Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hebrew Union College, Midwestern Judaism, and Money

Hebrew Union College, the oldest Jewish educational institution in America, may close its original campus, in Cincinnati, Ohio due to a ballooning deficit.

According to a report in the Cincinnati Enquirer, "HUC has raised the possibility of closing two of its three U.S. campuses. The others are in New York and Los Angeles."

Now, we know that the chances of the New York campus being shuttered or scaled back is fairly low. There are way too many Jews in the city for them to consider that.

Never mind that the campus is the most expensive to maintain, the most expensive for students to attend, and that the majority of congregational positions won't be located in or around NYC, it would be unthinkable that a Jewish organization would uproot itself from the self-proclaimed center of American Judaism. Then again, maybe, because the community is so over served as it is, HUC isn't really that important in New York.

Los Angeles, home to the second largest concentration of Yids in America is also an expensive campus both operationally and for students, but is home to the Rhea Hirsch School of Education and the School of Jewish Communal Service.

Cincinnati isn't a top tier city, and its Jewish population is a bit below 30,000, but it is a central location within the Midwest and ordains more rabbis then either of the other campuses. The Cincinnati campus is also home to the Klau Library, the largest library of Jewish works outside Israel, which is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation and expansion, as well as the American Jewish Archives.

It is relatively easy for someone in New York or Los Angeles to look at Cincinnati and say (with disdain), "who wants to be in a fly-over state?" But for the hundreds of thousands of Jews who live across the Midwest and South, the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College is an important beacon, a symbol that indeed Jewish life and thought thrives, even outside of the coasts.

Throughout the years, my life has been influenced by faculty and students of HUC in Cincinnati. From all of the congregational rabbis, to the youth group advisors, to camp directors and counselors, the vast majority of them had been directly influenced by Hebrew Union College.

I urge you to check out www.savehuc.com, and to write to HUC President David Ellenson.

Ideally, we could help HUC to raise the funds necessary to overcome these tight times.

I worry that in trying to get out of this immediate crisis, HUC will create for itself a much larger one down the line. One shuttered, these losses cannot be regained.

Please HUC, in your attempts to allay financial crisis, don't bankrupt your core purpose!

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