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March 24, 2011
Spotlight On
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HUCNews is a weekly e-newsletter produced by HUC-JIR's National Public Affairs Office.
Spotlight On
Dynamic, Innovative Congregational Rabbi Designated to Lead the Union for Reform Judaism - The Union for Reform Judaism

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) announced the recommendation of Rabbi Richard Jacobs for President of the organization, to succeed Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, who will retire in 2012 after 16 years in the position. If formally selected, Rabbi Jacobs, who has been the Senior Rabbi at one of the most vibrant congregations in North America for 20 years, will be only the fourth President of the URJ in the last 68 years. "Rabbi Jacobs is exactly the leader the URJ needs today," said Peter Weidhorn, Chair of the URJ's Board of Trustees. "We are an organization of congregations, and understanding what makes a congregation successful is critical to leading the URJ. Rick has not only built a remarkable congregation at Westchester Reform Temple, but he is also widely known for his national leadership in synagogue transformation efforts, social justice work, and commitment to Israel. His selection is a powerful and important step toward a bright future for the URJ, building on a remarkable history."

News at HUC-JIR
An Important Message from HUC-JIR/Jerusalem about the March 23, 2011 Bombing

When news of the terror attack in Jerusalem first reached the students of our Year-In-Israel Program, most of them were attending a lecture on Israel's welfare system. As relatives and friends of our students began to contact them, it soon became clear that something was afoot. Those students not in class were soon contacted and we were able to confirm that all are well. Although the final toll is not yet known, we know that life has been lost and serious injury incurred. Our thoughts are with those who found themselves directly exposed to this indiscriminate violence.

Our institution trains leaders, and leaders have to cope with stressful and undesirable situations. As our College-Institute community goes about the business of getting through a difficult day, we are reminded of the fragility of all we hold most dear, and of the need we have of each other in challenging times. Our Year-In-Israel students will gather tomorrow morning at services and have a chance to share their experiences, concerns and perspectives with their teachers and colleagues. All members of our Jerusalem community, Jew and Arab, local resident and visiting student, are thrown together by the reality of living in this bleeding and beautiful place. We will have to get through all this together.

Click here to read more.

Video of The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music Choir Performing Debbie Friedman's Mi Shebeirach

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, Debbie Friedman. During the service, Debbie Friedman's Mi Shebeirach (choral arr. by Elliot Z. Levine) was performed by The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music Choir.

Click here to watch the video.

Civil Rights for Israeli Arabs - A Jewish Position

Rabbi Brian Lurie, Co-Chair, Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues, asked Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., President, HUC-JIR, to reflect on the question, "How can American Jews better understand the need for commitment to the welfare of Israel's Arab citizens?" Rabbi Ellenson explained, "As American Jews who are heirs to Jewish tradition and history, we ourselves have known the pain of persecution and discrimination. This has led us to champion civil rights for all, and to feel empathy with the downtrodden. How can we not be empathic to the plight of others? How could we possibly tolerate discrimination against Arabs in a Jewish state when the Israeli Declaration of Independence itself asserts a commitment to champion the rights of all its citizens - Jews and Arabs alike? Our tradition instructs us to recognize that all persons are created in the Divine Image and that we must therefore treat all people with respect and equality. As the Rambam, quoting Proverns, asserts regarding the teachings of our Torah, "Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace." Consequently, he writes in Hilchot Melachim (Laws of Kings) 10:12, "One ought to treat the resident stranger (non-Jew) with derekh eretz (civility and humanity) and hesed (mercy and kindness) just as one does a Jew."

Founders' Day at HUC-JIR

Each year, Founders' Day programs commemorate the vision of HUC-JIR's founders: Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise.

The HUC-JIR/New York campus commemorated the vision of HUC-JIR's founders at Founders' Day on March 17, 2011. Rabbi Leonard Kravitz, Ph.D., Professor of Midrash & Homiletics at HUC-JIR/New York, gave a sermon on "A Matter of Definition."

The Jack H. Skirball Campus at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles gathered 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 addressed the issue of bullying and teen suicide. Rabbinical student Julia Weisz, education student Amanda Greene, and nonprofit management student Shira Landau responded to the case study from their particular professional perspective.

• On April 6, 2011, the HUC-JIR/Cincinnati campus will celebrate the unique relationship between Jewish and Christian students as students from the Rabbinical School and Graduate School conduct a joint worship service combining appropriate liturgy and music of both religious traditions, under the guidance of Cantor Yvon Shore and Rabbi Kenneth Kanter, Director, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati Rabbinical Program. Of special note is distinguished and honored speaker, Professor Lowell McCoy, senior member of the Cincinnati campus, who served for decades as the Professor of Speech at HUC-JIR.

Reform Judaism Magazine's Spring 2011 Issue Featuring Articles by Members of the HUC-JIR Community

The brand-new Reform Judaism magazine, Spring 2011, contains these thought-provoking stories from HUC-JIR graduates:

• Rabbi Richard Jacobs (HUC-JIR/New York '82): "Haiti-Acts of God?" Was it God's will or human injustice that caused so many deaths in Haiti? Includes sidebar on URJ Haiti relief efforts.
• Rabbi Laura Geller (HUC-JIR/New York '76): "Not More Than My Place; Not Less Than My Space"
• Rabbi Edythe Mencher (HUC-JIR/New York '99): "Everything in Moderation...Except Moderation." The Jewish prescription for a healthy life is cultivating a middle path-spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
• Rabbi Mark Washofsky (HUC-JIR/Cincinnati '80): "Q&A: A Moral Guide to Medical Breakthroughs." How Jewish tradition views in vitro fertilization, stem cell research, genetic modifications, and extending the human lifespan. Part of Focus: Ethics in a Fast-Changing World.

To read, share, and discuss these and other articles, visit

The Rose Haggadah at the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library will exhibit the Rose Haggadah from April 7 through May 1, 2011. This personal family initiative not only documents artistic styles and generational interests, but provides a dynamic record of the contemporary art world as it unfolds. The Rose Haggadah is, in reality, the guest books of Passover dinners held and attended by the descendants of Joseph and Anna Rose and Samuel B. and Belle Rose and their guests over a period of eighty years. The three volumes were illustrated each year on themes from the text by such artists as Will Barnet, Leonard Baskin, Judy Chicago, Al Hirschfeld, David Levine, Mark Podwal, Larry Rivers, and many more renowned artists. The result of an innovative annual commission from the Rose family, the tradition continues as a living illuminated manuscript with the fourth volume in progress. Many of these artists are featured in exhibitions at the HUC-JIR Museum in New York, and in the Museum's permanent collection.

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

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 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.

HUC-JIR in the News
New York Rabbi Known as Innovator Is Picked to Lead Reform Jews - The New York Times

Reform Judaism, facing a recent decline in numbers and an uncertain future despite its stature as the largest movement in American Jewry, announced on Tuesday that its next president would be a rabbi known for rejuvenating his suburban New York congregation. Rabbi Richard Jacobs, who has been senior rabbi at the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, N.Y., is set to become the president in 2012 of the Union for Reform Judaism, which claims 1.5 million members and nearly 900 synagogues. Previous presidents, among them Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, have been known not only as Jewish leaders, but also civic leaders in American life and politics. Rabbi Jacobs, 55, will succeed Rabbi Eric Yoffie, 63, who served for 16 years and sought to revitalize liberal Reform Judaism by returning to tradition. "He's the most widely respected senior congregational rabbi in the Reform movement," said Steven M. Cohen, Research Professor of Jewish Social Policy at HUC-JIR. "His last two predecessors did not come directly from senior congregational roles, suggesting that the movement is concerned about delivering change, value and transformation to Reform congregations."

Scarsdale Rabbi To Lead URJ - The Jewish Week

With an internal position paper by Reform rabbinic leadership describing the movement as in "disarray," the nation's largest branch this week selected Westchester Rabbi Richard ("Rick") Jacobs, who helped draft the document, as its new congregational leader. Rabbi Jacobs, 55, who is highly respected by colleagues and often described as dynamic and a visionary, will succeed Rabbi Eric Yoffie as president of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) in June 2012. Rabbi Jacobs is himself one of the 18 rabbis of the nation's largest Reform congregations who formed the Rabbinic Vision Initiative in December 2009, and drafted a position paper this month that describes the state of the URJ in blunt and highly critical terms. "Our movement has not responded effectively to the dramatic changes in the wider landscape of Jewish life," states the paper, which is now circulating among rabbis for signatures and a copy of which was obtained by The Jewish Week. Speaking to several members of the press on Tuesday, just prior to the formal announcement of his selection by the URJ, Rabbi Jacobs said he was involved with the initiative from the outset and that he shared with his colleagues a deep love for Reform Judaism and a sense that the movement needed to be reinvigorated from within. "I'm not defined by this initiative," he said. "I want to take the best part of it and join with all of my colleagues and partner with them" to improve the situation.

For New Reform Leader Richard Jacobs, Big Tent Movement Is the Idea -

For the man tapped to lead American Jewry's largest religious denomination, keeping the movement's 900-plus synagogues welcoming to the unaffiliated, inspiring for members and a home for disaffected traditional Jews may require a high-wire balancing act. As a former dancer and choreographer, Rabbi Richard Jacobs may be just the guy. On Tuesday, the Union for Reform Judaism announced that Jacobs, the senior congregational rabbi at the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY, is the choice of the synagogue group's presidential search committee to succeed Rabbi Eric Yoffie, who is stepping down in 2012. Jacobs' nomination requires confirmation by the URJ's board of directors, which meets in June. In an exclusive interview with JTA a few hours before the announcement was made, the 55-year-old Jacobs said his mission is to make sure the Reform movement is a big tent with its flaps wide open and its Jewish stakes planted deeply in the ground. "There's no anti. It's all pro," he said. "Nothing Jewish is alien to us. Reform Judaism is an evolving and profound expression of the Jewish tradition. Its essence is to respond to the call of God and to the imperatives of the day."

Lessons Learned from the Triangle Waist Factory Fire - The Jewish Journal

On March 25, 1911, 146 garment workers, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrant girls in their teens and 20s, perished after a fire broke out at the Triangle Waist Co. factory in New York City's Greenwich Village. Even after the fire, the city's businesses continued to insist they could regulate themselves, but the deaths clearly demonstrated that companies like Triangle would not, on their own, concern themselves with their workers' safety. Despite this business opposition, the public's response to the fire led to landmark state regulations. Within days of the fire, groups organized mass meetings to demand reform. Rabbi Stephen S. Wise stated, "It is not the action of God but the inaction of man that is responsible. The disaster was not the deed of God (a natural disaster) but the greed of man (systematic)." Wise did not seek charity. He demanded justice. "We have laws that in a crisis we find are no laws, and we have enforcement that, when the hour of trial comes, we find is no enforcement. Let us lift up the industrial standards until they will bear inspection. And when we go before the legislatures, let us not allow them to put us off forever with the old answer, 'We have no money.' If we have no money for necessary enforcement of laws which safeguard the lives of workers, it is because so much of our money is wasted and squandered and stolen."

Celebrating Female Clergy - Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions

Joshua Stanton, third-year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR/New York, writes, "From reverends to rabbis, Buddhist nuns, and the growing push for female imams in America, China, and Europe, women are emerging as transformational religious leaders. At HUC-JIR in New York, where I am studying to become a rabbi, a majority of my classmates are women. My appreciation of female classmates goes beyond a belief in gender equality: they have helped increase my awareness of gender as it relates to Torah, prayer, and Jewish law. They have forced me to recognize inequalities I would otherwise have overlooked and even take time to study the gender-based assumptions within our sacred texts. In short, I would be ill-equipped to teach, live, and enliven Judaism - especially for the fifty percent of Jews who are not male - if I did not have female classmates, and such talented ones at that. Sadly, while I and other male seminarians graduate more equipped to lead because of learning alongside female classmates, many of our female classmates will face unfair disadvantages once they are ordained and enter the workplace. To cite but one troubling statistic from my own religious community, a 2009 study by Forward concluded that female Jewish professionals earned just 61 percent of what their male counterparts did. This statistic is not only symptomatic of the challenges female pioneers in the rabbinate and Jewish professional world faced; it also suggests that the Jewish community - like so many others - has yet to fully adapt to the presence of female clergy and lay leaders.

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

Dr. Sarah Bunin Benor, Associate Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at the Jack H. Skirball Campus at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, co-edited a special issue of the journal, "Language and Communication." The special issue, "Jewish Languages in the Age of the Internet," includes an introduction by Dr. Benor, as well as her article, "Mensch, Bentsh, and Balagan: Variation in the American Jewish Linguistic Repertoire."
Dr. Michael J. Cook, Bronstein Professor of Judeo-Christian Studies at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, will serve as Scholar-in-Residence at the Jewish Community Center of Louisville on March 27, 2011.
Dr. Jonathan Krasner, Assistant Professor of the American Jewish Experience at HUC-JIR/New York, will be speaking at Siegel College of Judaic Studies in Cleveland on "Unfinished Revolutions in Jewish Education" on Friday, March 25, 2011. Click here for further information.
Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Rabbinic and Second Temple Literature at HUC-JIR/New York, will be the Marjorie and Morgan Miller Scholar in Residence at Westchester Reform Temple on March 25-28, 2011. On April 1-2, 2011, Rabbi Panken will be the Scholar in Residence at Temple Beth Israel in Longboat Key, Florida.

Difficult Decisions: Issues of Conception, Adoption, and Abortion: March 29 and April 5 at the Jack H. Skirball Campus at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles

On March 29 and April 5, 2011, from 12:10 pm to 1:10 pm, the Spiegel Seminar series at the Jack H. Skirball Campus at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles will host Difficult Decisions: Issues of Conception, Adoption, and Abortion. The topic is "I am pregnant, now what?" Please RSVP by March 24 to

Esther Mayer's "The Holocaust Suite: Art, Memory and the Holocaust from the Second Generation:" March 31 at the Jack H. Skirball Campus at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles

The Louchheim School for Judaic Studies, the USC Center for International Studies, Canadian Studies Program, and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute present Esther Mayer's "The Holocaust Suite: Art, Memory and the Holocaust from the Second Generation" on Thursday, March 31, 2011 from 3:00-5:00 pm at the Jack H. Skirball Campus at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles. The Holocaust Suite is a series of emotionally charged, evocative artworks that serve as an attempt to deal with the legacy of the Holocaust in a contemporary way. Light reception to follow.

Please RSVP by March 29 to

Screening and Discussion of "Monty Python's Life of Brian:" April 5 at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati

HUC-JIR/Cincinnati presents the next film in the Academy of Adult Interfaith Studies film class, "Monty Python's Life of Brian," on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 5:00 pm. A discussion with Anne will follow. Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to

The Biblical World and Its Impact: Precept and Praxis - A Symposium Honoring Professor Samuel Greengus: April 10 at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati

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. 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. RSVP to Sarah Strouse at or 513-487-3230.

95th Birthday Celebration for Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman: April 30 in Chicago

Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman, internationally recognized for his leadership of Reform, will be honored with a 95th birthday celebration on Saturday, April 30, 2011 at Emanuel Congregation in Chicago. World-renowned Israeli violinist and Stradivari Society recipient Vadim Gluzman and pianist Angela Yoffe will perform. The significant musical event will serve as an unforgettable tribute to Emanuel's Rabbi Emeritus, Herman Schaalman. Rabbi Schaalman, a native of Munich, Germany, was one of five young rabbinical students who were rescued by the College-Institute in 1935 with the help of former HUC-JIR President Julian Morgenstern. Morgenstern was instrumental in securing student visas for these five students, who escaped a likely fatal destiny by leaving Germany and coming to study at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati. Schaalman was later ordained by HUC-JIR and is Rabbi Emeritus of Emanuel Congregation in Chicago, where he has served for over fifty years. HUC-JIR/Cincinnati awarded him a Doctor of Divinity degree, honoris causa, in 1966 and he was also awarded the Order of Merit 1st Class by the President of Germany in 1995.

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

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

Jeremy Simons (left), second-year rabbinical student at the Jack H. Skirball Campus at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, and Josh Knobel (right), third-year rabbinical student and at the Jack H. Skirball Campus at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, participated in the Ride for Reform in Israel, which benefits the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. This is Jeremy's second ride and Josh's third ride. Both students became involved in the ride during the Year-in-Israel program at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem. This year, they raised over $4,000, a large portion of which came from HUC-JIR students, faculty, and staff, who contributed to their bake sale and latke eating contest.

Please click here for a larger image.

New at the HUC-JIR Judaica Gallery

This superbly crafted glass vase comes from the studio of prominent glass artist, Steve Resnick. Known as the Women of Valor vase, on one side there are shallow etchings of two women before menorahs, and on the other, a Hebrew phrase engraved deeply with gold leaf that translates to say "We are blessed that you are part of this world". Share this thoughtful sentiment with the gift of this vase. $300, plus shipping and handling.

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

Please click here for a larger image.

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