President's Report 2017-2018

President's Report 2017-2018 Cover

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ADA Version of President’s Report 2017-2018

Dear Friends,

Our beloved leader, colleague, and friend Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D., z”l, led the 2017-2018 academic year with characteristic vigor – laser focused on the College-Institute’s mission of ensuring a vibrant Jewish future. His tragic death on May 5, 2018, came at the culmination of the academic year, rupturing our learning community and depriving the Jewish and larger world of his visionary and compassionate leadership. We take comfort in the knowledge that his legacy endures through the strategic initiatives he championed that have strengthened HUC-JIR’s academic excellence and its broad impact on the Reform Movement and the Jewish people in North America, Israel, and around the globe.

The legacy of leadership exemplified by Rabbi Panken will be sustained in perpetuity by the naming of the first four Rabbi Aaron D. Panken Professorships, one on each of HUC-JIR’s campuses: Jennifer Grayson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati with a joint appointment at Xavier University; Rabbi Dalia Marx ’02, Ph.D., Professor of Liturgy and Midrash at the Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem; Rabbi Joseph A. Skloot ’10, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish Intellectual History at HUC-JIR/New York; and Rabbi Dvora E. Weisberg ’11, Ph.D., Professor of Rabbinics and Director of the School of Rabbinical Studies at the Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles. Over $12 million has been contributed by nearly 1,000 of HUC-JIR’s lay leaders, alumni, congregations, faculty, staff, students, family, and friends to endow the Panken Professorships in a campaign spearheaded by Rabbi Panken’s beloved wife, Lisa Messinger, and the Messinger Panken family. The campaign will culminate with a day of learning, led by the four Panken Professors, as we approach Rabbi Panken’s first yahrzeit.

A brief survey of the past year reflects Rabbi Panken’s hopes and dreams for this institution he so loved: We awarded 141 degrees and rabbinical and cantorial ordination at our campuses in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York. The Pines School of Graduate Studies granted a record-breaking nine Ph.D. degrees to students of diverse faiths. All of the graduates of all of our programs have found placement as clergy, educators, nonprofit executives, and scholars and are invigorating Jewish life and Judaic studies worldwide.

The Board of Governors, Boards of Overseers, alumni, and students gathered at our Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem to celebrate the ordination of the 100th Israeli Reform rabbi to graduate from our Israeli Rabbinical Program. The academic convocation was preceded by an egalitarian service at Robinson’s Arch and a symbolic Torah processional to the Kotel, where we demonstrated the Reform Movement’s ardent commitment to religious pluralism in the Jewish State.

We are grateful to the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati for their $4 million gift to renew support for the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati Sacred Service Learning Fellowship Program as well as for recruitment activities and youth engagement on the Cincinnati campus. These dynamic engagement programs and others sponsored by our National Office of Recruitment and Admissions welcomed prospective students to our campuses or engaged them on their own college campuses, resulting in the largest incoming first-year class in nearly a decade. These 52 first-year rabbinical, cantorial, and full-time education students were guaranteed free tuition as Koret Foundation Scholars for their required year of study in Israel through a $3.75 million multi-year grant from the Koret Foundation.

The Weitzman-JDC Fellowship for Global Jewish Leaders, established by Jane and Stuart Weitzman, provided scholarships for students in the Year-In-Israel program and brought 20 students across all programs to the Jewish communities of Azerbaijan and Georgia in a JDC Entwine Mission that reinforced their relationship with world Jewry. Our students also brought the joy of Passover to communities throughout the Former Soviet Union, through the Pesach Project guided by the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

The $1.4 million multi-year grant from Central Synagogue’s Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein Fund for the Renaissance of Reform Judaism established HUC-JIR’s partnership with Hillel International in placing Reform Senior Jewish Educators and Hillel Interns at Hillels to enrich Jewish life on campus, a commitment also reflected in the third cohort of our Founders’ Fellowship, preparing college students as leaders of innovative progressive Jewish programming at undergraduate colleges.

Our faculty and students participated in teaching and leading worship at the 2017 Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in Boston, inspiring over 6,000 Reform Movement leaders with their scholarship, innovative research, and spirituality. We convened leading thinkers in politics, culture, literature, science, and Jewish studies to probe the truths that can repair our nation and our world at our Symposium 2: These Truths We Hold – Judaism in an Age of TruthinessCollege Commons’ adult and teen online courses, interviews, and “Bully Pulpit” podcasts engaged congregations and learners across North America.

At our Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim educators gathered in the Teachers’ Lounge to study how to advance tolerance in their Jerusalem schools and we continued to partner with Healing Hatred to open new paths to healing in the context of political conflict with religious leaders, psychologists, and educators.

The Jim Joseph Foundation’s grant of $1.3 million supported the continuity of the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education, with seven cohorts to date and the enhancement of the program with more engagement with the arts as part of students’ leadership development. We partnered with The Jewish Theological Seminary to launch a second Chicago-based cohort of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute with renewed support from the Crown Family.

The Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management at our Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles launched the first cohorts of the Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Certificate in Jewish Organizational Leadership, offering accelerated and summer programs for professionals seeking to fast-track their careers.

The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives on our Cincinnati Campus celebrated the acquisition of the B’nai B’rith International Archives with an exhibition of its treasures and supported the research of scholars and educators from around the world. The Klau Library inaugurated online access to digitized images of its rare treasures at

Our faculty published significant volumes of scholarship and academic articles, presented academic lectures, and were featured among the 100 letters written by scholars of religion to our nation’s leaders in the volume American Values: Religious Voices, dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Panken and co-created by Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss ’93, Ph.D., our new Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Provost.

A $1.68 million gift from the Dr. Bernard Heller Foundation supported the naming of the Dr. Bernard Heller Museum in New York, which presented 70 international artists exploring personal experience, historical and contemporary events, and the universal human condition in the exhibition “Home(less).” The Skirball Museum in Cincinnati welcomed visitors of all ages and faiths to view “Dreams: Baseball & Becoming American,” “Treasures from the B’nai B’rith Klutznick Collection,” “Re-Art: The Many Faces of Israel,” and “Israel at 70: A History in Art and Artifacts.” “The Jerusalem Biennale” was presented at the Skirball Museum in Jerusalem, and contemporary art installations were on view at the Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles.

Over $1 million was raised for student and faculty support at the tribute dinners in Cincinnati, honoring Jacqueline Mack and Edward Silberstein, M.D.; in Los Angeles, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management and honoring Dianne and Tad Taube and Taube Philanthropies and Arthur Greenberg with special commendation to Lee Wunsch; and in New York, honoring Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D.

We are thankful for the sacred work and principled leadership demonstrated by our alumni and students each and every day, and particularly during the most challenging moments of the past year – in Charlottesville, in the aftermath of the devastating hurricanes and wildfires, during the asylum-seeker crisis in Israel, and, most recently, as we continue to heal from the horrific murders at Pittsburgh’s Eitz Chaim Congregation.

You are our indispensable partners in preparing the next generations of Jewish leaders to sustain the Jewish and larger world. Thank you for your vital support as we work together toward the blessings of justice and peace.

With sincere gratitude and in friendship,

Rabbi David Ellenson ’77, Ph.D., Interim President and Chancellor Emeritus
December 1, 2018 / 23 Kislev 5779

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion instills leadership, fosters scholarship, and nurtures spiritual growth in an inclusive, pluralistic learning environment where tradition and innovation are the catalysts for leading and creating vibrant Jewish communities throughout North America, Israel, and around the world.

Your Support Sustains Excellence

  • Philanthropy provides 40% of HUC-JIR’s income, supporting students, faculty, and research resources.
  • 89 continuing education programs engage alumni throughout the world.
  • 93% of students receive scholarship support.
  • 100% of new graduates have jobs within one year.
  • Our alumni and students have an impact on 50 countries, 1,400 synagogues and organizations, and 7,000 Jewish campers.

In Memoriam

Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., President

Rabbi Isaac Jerusalmi, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Bible and Semitic Languages, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati

Jay I. Kislak, Former Treasurer of the Board of Governors and Chair of its Jerusalem School Committee

S.L. Kopald, Jr., Chairman Emeritus and Governor Emeritus

Rabbi David M. Posner, Former Governor

Theodore L. Schwartz, Governor Emeritus

Richard Siegel, Director Emeritus, Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management

Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin ’46, Founding Dean, Jack H. Skirball Campus, Los Angeles

Fall 2018 Year-In-Israel Class

  • 52 students
  • Average age: 28
  • 35% received a graduate degree or certificate
  • 3.8/3.5 average graduate/undergraduate GPA
  • 27% have/had affiliations outside the Reform Movement
  • 63% female | 31% male | 4% gender nonconforming | 2% transgender
  • Selected Undergraduate and Graduate Schools Where They Studied: Bates | Brandeis | Brown | Bryn Mawr | Clark | Columbia | Cornell | George Washington | Harvard | Hebrew University | Indiana | Jewish Theological Seminary | Miami | Michigan | Middlebury | Muhlenberg Northwestern | Princeton | Skidmore | Syracuse | Washington & Lee | Wellesley