Shirley Idelson Appointed Director of the Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management

Rabbi Shirley Idelson

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is pleased to announce that Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Ph.D., ’91 has been appointed Director of the Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management (Zschool). Dean of the New York campus from 2007-2016, she returns to HUC-JIR after serving as Leon A. Jick Director of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University. In that position, she provided strategic oversight for the M.A. in Jewish Professional Leadership and oversaw four dual degree programs in addition to teaching and fostering collaborative relationships across the University.

Idelson looks forward to building on the Zschool’s excellence in training professionals to lead the business of Jewish life. She envisions deepening the Zschool’s role in the fabric of the College-Institute in ways that will enhance every HUC-JIR degree and our offerings to all alumni, while also strengthening the school’s position as an international center for leadership studies and training. She is eager to work collaboratively with the Zschool Associate Directors, Mandi Richardson and Melissa Garai, as well as the broader HUC-JIR leadership team to forge global institutional partnerships and new educational offerings.

“In our increasingly turbulent and complex world, the Zschool has a critical role to play in preparing innovative and effective communal leaders who can blend Jewish wisdom with the cutting-edge tools of contemporary nonprofit management,” she said. “In this way, our faculty, students, and alumni together will continue the sacred work of shaping a thriving Jewish future grounded in justice and compassion.”

President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D. remarked, “Thanks in large part to Marcie and Howard Zelikow’s transformative investment, the Zschool truly drives professional leadership in this field, fostering ideas essential to addressing the most vexing challenges and pressing problems of society while applying the wisdom of our Jewish tradition. Our distinctive approach has enabled us to attract an academic leader who is top in her field with a vision for building on a proven platform of innovation. We are thrilled to have someone of Idelson’s caliber return to HUC-JIR in this new post, leading the Zschool forward. Her experience and expertise will help her carry out our mission and will be a tremendous asset to our community.”

Provost Andrea Weiss shared, “We are excited to welcome Shirley Idelson back to the College-Institute in a role that makes the most of her extensive experience in academic administration and Jewish communal leadership. She knows HUC-JIR well, both from her fourteen years as Dean and Associate Dean in New York, and from the research that went into her highly acclaimed new book, We Shall Build Anew: Stephen S. Wise, the Jewish Institute of Religion, and the Reinvention of American Liberal Judaism.

Prior to her work at Brandeis, Idelson served as Senior Advisor at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and Visiting Rabbi at Dartmouth College. Earlier in her career, she was a producer and newscaster for Minnesota Public Radio, Director of Arts and Religion in the Twin Cities, Associate Chaplain at Carleton College, and Director of Religious Activities and Chaplaincy Services at Vassar College.

She earned her B.A. in History at Dartmouth College in 1985, her rabbinical ordination from HUC-JIR/New York in 1991, her M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University in 1998, and her Ph.D. in History from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2014. She has contributed to numerous books and publications and was recently appointed to the board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Please join us in congratulating Shirley Idelson as she helps lead the Zschool from strength to strength. Recalling her formative experiences at the College-Institute as a student and administrator, Idelson said, “I am coming home.”


Rabbi Idelson can be reached via email at