Edie Yakutis ’23
Please tell us about yourself and your experience at HUC-JIR.
I am a second-career rabbinic student based in Cincinnati, and was accepted into HUC-JIR after working with Microsoft Corporation for 22 years in a number of customer-facing management roles. Before applying to HUC-JIR, I relocated from the Charlotte, NC area to Cincinnati in 2015, with my husband, Leo, and our 4 dogs. I am also blessed with a son and daughter-in-law, Nicholas and Mandie, who currently live in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In the Charlotte, NC area we were one of the twelve founding families of Temple Solel, in Fort Mill, SC. I served there as a lay leader which put my feet on the path towards HUC-JIR and the rabbinate. I am proud to have worked with the synagogue to achieve non-profit status and URJ membership within two years’ of founding.
When not studying, I enjoy the outdoors – hiking with a dog (or two), cycling, or kayaking. My favorite classes at HUC-JIR are “Remembering the Ark” for its examination of items across time, “Women and Gender in Biblical narratives” for a well-rounded examination of representation of women, and “Jewish Travel in the Middle Ages” which has been a world-expanding look at travel patterns of Jews in the early middle ages. Each of these classes has used original source material from the Cairo Geniza and the Klau library to richly augment my learning.
What do you love about HUC-JIR?
There is so much! I love being a part of HUC-JIR because of the incredible minds, both student and faculty, who are willing to share their experience and knowledge as we all work to improve ourselves in service to the Jewish people. The sense of history on the Cincinnati campus is palpable, even as we work to re-form it in reaction to contemporary times. I believe that HUC-JIR as a whole will always reflect the influence of the people who have walked before us. Last but not least, the resources of the Klau library and the American Jewish Archives cannot be underestimated when it comes to researching for class work as well as outside projects. One of favorite study-spots is on the third floor of the Klau Library.
What is most rewarding about your HUC-JIR program?
The rabbinic program in Cincinnati has given me the opportunity to learn, and then put those learnings into practice. Each year I have served as a solo rabbi in small but thriving congregations across the center of the country (from Marquette, MI to Brownsville, TX). These experiences have increased my awareness of a wide range of roles and expectations of Jewish leadership. The eagerness for learning and warmth I have found in those communities is a fantastic example of Jewish passion, outside of cosmopolitan environments. In my local internships, I have served as part of a rabbinic team, and as a chaplain in hospitals and senior living facilities. These diverse environments have provided hands-on learning and community which has become one of the highlights of my life.
What does HUC-JIR mean to you?
HUC-JIR is an rich patchworked quilt of history, people, places, intentions, and results. I looked at each of the major seminaries in the U.S. and realized I wanted the history and sense of ever-forming continuity that the HUC-JIR/Cincinnati campus represents. It has its endearing quirks, as every institution does. The resources available and the willingness for discourse and challenge are just two more of the incredible learning experiences which have put HUC-JIR in my heart.