President's Report 2006-2007

President's Report 2006-2007 Cover

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ADA Version of Presidents Report 2006-2007

Hebew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion

Annual Report 2006-2007

President’s Message

Dear Friends:

Artist Tamar Hirschl’s “Deer Watch,” illustrating the cover of this Annual Report, conveys the urgency of time in applying the Jewish values of tikkun olam to our troubled world. Her art expresses the prophetic heritage of Reform Judaism and reminds us that the chain of Jewish memory and the values of our tradition compel us to struggle for the survival of the Jewish people, and for universal freedom, tolerance, justice, and human rights. Her artistic call to action powerfully reflects the mission of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Judaism today stands at a crossroads, where trends of weakened Jewish commitment and attachments compete with pockets of intense Jewish revival and knowledge – and all this takes place across traditional denominational lines and traditional institutional patterns. The task of the College-Institute is to strengthen these pockets of revival and knowledge, which take place both within and beyond traditional Jewish institutional structures.

The future of Judaism in North America, in Israel, and throughout the world depends upon our ability to maintain and revitalize Jewish religious tradition in light of the conditions we all confront in our communities today and into the future. Our students and alumni stand in the vanguard of the continuity of Jewish heritage, faith, and values. They confront and respond to the challenges of assimilation and acculturation in North America, as well as the critical need for religious pluralism – beyond the extremes of fundamentalism and secularism – in the Jewish State of Israel.

At the College-Institute, our students learn how to introduce innovation while preserving tradition, embrace diversity while asserting unity, and approach our sacred texts with faith without sacrificing critical scholarship. They are imbued with the leadership skills, knowledge, creativity, and experience to be activists within the changing Jewish world, through intensive training in:

  • Advancing social responsibility;
  • Fostering a welcoming culture for unaffiliated or mixed faith families;
  • Promoting inclusivity and the full participation of people of every race, gender, and sexual orientation;
  • Facilitating worship through the integration of contemporary modes of liturgy and spirituality;
  • Developing communities of lifelong learners; and
  • Advocating for human rights.

We have accomplished significant advances in fulfilling our mission during the 2006-07 academic year: We continue with the implementation phase of our strategic plan, emphasizing academic excellence and financial sustainability: We have created significant economies to balance our annual budget, and have developed guidelines to streamline our programs, monitor spending, and engage in meaningful fiscal forecasting for the future. Under the auspices of our provost, Dr. Norman Cohen, we have created special task forces to study, evaluate, and transform the administration, teaching, and curriculum of our rabbinical, cantorial, education, communal service, and graduate programs.

In our rabbinical schools, we have taken the bold step of focusing on the teaching of leadership and infusing leadership training throughout our curriculum. We have launched several leadership fellowship programs through the generosity of Mort Mandel, Bonnie and Daniel Tisch, and Lynn Schusterman. We are teaching leadership using three foci that have resonance within the Jewish community – social responsibility, outreach and intermarriage, and education to transform congregations into communities of lifelong learning.

We have renewed our commitment to the integration of our four campuses into one institution. A gift from Burt and Gerry Belzer is enabling the development of electronic classrooms on our Jerusalem, New York, and Los Angeles campuses, to join the existing classroom created on our Cincinnati campus through the generosity of The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati. These classrooms will facilitate faculty coordination, collaboration, and team-teaching and will expand the student learning experience, enhance faculty scholarship, and promote excellence in all of our academic programs.

Technology is also transforming recruitment at HUC-JIR as well as service to our students and faculty. The recently installed Student Information System, financed by Governor Nicki Tanner and her husband Harold; Sakai, an “open-source” online Collaborative Learning Environment; and the Judaic Studies Portal, an online resource of six programs, funded by a seed money gift from Governor Kenneth Ruby and his wife Wendy, are helping to enhance learning and scholarship on all campuses).

We have welcomed new members of our administration: Dr. Samuel Greengus as Director of the School of Graduate Studies in Cincinnati; Rabbi Shirley Idelson as Dean of the New York School; Dr. Michael Zeldin as Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education in Los Angeles; Sandie Mills of Cincinnati as Director of Finance and Accounting; Richard Siegel as Interim Director of our School of Jewish Communal Service in Los Angeles; Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, Ph.D., as Director of the HUC-JIR – CCAR Joint Commission on Sustaining Rabbinic Education; and Michele Prince as Director of the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health in Los Angeles.

We have renewed our faculty with individuals of great talent who will strengthen the teaching and mentorship on our campuses: Debbie Friedman, world-renowned folk songwriter and performer has been appointed as Instructor in Music at the School of Sacred Music in New York, and Rabbi Tali E. Hyman is the newly named Instructor in Jewish Education in Los Angeles. Choreographer Liz Lerman held the Sally J. Priesand Visiting Professorship in Jewish Women’s Studies and used the tools of the dance world to explore text through movement with students of the New York campus.

Through funds raised in honor of Burton Lehman, former Chair of the Board of Governors, we have created an endowment for HUC-JIR’s Faculty Retreat, ensuring that every two years our entire faculty will be able to meet and engage in important discussions to enhance teaching and academic programs.

We have broken ground in Cincinnati for the $12 million Klau Library Renovation and Expansion Project and will construct a new “Library Pavilion” to house library collections, administrative and library offices, and exhibition space for treasures from the rare book collection.

We have admitted 79 students (38 stateside rabbinical, 4 Israeli rabbinical, 5 cantorial, 21 education, 7 communal service, and 4 DeLeT certificate program students) and are proud to have 49 first-year students at our Jerusalem campus, where they are studying side-by-side with 25 Israeli rabbinical students.

We have ordained 61 new stateside rabbis and 5 Israeli rabbis, invested 10 cantors, graduated 13 communal service professionals and 18 Jewish educators, and bestowed 134 Master’s and Doctoral degrees on students in our graduate and professional programs.

We have continued to raise funds for scholarships to attract the best and the brightest and have been delighted by the many congregations who have chosen to honor their rabbis by creating scholarships in their names.

In Israel we have developed a Masters program in Jewish Pluralistic Education, in conjunction with the Melton Center for Jewish Education at Hebrew University, to train educators who are working in Israeli public schools, with gifts from the Chais Family Foundation and the Scheuer Family.

Through our Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling in Jerusalem, our students have been at the forefront of aiding the victims of violence and terrorism, in the aftermath of the war with Lebanon and missile attacks on Israel’s northern and southern borders.

We have renewed our commitment to day school education by assuring the continued funding of DeLeT—Day School Education through Leadership and Training—with a substantial grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation, and by creating a Masters in Teaching funded by the Avi Chai Foundation.

We have mounted extraordinary exhibitions at the HUC-JIR Museum in New York, including works from the collection donated to the College by Sigmund Balka (see page 8), and the exhibit on Jewish identity by the renowned artist Judy Chicago, among many others. In Los Angeles, through a grant from the Los Angeles Community Foundation, we welcomed Overseer Peachy Levy as artist-in-residence, who worked with students to interpret sacred texts through her exhibit “Threads of Judaism.”

We have accomplished all of this through remarkable gains in our development effort. This year we completed our first-ever capital campaign, which raised over $140 million, surpassing its goal of $135 million. This campaign enabled the College-Institute to more than double its endowment from $48 million to $115 million; to improve the physical facilities on our campuses, in particular in Cincinnati; and to provide millions of dollars for annual operational needs, new centers, faculty chairs, scholarships and fellowships, and new academic programs.

This year we raised over $25 million – $20 million in cash and an additional $5 million in pledges – to ensure the vibrancy of our programs and our ongoing commitment to excellence in preparing Jewish leaders.

Throughout Jewish history, no Jewish community has ever thrived without a strong house of study, and in our generation the obligation of the College-Institute is to be such a Beit Midrash. With your generous help, I am confident that HUC-JIR can and will fulfill this mandate.

As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel, let us remember the sacrifice and commitment that have allowed us to reach this milestone, and let us rededicate ourselves to ensuring the Jewish future for our children and grandchildren. With warm thanks for your partnership in this sacred task,

Rabbi David EllensonPresident
May 2008 / Iyar 5768

Women of Reform Judaism Support Student Learning

The Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) is the single largest cumulative donor to the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion: it has provided devoted support to the College-Institute annually since 1913. Through the YES Fund (Youth, Education, and Special Projects), WRJ has traditionally provided scholarship aid to North American rabbinical students and students in our Israel Rabbinical Program, as well as cantorial prizes to students at HUC-JIR’s School of Sacred Music. In addition, the WRJ has subsidized HUC-JIR’s Pesach Project in the Former Soviet Union, whereby scores of students lead Passover sedarim in Jewish communities large and small throughout Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.

WRJ is the collective voice and presence of women in Reform congregational life and works to ensure the future of Progressive Judaism in North America, Israel, and around the world. The organization has recently strengthened its dedication to HUC-JIR students by committing to named scholarships to fund rabbinical, cantorial, and education students at all three HUC-JIR stateside campuses, and continuing to fund students in our Israel Rabbinical Program

The 2007-08 recipients of the WRJ Scholarships are rabbinical students Karen Kriger, C ’11, Rochelle Kamins, L ‘09, Judith Bacharach, N ‘09, cantorial student Leah Holland, N ’09; education students Olga Bluman, RHSOE ’08, L ’09, and Sarah Ruderman, NYSOE ’09; and communal service student Anna Schwarz, SJCS ‘ 09. For the duration of their careers as Jewish leaders, these students will carry the name of the WRJ as part of their identity. During the course of their studies, these WRJ Scholars will benefit from a close relationship with the WRJ, its scholars, and its programs, and an enriched understanding of the role of women’s leadership in the congregational setting. They will be better prepared to engage the active involvement of women and Sisterhoods within the professional settings in which they will work.

Rosanne M. Selfon, President of WRJ, explains, “We’ve always had a strong relationship with HUC-JIR students, but moving forward, we need to have a stronger, better commitment to them. WRJ is building connections to HUC-JIR students and these students are learning more about our support of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the URJ’s Youth Programming, and the Religious Action Center.” Selfon says, “Our hope is that with these scholarships, we will be able to increase interest in WRJ and the important work that we do.”

WRJ also continues to work with the entire HUC-JIR student body and faculty and provides exceptional support and resources. The WRJ, in partnership with the URJ Press, has just published The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, edited by Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, Professor of Bible, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, and Dr. Andrea Weiss, Assistant Professor of Bible, HUC-JIR/ New York. WRJ commissioned the work of the world’s leading Jewish female Bible scholars, rabbis, historians, philosophers, and archaeologists for the Commentary – the first of its kind. WRJ gave HUC-JIR students early access to preview materials from the Commentary, which debuted at the 2007 WRJ Assembly, and students have been able to use Torah studies and program materials provided by WRJ in their coursework and student pulpits.

Selfon lauds Rabbi David Ellenson’s “immense support of the Torah Commentary” and looks forward to its use in HUC-JIR’s curriculum and by HUC-JIR’s students. With the generous endowment support of Elizabeth Blaustein Roswell and Arthur Roswell, all 2nd-year students at HUC-JIR will receive a copy of this extraordinary volume from the WRJ for the next three years. This year, the WRJ will underwrite the expense for students in their 3rd to 5th years. This wonderful gift will ensure that this important scholarly work will inform the learning of all of HUC-JIR’s students in the future.

As a New Year’s gift this past Rosh Hashanah, WRJ donated copies of Covenant of the Spirit: New Prayers, Poems, and Meditations from Women of Reform Judaism to every HUC-JIR student as a resource for their internships, pulpits, and everyday life. The volume is a collection of original prayers for all types of occasions and for each individual’s daily life – from “ Torah: Source of our Covenant” through “Lifecyle Events: Living the Covenant,” and includes meditations on illness and hope, the Shoah and Israel, prayers for peace and gratitude, holidays and Shabbat, and blessings and benedictions for meetings, gatherings, and rituals.

“Our support of HUC-JIR is one of the proudest things our organization has done,” says Shelley Lindauer, WRJ Executive Director. “In some way, WRJ has supported every HUC-JIR student since 1913. By supporting HUC-JIR, we have helped to ensure the future of Reform Judaism.”

Art Enriches Learning

The treasures of Jewish material culture have been a core component in the scientific study of Judaism at HUC-JIR since its inception in 1875. The integration of art throughout the College-Institute’s classrooms and museums is a visual extension of HUC-JIR’s spiritual, cultural, and educational mission and offers amplification to the study of text and the interpretation of tradition and thought. The creativity of artists exploring Jewish identity, faith, history, and experience continues to be a vital part of the learning environment today, thanks to the generosity of Sigmund R. Balka, a distinguished attorney and civic activist, who has gifted the College-Institute with his encyclopedic collection of major European and American Jewish artists and Jewish themes in art during the 19th and 20th centuries.

“We are enormously grateful to Sigmund Balka for entrusting his art collection to our institution,” says Rabbi David Ellenson. “By donating his art to the College-Institute’s Museum in New York, Sigmund Balka has demonstrated the meaningful role that the private collector can have on the development of a university art museum as an essential educational resource for faculty, students, and the larger public.”

Laura Kruger, Curator of the HUC-JIR Museum, adds, “The Sigmund R. Balka Collection offers insight into the creativity of Jewish artists as they have encountered the challenges of modernity. Images of traditional study and worship, the Jewish home and neighborhood, and reflections of religious faith mingle with depictions of assimilation and acculturation, the struggle for human rights and social justice, and the tragedy of those who perished in the Holocaust. The full trajectory of Jewish fate and survival are captured among the Balka Collection’s paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and Judaica.”

Assembled over a period of five decades, the Balka Collection provides a panoramic impression of Jewish life and Jewish cultural production during a golden era of creativity. Over 200 works present the creativity of Jewish artists including Marc Chagall, Issachar Ryback, Josef Israëls, Abel Pann, Jacques Lipchitz, Ossip Zadkine, Herman Struck, Lesser Ury, Jules Pascin, Leon Golub, Chaim Gross, William Gropper, Joseph Hirsch, Jack Levine, Saul Raskin, Louis Lozowick, Raphael and Moses Soyer, Ben Shahn, William Sharp, Jakob Steinhardt, 5 Saul Steinberg, Will Barnet, Isabel Bishop, Larry Rivers, Joyce Kozloff, and Max Ferguson, among many others, as well as works by Rembrandt, Max Beckmann, Lyonel Feininger, and Robert Motherwell.

The impulse to acquire and live with art, and then to ultimately share it with teaching institutions, has animated Balka’s life. “Being a collector enhances my opportunity to capture my own little worlds that hopefully represent more than just things of interest to me but that have a significance that stems from the spring of the human spirit to be the force that helps to regenerate mankind,” he says. ‘In this past century of Holocaust and destruction it is my link with man’s creative spirit, which in the end must prevail or we will extinguish ourselves.”

The donated collection grows out of a strong sense of Jewish identity and heritage. At one point, Balka seriously considered entering the rabbinate and going to the College-Institute. “It was therefore natural for me to think about the College-Institute as the appropriate venue for this collection of Jewish art,” he explains. “As a teaching institution, these works will be integrated into the educational experiences of faculty and students and engage the public audience. Furthermore, the College-Institute will be able to circulate these works to its other campuses and around the country to other academic institutions and centers of Jewish learning.” Traveling exhibitions of treasures from the Balka Collection will be presented at university art galleries and Jewish museums throughout North America, representing HUC-JIR in communities far and wide.

Balka has always collected art with the thought of sharing it. “Art is not of value if it is not presented so that people have the opportunity to interact with it. I don’t think I am anything but a custodian during my lifetime. Art speaks for itself. And the more public the opportunity to have it speak for itself, the better society is, in general.”

A graduate of the Central High School of Philadelphia, renowned for the celebrated artists and collectors who attended there, Sigmund Balka received his B.A. from Williams College in 1956 and began collecting art while a student at Harvard Law School, where he received his J.D. in 1959. His work for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations included serving as an Administrative Law Judge at the Interior Department, helping to set up the Chief Counsel’s Office of the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, and serving in the division of the Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation in the Labor Department. He has been associated with the New York State Power Authority, served as Vice-President-General Counsel of Brown Boveri Corporation (US), and has been with Krasdale Foods, Inc. in White Plains, NY, since 1980, where he currently serves as Vice President, Public and Cultural Affairs and General Counsel. He is the Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Krasdale Galleries in White Plains and New York City, where he has curated over 100 exhibitions of modern and contemporary art in all media by artists from around the world and has transformed the company headquarters in Westchester and alternative exhibition space in Hunts Point in the Bronx into vibrant cultural venues.

Balka’s vision of continuity and survival for the Jewish people and humankind reinforces the mission of the College-Institute. Within his collection, the images of Jewish life and expressions of social activism and spirituality that he has chosen convey the essence of a heritage that seeks universal justice, peace, and human freedom. The Sigmund R. Balka Collection at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum is a testament to the soul of the collector, the creativity of artists past and present, and the purpose of the College-Institute – and will serve as an enduring source of inspiration to all those who will enjoy and learn from its treasures.

New Faculty Enrich Teaching

The chain of Jewish learning is embodied in the relationships forged at HUC-JIR, where students are mentored by innovative scholars who are gifted teachers. The extraordinarily low faculty-to-student ratio (among the lowest of any university or seminary in the world) means that students receive daily guidance and support from some of Judaism’s best minds. This year, two gifted women have joined the faculty, where they are contributing their expertise and commitment to the learning community and helping to transform contemporary understanding of Jewish text, pedagogy, ritual, and liturgy.

World-renowned folk songwriter and performer Debbie Friedman is the newly appointed Instructor in Music at the School of Sacred Music at HUC-JIR/ New York. Friedman’s lyrical interpretations of liturgy and biblical verse have reached a generation of Jews looking to connect to the words of their heritage through music. A singer, songwriter, and guitarist, she has recorded 19 albums, including many songs that have become so much a part of many synagogues’ liturgy as to be considered “traditional.”

“Debbie Friedman is inspiring our students through her creativity and musical talents, helping to guide their spiritual and leadership development, and providing them with innovative strategies to transform congregations into communities of meaning,” says Rabbi David Ellenson. “She is strengthening HUC-JIR’s role in the area of worship renewal and revitalization in our day.”

“It was kol isha (the voice of women) for col isha (every woman) that inspired me to write inclusive music,” explains Debbie Friedman. “It is beneficial not only for women, but for men and children as well. Singing helps us learn how to be vocal. The more our voices are heard in song, the more we become our lyrics, our prayers, and our convictions.”

Friedman is enriching the fabric of student life by teaching “Music as Midrash,” a course for rabbinical, cantorial, and education students that explores the spiritual core of Jewish texts as a source for songs, sermons, and study. In addition, she serves as Artist-in-Residence, coaches cantorial students, and participates in worship services and other areas of the School of Sacred Music curriculum. The students in all programs at the Cincinnati and Los Angeles campuses also benefit from her presence as visiting instructor during the course of the academic year.

In 1996 Friedman celebrated the 25th anniversary of her musical career with a concert at Carnegie Hall. She has performed in hundreds of cities in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Israel, and has appeared before national conventions and conferences for major Jewish organizations and particularly the Reform Movement, including the Union for Reform Judaism, National Association of Temple Educators, National Association of Temple Administrators, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Women of Reform Judaism, World Union for Progressive Judaism, and National Federation of Temple Youth.

She served as cantorial soloist for three years at the New Reform Congregation in Los Angeles, California. As a music educator, she directed the music component of the intensive Hebrew Chalutzim program at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, where she continues to co-lead Hava Nashira, the annual song leading and music workshop she created. She has served on the faculty of HUC-JIR’s Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health, and the Union for Reform Judaism’s summer Kallah programs held at Brandeis University, the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Franklin Pierce College.

Emerging scholar and educator Rabbi Tali E. Hyman is the newly named Instructor in Jewish Education at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles. A lecturer there since July 2006, Rabbi Hyman is a member of the administrative team and faculty for the DeLeT (Day School Leadership through Teaching) Program at the Rhea Hirsch School of Education (RHSOE), dedicated to fostering teaching excellence in Jewish day schools in North America. DeLeT at HUC-JIR is conducted in consultation with its partner DeLeT program at Brandeis University. It carries out its mission by recruiting energetic, reflective people with Jewish commitments and a passion for learning, providing them with a 13-month fellowship program, preparing mentors to be reflective practitioners who can support a novice learning to teach, and encouraging schools to support ongoing teacher learning.

“Being given the opportunity to teach new ways of thinking about Jewish education, identity, and culture, in order to help students become the most responsible and effective change agents they can be, is a gift granted me each time I walk into a classroom, mentor an advisee, and equally, when I research and write,” says Hyman. “I hope to build upon my colleagues’ work of intensifying the intersections between theory and practice, bringing practitioners and academics ever closer in conversation, collaboration, and mutual enrichment.”

Rabbi Hyman received an M.A. in Jewish Education from the RHSOE at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles in 2000, and was ordained as a rabbi at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles in 2002. She completed her doctoral coursework at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development as a Wexner Graduate Fellow, and will soon complete her dissertation, “An Ethnographic Investigation of the Role of Dissonance in a Community Jewish High School,” that focuses on identifying various cultural strategies by which individuals and communities respond to dissonance inherent in Jewish identity building. She received the 2006 Young Scholar’s Award from the Network for Research in Jewish Education and was granted a Writing Dissertation Fellowship for 2006-2007 by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture.

Rabbi Hyman’s thinking about her research has been greatly enhanced by opportunities to share and exchange ideas with broader scholarly communities. Her recently published articles and presented papers include “Beyond Notions of Going Native: Jews Who Study Jews” (presented at Teacher’s College); “At Home with Many Identities” ( Sh’ma Magazine); and “Studying Jewish Identity: Emerging Trends and Challenges” (presented at Brandeis University). She is in the process of co-authoring a paper, with scholars of contemporary American Jewish identity Stuart Charmé, Bethamie Horowitz, and Jeffrey Kress, which offers new theoretical and methodological approaches to researching Jewish identity. She served a two-year term as the Book Review Editor for the Journal of Jewish Education (2004-2006).

E-Learning at HUC-JIR

HUC-JIR’s e-Learning initiative continues to produce exciting new technological developments for students and faculty on all of our campuses. “The opportunities for incorporating new technology into the life of the College-Institute are tremendous,” says Dr. Aaron Panken, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. “Our students have certain expectations regarding technological capabilities based on their university experiences, and our goal is to meet or exceed these expectations.”

“The ‘e’ in e-learning stands for more than electronic – it represents our enhancing, expanding, and extending learning on all campuses in numerous ways,” adds Gregg Alpert, National Director of e-Learning. Several of the College-Institute’s newest programs to enhance electronic learning, communication, collaboration, and recruitment have been inaugurated in recent months.

Years of work by renowned scholars are more immediately accessible with the creation of the Judaic Studies Portal (JSP), a free online resource available to all HUC-JIR students, faculty, and staff.

The JSP consists of six programs:

  • Bible Works gives the user access to a massive array of Bible versions and translations in various languages. Advanced search options allow users to compare verses from different Bibles, locate particular words and passages, and search lexicons and dictionaries to help them understand the text
  • Responsa provides the entire Tanakh and related commentaries in Hebrew, along with the Talmudic encyclopedia. Users can search for words or multiple words in relation to one another using a range of advanced grammatical search parameters.
  • Judaic Classics contains English versions of the Bible, Zohar, Talmud, Mishnah, and Midrashim.
  • Online Library Resources offers a wide range of online journals and subscriptions with full text of all articles.
  • The Encyclopedia Judaica as well as the new version of the Encyclopedia Judaica online.
  • DavkaWriter, the popular Hebrew-English word processing program.

Rabbi Panken and John Bruggeman, Director of Information Systems, initiated the project with the goal of making the College-Institute’s vast array of library materials accessible to the entire HUC-JIR community through any computer, anytime, any- where. A generous gift from Wendy and Kenneth A. Ruby funded the initial development of the JSP, and HUC-JIR is now looking for additional supporters to further the development of the software, with the aim of including additional resources and online portals and making the JSP available to alumni as well.

With the JSP, a world of Jewish learning is now at our students’ fingertips, facilitating their research endeavors, strengthening their knowledge of the essential texts of the Jewish tradition, and opening the door to new ways of exploring Judaism.


A gift of $500,000 from Gerry and Burt Belzer is enabling the development and installation of elec- tronic classrooms (e-classrooms) on HUC-JIR’s Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York campuses.

A model for the e-classrooms already exists on the Cincinnati campus, housed in the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati’s International Learning Center, located in the Edwin A. Malloy Education building of the American Jewish Archives.

The e-classroom is a seminar-style room that can be used in either a distance learning mode or a local enhanced mode. The enhanced aspect of the room includes a mounted computer/video projector, large pull down screen, large digital whiteboard for annotated projection or electronic capture, a smart classroom configuration that allows for laptop plug-in, wireless access for both students and instructors, and on-demand multi-media playback. The distance learning mode adds two large plasma video/TV displays capable of showing students on other campuses, remote-controlled mounted video cameras, and microphones for use in videoconferences and for recording class sessions.

With funds for training and assistance in course development, also included in the Belzer’s gift, stu- dents and faculty will be prepared to maximize the use and impact of these resources. Faculty will then be able to walk into a classroom, plug-in a laptop or play other media, without special requests or the need for a technician to set-up specific resources.

Yet “the e-classrooms are not just about presenting the material in new ways, but using educational technology to expand and extend the learning experience,” says Gregg Alpert. Using these facilities, faculty will be better able to coordinate, collaborate, and even team-teach with their colleagues on other campuses, and students will engage with and learn from esteemed faculty and their fellow students on all campuses. Through such inter-campus learning, the e-classrooms help HUC-JIR fulfill our vision of one institution/four campuses, promoting excellence in all of our academic programs and facilitating student learning and faculty scholarship.

The new Student Information System (SIS), funded by a generous gift from Nicki and Harold Tanner, has the power to improve management, organization, and recruitment for the College-Institute. A single database holds information for all students, enabling administrators to track their progress, maintain con- tact, and provide support at the highest level. The SIS prospect database enhances contact between HUC-JIR and prospective students, building stronger relationships and tracking their interests and communication with faculty and administrators.

Sakai, an “open-source” online Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE), provides a powerful set of orga- nizational, communication, assessment, and pedagogic tools that allow for enhanced communication among faculty and students. With this endeavor, HUC-JIR joins major universities around the world that are jointly developing such programs. Sakai is being piloted across all campuses and will be fully available in the 2008-2009 academic year, as will online registration for all HUC-JIR courses.

Starting in 2008, applications for all HUC-JIR programs will also be available online. Students applying to the rabbinical program had access to an online application in 2007, enabling a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan to apply. In the words of Dr. Panken, “Such technological advancements take HUC-JIR’s ability to recruit, educate, and inspire the next generation of Reform Jewish leaders to new heights.”

Building Israel’s Progressive Future

Five Progressive Israeli rabbis were ordained at HUC-JIR’s Academic Convocation on November 2, 2007, on the Jerusalem campus. These new rabbis exemplify the growing impact of Progressive Judaism among young Israelis and their quest for authentic Jewish expression. With the ordination of this new rabbinical class, 53 alumni of the Israel Rabbinical Program now serve in Israel, furthering the cause of liberal Judaism and a pluralistic approach to religious life in the Jewish state.

Silvana Kandel spoke on behalf of her class, pointing to the symbolism of the date of Ordination as it echoed the historic date of November 2, 1917, when the Balfour Declaration “affirmed the right of the Jewish people to national renaissance in its land. Today, exactly ninety years later, we come as newly-ordained rabbis in Israel to declare our commitment to Israeli society. We pledge to revive and renew the historic bond between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and between these and the values of justice, equality, mercy, and peace on which our existence here depends.”

Nir Yishai Barkin, a fourth-generation Israeli, served in the Intelligence Corps of the Israel Defense Forces before completing a B.A. cum laude in Middle Eastern and African History, Education, and International Relations. After working in the commercial and technological fields, he moved to Wisconsin to spend four years as a communal and educational emissary of the Jewish Agency for Israel to the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. Living in the U.S. introduced him to liberal Judaism, and he joined the Israeli Rabbinical Program immediately upon returning home. During his course of study, Barkin received his M.A. at the Herman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University. As a rabbinical student, he participated in HUC-JIR’s innovative pastoral care training program called Mezorim, helped found the Anita Saltz Education Center under the auspices of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, and worked as the student rabbi at Congregation Yozma in Modi’in. He now serves as Rabbi at Yozma Congregation in Modi’in and as Associate to the Dean, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem.

Silvana Kandel made aliyah in 1999 from Argentina, where she was active in the Buenos Aires Jewish community and attended various programs at the Marshall Meyer Latin American Rabbinical Seminary. Immediately after arriving in Israel, Kandel began working in Reform congregations in Jerusalem, teaching Judaism in conversion programs and to the disabled. She completed her B.A. and M.A. at Hebrew University in the department of Jewish Thought, and she was awarded the Yeshayahu Tishbi (z”l) Prize for Excellence for her thesis, which centered on “The Religious and Moral Thought of Rabbi Moshe Haim Luzzatto.” In 2005 Kandel moved to Haifa and began working with Or Chadash Congregation and the Lokey Center of the Leo Baeck Education Center. Last year she moved to Yokneam and joined Kehillat Shachar, where she and a group of students strive to teach the values of Jewish renewal, social justice, involvement, and Zionism. She completed her teaching studies at Oranim Seminary and runs Beit Midrash study groups in various frameworks.

Moshe Navon was born in 1954 in the Soviet Union and made aliyah in 1991. Navon grew up and studied in Moldavia, where he received an M.Sc. degree, and in 2003 he earned a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible from the Hebrew University. Before starting his rabbinical studies, Navon completed a fellowship in HUC-JIR’s Academic Development Program a attended the Beit Midrash for graduates at the Shalom Hartman Institute for five years. Over the past decade, Navon has taught at the School for Overseas Students at the Hebrew University, as well as at leading universities in the Commonwealth of Independent States of the Former Soviet Union. He has served as a lecturer and writer of curricula for the Hebrew University, the Ministry of Education, and the Jewish Agency for Israel. For the past three years he served as deputy director of the International Association of Education and Cultural Workers for the Russian-Speaking Population. He currently lectures at David Yellin College in Jerusalem and is serving as the pedagogic coordinator for an exhibit entitled “The Jews of Struggle,” at Beth Hatefutsoth, The Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv. Navon is also participating in a new pedagogic project for the Dome of the Book at the Israel Museum.

Ishai Ron is a native Israeli whose family immigrated in the first aliyah around the turn of the 19th century and helped establish Rosh Pina, one of the first Jewish settlements in Israel. Ron received his law degree at the Hebrew University and served as a lawyer for over a decade in Haifa, during which time he also worked for the Israel Religious Action Center. Ron spent a few years in America as the spouse of a shlicha in Fairlawn, New Jersey. Upon his return to Israel, he entered HUC-JIR and also enrolled at Haifa University as a graduate student in Philosophy, receiving his degree with honors in 2006. Ron served as a student rabbi, and is now the rabbi, at Yedid Nefesh Congregation in Carmiel, which was heavily challenged during the second Lebanese war. Ron is a passionate spokesperson for the idea that Reform Judaism’s main mission must be to engage the Israeli secular population. His work with Yedid Nefesh includes efforts to develop education and cultural activities to bring together the diverse populations that live in the Galilee.

Tanya Segal was born in Moscow and worked as an actress and singer in the Jewish theatre there. She completed her studies at the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts and gave performances of Yiddish songs. In 1990 she and her son Binyamin made aliyah, and she has worked in three areas in Israel – culture, the translation of books on Jewish themes from Russian to Hebrew, and teaching theatre. In 1999 Segal worked in Riga as an emissary, teaching Jewish history at the Dubnov Jewish School. Upon her return, she entered HUC-JIR, which she says was an important milestone in a profound process of addressing the religious dimension of her life. An important part of the process was the semester she spent at HUC-JIR/New York in 2004. In addition to her education at HUC-JIR, she studied in the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Theatre at Tel Aviv University and prepared both a thesis and a play in recent years. Over the past few months, Segal began working as a student rabbi, and is now the Associate Rabbi, at the Beit Warsaw Congregation in Poland. She is helping rebuild the infrastructure for the renewal of Progressive Judaism in Poland and is also developing communities in Lublin, Krakow, and Gdansk.


Shimon Peres, the President of the State of Israel, was awarded the Dr. Bernard Heller Prize by the College-Institute in Jerusalem on Friday, November 2, 2007. Ruth O. Freedlander, Co-Trustee of the Dr. Bernard Heller Foundation, who presented the award to President Peres with Rabbi Ellenson, said “President Shimon Peres’s lifelong devoted leadership of the State of Israel and vision for a peaceful future in the Middle East are a source of inspiration and hope. It is a privilege to honor his distinguished statecraft and commitment to the values of our tradition with the Dr. Bernard Heller Prize in Arts, Letters, the Humanities, and Religion, an international award presented to an organization or individual whose work, writing, or research reflects significant contributions in these areas.”

President Peres praised Reform Judaism for “its double-edged ability to be fully a part of the modern world while at the same time remaining faithful to the foundation of the Torah.” He called for the partnership of scientific and intellectual endeavor at the highest level in Israel, adding that “the moral code of the Ten Commandments is essential to existence and to being in the forefront of innovation.”

Natan Sharansky, former refusenik and leader of the Soviet Jewish struggle for freedom, met with the leaders of HUC-JIR in Jerusalem on November 3, 2007, to mark the 40th anniversary of the movement for Jewish human rights in the USSR: the right to renew Jewish identity and heritage, the right to immigrate to Israel, and the right to nurture Jewish culture, language, and religion. Rabbi Ellenson praised Sharansky for his heroic efforts on behalf of Soviet Jewry and the State of Israel, and noted that “the Soviet Jewry movement was a decisive experience in the formation of Jewish leaders in the Soviet Union, North America, and around the world and a model of courageous activism to be emulated in our own day.”

Sharansky explained that “today, in the free world’s struggle against Islamic fundamentalism, Israel is the only non-Muslim nation in the region. In the free world’s struggle against totalitarian regimes, Israel is the only democracy in the region, and yet is condemned more than its neighbors for human rights infractions. In the free world’s post-nationalist trend toward a world without borders and religions, whereby European nations are abandoning their identity but have growing populations who are increasingly attached to their religious and ethnic identities, Israel represents a challenge to such post-nationalistic theories. Fighting for the Jewish people and the interests of the State of Israel is fighting for the interests of the free world – for democracy, human rights, and freedom.”

A Klau Library for the 21st Century

Cincinnati leaders joined faculty, students, administration, and members of the Boards of Governors and Overseers of the College-Institute at the groundbreaking for the $12 million renovation of the Klau Library on Monday, September 24, 2007.

In welcoming the community, Rabbi David Ellenson stated, “The Klau Library resides at the very heart of our enterprise and offers tangible testimony to the absolute commitment we have as a liberal Jewish institution of higher learning to the enterprise of academic study. At HUC-JIR, we recognize that our approach to the Jewish religion would not be possible without the foundation that this library provides, and cherish and champion the belief that academic learning – Wissenschaft – can and does make a decisive difference in how we view our evolving religious tradition and the enduring values that inform our understanding of Judaism.”

Councilmember Roxanne Qualls, City of Cincinnati, brought greetings and expressed gratitude to the College-Institute and Klau Library for their educational an cultural enhancement of the city. The Honorable Tyrone K. Yates, Ohio House of Representatives, 33rd District, provided a declaration from the Ohio House of Representatives congratulating the College-Institute on the Klau Library, noting that “libraries are the repositories of our nation’s intellectual endeavors” and are “vital to the preservation of our country’s heritage, principles, and ideals.”

Phyllis Sewell, President of The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, which donated the lead institutional gift of $6.5 million to the College-Institute, expressed the Foundation’s pride in the Klau Library and lauded HUC-JIR’s commitment to ensure that its treasures be preserved and made accessible for posterity. Sandy Cardin, Executive Director of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, noted that the Klau Library is a national treasure and a precious resource to scholars, researchers, and students from around the world.

In his keynote address, Dr. Frank Turner, Director of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, said “This library contains books and manuscripts that exist in some cases nowhere else on the American continent and in others no place else in the world. When one contemplates the history and suffering as well as the spiritual majesty and courage of the Jewish people and the Jewish faith, the manuscripts and books of this library function as witnesses of those experiences and as vehicles for bringing that experience alive to this and future generations.”

With 465,000 volumes, the Library has the largest collection of printed Judaica in North America and is second only in size to that of the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem, Israel. This renovation and construction of a new Pavilion entry will transform the Klau Library into an unparalleled, international center for research, teaching, and learning for scholars worldwide and enhance the intellectual and cultural life of the greater Cincinnati region.

In his invocation, Dr. Richard S. Sarason, Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Thought, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, spoke on behalf of the faculty in acknowledging the Klau Library’s significance for the research and scholarship not only for the HUC-JIR community of students and teachers, but for researchers from around the world.

The Klau Library’s mission is to collect, preserve, and provide access to the total record of Jewish thought and experience. Its Rare Book collection includes important collections of incunabula (books printed before 1501) and 16th century Hebrew imprints, and archival and literary manuscripts, including the unique Chinese-Hebrew collection. It has the world’s largest collection of early Jewish Americana, and preeminent collections of Jewish music, Spinozana, and Christian Hebraica. It also houses the American Jewish Periodical Center, which preserves on microfilm some 900 newspaper, journal, and synagogue bulletin titles.

In her presentation on one of the Klau Library’s rare manuscripts, Dr. Susan Einbinder, Professor of Hebrew Literature at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, noted, “It is easy to marvel at the whims of fate that allow these fragile artifacts to survive. It is nonetheless a fact of Jewish history that the fragility of the owners has often been greater than that of their books. These pieces of paper and parchment, whether tenderly preserved or torn and scattered through the years, are what remain to tell us the story of people and a past that led us here.”

Over 200 Judaica databases and 10,000 digitized images of works from its collections can be accessed using the Klau Library’s internal computer network. It is one of the three conservators in the world of the negatives of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Its online catalogs are accessible to a world-wide community of users at HUC-JIR’s website (, which also provides links to timely topics, online exhibitions, subject research guides, online databases, and local resources.

“‘Books are for use’ is the first law of librarianship, and the Klau Library prides itself on making its collections accessible to as wide an audience as possible; it has a justly earned international reputation as the ‘lender of last resort’ for Hebraica and Judaica,” said Dr. David Gilner, HUC-JIR Director of Libraries. “We are eagerly anticipating a building that will properly house and preserve the collection far into the future, as well as provide flexibility for future needs,” added Laurel Wolfson, Administrative Librarian.

The Klau Library in Cincinnati serves as both the campus library and the main research library within HUC-JIR’s four-campus library system, which also includes the S. Zalman and Ayala Abramov Library at HUC-JIR in Jerusalem, the Frances-Henry Library at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, and the Klau Library at HUC-JIR in New York. It also serves as a resource for the University of Cincinnati and other local educational institutions through its membership in the Greater Cincinnati Library Consortium, the Ohio College Library Consortium, and the Research Libraries Group.

Summary Financial Figures

HUC-JIR Revenue 2006-2007

MUM* – 24.9%

Fund Raising – 49.8%

Investment – 3.1%

Tuition (Gross) – 11.6%

Contracted Services – 3.3%

Other – 7.3%

* Reform congregations, through the Union for Reform Judaism’s proportional dues program (MUM), provide critically needed support each year. HUC-JIR receives 44 percent of the MUM dues; the remaining 56 percent goes to the URJ.

HUC-JIR Expenses 2006-2007

Instruction – 37.6%

Academic Support – 13.8%

Maintenance – 9.2%

Development – 4.3%

Institutional Support – 12.5%

Student Stipends & Scholarships – 10.4%

Depreciation – 5.5%

Other – 6.7%