Although the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion has been closed since mid-March, students have been completing the 2019-2020 academic year online. In its 145-year history, this is the first time that the Cincinnati campus of HUC-JIR is unable to hold in person graduation and ordination ceremonies.
Students in the rabbinical class of 2020 are Benjamin A. Altshuler, Benjamin Geoffrey Azriel, Yael K. Dadoun, Robert Aaron Gleisser, Alicia Harris, Natalie Louise Shribman, Caroline Rachel Sim, Michael Ephraim Weiss, and Austin Maxwell Zoot. Plans have been made for a private online consecration ceremony to formally mark the completion of their rabbinical school studies.
Rabbi Jan Katzew, PhD, Director of the Rabbinical School, HUC-JIR Cincinnati, stated, “Their names are Benj, Ben, Yael, Rob, Alicia, Natalie, Caroline, Michael and Austin. As Shabbat says ‘shalom’ on May 23, 2020, each one of them will add ‘Rabbi’ to their names. In a ritual that has Biblical overtones, they will accept the honor and the responsibility of serving and leading Jewish communities. As rabbis-in-formation at HUC-JIR, they have engaged in academic learning culminating with theses on topics of their choice and guided by members of the esteemed faculty.
Each of the newest rabbis on the planet has left footprints throughout Cincinnati as Jewish Foundation Fellows - teaching in congregational schools, a day school, and universities, visiting in eldercare facilities and hospitals, serving as counselors in day and overnight camps, learning from mentors throughout the organized Jewish community, and having the opportunity to translate theory into practice. Cincinnati became the classroom and together we have helped to nurture, challenge and co-create rabbis who will bring their learning and their experience in the field to Jewish communities throughout the United States. The nine newest rabbis become a minyan when they bring the Sefer Torah with them, the Torah that they study, the Torah that they teach, and the Torah that they live.”
Richard Sarason, PhD, Director of the Pines School of Graduate Studies, noted, “Students in the Pines School of Graduate Studies who are completing their degrees have opted to return to campus at next year’s graduation exercises to be hooded in person. In the meantime, they will receive their diplomas in the mail and we wish them much future success in their life and work.” John C. Johnson will receive a Doctor of Philosophy in Judaic, Hebraic, and Cognate Studies; Chelsea Simon will receive a Master of Philosophy in Judaic, Hebraic, and Cognate Studies. Amichai Levy and Devin G. Olachea will receive a Master of Arts in Jewish Studies.
According to Rabbi Jonathan L. Hecht, Dean of the Cincinnati campus, “I am so incredibly proud of our graduates. This year has been very challenging, but their courage and resilience really showed through. Our nine ordainees are going off to serve as leaders in communities all across our country, from Wisconsin and Florida and Mississippi, to right here in Cleveland and Cincinnati. Our three Master’s degree recipients and our newest Ph.D. are entering a world of scholarship and contributing to the academy of learning. This year, more than ever, ideas are critical as we confront, culturally and spiritually, the pandemic that is facing our world.”