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February 10, 2011
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HUCNews is a weekly e-newsletter produced by HUC-JIR's National Public Affairs Office.
Spotlight On
Jack H. Skirball Campus Dedicated at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles

From left: Dr. Uri D. Herscher, Founding President and CEO of the Skirball Cultural Center; Dr. Joshua Holo, Dean of the Jack H. Skirball Campus of HUC-JIR in Los Angeles; and Rabbi David Ellenson, President, HUC-JIR

The HUC-JIR/Los Angeles campus was named in tribute to and loving memory of Jack H. Skirball in a ceremony on Sunday, February 6, 2011, attended by members of the Boards of Governors and Overseers, faculty, students, and civic leaders of the Los Angeles community.

Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President, stated, "It is truly fitting that this campus be named after Jack Skirball, whose vision and philanthropy guided the creation of this campus and played a central role in acquiring its location. The Jack H. Skirball Campus pays tribute to his devotion and commitment to Jewish life and American society as a whole, and we are honored that his name will add to the prominence of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in the Los Angeles community and the larger world. We are enormously grateful to the Skirball Foundation for their generous gift of $10 million to sustain this campus and its mission to train the intellectual, spiritual, and professional leaders for the Reform Movement and klal Yisrael."

Dr. Uri D. Herscher, Founding President and Chief Executive of the Skirball Cultural Center, noted, "Jack H. Skirball believed deeply in the values of the Jewish tradition. He was often heard to say that the Jewish tradition has so much to contribute to the ideals of peace, social justice, integrity, and moral concepts. He felt it was essential for Jews and the rest of the world to be aware of the deep roots of the Jewish story. By having an integral role in the development and growth of the College-Institute throughout the decades, he had an opportunity, in his own way, to have a share in the telling of that story, a grand story the world would continue to relish."

Photo of the Week
HUC-JIR Welcomes New Members to the Board of Governors

From left: Irwin Engelman, Chairman, Board of Governors, HUC-JIR; Richard Michael Powell, 2011 Inductee, Board of Governors, HUC-JIR; Joan B. Seidel, 2011 Inductee, Board of Governors, HUC-JIR; Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., President, HUC-JIR

The following distinguished communal and civic leaders were inducted onto the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion at its meeting in Los Angeles on February 7, 2011:

Richard Michael Powell is currently President of Ashjer, LLC, where he devotes his time to assisting non-profit organizations raise money. He is a consultant to private companies and serves on numerous boards and committees, including the HUC-JIR School of Jewish Nonprofit Management Advisory Board. Previously, he served for over 30 years as President, COO, CEO, and Chairman of The L. Powell Company. "An esteemed mentor and member of the Advisory Board of our School of Jewish Nonprofit Management, Rick Powell will help strengthen our institution through his expertise in business, fundraising, Jewish communal activism, and philanthropy," stated Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President. "His counsel and vision will be indispensable in realizing our goals of excellence and service to the Reform Movement and the Jewish People."

Joan B. Seidel, President of Morton Seidel & Co, Inc., has been associated with Morton Seidel & Co, Inc. since 1974 in the capacities of variable annuities agent, municipal bond principal, financial and operations principal, and registered principal. She served as a charter member of the national committee of the small firm advisory board of NASD (now FINRA) and was Chairman of the NASD District #2 Committee. As Treasurer of the City of Beverly Hills (1990-2001), she bore investment responsibility for over $220 million. "A distinguished member of the Board of Overseers of our Los Angeles campus since 2004, Joan Seidel will now bring to our international Board of Governors the benefits of her extensive expertise in finance, government, and communal leadership," stated Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President. "We look forward to her guidance and wisdom in advancing our mission in preparing professional leaders for the Reform Movement and the Jewish People.

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

When Aaron, the first spiritual teacher of Israel, died, the community mourned him 30 days. It is hard to believe that 30 days have passed since the death of Debbie Friedman, who was such a vital spiritual teacher for all of us. The HUC-JIR community has been sharing words and music to reflect on the influence she had in life and to share the conviction that though her physical presence is gone, her neshama as immortalized in her music and her teaching will live on.

HUC-JIR/Cincinnati held a tribute service immediately following Debbie's passing. The Cincinnati campus community has read her name at each service in the Chapel and will continue to do so through the Sh'loshim. The HUC-JIR/Los Angeles community marked the Sh'loshim at tefilot on Thursday, February 10, 2011. Cantor Evan Kent, Director of the Cantorial Music Program at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles and Dr. William Cutter, Steinberg Emeritus Professor of Human Relations, were among those offering teachings around some of Debbie's works. Together, they sang some of her music as part of the worship that meant so much to her. On Wednesday, February 9, 2011, the HUC-JIR/New York community joined together for a Sh'loshim ceremony to mourn and remember their teacher, friend and colleague. Personal stories and words of remembrances of Debbie were shared during the ceremony.

Click here to read tributes and to share your own story on HUC-JIR's Debbie Friedman Memorial Tribute website.

Upcoming Spring 2011 Recruitment Events at HUC-JIR

The National Office of Recruitment and Admissions at HUC-JIR is excited to present the following Spring 2011 events:

Spring High School Retreat: Presented by the American Jewish Archives, during the Spring High School Retreat in Cincinnati on March 4-6, 2011, students and faculty will discuss "In the beginning...there was reform: How Judaism has maintained its relevance throughout history."

Spring 2011 Open House: HUC-JIR welcomes interested students to the Jerusalem campus on March 16-17; and to the Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and New York campuses on April 3-4; for the Spring 2011 Open House. Enjoy a day in the life of the HUC-JIR campus of your choice and explore your career opportunities. Meet our students and others who share your vision for the future while exploring contemporary issues with our faculty experts. Learn with HUC-JIR President, Rabbi David Ellenson, and find a career that will transform your life and make a difference for others. Registration is free. We offer home hospitality and generous travel subsidies for interested students.

Spring College Retreat: Presented by the American Jewish Archives, the topic of the Spring College Retreat in Cincinnati on April 8-10, 2011, is "Going Green...burg: What Judaism has to say about living an eco-friendly life."

This Year in Jerusalem? Check out the calendar of events coming from our Jerusalem campus.

Want the full scoop on these events and more? Visit for the whole calendar!

HUC-JIR Soup Kitchen Celebration at the New York Campus

The HUC-JIR Soup Kitchen Celebration will take place on Thursday, March 10, 2011, from 6:30-8:30 pm at HUC-JIR/New York. The annual Soup Kitchen Celebration brings together students, faculty, administrators, Soup Kitchen community volunteers, members of the Board of Governors and Boards of Overseers, College-Institute alumni, and friends of HUC-JIR to commemorate the Soup Kitchen's achievements and raise funds to support its vital work. It also provides an opportunity to honor community volunteers who are essential to the Soup Kitchen's continued vibrancy.

HUC-JIR Faculty and Students Featured on Cablevision's Jewish Life

On February 11 and again on April 1, Cablevision's television show Jewish Life will air "A Tribute to Singer/Songwriter Debbie Friedman." Guests will include Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, Professor of Cantorial Arts at HUC-JIR's Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music; Mark Kligman, Professor of Musicology; and HUC-JIR/New York cantorial students Joshua Breitzer and Vicki Glikin. On February 18 and again on April 8, Jewish Life will air "The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion" with guests Cantor Bruce Ruben, Director of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music; Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller; and HUC-JIR/New York cantorial students David Mintz and Julia Katz. Jewish Life, with host Stewart Ain, airs on Fridays across Long Island on Cablevision Channel 115 at 5:00 pm.

Vadim Putzu, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati Graduate Studies Student, Receives Fellowship from The Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture

Vadim Putzu, a Ph.D. dissertation student at the HUC-JIR/Cincinnati School of Graduate Studies, received a fellowship grant from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture for his dissertation "Bottled Poetry - Quencher of Hopes." Putzu explains, "Wine has always had a prominent place in many different realms of Judaism and Jewish history - in the ritual and in the economy, as an identity marker and as a drug. Nonetheless, no study on its symbolic and instrumental dimensions in the post-Rabbinic period has been published so far." Putzu's dissertation project explores the ways in which two groups of Jewish mystics-the kabbalists operating in Safed around mid-16th century, and the first three generations of east European Hasidim-dealt with wine. In particular, it analyzes their use of wine as a symbol and as a technical element in mystical techniques and in magical practices.

HUC-JIR in the News
Expanding the Tribe in the Home of the Brave - Haaretz

Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean of HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, and Dr. Elan Ezrachi, educational consultant to international Jewish organizations, write, "Over the past 30 years, several demographic studies of Jewry in the United States have been published. For many years the dominant line was that mixed marriages were a disaster that would lead to a decline in the number of Jews. There is, however, another view that sees connections between Jews and non-Jews as in fact a possibility for expanding the definitions of identity and enlarging the ranks. Recently there have been a number of new studies showing the number of Jews in the United States is not decreasing. Beyond the demographic hairsplitting, it appears there is a phenomenon of historic dimensions developing there: Instead of fleeing from Judaism, entering Judaism; instead of black and white definitions, "hybrid" definitions that enable surprising connections between Jews and non-Jews. These new definitions are expanding the boundaries of the tribe."

Historian Charts L.A. Reform Academy's Future - Jewish Journal

Dr. Joshua Holo, Dean of the Los Angeles campus of HUC-JIR, said, "I love to teach. I love my administration, and I don't mind the fact that my administration takes me away from teaching, as long as I get to teach - and I do." Upon becoming dean, Holo established a policy that will ensure that all of the future Reform rabbis and Jewish educators being trained at HUC-JIR will take one class with him during the time they are enrolled. "I want them to see the dean as a practicing scholar," Holo said. Holo's personal upbringing wasn't in the Reform movement. The Southern California native grew up attending a Conservative synagogue and a non-denominational day school. He often views the future of Reform Judaism through the lens of his expertise in medieval Jewish history. "One of his great skills is to understand the nature of the challenges that confront the contemporary Jewish community in light of the historical sweep of the entire Jewish panorama," Rabbi David Ellenson, President of HUC-JIR, said of Holo. "He brings the perspective of the Jewish past to the present."

Friedman Remembered at Memorial Service; School Will Bear Her Name - NY Blueprint

She used much of her power to heal others even though she suffered from illnesses. She was one of the most prolific songwriters and singers even though she did not read music. She was revered by many yet enjoyed going to places where nobody knew who she was. At the memorial service for Debbie Friedman at Central Synagogue, Rabbi David Ellenson, President of HUC-JIR, announced that the School of Sacred Music would now be called the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. "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," he said. Ellenson, who hired Friedman to work at the college in 2007, said it was his best decision and before the service, praised Friedman's humility. "There wasn't an arrogant bone in her body," he said. "So much of worship renewal can be attributed to her and I think one of the most significant dimensions of her personality was that she never understood how truly special she was."

Who Says Jews Don't Have Soul? - InTheMoment

No one could have predicted thirty years ago that the cantorial school at HUC-JIR would one day be named for Debbie Friedman. At the dawn of her career, Friedman was considered a maverick, someone who didn't know about the traditions of Jewish music, a self-taught song leader rather than the prevailing model of cantor, a carefully trained musician. Debbie Friedman's gift was her ability to use her music as a vehicle to reach peoples' souls. She created moments of prayer in the midst of a performance and reached her listeners in their kishkes. But where is soul in Jewish music today? No matter where it comes from, we need Jewish music that will make people ask, "Who said Jews don't have soul?"

White House Announces New Appointees to Faith Council -

The White House announced that prominent Jewish organizational leader Susan Stern, a member of HUC-JIR's President's Advisory Committee, was appointed to serve as chair of the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Stern currently serves as Special Advisor on Government Affairs to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, a humanitarian assistance organization helping Jews and non Jews in Israel and in more than seventy countries around the world. Stern also serves as Chair of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service and represented the agency on the Cabinet of Governor David Paterson. Additionally, she sits on the Executive Committee of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Seamless Learning: New Thinking about Congregational Education - Sh'ma

Rob Weinberg, Ph.D., Director of Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE) and Project Manager of the Jim Joseph Foundation Education Initiative at HUC-JIR, participated in a roundtable conversation regarding new thinking about congregational education. Weinberg and fellow panelists discussed how, today, most children receiving a Jewish education are schooled in part-time congregational settings. Few are happy with the status quo, leading to a time of great opportunity - the door wide open for reinvention, experimentation, and imagination.

Thousands of LGBT Advocates Pause to Grieve the Death of David Kato -

In the wake of the brutal murder of David Kato, gay advocate in Uganda, thousands of LGBT leaders attending the Creating Change conference in Minneapolis paused to remember his life. Dr. Joel Kushner, Director of HUC-JIR's Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation, said, "As a Jew, I know what it means to be persecuted for who you are. The headlines, attacks, and religious drum beat of judgment and rejection has an all too familiar ring to it. Human beings can be fomented into horrific acts. We must be vigilant to make respect for difference the most basic of human values for all civil societies because we are created b'tzelem elohim, in the image of God."

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 on Wednesday, March 23, 2011, from 7:00 pm to 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. Click here for further information. Firestone's article, "Fellow Demons: Hatred and Mistrust Prevent Jews, Muslims from Building Intercultural Bridges," the cover story for the Jewish Journal last August, was translated into German and published in two magazines, one Jewish and one Muslim. Click here to read the original version (English). Click here for the publication in the Jewish magazine, haGalil (German). Click here for the publication in the Muslim magazine, Islamische Zeitung (German).
Dr. Steven Windmueller, Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Chair in Jewish Communal Service, received this year's Sam Beber Distinguished AZA Alumnus Award Winner. Dr. Windmueller will accept this honor in Los Angeles on February 20, 2011, while addressing more than 700 teens at BBYO's International Convention. "During my high school years, AZA represented both the most positive Jewish experience and social connections," said Windmueller. "In many ways my involvement with BBYO helped to prepare, inspire and teach me about those complex issues that challenge and impact the lives of teens. I shall be forever grateful for the friendships and connections afforded to me through BBYO." Click here for further information.

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

The Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning at Temple Emanu-El celebrates its winter semester with the inaugural Charles Grossman Lecture in Jewish Intellectual History, featuring guest speaker Rabbi David Ellenson, President of HUC-JIR. Dr. Ellenson 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 at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan (One East 65th Street). Attendance is free and open to the public.

James' Journey to Jerusalem: February 22 at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati

The next film in HUC-JIR/Cincinnati's Academy of Adult Interfaith Studies film class, "Jewish Films through an Interfaith Lens" will showcase "James' Journey to Jerusalem" with Rabbi Dr. Haim Rechnitzer, Associate Professor of Modern Jewish Thought, on Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 7:00 pm at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati. Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to

Schusterman Fellow Lecture with Dr. David Mendelsson: March 1 in Los Angeles

The Louchheim School of Judaic Studies presents the second Schusterman Fellow Lecture with Dr. David Mendelsson, Schusterman Visiting Professor of Israel Studies at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles. Dr. Mendelsson will present "Circumventing the State? Religion, Politics and (Jewish) Education" on March 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm the Leavey Library Auditorium on the USC campus.

New at the HUC-JIR Judaica Gallery

Participate in the tradition of giving with a timeless olive branch tzedakah box by the world's preeminent Judaic glass artist, Steve Resnick.

$375 plus shipping and handling.

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