The 149th Class of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Embraces the Future with Graduation in New York City

The special event begins a month of graduations and ordinations in New York, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati, demonstrating the spiritual and intellectual vitality of the Reform Jewish Movement.

May 3, 2024

New York, NY—Following a stirring and inspirational ordination ceremony for three new Reform rabbis in November in Jerusalem just weeks after the October 7th terror attack, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) turned its attention stateside for a month of graduations and ordinations for both established and emerging Jewish leaders in New York, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati. These leaders represent the 149th class.

Master of Sacred Music graduates and Masters of Arts in Hebrew Literature graduates gather with their program and school leaders Top Row, Pictured, left to right: Evan Traylor, Shayna Burack, Elizabeth Reinstein, Benjamin Luks-Morgan, Emma Dubin, Jesse Epstein, Ashira Boxman, James Feder, Aaron Blasband-Roth, Lauren Blasband-Roth, Sierra Fox, Justin Callis Bottom Row, Pictured left to right: Adam Graubart, Cantor Jill Abramson, Director DFSSM, Rabbi David Adelson, D.Min, Dean, New York , Provost Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D., Rabbi Lisa Grant, Ph.D. Rabbinical Director, Ora Jacobsen, Madeleine Fortney

Master of Sacred Music graduates and Masters of Arts in Hebrew Literature graduates gather with their program and school leaders Top Row, Pictured, left to right: Evan Traylor, Shayna Burack, Elizabeth Reinstein, Benjamin Luks-Morgan, Emma Dubin, Jesse Epstein, Ashira Boxman, James Feder, Aaron Blasband-Roth, Lauren Blasband-Roth, Sierra Fox, Justin Callis Bottom Row, Pictured left to right: Adam Graubart, Cantor Jill Abramson, Director DFSSM, Rabbi David Adelson, D.Min, Dean, New York , Provost Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D., Rabbi Lisa Grant, Ph.D. Rabbinical Director, Ora Jacobsen, Madeleine Fortney

HUC-JIR President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D. said, “It is now their task and privilege to transmit Judaism’s ethical values, tradition, and culture, from generation to generation. Their compassion and creativity will advance Jewish education, identity, and engagement, and their advocacy for justice and human rights will inspire others to join them in applying Jewish wisdom to make a difference in our world.” View full graduation remarks here.

Starting on Thursday, May 2nd, graduation for the New York campus took place at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York. In his Invocation, David B. Edelson, Chair, HUC-JIR Board of Governors, set the tone for the day by observing, “The vitality of the Jewish people depends on educated and visionary Jewish leaders – leaders who are able to effectively address the challenges of each era.”

On Thursday, the following degrees were conferred:

  • 18 rabbis received their Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa
  • 5 cantors received their Doctor of Music, honoris causa
  • 10 rabbinic students received their Masters of Arts in Hebrew Literature
  • 5 cantorial students received their Masters of Sacred Music
  • Joyce Miriam Rosenberg received the Interfaith Doctor of Ministry
NY Graduation faculty and staff

Joyce Rosenberg received her Interfaith Doctor of Ministry, she is seen here (center) with Provost Rabbi Andrea Weiss, her sponsor Jennifer Harper, M. Div., Director, Interfaith Doctor of Ministry Program, Doctor of Ministry faculty member Nunzio Gubitosa, and President Andrew Rehfeld


Faculty and staff at New York Graduation 2024, including Andrea Weiss, Tom Nides, Andrew Rehfeld

Pictured, left to right: Dean Nachman Shai, Provost Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Ambassador Tom Nides, President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D., David B. Edelson, Rabbi Rick Jacobs

Ambassador Tom Nides, Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Vice Chairman of Strategy and Client Relationships for Blackstone offered the attendees his views on the current situation in Israel from his unique vantage point. “Our responsibility as Americans and as Jews is to make the case for more compassion, more assistance, and more help. This is not only smart diplomacy, but it is part and parcel of Jewish values.”

Addressing the graduates and honorees directly, Nides noted, “You are the best ambassadors we have for the Jewish faith and Jewish values; to share the compelling and uplifting story of the Jewish people; and to remind Jews and non­ Jews alike why we are proud to be Jewish. We need more people like you – people of good faith, with deep knowledge and humility, seeking to resolve differences rather than fan the flames of hatred and division.”

Confirmation of degrees was offered by David B. Edelson, Chair of the HUC-JIR Board of Governors, and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, class of 1982 and President of the Union for Reform Judaism. Cantor Jill Abramson, Director of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, led those gathered in Tzvika Pik’s setting of Schecheyanu. Students from future classes lent their unique talents to the service.

Before the ceremony, alumni who were being honored for their 25 years of devoted service to the Jewish People gathered with HUC-JIR President Andrew Rehfeld and Provost Rabbi Andrea Weiss for a reflection and discussion followed by a celebratory lunch.

Andrew Rehfeld sitting with group of people at New York Graduation

President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D., Provost Rabbi L. Andrea Weis, and alumni receiving honorary degrees gather for a discussion and reflection on their commitment to service.


Andrea Weiss at podium

Provost Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss delivers the benediction.

In giving the benediction, Provost Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss observed that the seal of HUC-JIR embossed on the diplomas contains a quotation from Genesis 44:3: הַבֹּ֖קֶר א֑וֹר

“In the context of our seal, this phrase is understood to mean: ‘In the morning, let there be light!’ This citation speaks to the promise inherent in the first light of each new day: the light of learning, the light of new ideas, the light of hope that better days will come,” she said. “At this harrowing, heartbreaking juncture in the history of our people Israel and the wider world, let us search for sparks of light amidst darkness.”

The chronological connection between honorary degrees bestowed on those with 25 years of dedicated service in the field bookended by the recognition for those who have completed a major step in their sacred educational journey was inspiring. The two groups exemplify an arc of possibility that contains both the ongoing strength and reinvigorating renewal of the Reform Jewish movement.

In his remarks, Rabbi David Adelson ‘99, D. Min. ‘16, Dean, New York, provided a useful reminder for those gathered and for the wider community. “None of us knows the exact right path through today’s turbulence and distress. So instead, we rely on the daily return to Torah we have learned, to God whom we sense, to the community we hold so dear, and to this world that we love.”

Ordination for the New York class follows on Sunday, May 5th.

Bios for all graduates can be found here.

 

“At this harrowing, heartbreaking juncture in the history of our people Israel and the wider world, let us search for sparks of light amidst of darkness.”
– Provost Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss

View the full ceremony livestream.