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February 03, 2011
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HUCNews is a weekly e-newsletter produced by HUC-JIR's National Public Affairs Office.
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HUC-JIR Announces the Naming of the School of Sacred Music in Memory of Debbie Friedman, z"l, to Honor Her Singular Contributions to Religious Worship, Spiritual Renewal, and the Jewish People

At a memorial tribute to Debbie Friedman at Central Synagogue on January 27, 2011, Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, made the following announcement:

"A beloved member of our faculty since 2007, Debbie Friedman, z"l, inspired our students through her creativity and musical talents, helped guide their spiritual and leadership development, and provided them with innovative strategies to transform congregations into communities of learning and meaning. Our students were blessed by her devotion, and our 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.

Generous friends of the College-Institute have made possible the endowment of the HUC-JIR School of Sacred Music to ensure that the mission of the SSM - to provide the finest cantorial education across a full range of liturgical and musical styles -- will receive permanent support. This endowment has been made out of deep love and friendship for Debbie Friedman and to honor her singular contributions to religious worship, spiritual renewal, and the Jewish people. The School of Sacred Music will now bear her name, and will henceforth be called The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. We are profoundly grateful for this act of genuine hesed (true loving kindness) in memory of our beloved Debbie.

Since its founding in 1948, the School of Sacred Music has been marked by academic and musical excellence, and the School has educated its students in the total breadth and depth of the cantorial tradition. Our pluralistic faculty, representing many different streams of Judaism, has exposed our students to the widest range of traditional nusach, musical styles, and professional skills. We can now confidently assert that our school will continue to do so as the College-Institute fulfills its ongoing sacred mission of producing "sweet singers in Israel," cantors who will elevate and awaken the souls and spirits of the Jewish people b'chol mekomot moshvoteinu - within the synagogue and beyond in all our places of habitation."

News at HUC-JIR
Sh'loshim Ceremony to Mourn and Remember Debbie Friedman, z"l

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 will mark one month since the passing of Debbie Friedman, z"l. The HUC-JIR/New York community will join together for a Sh'loshim ceremony at 10:05 am to mourn and remember our teacher, friend and colleague. Personal stories and words of remembrances of Debbie will be shared during the ceremony. Click here to share your story on HUC-JIR's Debbie Friedman Memorial Tribute website.

Bonia Shur's Compositions Featured at Ohio Music Education Association Convention

Compositions by composer Bonia Shur, Director of Liturgical Arts Emeritus at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, were performed by Cincinnati BoyChoir for the Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA) Convention at Duke Energy Convention Center. Shur received a standing ovation for the multicultural "Amen-Oseh Shalom," a song interweaving the famous gospel song "Amen," with the Hebrew words Oseh Shalom (Maker of Peace). Also sung were "Come Join Me in My Dance" and "Digi, Digi," two rhythmically buoyant compositions. These works will be performed by the Cincinnati BoyChoir at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

HUC-JIR in the News
Reform Cantorial School Named for Debbie Friedman - JTA

The Reform movement's cantorial school has been named for the late Debbie Friedman, z"l. Rabbi David Ellenson, President of HUC-JIR, made the announcement on January 27 in New York at a memorial tribute to Friedman, who died on January 9. Friends of the late singer-songwriter have made possible an endowment to the school, which will be known as The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. Friedman transformed Jewish worship in North American liberal synagogues with her sing-along style of folk-inspired music. Since her start as a song leader in Reform summer camps in the early 1970s, she released 20 albums and was a much sought-after performer on the Jewish circuit. Her most well-known composition, "Mi Shebeirach," a Hebrew-English version of the Jewish prayer for healing, is now part of the Reform liturgy. She was named to the School of Sacred Music faculty in 2007.

A Name That Sings - The Jewish Week

Three years ago, singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman officially joined the faculty of the HUC-JIR School of Sacred Music in New York. Now, that same school, which invests Reform cantors, will bear her name. Her brand of Jewish folk music, which became popular in the 1970s, was not always welcomed within the seminary walls. Many cantors, rabbis and others argued that Friedman's songs, while fine for summer camp sing-alongs, weren't appropriate in the synagogue. Some cantors, particularly those accustomed to the Classical Reform practices of operatic cantorial solos and professional choirs, worried Friedman's popularity threatened "nusach," traditional Jewish liturgical style. The loss of Friedman, who died on Jan. 9 at the age of 59, has been widely mourned throughout the Jewish community, and it is clear that her influence was felt far beyond the Reform movement. We commend HUC-JIR for ensuring that Friedman's legacy is honored and remembered for generations through The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music.

Unpacking the Political Crisis in Egypt: Its Implications for Israel and the West - eJewish Philanthropy

Steven Windmueller, Ph.D., Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Professor in Jewish Communal Service at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, writes, "The current Egyptian crisis at best creates a heightened level of uncertainty for Israel and at its worse a fundamental reordering of the power structure of the region. Clearly there is little that the Jewish state can or ought to do at this moment. But for Israel to now possibly face a destabilized Egypt on its flank will not be a comforting notion. But far more problematic would be reordering of the power base in Cairo with the emergence of an array of forces that may well reject the current state of relations with the Jewish State in favor of aligning the Arab World's largest country with those forces who are committed to the destruction of Israel."

Egypt, Islam, and Democracy - Jewish Journal

The expert on Egypt, Islam, and democracy, Rabbi Reuven Firestone, Ph.D., Professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, has lived, worked and taught in Cairo. He speaks and reads Arabic and Classical Arabic fluently. Following 9/11 he wrote a series of columns for us on the future of Islam on the West. And he nailed the central question that is now on all our minds: If Mubarak falls, can Egypt be democratic? Is Islam allergic to democracy? Bottom line: no. But read on.

Overcoming Clergy Gender Norms - The Huffington Post

Joshua Stanton, HUC-JIR/New York rabbinical student and co-founder of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue and Religious Freedom USA, writes, "It is a testament to the three major progressive Jewish movements [Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative] that they are investing heavily in the push for gender equality in the workplace -- through training programs, regulations and more careful templates for rabbinical contracts. Such efforts have begun to bear fruit, as manifested in the growing tide of women leading rabbinical organizations (the Rabbinical Assembly), seminaries (multiple branches of HUC-JIR), and synagogues and non-profit organizations across the country. But male clergy are not immune to the undermining force of expectations that accompany their gender. What about the hurdles that I will face as a male rabbi when I want paternity leave or even to take time off from work entirely while my children are young? What if I want to cry when something sad happens rather than posing as the calm executive of our synagogue non-profit? As a straight man who does not readily fit within the narrow bounds of present gender norms, I find the sexism that plagues my female colleagues cuts both ways."

Hebrew Bible Scholar Says English Translations Often Miss Original Intent -

Bible scholar Joel Hoffman, author of "And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning," spoke with the Rotary Club of Birmingham on January 26, 2011. He explained that English translations of the Bible's original Hebrew and Greek are flawed and subject to misinterpretation. "Most translations do a very poor job in conveying the original meaning," said Hoffman. Time takes its toll on the meaning of words in translation.

Films for Jewish and Israel Education - HUC-JIR's Blog of Continuing Jewish Learning

Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, Ph.D. (HUC-JIR/New York '06), editor of HUC-JIR's Blog of Continuing Jewish Learning, writes, "The importance of the arts for Jewish education is an axiom among those of us who make Jewish learning a central element of our lives. Much of Israeli film continued to lay beyond the reach of those of us in the US, either because it was not available for viewing on our systems or because of the language barrier. Enter The site's claim that 'Omanoot is Israel's HULU, Amazon, iTunes, and virtual MOMA all in one' is a bit grandiose but it does hit its mark of making 'Israeli literature and visual art accessible for cultural, educational, and entertainment purposes,' by streaming many films and providing subtitles, searchable indexes, and educational materials."

Faculty News
HUC-JIR is proud of our accomplished faculty:

Dr. Susan Einbinder, Professor of Hebrew Literature at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, will present "Seeing the Blind: Trauma and Poetry in Medieval Ashkenaz," a workshop on Medieval Hebrew poetry, on Friday, February 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm at Stanford University's Taube Center for Jewish Studies.
Rabbi Reuven Firestone, Ph.D., Professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, will participate in the lecture series, "Understanding Islam," at Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation of Pacific Palisades (16019 Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades, CA). On Wednesday, February 2, 2011, Firestone spoke on the history of Islam, the monotheism "family tree," and historical Muslim-Jewish relations. On Wednesday, March 23, 2011, from 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm, Firestone will discuss political issues and Jewish-Islamic relationships, the concept of Jihad, and where we are today and what we can do about it.
Dr. Leah Hochman, Assistant Professor of Jewish Thought at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles and Director of the Louchheim School for Judaic Studies at USC, spoke to a group of "Great Books" students at Pepperdine University on February 1, 2011. Introducing them to Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) and Levi Gersonides (1288-1344), Hochman put the two Jewish philosophers into a larger conversation of faith, reason, and the understanding of Jewish law, specifically situating these important Medieval Jewish thinkers into the context of a Great Books curricula. With a view toward historical and biographical context, Hochman examined what these philosophers went through personally as Jews in Medieval Europe as they wrote their treatises. She helped Pepperdine students understand their ideas on creation, Jewish law, and issues of the soul's immortality, thus highlighting the importance of Maimonides and Gersonides in their discussion on Aristotle, Augustine, and Dante.
Dr. Josh Holo, Dean and Associate Professor of Jewish History at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, is serving on the ten-member jury to determine who will be awarded the 2011 Opus Prize, a $1 million, faith-based award given annually to recognize humanitarian heroes of any faith tradition, anywhere in the world, who are solving persistent social problems in their communities. The Opus Prize identifies and honors organizations that are unsung, yet are providing exceptional and unique responses to difficult social problems such as poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease and injustice in the world's poorest communities. Beyond supporting the humanitarian efforts, the Opus Prize also seeks to inspire people to pursue service to others. Click here for further information.

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.

The 10th Yarzeit Memorial Gathering for Professor Michael Klein, z"l: February 7 at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem

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.

The Day After Anatevka: The Great American Songs We Sing: February 13 at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati

Rabbi Ken Kanter, Director of the HUC-JIR/Cincinnati Rabbinical School, and the HUC-JIR/Cincinnati Theater Ensemble present "The Day After Anatevka: The Great American Songs We Sing," a musical reminiscence of the Jewish immigrant experience, on Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 4:00 pm at the Scheuer Chapel at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati. A reception with musicians will follow. Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to

"Spinoza, Mendelssohn, and the Parameters of Modern Judaism" with Rabbi David Ellenson: February 15 in Manhattan

Rabbi David Ellenson, President of HUC-JIR, will inaugurate the Charles Grossman Lecture in Jewish Intellectual History at the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning at Temple Emanu-El in New York City (One East 65th Street). He will speak on "Spinoza, Mendelssohn, and the Parameters of Modern Judaism." The lecture will take place on Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 6:30 pm. Attendance is free and open to the public.

New at the HUC-JIR Judaica Gallery

Jim Cohen, an outstanding silversmith from New Mexico, has turned to natural forms for inspiration in his newest works. This handmade Kiddush cup in sterling silver is inspired by native Calla lilies. $900 plus shipping and handling. To purchase, please contact: 212-824-2218,

Please click here for a larger image.

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