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March 03, 2011
Spotlight On
News at HUC-JIR
HUC-JIR in the News
Faculty News
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New at the HUC-JIR Judaica Gallery
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HUCNews is a weekly e-newsletter produced by HUC-JIR's National Public Affairs Office.
Spotlight On
Natan Sharansky Meets with HUC-JIR's Year-In-Israel Students

Pictured, from left to right: Naamah Kelman, Dean, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem; Yaron Shavit, Chair, Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism; Natan Sharansky, Chair, Jewish Agency for Israel; Rabbi Stanley Davids, Former Chair, ARZA, and Member, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem Board of Overseers; Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director, Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism; and Dalya Levy, Director, Arzenu; at the Murstein Synagogue at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem.

Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet refusenik and prisoner, Israeli political leader, human rights activist, author, and Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, spoke with HUC-JIR's Year-In-Israel students on Monday, February 28, 2011. The evening was arranged under the auspices of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, by Rabbi Stanley Davids, former Chair of ARZA and member of the HUC-JIR Board of Overseers in Israel. Sharansky explained that human beings strive for two great goals: to be free and to belong. He urged HUC-JIR's students to strive to belong to the great Jewish Narrative. He shared his desire to seek unity for the Jewish People, including Reform Jews worldwide.

Rabbi Davids writes, "Natan Sharansky challenged the Reform rabbinic, cantorial, and education students who were present not to accept the world as they encounter it, but to trust in the power of their convictions to transform themselves, to transform the Jewish people - and to become active partners in the shaping of Israel into a Jewish democratic state that will truly be a light unto the nations. Even as the Reform/Progressive Movement grows in numerical strength in North America as well as in Israel, it must also deepen and strengthen its ties to the Jewish people and to the Jewish state. Sharansky's leadership and inspiration play a key role in helping us in the fulfillment of that imperative."

Rabbi Naamah Kelman writes, "Rabbi Zweiback, Director of the Year-In-Israel program, and I are deeply grateful for the efforts of ARZA, ARZEINU, and the IMPJ to be the voice of our North American Reform Movement hopes and concerns in Israel. They sponsored this extraordinary event. Our students had a rare opportunity to meet a living legend and a current leader who does not shy away from the toughest challenges we face as Jews, Israelis, and human beings. Our students raised thoughtful and insightful questions based on their experiences this year in Israel and years of Jewish activism. HUC-JIR rabbinical student Steven Beck said, 'the first letter I ever wrote to a Congressman at age 10 was to free Natan Sharansky, what a thrill to hear him at HUC-JIR!'"

Liz Piper-Goldberg, a first-year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, explains, "I was moved and excited by Sharansky's emphasis on Jewish Peoplehood during his address. He argued that the same awakening of Jewish identity that occurred in Soviet Jews has happened for the more than 300,000 Birthright Israel participants, and all the more so, for participants in long term Israel programs, such as EIE, NFTY in Israel, or HUC-JIR's Year in Israel. As he stated, 'Israel doesn't have any magic Zionism to give you - so what's happening?' North American Jews who visit Israel are discovering that we have a stake in a history, a people, and a nation - a nation that is exciting and interesting, despite the problems and challenges that we also find here." Click here to read Liz's full response.

News at HUC-JIR
The Biblical World and Its Impact: Precept and Praxis - A Symposium Honoring Professor Samuel Greengus

The Gustav A. and Mamie W. Efroymson Memorial Lectures at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati presents "The Biblical World and Its Impact: Precept and Praxis," a symposium honoring Professor Samuel Greengus, former Director of the School of Graduate Studies in Cincinnati, on Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 9:00 am. Dr. Samuel Greengus has had a long career of service to the College-Institute as the Julian Morgenstern Professor of Bible and Near Eastern Literature and as Professor of Semitic Languages (1963-2010). The symposium will begin with a welcome from Rabbi David Ellenson, followed by sessions with Dr. Nili S. Fox, Dr. Stephen J. Andrews, Dr. John H. Walton, Dr. Jeffrey L. Cooley, Rev. Dr. Bill T. Arnold, Rev. Dr. Bryan E. Beyer, Dr. Rodney E. Cloud, Dr. Adam Kamesar, Dr. Ronald A. Veenker, Dr. Angela Roskop, Dr. Steven M. Voth, Rabbi Dr. Barry Kogan, Dr. David J. Gilner, Dr. Brian Webster, Rabbi Barton G. Lee, and a response and concluding remarks by Dr. Samuel Greengus. The Gustav A. and Mamie W. Efroymson Memorial Lectures were founded in 1946 by brothers Clarence W. and Robert A. Efroymson in memory of their parents. Since the inaugural lecture in 1975, the Efroymson Lectures have brought leading scholars to the Cincinnati campus, and have resulted in significant publications. RSVP to Sarah Strouse at or 513-487-3230.

The Composer Speaks with Composer Shulamit Ran

Essential Voices USA (EVUSA) inaugurates its new series, The Composer Speaks, with the music of Pulitzer-Prize winning composer Shulamit Ran, at HUC-JIR/New York on Sunday, March 13, 2011, at 7:00-8:30 pm. Two short homophonic works celebrating freedom, B'chol Dor Vador and Min Hameitzer were commissioned by HUC-JIR's Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music Director, Cantor Bruce L. Ruben, for this workshop performance. B'chol Dor Vador, is based on a text from the Passover Haggadah: In every generation one must look upon himself as if he personally had come out of Egypt. Min Hameitzer is a setting of Psalm 118:5: Out of my distress, I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. Members of the HUC-JIR community can purchase tickets at a discounted rate of $12. For further information and to purchase tickets, click here. Photo ID required.

Podcasts in American Jewish History Now Online on the American Jewish Archives' Website

Since the Fall of 2008, students of Professor Gary P. Zola's American Jewish History class- a required course for all rabbinical students studying on the Cincinnati campus of HUC-JIR-have been asked to submit short audio segments that describe and analyze interesting documents that are part of the holdings of the AJA. Podcasts in American Jewish History are now available through the AJA website. "As a member of the HUC-JIR faculty, it is my responsibility to introduce my students to contemporary educational strategies that will enable them to be effective interpreters of the American Jewish experience to their own students," said Dr. Zola. "Podcasts and Youtube postings are standard fare for teenagers and young adults, and this assignment offers our students a chance to experiment with this technology."

HUC-JIR in the News
Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism: History and Possibility - Cordoba Foundation's Arches Quarterly

Rabbi Reuven Firestone, Ph.D., Professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, was published in the Cordoba Foundation's Arches Quarterly on Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hatred: Causes and Remedies. In his article, "Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism: History and Possibility," he writes, "Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have much in common though they arose from nearly opposite historical circumstances. Both are expressions of racism. Both refer to irrational fears directed toward a specific human group. Both are deeply embedded into the very fabric of Western culture and society. And ironically, Muslims and Jews tend to be guilty of these prejudices against the other. To be precise, many Jews are Islamophobic and many Muslims are anti-Semitic, even while they share the role of being on the receiving end of a similar set of prejudices. But even sadder is the fact that both prejudices are so deeply ingrained in Western society that it is unlikely they will ever be completely eradicated."

Putting Muslim Americans on Trial Moves the US Back - Illume Magazine

HUC-JIR/New York third-year rabbinical student Joshua Stanton writes, "In spite of mounting evidence that Muslim Americans are excelling at collaboration with American law enforcement and widely condemning terrorism, United States Congressman Peter King, a Republican from New York who chairs the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, seeks to hold hearings about why Muslim Americans are undergoing supposed radicalisation. If they move forward, as King has repeatedly stated they will, these hearings will allow political grandstanding to become a precedent for fighting terrorism. Internationally, they may create tension in strategic diplomatic relationships between the United States and Muslim-majority countries and lend credence to the heretofore inaccurate voices that claim the US government is Islamophobic. Even more troubling, these hearings may spawn the very sort of suspicion between individual Muslim Americans and government officials that they nominally seek to investigate. In short, the hearings are ill advised, morally debasing and damaging to the United States both domestically and overseas."

An Appeal to My Muslim Friends - The Jewish Daily Forward

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, writes, "I am among those who welcome the struggle for freedom and applaud the voices calling for democracy and human rights in Arab societies. I regret that the American government was slow to encourage the demonstrators, and I am gratified that it has now made clear its support. I also appreciate the complexity of the current situation; in periods of tremendous upheaval, it may be unrealistic to expect the highest standards of civility from all elements of the population. Nonetheless, I am worried. Even at these difficult moments, there are distinctions that must be made and basic levels of decency that must be maintained. I know that if anti-Semitism makes it way into the fabric of the debates now raging on the Arab street, there will be no turning back; it will endure in the new regimes that will come into being. This has not happened yet in any significant way, but there are worrying indications that it might."

Glenn Beck Comments on Reform Judaism Slammed - Haaretz

Provocative Fox news commentator Glenn Beck angered American Jewish leaders with new sweeping comments about the Reform movement of Judaism, the largest stream of Judaism in the United States. Beck compared Reform Judaism to "radical Islam," saying that both were more about 'politics' - changing what is outside of oneself - rather than about 'religion' - changing what it inside of oneself. "These comments are deeply offensive, completely absurd", Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism told Haaretz. "Reform Judaism it's the largest segment of the U.S. Jewish community, and it's the fastest growing denomination in the U.S. in any faith group - it has much to do with the spiritual needs of a large number of American Jews and to reduce it to [its] social justice agenda is just incorrect. It's troubling on that level, but to compare between any religion to the violent extremism of another religion - I think he owes American people an apology," said Saperstein. "He keeps insulting people and when they object he says they are being oversensitive when they set a record straight. How can someone be oversensitive when he compares them to extremist elements that support terror?"

World BBYO Leaders Unite in L.A. - Jewish Journal

More than 750 delegates from across the United States and around the world participated in BBYO's 85th Annual International Convention (IC) in Los Angeles on February 17-21, 2011. Steven Windmueller, who holds the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Chair in Jewish Communal Service at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, and Abigail Michelson Porth, Associate Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Bay Area, were recognized as Sam Beber Distinguished AZA Alumnus of the Year and Anita Perlman Distinguished Alumna of BBG, respectively, for their contributions to the Jewish community.

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

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.
Dr. Joshua Holo, Dean, Jack H. Skirball Campus of HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, is the Scholar in Residence at Temple Emanu-El of San Diego. He will present "The Battle for Jewish Identity: Then and Now" on March 4-6, 2011.
Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Rabbinic and Second Temple Literature at HUC-JIR/New York, will speak on "From Talmud to Today" at East End Temple on Friday, March 11, 2011. He will illuminate modern issues facing our society with timeless Rabbinic wisdom. Click here for further information.

Spring High School Retreat: March 4-6 at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati

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."

Women and the Temple: Feminist Commentary on the Talmud: March 7-8 at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem

HUC-JIR/Jerusalem is co-sponsoring "Women and the Temple: Feminist Commentary on the Talmud," a conference on March 7 and 8, 2011, in memory of Professor Hannah Safrai, z''l, who taught at HUC-JIR Jerusalem for many years. The international project of the feminist commentary on the Babylonian Talmud will be introduced in the conference. The conference will touch on issues of the presence and role of women in the time of Second Temple in Jerusalem. Key HUC-JIR speakers include Rabbi David Levine, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Talmud and Halachah; Rabbi Dr. Dalia Marx, Assistant Professor of Liturgy and Midrash at HUC-JIR; and Dr. Ruchama Weiss, who oversees all the programs at the Blaustein Center. Rabbi Dr. Dalia Marx initiated this conference with Professor Tal Ilan of Freie Universitat, Berlin. Click here to view the flyer (Hebrew).

HUC-JIR Soup Kitchen Celebration at the New York Campus: March 10 at HUC-JIR/New York

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.

Rabbi David Ellenson Speaking at Temple Israel of Memphis: March 11-12 in Memphis

Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., will deliver the D'var Torah at Temple Israel, Memphis, on Friday, March 11, 2011 at 6:15 pm at the evening Shabbat service. At the Shabbat dinner which follows, he will discuss "Renewing the Old and Sanctifying the New." On Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 8:45 am, Rabbi Ellenson will continue to teach and inspire by leading Shabbat Torah study. At 10:00 am, Rabbi Ellenson will give the D'var Torah at the Saturday morning Shabbat service.

Screening and Discussion of "The Infidel:" March 15 at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati

HUC-JIR/Cincinnati presents the next film in the Academy of Adult Interfaith Studies film class, "The Infidel," on Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 5:00 pm. Dr. Nathan Abrams, from Bangor University in Wales, will lead a discussion on a rollicking yet intelligent and poignant tale of a British Muslim who discovers his birth parents were Jewish. Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to

Spring Open House: March 16-17 at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem

HUC-JIR welcomes interested students to the Jerusalem campus on March 16-17 for the Spring 2011 Open House. Enjoy a day in the life of HUC-JIR/Jerusalem and explore your career opportunities. Meet our students who share your vision for the future while exploring contemporary issues with our faculty experts and discovering 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.

Founders Day Tefillah and All School Case Presentations: March 22 at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles

HUC-JIR/Los Angeles will gather together as a community on March 22, 2011, to honor the founders of HUC-JIR in prayer, in learning, and in community building. Each year, the campus presents a case on a topic of interest and concern to the Jewish community. This year, students and faculty at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles will address the issue of bullying and teen suicide. Rabbinical student Julia Weisz, education student Amanda Greene, and nonprofit management student Shira Landau will respond to the case study from their particular professional perspective.

American Jewish Archives to Host "Travels in American Jewish History:" June 1-5, 2011

The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives will host 'Travels in American Jewish History - A Journey of Jewish Identity & Discovery to Historic Savannah, Georgia" from June 1-5, 2011. This unique program will offer participants the opportunity to travel to Savannah to examine its particular Jewish heritage while studying with the foremost scholars of American Jewish history. The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, founded in 1947 by its namesake at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, is committed to preserving a documentary of the religious, organizational, economic, cultural, personal, social, and family life of American Jewry. The Marcus Center contains over 12,000 linear feet of archives, manuscripts, nearprint materials, photographs, audio and videotapes, microfilm, and genealogical materials.

Photo of the Week

Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Dean, HUC-JIR/New York, spoke at Vassar College on a panel that included all past chaplains from 1970 to the present. Pictured, from left to right: Rev. George Williamson; Rev. Allison Stokes; Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson; Rabbi Shirley Idelson; and Rev. Sam Speers. Williamson, Stokes, Nelson, and Idelson are former chaplains at Vassar College who are now serving elsewhere. Speers is the current Director of Religious and Spiritual Life at Vassar College.

Please click here for a larger image.

New at the HUC-JIR Judaica Gallery

Slice your Friday night challah with a knife carved by the world's preeminent Judaic glass artist, Steve Resnick. The rust-colored knife handle features a braided wheat engraving and the green-colored knife handle features engravings of Jerusalem and the temple wall.

Rust-colored handle: $170, plus shipping and handling.
Green-colored handle: $190, plus shipping and handling.

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

Please click here for a larger image.

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