is well known for his 2000 book, The Jew Within: Self, Family, and Community in the United States, co-authored with Arnold Eisen. He has authored and edited more than a dozen books and countless articles exploring patterns of Jewish identity and community in the U.S. and elsewhere. Some titles include: “Two Worlds of Judaism: The Israeli and American Experiences” (with Charles Liebman), “Religious Stability and Ethnic Decline: Emerging Patterns of Jewish Identity in the United States,” and “De-Constructing the Outreach-Inreach Debate.”

His research has a strong policy orientation. He serves as the Research Director of the Florence G. Heller/JCCA Research Center, and Consultant to the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies. His current research on behalf of the College-Institute’s Strategic Planning Committee illuminates the lives and impact of HUC-JIR students and alumni, through a survey assessing their views on their experiences at HUC-JIR, as well as a survey of over 5,000 Reform Movement lay leaders and their views of HUC-JIR alumni. Dr. Cohen seeks to work “where I can most contribute to the discourse of the Jewish community,” and finds “HUC-JIR to be a platform where some of the most complex and significant Jewish conversations are taking place.”

For Dr. Haim Rechnitzer, J ’03, the recently appointed Assistant Professor of Jewish Religious Thought at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, the move to the College-Institute from his background in the Israeli academic arena was inspired by the desire to fuse academic inquiry with existentialist yearnings and commitment to Jewish education. While working toward his Ph.D. in the field of Modern Jewish Thought at The Hebrew University, he was ordained as an Israeli Reform rabbi at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, beginning a life-long grappling with the interplay between academia and his rabbinical role as a spiritual leader and educator.

Dr. Rechnitzer lauds the HUC-JIR community as a forum for the exchange of ideas where literary exegesis stands side-by-side with moral and personal interpretation. “Here we don’t think here that scholarly thinking is compromised by adding the spiritual dimension,” he says. “At HUC-JIR, study is not confined only to research; it is about living and teaching and learning.” He is now part of what he calls a “unique faculty,” in that “once we establish the scholarly meaning of a text we can also ask – what does it mean for us?” In his experience at other institutions, these kinds of questions were not welcomed. “We are teaching texts that are demanding to be thought about as an option for life,” he asserts, “but to only discuss the scholarly implications of philosophic and literary Jewish texts is to do an injustice to the texts and to our tradition.”

The recipient of the Lakritz Award in Jewish Studies, Dr. Rechnitzer’s published essays will soon appear in the compilations The Young Leo Strauss (The University of Wisconsin Press); Jewish Political Theology (Van-Leer Institute, Jerusalem); and Jewish Thought Towards Jewish Education (Melton Institute, The Hebrew University). In his current research he grapples with the relationships between liberalism and the liberal state, and contemporary Jewish theologies and the challenges of secularism.

Dr. Jason Kalman joined HUC-JIR/Cincinnati in July as Assistant Professor of Classical Hebrew Literature and Interpretation. Dr. Kalman received his Ph.D. from the Department of Jewish Studies at McGill University, and is a research fellow affiliated with the University of the Free State, South Africa. He specializes in the history of Jewish biblical exegesis, and his specific research interests include rabbinic anti-Christian polemic, medieval intellectual history as reflected in biblical commentary, and biblical interpretation after the Holocaust.

Dr. Kalman cites the “illustrious history of HUC-JIR” as his primary motivation for seeking an appointment here. “The College-Institute’s faculty has for a century and continues today to set the standard of excellence” in Jewish academia, he says. “Anywhere that these extraordinary scholars would choose to associate, I want to be.”

Dr. Kalman’s research “has benefited greatly from the abundant resources available” at the Klau Library and at the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati. He asserts that “the library stands out as one of the best research institutions that can be found anywhere.” Dr. Kalman will publish several papers this year, including “Writing Between The Lines: The Impact of Rabbinic Letter Writing on the Transmission of the Text of the Hebrew Bible,” to appear in R. Byrne, ed., Reading and Writing in Ancient Israel.

HUC-JIR’s scholarship in Israel has been strengthened by the appointment of Dr. Yehoyada Amir, J ’04, as Associate Professor of Jewish Thought. Dr. Amir received his Ph.D. in Jewish Thought from The Hebrew University, and was ordained at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, where he has served as Director of the Israel Rabbinical Program since 2000. He was previously Head of the Department of Jewish Culture and the Holocaust Teaching Center at Beit Berl College, and Head of the Center for Advanced Studies of the Institute of Jewish Studies at The Hebrew University.

Dr. Amir believes that “Reform Judaism has a special relevance and significance for Israeli Jewish society, where being Jewish has a holistic nature.” As Director of the Israel Rabbinical Program, he is “devoted to HUC-JIR’s mission that Israeli Reform rabbis can and should take a central part in shaping the kind of Judaism that will lead Israeli society in the 21st century.”

Dr. Amir’s work reflects a deep engagement with the land of Israel. His article “Land, Nature and Person – Striking Roots in Eretz-Israel’s Landscape in A.D. Gordon’s Thought” (Hebrew), will soon appear in the compilation Eretz Israel in 20th Century Jewish Thought. Dr. Amir was honored with the Golda Meir Fellowship of The Hebrew University and recently received a grant from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture for his book, Reason out of Faith – The Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig.

While he is deeply committed to his engagement in academic research, Amir insists that “academic life alone cannot suffice. HUC-JIR imparts the spiritual and social leadership that will translate that which we understand as our Judaism into the real terms of our lives. Here I have the privilege to train young men and women in Israel to do this job.”

Rabbi Aaron Panken, N ’91, who has taught Rabbinic and Second Temple Literature at HUC-JIR/New York since 1995, and has served as Dean of the New York School since 1998, was recently appointed Adjunct Assistant Professor of Rabbinic Literature on the Blended Track. An alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, he earned his doctorate in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, where his research focused on legal change in Talmudic and Midrashic Literature. His book, The Rhetoric of Innovation: Self-Conscious Halakhic Change in Rabbinic Literature, was recently published by University Press of America.

Dr. Panken’s recent appointment solidifies his relationship with HUC-JIR, which he says was born “out of a strong commitment to Reform Judaism.” He finds inspiration in “the ever growing excitement of teaching and learning in a community with high intellectual standards and a diverse and fascinating pluralistic team of faculty, with students and alumni who actually serve the Jewish community in a deeper and more meaningful way than one might find in any university setting.”

Even outside HUC-JIR’s walls, Rabbi Panken’s passion for the Jewish community is paramount. He currently serves on the faculty of the Wexner Foundation, and as a member of the Birthright Israel Education Committee, the International Council of the New Israel Fund, the Rabbinical Placement Commission, the CCAR Ethics Committee, and in a variety of other leadership roles. He finds the work of the College-Institute to be integrally linked to the future of the larger Jewish world: “In general, HUC-JIR greatly enhances the global Progressive Jewish future; but in particular, I feel good knowing that it will help my children and grandchildren to live thoughtful, committed Jewish lives.”

Technology Transforms Traditional Learning: The Simha and Sara Lainer Beit Midrash

Marbeh Torah, marbeh chayyim – the more Torah, the more life.”
Pirkei Avot 2:8

“When I was appointed to the faculty to teach Talmud four years ago, I was also asked to create a Beit Midrash program. I found it intriguing to imagine a traditional ‘house of study’ in a Reform institution,” recalls Dr. Dvora Weisberg, Associate Professor of Rabbinics at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles. “I was excited to take something that was seen as established and conventional and reshape it into something that is new and innovative.”

Dr. Weisberg had a vision, but no dedicated space for this purpose; she had the necessary books, but no place to put them. The few computer stations weren’t up to the challenge of enhancing and augmenting the type of study ideally suited to a Beit Midrash setting. Fifth-year rabbinical student interns were there to serve as resources and tutors but the open space was shared with large, overflow classes that made it difficult to study. “We knew that we wanted and needed to provide easily accessible resources in an aesthetically pleasing and dedicated environment,” she explains.

Her and her students’ hopes were realized on September 27, 2005, with the dedication of the Simha and Sara Lainer Beit Midrash at HUC-JIR’s Los Angeles campus. The Lainer Beit Midrash was established by a generous gift from the Lainer family, which has helped to create similar study environments at Orthodox and Conservative institutions throughout Los Angeles. This state-of-the-art facility provides readily available print, electronic, and programmatic resources for students in HUC-JIR’s graduate and professional schools.

The Lainer Beit Midrash is part of the multi-purpose HaMercaz (the Center), which includes the Tartak Learning Center, featuring extensive multi-media resource materials for Jewish educators; a large worship space, allowing for varying seating arrangements and experimentation with different prayer modes; a Tzedakah Center (facilitating community service and tikkun olam activities); changing installations of contemporary art expressing Jewish themes; and the home for HUC-JIR’s National Department of Distance Education.

HaMercaz recently hosted an exhibition of Tobi Kahn’s contemporary Jewish ceremonial art, with the assistance of Anne Hromadka, a student who is earning a double Masters at the School of Jewish Communal Service and the USC School of Fine Arts. “Students learn to confidently engage with the stories of our heritage in vibrant colors, in mesmerizing symbols, and in each paint stroke,” she explains. “We are creating a space where art encounters education while leading HUC-JIR/Los Angeles once again into the arena of being a key participant in today’s Jewish cultural renaissance. Like the study of text, the understanding of ritual objects can lead to new understandings of Jewish belief and expression.”

“This new type of Beit Midrash is exciting precisely because of its powerful blending of tradition and technology and because of its future-oriented vision,” notes Dr. Lewis Barth, Dean. Traditional modes of learning – students learning alone, in hevruta (with partners), and studying in small groups – are accommodated in this welcoming space. The Lainer Beit Midrash not only houses traditional texts and study guides but also makes use of databases and computer programs situated in large, specially designed, two-person workstations, all linked in a wireless network. Movable furniture encourages students and faculty to be creative in the use of this flexible space while exploring new ways of learning. Future plans include adding an e-learning or enhanced electronic seminar area adjacent to the Lainer Beit Midrash.

Gregg Alpert, National Director of Distance Education, and Rabbi Richard Levy, Director of the School of Rabbinical Studies, were the original creators of the multi-purpose Beit Midrash/HaMercaz concept for HUC-JIR/Los Angeles. “Our dream was to develop a fluid and permeable Jewish learning environment infused with Jewish art and practical technology that would bring together our unique community of rabbinical, education, communal service, and graduate students for enhanced study, dialogue, debate, and action. The Lainer Beit Midrash becomes the anchor of that space not only physically, but innovatively as well. With the advent of new technologies in the 21st century and the generosity of the Lainer Family, HUC-JIR can enable new generations of students to join the dialogue of Torah that is at the center of an ongoing, polyvocal, and eternal conversation of the Jewish people.”

The Lainer Beit Midrash is open to students throughout the day for studying and provides mentors on-site for extra help. Sari Laufer, a fifth-year rabbinical student, serves as the first Lainer Scholar and tutors and prepares students for text classes. “The Beit Midrash has been an amazing experience,” shares third-year rabbinical student Amy Morrison. “It allows me to travel in time to a place when rabbis would argue, debate, and challenge each other over texts. It has shown me what learning to be a rabbi is all about.”

Ellie Steinman, another third-year rabbinical student, agrees. “The environment of a Beit Midrash is the essential core of a rabbinical school: peer helping peer with abundant resources available at one’s fingertips. The College-Institute is all about having a community; now, we have a space to put this into practice.”

Summary Financial Figures

HUC-JIR Revenue, 2004-2005

MUM -31.3%

Fund Raising -38.2%

Investment -5.8%

Tuition (Gross) -12.0%

Contracted Services -4.3%

Other -8.4%

HUC-JIR Expenses, 2004-2005

Instruction -32.1%

Academic Support -17.5%

Maintenance -8.4%

Development -4.0%

Institutional support -21.4%

Student Stipends and Scholarships -7.9%

Depreciation -5.5%

Other -3.2%