The LA Campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Ordains 11 Rabbis

They begin their work in a Jewish world looking to understand the new post-October 7 reality.

May 13, 2024

Los Angeles, CA—On May 12, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion continued its month of ceremonies with ordination at Stephen Wise Temple for its students on the Los Angeles campus.

Ordinees smiling for a group photo at LA Ordination Ceremony 2024

After a musically-charged processional, Rabbi Sari Laufer ’06, Chief Engagement Officer, Stephen Wise Temple, took a moment to recognize that this year’s ordination ceremony fell the day before Israeli Memorial Day, a national day of remembrance in Israel that honors the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in the defense of the country. She observed, “Yom HaZikaron holds unique power for the people of Israel. This year, the pain is raw and palpable. In communities all over the world, we will light a Yizkor candle, perhaps many, lighting the darkness with hope as you will be called to do in your rabbinic careers.”

The LA contingent of the 149th graduating class was welcomed by Rabbi Joshua Garroway ’03, Ph.D., Interim Dean, Jack H. Skirball Campus. In his rousing Welcome Remarks, he recognized their dedication and their charge, “You have spent five challenging years mastering that tradition, and today you will hear the call that sanctions you to be ambassadors of it, ordained to go out among the Jewish people and the world to share the voice of God.”

Faculty and staff group photo at LA Ordination Ceremony 2024

Andrea Weiss giving blessing to ordinee

The Ordination Ritual was led by Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss ’93, Ph.D., Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost, and Rabbi Dvora Weisberg ’11, Ph.D., Director, Rabbinical School. Both noted the sacred responsibility these students were undertaking, and the fraught moment in which they begin this work.

Said Provost Rabbi Weiss, “Manifold in its makeup, the prophet charges God’s people with a unified mission. He enjoins them to be pursuers of peace and seekers of God.” She continued “Our students…commit to this very same exalted mission. Inheritors of a rich and precious legacy, they stand ready to fulfill their divinely-given potential by serving God and the Jewish People with integrity and authenticity, with reverence and humility.”

Rabbi Weisberg added, “They are inspired by the potential of the world, and, especially at this moment, by their concern that it is engulfed in flame. They are prepared to enter the rabbinate at a time when all of us are called to extinguish the flames that threaten the world and its inhabitants.”

All told, 11 rabbis were ordained:

Elana Ackerman Hirsch, Max Gabriel Antman, Hannah Claire Bender, Julia Whiting Berg, Aria Adele Caligiuri, Jade Carter, Rebecca Frances Chess, Shirah Coran Kraus*, Jerry Nathan Kudan, Franklyn Henry Salzman, Samantha Rose Thal
*to be ordained in Cincinnati

Bios for all graduates can be found here.

As Rabbi Michele Lenke surveyed this class and their rich and varied interests, she observed, “Our newest rabbinic colleagues are podcasters, painters, and potters and we pray that their creative minds, hearts and hands will continue to create works of beauty and meaning with deep intention.” View full remarks.

In his Presidential Charge, President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D. spotlighted the special achievement of this class, which started during the pandemic and were ordained as war rages in Israel. “Despite all that has been thrown at you, you have demonstrated your resilience and commitment, realized your own expectations, to become our newest Jewish clergy. This is the story of Jewish history after all. High expectations to be a light onto the nations, with so many barriers in the way.”

Candice Levy speaking at LA Ordination 2024

This year’s class chose Rabbi Candice Levy, Ph.D., who had served as a long-time faculty member, from Milken Community Schools, to offer the address. Said Levy, “My dear ordinands, I have had the honor of teaching you, and privilege of learning with you and from you. Each of you is a wanderer, having traveled your own paths toward this day. As wanderers, you have seen a world that is on fire and one that is full of light. You have seen the world as it is, and have pushed the needle toward making it what it could be. As a class, and as individuals, you have demonstrated the ability to hear and see what others have missed, to behold the world in ways that others do not.” View full remarks.

Our students are inheritors of a rich and precious legacy, they stand ready to fulfill their divinely-given potential by serving God and the Jewish People with integrity and authenticity, with reverence and humility.
— Rabbi Andrea Weiss

After a moving ordination ritual, Marcie Zelikow, Co-Chair, Institutional Advancement Committee, Board of Governors, offered this year’s class warm congratulations which also acknowledged the deep commitment it took for students to get to this place. “We know how hard you’ve worked and studied. How dedicated you’ve been to your student pulpits and internships. How hard you worked at camps and in pastoral care. You are our future.”

Graduation for the Los Angeles class follows on Monday, May 13, with Cincinnati graduating students on May 31 and ordaining its class of rabbis on June 1.

View the full LA ordination livestream.

Ordinees smiling at LA Ordination Ceremony 2024