Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Update on HUC

The Board of HUC has met and issued a statement. It seems pretty vague, and might just be a stall tactic, but it is clear that the online efforts, centered around made some degree of impact.

The statement, below, came after campaigns were launched on behalf of all three US campuses. Its probably a good sign that New York started to sweat a bit..

This battle is far from over, and it is important that people keep writing letters, and if they can, donating to HUC.

See the full transcript below.
The Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion met in New York on Monday, May 4th, 2009. There was a discussion of many constructive approaches to resolving HUC-JIR’s financial issues. The Board decided that the restructuring plan would proceed on three principles:

· Financial sustainability

· Academic integrity of programs and excellence of faculty and students

· Service to the Reform Movement, Klal Yisrael, Israel, and world Jewry

The Board has charged the administration to devise a plan that will attain financial sustainability and enhance our academic excellence while preserving our presence in Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and New York. The model being developed includes innovative strategies for learning and teaching, increased use of technology, a firm commitment to the Klau Library and American Jewish Archives, and an evolving vision of education that will meet the needs of the 21st century. Significant financial restructuring will establish a sustainable, balanced budget, ensuring the future of the College-Institute.

The Board and administration have been heartened by the outpouring of thousands of expressions of support and concern by alumni, Reform congregants, and the larger community. The College-Institute is grateful for this groundswell of support.

On June 23rd, 2009, the administration will bring its recommendations to the Board of Governors.

The College-Institute affirms its commitment to strengthening and fulfilling its mission of training and sustaining Jewish professionals throughout their careers of service to Reform Judaism and Klal Yisrael – the Jewish people worldwide.

Rabbi David Ellenson, President Barbara Friedman, Chair,


Unknown said...

May 10, 2009 23:36 | Updated May 11, 2009 10:33
Non-Orthodox Judaism disappearing

The Reform and Conservative Movements are disappearing, Yeshiva University Chancellor Rabbi Norman Lamm said over the weekend.

"With a heavy heart we will soon say kaddish on the Reform and Conservative Movements," said Lamm, head of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.

"The Conservatives are in a mood of despondency and pessimism. They are closing schools and in general shrinking," he said.

"The Reform Movement may show a rise, because if you add goyim to Jews then you will do OK," added Lamm, referring to the Reform Movement's policy, starting in 1983, of recognizing patrilineal descent.

The National Jewish Population Survey of 2001 found that of the 46 percent of US Jewish households belonging to a synagogue, 33% were affiliated with a Conservative synagogue, a 10% fall from the 1990 survey. In contrast, the Reform Movement was up from 35% to 38% and Orthodox Jews rose from 16% to 22%. Two percent were affiliated with the Reconstructionist Movement and 5% with "other types" of synagogues.

Sociologists familiar with US Jewry believe that similar trends continue.

"Reform is out of the picture, because they never got into the picture, and the Conservatives are getting out of the picture," Lamm said.

"The future of American Jewry is in the hands of haredim and the modern Orthodox. We have to find ways of working together."

He supports outreach to Reform and Conservative Jews, "but not by watering down what we believe and not by demonizing them either."

Lamm, born in Brooklyn in 1927, was appointed president of YU in 1976 and managed to save the flagship institute of American Modern Orthodoxy from financial demise.

A disciple of Rabbi Yosef B. Soloveitchik, Lamm is considered a representative of "centrist" Modern Orthodoxy, which positions itself between the more "left-wing" elements of Orthodoxy such as Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and the more "right-wing" haredim voices of American Orthodoxy.

He is in Israel to receive an honorary doctorate from Bar-Ilan University on Tuesday.

The same day, Lamm will take part in a panel at the university on "The Religious Experience of Social Action" with a Catholic priest and a Suffi religious leader.

Regarding Pope Benedict XVI's visit in Israel, Lamm said he doubted much would come out of it.

"The pope is an intellectual and as such there is a subtext to his behavior," he said. "His interests are primarily theological. Nothing of great consequence could come of the visit. He is not that kind of person."

Lamm said the pope's emphasis on intellectual matters and his lack of interest in political issues led to an imbroglio with Jewish leadership.

Last January the pope reinstated several rebel bishops who had been banned from the Church for their conservative opinions. One of the bishops was Richard Williamson, a known Holocaust denier.

"That [his emphasis on intellectuality] is how he got in trouble lifting the herem on that bishop," Lamm said.

He also said he opposed transferring control over Church properties in Israel to the Vatican.

"Does a shul in Rome have extraterritorial rights? Why should a church in Israel?" Lamm asked.

Based on principles that he says he learned from Soleveitchik, interfaith dialogue aimed at improving life and advancing peace is important, "as long as there is not an exchange of dogmas."

Lamm expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that historically, Orthodox Jews have refrained from interfaith dialogue with the Church.

"The people who have normally been speaking on behalf of Jewry have been secular and are not concerned with the Jewish religious point of view. It was a mistake for religious Jews to shy away. As a result, the ADL and the American Jewish Committee, who don't always have believing Jews on their staff, have dominated.

"It is important not to paint the pope as a demon. He has a great deal of power and influence, and it is important to have a friend. But he should know that we are not for sale."

Regarding the ordination of female rabbis, Lamm said his opposition was "social, not religious."

"Change has to come to religion when feasible, but it should not be rushed. Women have just come into their own from an educational perspective. I would prefer not to have this innovation right now. It is simply too early. What will happen later... I am not a prophet."

Regarding homosexuality among Orthodox Jewish men, Lamm said he drew a distinction between those who "kept it to themselves" and those who "proselytized."

"Everyone should be made to feel comfortable," he said. "I would never exclude a person because his wife does not cover hair or because he does not adhere to the laws of Shabbat or because he is a homosexual.

"But I am opposed to saying publicly that homosexuals are welcome or accepting people who are openly gay and who campaign for a gay lifestyle, just as I would oppose someone who openly campaigns to desecrate Shabbat or to speak slanderously."

Norm said...

Here is an alternative view of the situation-from my new blog

Can you be a Jew if you don't beleive in Myth

by Norman Pressman

We have a common heritage which probably can be traced to the 8th or 9th century BC (or maybe earlier if you believe that Kings David and Solomon were real as opposed to mythical.) After the Diaspora our ancestors kept certain customs and invented others such as mitizah b'peh and all of the Hasidic customs.

Over time, our ncestors,especially those in France and Germany as opposed to Lithuania and eastern Europe started to realize the Torah was a set of myths as opposed to the word of a non-existent deity who watches over humanity. The key is this set of myths bound our more recent enlightened ancestors together even though most of them realized they were myths. Even you Richard don't believe in the complete truth of the Torah and don't completely obey its rules (more tomorrow on that subject).

I enjoy reading parts of the Torah. "The Rape of Dinah" for instance is an excellent allegory of how our people evened the odds and beat a superior foe. The story of Ruth is an example of how we are open to accept converts. The book of Esther is a primary on intermarriage.

When the first scribe reduced Genesis to writing do you think he had the benefit of the Hubble telescope-did he know the special and general theories of relativity let alone Newtonian mechanics? Did he understand Darwin?.

And while I am open to the possibility that somewhere in he universe something happen which somehow created the first DNA strand and it was brought to earth or that there is some unknowable pre-big bang force which created the big bang-I see no evidence that there is a God like force in the form of a big man in the sky who wrote the Torah and watches over us. Further, I don't think you really do either and I'll deal with that question later today or tomorrow.

I'll re-state your question as follows: "Can the only people of antiquity to have survived antiquity continue to survive as a group once the myth that previously bound it together is exposed as a myth?" and "Is it necessary to pretend that we believe that the myth is real for us to survive?"

You and your orthodox friends either believe in the myths or in the case of modern orthodox don't necessarily believe in them but believe the rules of the Torah must be obeyed to preserve our tribe. I and most of my mainstream Jewish friends don't believe in the myths.

If you were correct that it was necessary to perpetuate the Torah's myths to preserve us as a group I don't think I could, for example, pretend that it was necessary to stone a woman who had tricked her husband into believing she was a virgin on the wedding date.

The whole idea of the reform, and possibly the conservative movement, is to try and keep us together in a world which has seen the Torah's myths unraveled If these movements fail, our tribe may well go out of existence-that's why Mr. Feldman and his rabbis should praise the reform and conservative movements instead of trying to subvert them.