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January 13, 2011
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HUCNews is a weekly e-newsletter produced by HUC-JIR's National Public Affairs Office.
News at HUC-JIR
HUC-JIR Mourns the Death of Debbie Friedman, z"l

"It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the untimely death of Debbie Friedman on Sunday, January 9, 2011. All of us at the College-Institute join Debbie's family in mourning the loss of a beloved teacher and friend," said Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President. "Debbie Friedman was sui generis. She had a unique ability to touch the lives of the people with whom she came into contact, and inspired an even larger community of people throughout the globe who were moved and inspired by her music. The students of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion were blessed by her devotion, and the faculty was enriched by her gifts and talents. Her words and her music will live on and shape the world of prayer in our synagogues and in the larger Jewish community for this and future generations. May her memory be a blessing."

Rabbi David Ellenson's Eulogy for Debbie Friedman, z"l

Rabbi David Ellenson spoke at Debbie Friedman's funeral on Tuesday, January 11, 2011. He said, "To you, my friend, Debbie, and to all of us, I can only say that your life was one of such chein and hesed, such grace and kindness. From the recesses of your beautiful neshamah, you blessed and gave to us all so often and on so many occasions with your intelligence, your caring, and your talents - even to your own detriment. This is why you would always first bless us with your Mishebeirach, your words and song of healing, and only afterward allow us to join you in these words of prayer and hope. You had to give first, and only then could you receive. Out of your pain and love, you displayed unparalleled empathy and concern for others, and we loved you for your embrace. How could you, Debbie, ever think you would be forgotten or that your life would "be for nothing." Your body, it is true, will soon be returned to the dust. But your soul will not perish, and your spirit and your voice, your being, will touch and comfort us in moments of sadness and joy forever."

"I Am Jewish" by Debbie Friedman, from I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl

Debbie Friedman, z"l, wrote, "I am a Jew because I know that it is not meant for me to do this work alone. I am engaged both with the Holy One and with all of those with whom I am involved. I am a Jew because I know the world that you and I and many others like us envision is a world yet to be created by us. I am a Jew because in spite of all the hatred and violence in this world, I believe we must hope and live together as if the world were sheltered beneath the wings of the Shekhinah. We must live as if we were enveloped in a world of love and compassion. I am a Jew because together we must pray for the day when all people will sit beneath the vine and fig tree-when none shall be afraid and when all the words that come forth shall be words that speak of the family of humanity. The world you had envisioned is a world that we will continue to build through song and prayer, through action and acts of lovingkindness. Often we dreamers are laughed at for our lofty thoughts. In truth it is love and peace that are two values that cannot be touched or defiled by anyone. They are held in one's heart and soul in the most sacred parts of us, and they soar to the highest heights in the heavens."

Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller Discussing the Impact of Debbie Friedman, z"l, in a Satellite Radio Program on Religion

Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, Professor of Cantorial Arts at HUC-JIR's School of Sacred Music, is participating in a satellite radio program on religion, hosted by Rabbi Harlan Wechsler. Cantor Schiller and Rabbi Wechsler will be discussing the impact of Debbie Friedman, z''l, upon our community. Cantor Schiller and Rabbi Wechsler will be joined by Rabbi Gordon Tucker and School of Sacred Music fourth-year student Elana Rosen-Brown. The program airs over satellite to subscribers of Sirius and XM radio on Sundays coast to coast. It will be broadcast two times on Sunday, at 3:00 am and 11:00 am, on Sirius 102 or XM 155. Click here for three days of free access.

The 10th Yarzeit Memorial Gathering for Professor Michael Klein, z"l

The 10th Yarzeit Memorial Gathering for Professor Michael Klein, z"l, will take place on Monday, February 7, 2011 at 7:00 pm at the Murstein Synagogue at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem. The evening will include guest speaker Professor Stefan Reif of Cambridge University, who will discuss "Remembrance of Research, Relationship, and Respect." Professor Reif was both colleague and dear friend of Michael Klein. Professor Eli Scleiffer will offer words and music. Musical interludes will be led by his son Mattan Klein, to be joined by Shoshi Klein.

Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary Winner in Education and Jewish Identity at the 2010 National Jewish Book Awards

The Jewish Book Council announced the winners of the 2010 National Jewish Book Awards, the longest-running North American awards program of its kind in the field of Jewish literature. Given annually since 1948, the awards are designed to recognize outstanding books on Jewish topics each year. Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary (The Alban Institute), by Isa Aron, Steven M. Cohen, Lawrence A. Hoffman, and Ari Y. Kelman, won in the category of Education and Jewish Identity.

Torahluminations: The Art of Peter Asher Pitzele at the HUC-JIR/New York Museum

Torahluminations: The Art of Peter Asher Pitzele signals a connection between paper collage and storytelling with the ancient practice of illuminating Scripture. Peter Asher Pitzele explores the dimensional images of the biblical narrative with an artist's license. He uses the art as armatures, points of departure, private and public referents for his work. The opening reception will take place at HUC-JIR/New York on Thursday, January 20 from 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm. RSVP and government issued photo ID required: or (212) 824-2293.

HUC-JIR in the News
Debbie Friedman, Singer of Jewish Music, Dies at 59 - The New York Times

Debbie Friedman, a singer and songwriter whose work - which married traditional Jewish texts to contemporary folk-infused melodies - is credited with helping give ancient liturgy broad appeal to late-20th-century worshippers, died on Sunday in Mission Viejo, Calif. She was 59 and lived in Laguna Woods, Calif. One of the brightest stars of the Jewish music world, Ms. Friedman was called "the Joan Baez of Jewish song," as the Jewish newspaper The Forward wrote in 1995. She was known for her clear, strong voice and for the intense spiritual conviction with which she sang as she accompanied herself on the guitar. In 2007, Ms. Friedman joined the faculty of the School of Sacred Music at HUC-JIR/New York, where she taught Reform rabbinical and cantorial students; she later taught at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles. Her appointment was striking for two reasons: first, because she was a largely self-taught musician who did not know how to read music, and second, because her work - inclusive, progressive and strongly feminist - was perceived as a threat to established cantorial tradition when she began her career in the early 1970s.

My Memories of Debbie Friedman, and Her Memorable Words - The Jewish Week

At Debbie Friedman's funeral, Rabbi David Ellenson, President of HUC-JIR, read an excerpt from Debbie's letter to Alice Shalvi, founder of the Israel Women's Network, on the subject, fittingly enough, of death and dying. Debbie wrote, "I think the thing I fear most about death is my fear of life. I haven't yet mastered the art of living. How can I leave this world when I haven't yet learned to live in it and manage it? If I don't know how to live with openness and without fear, how will I ever be able to look at death's face when we meet? How can I possibly be gracious? It wouId seem that before I die I must learn to live life without fear. I must learn to live with chein and chesed and a loving and open heart. Once I accept this, embrace the beauty of this world, both life, and the way in which I see death will be transformed."

Singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman, Inspiration to Thousands, Dies at 59 -

Debbie Friedman transformed Jewish worship in hundreds, if not thousands of North American synagogues, with her sing-along style of folk-inspired music that brought prayer home to liberal Jews who had never felt its power. "One of the blessings that Debbie gave us" was helping people understand that the "healing of the body is something somewhat distinct from the healing of the soul," said Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson, director of the Women's Rabbinic Network, at the start of a memorial Sunday night at the Manhattan JCC just hours after the singer's death. In 2007, Friedman was tapped to teach at HUC-JIR's School of Sacred Music, a position that confirmed her place in American Jewish musical history and gave her the formal approbation her fans felt she always had deserved. "Her gifts were not always accepted with grace by the musical establishment, but the Jewish community voted with their voices and made her songs part of the mainstream of Jewish worship," Rabbi Daniel Freelander, Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism, told JTA. A note Friedman posted on her website captures the spirit in Friedman that so many found inspiring. "Sometimes life takes its turns into the unknown and presents us with challenges we would have preferred not to encounter. Suddenly we are confronted with our pain," Friedman wrote. "Our pain need not bury us, instead it may elevate us to the point of healing -- if we choose to allow it. "Remember, out of what emerges from life's painful challenges will come our healing. And ultimately, our greatest healing will come when we use our suffering to heal another's pain -- 'to release another from their confinement.'"

Song and Prayer - Tablet Magazine

More than perhaps any other Jewish musician of the past 40 years, Debbie Friedman reached listeners in an extremely personal and intimate way. She helped pioneer the participatory, sing-along style of musical worship that now characterizes liberal congregations across North America. She also awakened listeners to a particular strain of Jewish spirituality-inclusive, progressive, and above all accessible-that they had either sought in vain, or could not articulate clearly enough to pursue alone. Friedman possessed a personal warmth and charisma that set her apart and earned her a particularly devoted following. In 2007, Friedman-who had neither cantorial training nor a college degree-was appointed to the faculty of the School of Sacred Music at HUC-JIR, where she taught both rabbinical and cantorial students. Friedman herself never inspired anything but gratitude and devotion among those who knew her or her music. Indeed, she seems to have lived the lyrics to one of her most popular songs, "Lechi lach," a song that now seems a fitting tribute to a woman who was both a guide and a blessing to the many people whose lives she touched.

Making Reform Relevant - The Jewish Daily Forward

Rabbi Evan Moffic (HUC-JIR/Cincinnati '06) writes, "The Reform movement has launched a series of public dialogues about its future, and the timing could not be more fitting. While Reform remains the largest of America's four main streams of Judaism, overall membership in Reform synagogues has declined. The time is right for a hard-headed exploration of what values Reform Judaism's leaders will highlight as the movement enters a new era. What we urgently need now is to articulate a broad vision about what Reform Judaism means. What word or phrase will come to mind when people think about Reform Judaism? What motivating passion will drive the leadership and thinkers of the movement? For much of the movement's early history, the key word was 'progress.' As Jews left the ghettos and became more integrated into American society, Reform was a way of adapting and changing. This trend began to change, slowly but significantly, after World War II. For a significant portion of that generation, and especially their children, Reform Judaism was about 'social action' and 'liberalism.' In the 1980s and early 1990s, with the significant rise in intermarriage, the focus was 'outreach.' In the late '90s through today, it has been 'spirituality' and 'transformation.' What will it be tomorrow? My hope is that when we think of Reform Judaism, we will think of 'relevance.'"

Reform Rabbis Call for Sensible Filibuster Reform - Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Rabbi Steven Fox, Chief Executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism released a letter urging Senator Harry Reid and Senator Mitch McConnell to enact sensible filibuster reform. They wrote, "On behalf of the 1,800 rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the national Reform rabbinical association, we write to advocate sensible filibuster reforms. ... The ability of a truly dedicated minority to oppose the most extreme instances of legislative excess or of judicial or executive appointments must be preserved. But the current rules have evolved to a point where a 60-vote threshold in the Senate is the norm on important issues, not the exception. Some simple changes currently being considered have the potential to more effectively accomplish the goals the CCAR has long advocated. That is, they could promote a more restrained and responsible use of the filibuster, while preserving minority rights in the Senate."

Living the American Ethos - The Jewish Daily Forward

Commissioned to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the American Jewish Archives and the 10th anniversary of Gary Zola as the AJA's Executive Director, "New Essays in American Jewish History" is testimony to the variety - and vitality - of scholarship in Jewish Studies. Like Jacob Rader Marcus, the eminent historian who founded the AJA, most of the 22 contributors to the collection focus on individuals to explore American-Jewish identity, ideology and experience. Subjects of the collection include naval captain Jonas Levy; Isaac Moses, architect of the Union Prayer Book; philosopher Nachman Krochmal; historian Ellis Rivkin; Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah, and the Yentl of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Barbra Streisand. Although no single theme emerges from the volume and, perhaps inevitably in a festschrift, the essays vary in quality and importance, "New Essays in American Jewish History" helps us reassess the evolution of Jewish culture in the United States and the process of assimilation.

Spotlight On
School of Sacred Music 3rd Annual Composers' Showcase: February 1 at HUC-JIR/New York

Enjoy the creativity of the next generation of composers and songwriters for the Reform movement at the School of Sacred Music 3rd Annual HUC-JIR Composers' Showcase on Tuesday, February 1, 2010 from 10:45 am to 12:00 pm at HUC-JIR/New York. Featuring original works by students and faculty, congregational and Jewish concert pieces for the synagogue and stage will be presented. Cantor Bruce Ruben, Director of the School of Sacred Music, writes, "It is one of my fondest dreams that cantors play a role in the creation of the next generation's liturgical music. This dream is realized through this wonderful yearly program: the HUC-JIR Composers' Showcase. You will hear works that are 'hot off the press' by our students and faculty, in most cases performed by the composers themselves." Government issued photo ID required for entry. RSVP to Mary Brunner at or 212-824-2204.

Third Annual South Florida Cantorial Concert: January 15 at Temple Israel of Greater Miami

Twenty-four cantors and soloists will perform a diverse concert of Jewish song in the Third Annual South Florida Cantorial Concert, to be held on Saturday, January 15, 2011, at 8:00 pm. The concert will be held in the Bertha Abess Sanctuary at Temple Israel of Greater Miami, located in Miami's Performing Arts district. Click here for further information.

Inaugurating Classical Concerts on Clifton with Constella Trio: January 16 at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati

HUC-JIR/Cincinnati will inaugurate "Classical Concerts on Clifton" with the Constella Trio on Sunday, January 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm at the Schueur Chapel. The Constella Trio, with Tatiana Berman, Ilya Finkelshteyn, and Yael Senamaud, will begin with a celebration of the life and work of Bonia Shur, followed by a presentation of Bonia Shur's Kol Nidre; Ludwig von Beethoven's String Trio in D Major, Opus 9, No. 2; Franz Schubert's Unfinished Trio in B Flat Major, D.471; Gideon Klein's Trio (Terezin 1944); and Erno Dohnanyi's Serenade Opus 10. A reception will follow in the Teller Lounge. Free and open to the public.

Common Chords - The Healing Power of Music & Song: January 18 at the University of Southern California

Coming from different genres of music and world cultures and religions-Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh-the Common Chords, with renowned Jewish musician Yale Strom and Muslim musician Salman Ahmad, create a musical collaboration that transports the listener, feeds the soul, and unblocks the mind. The concert, co-sponsored by HUC-JIR, will take place on January 18, 2011, at 7:30 pm at the Bovard Auditorium at USC. Click here to RSVP.

The Naming and Dedication of the Jack H. Skirball Campus: February 6 at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles

The President of HUC-JIR invites you to the naming of our Los Angeles campus in tribute to and in loving memory of Jack H. Skirball on Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 1 p.m. Please RSVP: 213-765-2106 or

Born in Homestead, PA, Jack Skirball (1896-1985) attended the University of Cincinnati and Western Reserve College in Cleveland and then studied for the rabbinate at Hebrew Union College. After his ordination in 1921, he did graduate work in philosophy and sociology at the University of Chicago, then served as an assistant rabbi in Cleveland for two years and rabbi of the Washington Avenue Temple in Evansville, Indiana, for seven years. As a film producer, real estate developer, and philanthropist, Jack Skirball remained active in the Reform Movement, assisting the establishment of new congregations, serving as regional president for the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now the Union for Reform Judaism) and giving financial support to HUC-JIR. He spearheaded the development of HUC-JIR's Los Angeles campus and established the Skirball Museum at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, the Skirball Museum at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, and the Skirball Museum and Center for Biblical and Archaeological Research at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem. Jack Skirball cared for and contributed generously to Jewish life and to American society as a whole. His memory is a blessing.

Photo of the Week

Dr. Michael Marmur, Vice President for Academic Affairs at HUC-JIR, addressed the rabbis at the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis (PARR), part of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). PARR met in Palm Springs, CA, on January 2-4, 2011.

Click here to view a larger image.

New at the HUC-JIR Judaica Gallery

Dutch artist Billha Zussman reconfigured a grey wool knitted glove to create a charity container, a new tzedakah "box." Tzedakah is about giving, and about the hand that gives. Zussman uses the form of the glove to tell the story of tzedakah. The glove is embroidered with silver and gold thread and each finger is designed as a wallet containing a pearl.

$100, plus shipping and handling.

To purchase, please contact: 212-824-2218,

Please click here for a larger image.

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