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Reform Leaders Visit White House in Honor of Jewish American Heritage Month - Jewish Journal

Leaders of the Los Angeles Jewish community met President Barack Obama during a White House reception in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month. Michele Wolf (SJCS, now SJNM '85); Sally Weber, HUC-JIR Lecturer in Pastoral Care; Rabbi Denise Eger (R NY '88); and Rabbis Eric Yoffie (R NY '74) and Richard Jacobs (R NY '82), outgoing and incoming presidents, respectively, of the Union for Reform Judaism; were present. In a briefing before the reception, leaders had a chance to meet the incoming ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, and a member of Obama's economic team, who discussed some of the ethical considerations of budgeting, such as caring for elders.

News at HUC-JIR
HUC-JIR/Cincinnati Graduation and Ordination 2011: Addresses Presented by Dr. Marc Saperstein and Dr. Edward Goldman

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati held Graduation Ceremonies on Thursday, May 19, 2011 at Isaac M. Wise Temple and Ordination Ceremonies on Saturday, May 21, 2011 at Plum Street Temple. At Graduation Ceremonies, Rabbi Ellenson presented the Doctor of Humane Letters to Thomas G. Cody, Retired Vice Chairman, Macy's Inc.; Professor Samuel Greengus, Morgenstern Professor Emeritus of Bible and Near Eastern Literature, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati; Reverend Damon Lynch, Jr., Pastor, New Jerusalem Baptist Church, Cincinnati, OH; Professor Michael Morgan, Chancellor's Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Jewish Studies, Indiana University; and Dr. Marc Saperstein, Principal, Leo Baeck College. Dr. Saperstein presented the Graduation address. Click here to read his address. The Sherut L'Am Award was presented to Jerry Tanenbaum, Chairman, Yad B'Yad Task Force, World Union for Progressive Judaism and Governor Emeritus, HUC-JIR. Rabbi Ellenson presented 25-year honorary doctorates to rabbinical alumni and Founders' Medallions to graduate studies alumni. Rabbi Ellenson presented the following earned degrees to HUC-JIR's graduates: The Doctor of Philosophy, The Master of Philosophy in Hebraic and Cognate Studies, The Pre-doctoral M.A. in Jewish Studies, and The Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters. At Ordination Ceremonies, Rabbi Ellenson ordained ten students as rabbis. Dr. Edward Goldman, Bettan Chair Emeritus in Midrash and Homiletics, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, presented the Ordination address. Click here to read his address.

Greetings Presented by Rabbi Richard Jacobs at Los Angeles Graduation Ceremonies

Rabbi Richard Jacobs, President Designate of the Union for Reform Judaism, presented greetings at HUC-JIR's Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles Graduation Ceremonies on May 16, 2011. He said, "I feel honored to be here today on this campus that helped me begin to shape a vision for Jewish life. I want to offer my congratulations to you--my colleagues in Jewish communal leadership. More importantly, I want to enlist your help in reshaping our Jewish communal institutions so as to meet the challenges and opportunities of this moment. Everywhere we look, there are dramatic challenges facing our people, yet each is a phenomenal opportunity to revitalize Jewish life. Only very rarely has Jewish history known an era of so much creativity or innovation; no previous generation has possessed our resources and potential. For two centuries, Reform Judaism has pointed the way forward. For the past forty years, our religious ingenuity has made us the fastest growing theologically liberal denomination in America. And yet we've become bogged down. We're trapped in fear about the future. This moment in Jewish history demands bold thinking with big ideas; this is not a time for staying the course. It's time to reinvent the architecture of Jewish life. Colleagues past, present, and future, it is time to dive into those known and unknown waters of Jewish life. And remember unexpected things happen all of the time."

Forsaken: The Menstruant in Medieval Jewish Mysticism by Dr. Sharon Koren

Dr. Sharon Koren, Assistant Professor of Medieval Jewish Culture at HUC-JIR/New York, recently published Forsaken: The Menstruant in Medieval Jewish Mysticism. This book addresses a central question in the study of Jewish mysticism in the medieval and early modern periods: why are there no known female mystics in medieval Judaism, unlike contemporaneous movements in Christianity and Islam? Koren demonstrates that the male rejection of female mystical aspirations is based in deeply rooted attitudes toward corporeality and ritual purity. In particular, medieval Jewish male mystics increasingly emphasized that the changing states of the female body between ritual purity and impurity disqualified women from the quest for mystical connection with God. Offering a provocative look at premodern rabbinical views of the female body and their ramifications for women's spiritual development, Koren compares Jewish views with medieval Christian and Muslim views of both female menstruation and the possibility of female mystical experience. Click here to read more about the book in Tablet Magazine's recent article, On the Bookshelf. Click here to purchase the book from Brandeis University Press.

That's Rabbi Daddy To You

Rabbi Heath Watenmaker, a recently ordained rabbi from HUC-JIR's Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles, writes, "I imagine not many people can say that their first act as a rabbi was to become a father. But I can. In his ordination address, Rabbi Ellenson spoke about ordination as a personally and spiritually transformational experience. I had long imagined the awesome power of this day and spent a great deal of time considering what it would mean on a personal and spiritual level to take on the mantle of rabbi. What I didn't know was that as I sat listening to these words that morning was that my wife, then 9 months pregnant, was sitting twenty rows behind me quietly entering the beginning stages of labor. Near the end of a very long day, my beautiful son, Ilan Theodor, was born at 11:19 PM. To think that my time at HUC-JIR - where I met and fell in love with my wife, engaged in soul-stirring learning, and grew as a leader of my community - would end with the birth of my first child, on the day of my rabbinical ordination, seems as if it was somehow pre-determined."

HUC-JIR in the News
Jewish Atheists Look for their Place in Jewish Life - JTA

A new study spearheaded by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality (IJS) at HUC-JIR's Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles is aiming to find out just how many non-believing Jews are out there seeking a way into spiritual life, and what the Jewish community should, or should not do, to accommodate them. "There's an unvocalized tension at the core of synagogue services," says Rachel Cowan, the Institute's Executive Director, who says she meets many Jews looking for spiritual connection without God. "The rabbi speaks about God and nobody really knows what that means. It's not sophisticated, it's not developed." The study will be conducted by Diane Schuster, a researcher and lecturer at HUC-JIR, who will interview Jews who are "in search of a spiritual experience that is deep, meaningful and transformative but that is not linked to religious liturgies or practices that rely on God language or reference to a Supreme Being." The results will be used by the Institute to develop retreats for "Jewish doubters," as well as training programs "for clergy who work with the doubter population," Schuster explains.

HUC-JIR Reaching Out to Tornado Victims - Local 12

Rabbinical students from HUC-JIR/Cincinnati are leading a relief effort for the tiny Jewish community in Joplin. There are a number of Jewish communities in the United States that are too small to support a full-time rabbi. HUC-JIR provides student rabbis who run the congregations, in places like Grand Forks, ND; Sandusky, OH; and Joplin, MO. "Because it's so small, it's very close knit and that makes it more of a special relationship for the student rabbi." Stephanie Covitz was the student rabbi in Joplin last year. Now, she and this year's student rabbi, Ariel Boxman, are collecting supplies and raising money. "It's unspeakable. It's incredible what happened. It took me awhile to really wrap my head around what happened. The services Friday night will be a good place to start rebuilding, and coming together and seeing each other and supporting each other."

Blue Women and Biblical Tales: The Work of Siona Benjamin - HUC-JIR's Blog of Continuing Jewish Learning

Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, Ph.D., Editor of Tzeh U'limad, HUC-JIR's Blog of Continuing Jewish Learning, writes, "Born and raised in Bombay in a Bene Israel Jewish family and educated in Catholic and Zoroastrian Schools, artist Siona Benjamin brings many influences and cultural understandings into the bold art she creates -much of it based on Jewish stories. Her current exhibition at the HUC-JIR Museum in New York, The Croll Center for Jewish Learning and Culture, is an illustrated Esther Megillah and is on display until the end of June." Abusch-Magder's article includes an interview with Benjamin; Benjamin explains the Jewish content in her work and sheds light onto why so many characters are painted blue.

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

Rabbi William Cutter, Ph.D., Founding Director of HUC-JIR's Kalsman Institute on Judaism & Health and Steinberg Emeritus Professor of Human Relations, recently had his book Midrash and Medicine: Healing Body and Soul in the Jewish Interpretive Tradition reviewed in the May/June 2011 issue of the Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews. Click here to read the review (page 18).
Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, Professor of Bible, has published recently the article "Revisiting Our Pasts and Our Paths: A Jewish Response to Jesper Svartvig and Daniel Harrington," in the volume on Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: New Explorations of Theological Interrelationships (Wm B, Eerdmans, 2011). The groundbreaking volume, edited by P. A. Cunningham, J. Sievers, M.C. Boys, H.H. Henrix and J. Svartik, includes an expanded version of papers delivered at a series of international Jewish-Christian symposia ("consultations") that began in 2006. The symposia and the book were initiated by four professors in Catholic universities as an exploration of the on-going legacy of Nostra Aetate, The purpose of the meetings has been to re-evaluate the relationship between Christian doctrines and Jewish experience and to explore the basic question: "How might Christians in our time reaffirm faith claims that Jesus is the savior of all humanity, even as they affirm Israel's covenantal life with God?" The book is dedicated to the memory of the late Michael Signer, an important member of the group, and a former professor at HUC-JIR and Notre Dame.
Rabbi Reuven Firestone, Ph.D., Professor of Medieval Jewish Studies, will participate in an international symposium, "Legal Scholar - Preacher - Spiritual Adviser: Changing Roles of Rabbis, Pastors, and Priests" in Regensburg, Germany on September 19-22, 2011. Click here for further information.
Dr. Lisa Grant, Associate Professor of Jewish Education, will be part of a plenary session highlighting the groundbreaking International Handbook of Jewish Education at the Network for Research in Jewish Education, which will take place at York University in Toronto from June 12-14. Click here for further information.
Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D., Barbara and Stephen Friedman Professor of Liturgy, Worship, and Ritual, will participate in an international symposium, "Legal Scholar - Preacher - Spiritual Adviser: Changing Roles of Rabbis, Pastors, and Priests" in Regensburg, Germany on September 19-22, 2011. Click here for further information.
Rabbi Haim O. Rechnitzer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Jewish Thought at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, will present a paper at the 27th Annual International Conference of the Association for Israel Studies at Brandeis University on June 13-15, 2011. The paper title is "From Honolulu via Mt. Gilboa to Tel-Aviv: the Rise and Fall of Shlonsky's Messianic Halutz." Click here to read the conference program. Click here to read Rechnitzer's abstract.

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 at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati 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.

Rabbi David Ellenson at Tikkun Leil Shavuot: June 7 at the JCC in Manhattan

Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., President, HUC-JIR, will participate in the JCC in Manhattan's Tikkun Leil Shavuot, an updated version of the ancient festival of Shavuot, when the ancient Israelites stayed awake all night at Sinai anticipating the revelation. Rabbi Ellenson will host "A Responsum on Conversion" on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 from 10:00-11:00 pm at the third floor south gym at the JCC.

An Immigrant Comes to Jewish Cincinnati - The Art and Life of Simeon Zigler: June 26 at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati

The Skirball Museum at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati presents "An Immigrant Comes to Jewish Cincinnati: The Art and Life of Simeon Zigler" at the gala opening of the new fourth floor of the Skirball Museum on Sunday, June 26, 2011. Join HUC-JIR/Cincinnati at 4:00 pm for a Jewish Chamber concert at Scheuer Chapel, followed by an opening and reception at Mayerson Hall at 5:30 pm. Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to

Photo of the Week

Members of the HUC-JIR community, including students, faculty, and Board members, are currently travelling throughout Germany as part of the Germany Close Up program. Blessed with fantastic weather, the group divided their first full day into three major activities: a bus tour through East and West Berlin, a deeply moving visit to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (and the highly affective exhibit underground the memorial), and an afternoon at Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum. Pictured is the group with their guides, Nadine and Arjan. To read on-the-spot updates, visit

Please click here for a larger image.

New at the HUC-JIR Judaica Gallery

Celebrate Shabbat with contemporary artist Genevieve Flynn's sterling silver "Jacob's Ladder" Shabbat candlesticks. This unusual pair of candlesticks will be a treasure to pass on to family members. The bases are handraised and highly polished and the candle sleeves hold a taper or standard pillar candle. Each pair is a one-of-a-kind.

$950 plus shipping and handling. To purchase, please contact: 212-824-2218,

Please click here for a larger image.

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