Letters copied to savehuc@gmail.com below:

Letter from HUC Cincinnati Students

Letter From The Leadership of 23 Community Agencies and Congregations

Letter from NFTY-OV – a must read!

A Christian Perspective on HUC Cincinnati

Graduate Student Officer Letter


Dear Dr. Ellenson,

I realize that I may be one of many letters that reach you concerning the fate of the campus in Cincinnati. This must be a trying time and I send my best wishes to you. I also realize that the reason so many of us are fearful of such a closure is because of the profound effect the Cincinnati campus has had on our lives as alumni and students. I share those feelings, but also have a unique perspective on how the possible closing of the Cincinnati campus will effect the Cincinnati Reform community and in particular its high school students.

I serve as the director of the Cincinnati Reform Jewish High School and have done with great joy for the past six years. We have one of the most successful supplemental high school programs in the country with a retention rate of 80% and 240 students from the four Cincinnati congregations. In its 26th year, the school will graduate 47 high school seniors this month, many of whom will continue to stay connected to Judaism because of their experience here. We know from research that the social and educational connections made in the high school years are critical for Jewish identity in the young adult years of “wandering in the wilderness,” when our young people have the slimmest connection to Jewish community. We have built one of the most successful programs here, evidenced by the number of its graduates who have gone on to, or applied to Hebrew Union College in its various programs. What is the key to our success? I count on having the finest teachers who love kids and have a connection to the Movement. Rabbi Yoffie praised us as a star school and our mission coincides with his vision for a future of young Jews passionate and connected to Judaism.

In Rabbi Yoffie’speech to the 2009 NFTY Convention on February 14th he charged these young men and women with the following mission,

“We need you to be serious Jews, and that means becoming a partisan and a partner, because Judaism is not a spectator sport.

We need you to believe that you can make a difference to the Jews and to the world, and that you can choose to be good or bad.

We need you to give God a chance …. And by the way, I believe that faith in God and Jewish tradition turns us into better people.

And lastly, we need you take Judaism seriously, but to make your own decisions. If you don’t like what I believe, that’s fine. Take your time, study some Torah, examine your ideas, choose what is appropriate for you, don’t feel that the views of others obligate you. You are all smart, and sensible, and eager for understanding. And I have every confidence that you will arrive at the right conclusions and that you will make Reform Judaism proud.”

If the Cincinnati campus of HUC closes I will lose the substantial pool of my teachers, a possibility that will be devastating to the school and the community. If the Cincinnati campus closes, we will lose the opportunity for our children here in Cincinnati to be with great teachers who challenge them to give God a chance, to take Judaism seriously , and to make Judaism not a spectator sport. Our great success is based on congregational rabbis who are in residence teaching every week, on a supportive community, and on an extraordinarily talented teaching staff who uniquely know how to connect with our students, challenge their minds, and engage their imaginations; that faculty are your students of the Cincinnati campus, who find our High School a rich and fertile training ground for their future success as rabbis, and who enrich our school now, as they have since its inception 26 years ago.

My students and our congregations here in Cincinnati depend on sound judgment by the leadership of the Board of Governors that will work well for the long-term sustainability of HUC-JIR, and we hope and pray that your vision and leadership will guide the College-Institute to a good decision for its future, which I am convinced is synonymous with what will be good for our teenagers, our community, and the Jewish people.

With my best wishes

Rabbi David Burstein

Director of the Cincinnati Reform Jewish High School


Dr. David Ellenson
Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion
One West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012-1186

Dear Dr. Ellenson:
Greetings! I write as a concerned alumnus who received my Ph.D. degree from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 1984. During my five years at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion I lived and worked at the Cincinnati campus. My research focused on materials that were available only at the Klau library and a handful of other institutions worldwide. After graduation my work was published and remains to this day the authoritative source in its particular field. This would not have been possible without the Ph.D. program at the Cincinnati campus.

Throughout the quarter of a century since my graduation, I have done research and teaching at institutions and universities worldwide, and especially in Israel, Great Britain, Germany, and the U.S.A. Wherever I have gone, scholars and others associated with these institutions have shown great respect for my degree from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. It has opened doors for me and provided initial associations that have grown into lasting friendships. My publication of more than one hundred research articles, two dozen books, and hundreds of reviews and dictionary articles would not have been possible without the depth and breadth of training that I received at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati.
As a scholar with a faith background in the Christian religion, my experience at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion provided me with a great appreciation of the rich traditions of Judaism, as well as a respect for these traditions. I have sought to reflect and express this in my twenty years of full time classroom teaching; above all in the last dozen years of training men and women at Denver Seminary for Christian ministries across the nation and around the world.

I would therefore encourage you and the board to do everything possible to retain this invaluable resource to the academic world with its immeasurable contribution to the promotion of ecumenical understanding worldwide.


Richard S. Hess


Dear Dr. Ellenson,

I cannot even begin to be as eloquent as so many of my colleagues who have composed letters and emails so far this month. And I cannot even begin to express to you my gratitude and appreciation for all that you do to make HUC-JIR the wonderful institution that it is. Please know that I come to this email from a place of deep respect for the decision that you and the Board are about to make.

I must add my voice, however, to those who have already spoken. I am a Midwesterner, born and raised. I have felt for a long time that there is a sense (on both the East and West Coasts) of the middle of the country as a place devoid of Jewish life. This is most certainly not so! There is a vibrant and marvelous Jewish community in all corners of the middle parts of this country! And these communities are, unfortunately, often maligned, slighted, or otherwise dismissed by the larger communities of New York and Los Angeles. This is unfortunate. There are strong Jewish communities in St. Louis, Houston, Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Indianapolis, and yes, Cincinnati. And there are strong Jewish communities in small towns all around Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois – not to mention all the Southern states as well. A list is too long to make! Many (if not most in the case of the smaller towns) of these communities are served by Reform rabbis or rabbinical students, most of them from the Cincinnati campus.

I firmly believe that we are remiss as a movement if we isolate ourselves in the “ivory towers” of the large coastal cities and ignore the importance of the “heartland of America” by closing the Cincinnati campus to the rabbinical program. On the contrary, in fact, I believe that Cincinnati is the very best place for Jews to be influenced and to influence. Many of our rabbinical students come from the Coasts, go there for school, and never really gain a true understanding of American Judaism across the country. If the rabbis that HUC-JIR produces come only from the coasts, will we really have a decent and comprehensive understanding of amcha in America? I don’t think so. I think that shutting down the heart of Reform Judaism will only dishearten the “Jews in the pews” in the middle of our country, and I think it will do a major disservice to our rabbinical students to deprive them of the opportunity to experience the vibrancy of Cincinnati’s Jewish community.

Sure, New York is a marvelous place to be a Jew. Wonderful things are happening there that young Jews in particular are taking advantage of. Regular and creative interaction with all that New York City has to offer is key to making sure we are not cut off from the innovative spirit that appears to exist in that great city. But that innovative spirit must have a soul, and I believe that the true soul of American Judaism is all around the country, nestled in its small communities and “flyover” cities as well as the East and West Coasts.

Please don’t condemn Cincinnati to become a relic of our past. Please remember the communities that we serve and honestly consider the importance of all the ways that the Cincinnati campus, in particular, and HUC-JIR in general, serves them.

I wish you and the Board of Governors strength and wisdom as you make your decisions.

Rabbi Phyllis A. Sommer


Dear Dr. Ellenson,

My name is Jonathan Beck. I am currently a student at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY. I graduated from Asbury College in 2007 and am planning to apply to a PhD program in the fall.

I have grown up in Cincinnati, OH, where one of the three HUC-JIR campuses is based. From an early age, I was greatly influenced by HUC students, both, at that time, present students and graduates. I attended Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy where I gained my first true taste of Old Testament study under the guidance of Dr. Dean Nicholas, Tiffany Zents, Pete Dongell, and Shannon Schaffer, who together comprised a majority of the Bible faculty at CHCA.

Dr. Nicholas was the first person to expose me to the Hebrew language, at which time a great love was planted and allowed to foster great growth. I studied under him in both my junior and senior year in high school, and continued my Hebrew studies for the duration of my tenure at Asbury College. As of my graduation in 2007, I had studied Hebrew for the better part of six years.

While at ATS, I have continued to specialize in Old Testament and Semitic Languages. By the time I graduate, I will have completed an additional three years of Hebrew study in grammar, morphology and exegesis, and will have completed courses in Aramaic (completed) and Ugaritic (as of the Fall ’09 semester). I plan to continue study through the remainder of my time at Asbury.

From my first semester here, I have served as a Hebrew tutor, and as of Fall 2008 I have served as a teaching assistant for the lower-division Hebrew courses which cover basic grammar, syntax and morphology.

HUC has captivated my attention since graduating from high school in 2003. From that point on, I knew what I wanted to do as a vocation: I wanted to teach college-level Old Testament courses after receiving a PhD from a fine institution, of which HUC nicely fits this criterion. I am aware of the financial crisis of the institution, and understand that HUC is entering a time of a crossroads where it will be decided that the programs offered will undergo significant reduction. I also firmly believe that ALL educational institutions are experiencing a dramatic reduction of funds and endowments. Finally, I realize that it would be a huge loss should the Cincinnati, OH campus be closed.

Both CHCA and ATS have had a long and fruitful relationship with HUC. I plan to continue study under Drs. Sandra Richter, John Cook, Bill Arnold and Michael Matlock (a recent graduate who has filled an open post of professor of Old Testament and Inductive Bible Study). I greatly look forward to the wisdom that these encouraging and nurturing professors have to offer me as I work toward realizing my dream.

I sincerely urge that the board of governors, faculty and staff will continue to support the Cincinnati campus including the school of graduate studies. I am told that a former president of HUC-JIR, Alfred Gottschalk, referred to the Bible and Ancient Near East program as “the crown jewel of the institution.” I believe this program to be invaluable, both as a stellar academic program as well as one that is open for Christian Old Testament scholars to further their studies in a Reform Jewish environment.

From the beginning, HUC has had a dramatic influence on my choice of field and occupation. It has been my dream to attend this institution since I graduated from high school. I continued my efforts to realize this dream throughout my time in both college and seminary, and would be extremely mournful should the HUC-JIR board of governors decide to close the Cincinnati campus. HUC-JIR Cincinnati has been a mainstay since 1875 insofar as biblical and Jewish scholarship within the Greater Cincinnati and tri-state area.

In closing, please accept this gift of $500, which I intend to be applied to the continuance of the Bible and Ancient Near East program. For whatever it is worth, I am willing to go to great lengths to do what an aspiring future doctoral student can do for the institution. I hope and pray that you would prayerfully and diligently seek God’s guidance as you make your decision. Know also that I, too, will be praying that His will be done as it concerns the future of HUC.

Respectfully in the service of the Master of the Universe,

Jonathan Beck
M.Div student, Asbury Theological Seminary


Dr. David Ellenson
Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion
One West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012-1186

Dear Dr. Ellenson,
I am writing in support of the Graduate Studies program on the Cincinnati HUC-JIR campus. I am grateful for the opportunity to have studied at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati. I appreciate your vigorous support of the school and the fundraising efforts you have expended for its continuance.

My experience studying at HUC in Cincinnati was enriched not only by the excellent faculty and library facilities, but also by the cooperative program with the Classical Studies department of the University of Cincinnati. I took many courses on that side of the street along with the biblical and rabbinic studies at HUC. For a seminary graduate, this introduction to both classical and rabbinic literature was invaluable. But the primary benefit was in the rich learning experiences in the HUC graduate school. For a person training to teach Bible and Religion in a Christian college, the experience of reading Tanak and rabbinic texts with Jewish scholars and Rabbis-in-training is unique and invaluable.

I am aware of the gravity of recent financial shortfalls. I encourage you to do all possible to continue the excellent work of the HUC-JIR Graduate School. I am honored to be a graduate and my positive experiences at HUC-JIR overflow into the classroom here at Lambuth University.


Joel S. Allen (2006)


Dear Voting members of the HUC board,

As newly installed Social Action Vice President of North American Federation of Temple Youth-Ohio Valley Region(NFTY-OV) I feel that closing the Cincinnati Campus of HUC would have detrimental effects on our region and its efforts to strengthen the bond of Judaism to its next generation of leaders.

NFTY-OV brings together Jewish teenagers and younger members from Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Teneesee, and West Virginia.Each year we hold a event for Juniors and Seniors at the HUC campus in Cincinatti which would be affected by the closure but that is just the beginning.

Our advisers are moral and physical support for this region. They help us not only with logisitics but with advice, inspriration for leadership, and as models for the Jewish leaders we are going to become. This past week I was inspired as I watched the advisers help at our Regional Event ending the year in Louisville, Kentucky. Our entire region looks up to our advisers, many of whom are rabbinic students at the Cinciatti campus. Through the closure we would lose this invaluable resource to our region, detrimentally hurting our region, its members and member congregations. The implications are almost to enourmous to believe.

As a regional board member for this upcoming NFTY year I, as well as our region who wrote a separate letter, cannot sit silently and watch a part of history and a integral part of our Jewish lives disappear without a fight. Judiasm connects us all in a way that is indescribable. NFTY has literally change my life, I will forever be connected to Jews past, present, and future; just as they are to me. The HUC Cincinnati Campus is a part of that connection that you cannot allow to close.

Thank you for your time and consideration


Toby Cook
Regional SAVP, NFTY-Ohio Valley Region 5769-5770



My name is Laura Jackson. I am a student at Northern Michigan University and have attend the local synagogue, Temple Beth Sholom, since I was a child. Our synagogue has been using student rabbis from HUC for 50 years. For the past two years we have had Rabbi Daniel Bogard (we chose to bring him back for biweekly sessions because he was so wonderful for the monthly sessions). Your school has produced some of the most wonderful rabbis I have ever encountered (Rabbi Daniel being the best) and closing the school would be detrimental to Jews all over America. I am just one person, but I know that the rabbis you have sent us have improved our whole congregation and I can’t imagine our synagogue without an HUC student leading services. Please reconsider closing the school. Thank you for your time!!

Laura Jackson
Zoology Major-Class of 2009
Northern Michigan University


Dear Dr. Ellenson,

I am writing in regard to the possible closing of the Cincinnati Campus of HUC. All of my children grew up
at OSRUI. You are Raffi’s dad right? I”I’ve met you before at Camp. My oldest daughter, Traci, is graduating from Indiana University next month with a degree in Jewish Studies. This summer she will be Rosh Eidah of Tzofim at OSRUI. My son Simon, who is a freshman at Michigan State, has aspired to be a Rabbi since he was thirteen. Last year, he and I visited the Cincinnati Campus of HUC.What a beautiful campus, so rich in the history of our people. We had an amazing time looking at papers and studying the history of Reform Judaism. Simon and I both hope he would be fortunate enough to get admitted to HUC when he finishes college, and hopefully be assigned to the Cincinnati Campus after he finishes his first year in Israel.

I realize that the Union is restructuring due to present financial difficulties and the way the nations
economy is today. If there is any way to save the Cincinnati Campus, please consider options, alternatives,
and any other plans to save the campus. I realize that there are so many people making this decision about HUC.Just know that to see the Cincinnati Campus close would be very sad for the future of our
movement. Thank you for listening to me.

Jackie Stratford


Dear Dr. Ellenson,

I am writing to you on a matter of great importance. I understand the economic pressures and challenges facing the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. I have experienced some of those same challenges in my own congregation and in my family life as well.

Such times call for creative thinking and decisive action to protect and preserve important institutions such as the College-Institute. Such actions however, must consider all aspects of the decision making process and not only protect the institution in the short term, but in the long term as well.

Therefore I am writing with great concern for the Cincinnati campus and the immense amount of scholarly holdings located there. To touch on the holdings first, it would be a shame for the Reform movement to divest ourselves in any way of the remarkable and irreplaceable collections of the Klau Library and American Jewish Archives. Especially considering the combined $20 million that has been recently invested in the physical plant of those two institutions, it would be short-sighted at best to discontinue or reduce either of them at this time or any time until the physical plant was in need of renovation again.

As for the Cincinnati campus, it is my fervent hope that you would keep the Rabbinic program in operation there. With the technology that is available for distance learning the campus could be run with a smaller faculty and staff than it currently has, taking advantage of the faculty resources of the other campuses.

New York and Los Angeles are difficult places to live on a student budget. Obviously many students do manage to make ends meet and be successful in their academics. But Cincinnati offers an opportunity for those students who are not comfortable with the pace of life in New York or LA, along with being a place where second-career rabbinic students can bring their families, knowing that they will be able to afford to live in good school districts and safe neighborhoods. Additionally I want to at least briefly mention the benefits of the unique type of community that students on the Concinnati campus form with one another.

I fear the closing of the Cincinnati campus would negatively affect the recruitment of students, especially those seeking to change careers. I have heard by way of rumor several different scenarios for the college. I hope that any rumor of the immediate closure (after the semester) of the Cincinnati campus is not even on the table, as it would disrupt the lives and educations of many rising 5th years who would suddenly need to move to a new city for one year, not to mention the impact on the faculty.

I hope that the board and administration is looking at solutions that involve campus and faculty sharing in New York (with JTS) and LA (with AJU) while looking for solutions through technology for the Cincinnati campus (even if for the sake of saving money buildings such as the gym, the New Dorm and the Administration Building were closed down completely).

I know you are receiving many letters about this, but I wanted to contribute my voice as well. Thank You,
Rabbi Daniel Plotkin


From: Barbara King
Sent: Sun 4/19/2009 10:27 PM
To: Ellenson, Rabbi David
Subject: Restructuring of HUC

Dear President Ellison,

I have read in the Jewish press that a decision may be made in June to close down the HUC Cincinnati campus. Please reconsider this option. Loss of the Cincinnati campus would be incalculable. Surely a plan can be devised that would preserve the special character of all three campuses. It would be a terrible loss to the national Reform Jewish community to lose its presence in the Midwest and southern parts of the U.S.  Why not launch a special campaign among the 900 Reform congregations to raise the money needed in these difficult times?


Dear Barbara,

Thank you so very much for your heartfelt letter. You correctly identify the role that the College has traditionally held for the Cincinnati community, as well as the important position HUC continues to occupy there today. I am very sorry that the time in which we live compels the HUC Administration and Board to confront hard decisions in order to ensure that the College-Institute can continue to fulfill its
mission of educating leadership for the North American and world Jewish community. Your points about what the loss of our Cincinnati campus would mean to Jews in the South and Midwest are well taken and I am sure they will be considered by the Board when the Board meets to deliberate on the future of HUC-JIR on May 3-4. I can assure you that we will all attempt to act responsibly and prudently on behalf of the Jewish people as final decisions are reached. Thank you again for being in touch with me. I am sharing three letters with you below that I have sent recently to the HUC community. I think they will explain why any attempt to appeal to the 900 congregations of the URJ for additional support for our three campuses is unlikely to succeed.

David Ellenson


Dear Ms. Friedman, I am a Reform Jew living near Cincinnati, Ohio. Recently I became aware of the plan to close down HUC’s Cincinnati campus and I wrote to Dr. Ellenson to plead that this option not be taken. I have attached my message to him and his response which I am forwarding to you. It is my impression after reading his remarks and the letters he sent that the decision from New York’s point of view is definite. Thus the meeting on May 3-4 will be only a pro forma exercise. It is also my impression that the New York campus is considered the inherently superior choice and should “of course” be the one campus to survive because of the “thickness” of the Jewish culture within which the campus is embedded. One can argue that thickness of culture does not automatically confer superiority. The New York campus is by far the most expensive school to run yet their ordained rabbis are not superior in intellect, education, training, or ultimately pastoral care of their congregations. One can also argue that the Northeastern Reform congregations are overserved and will hardly suffer if a way is found to maintain all three campuses.

Dr. Ellenson also argues that New York is better suited to interface with Jerusalem and the rest of world Jewry. But there’s no basis for that argument in his statement. Why are they better suited?
Because they’re New Yorkers? I also do not understand why he has decided up front that a special appeal to the 900 Reform congregations would fail? There is no way to know until you ask. If last year I thought a 20% reduction in dues was wonderful , I might think differently this year knowing it could mean the demise of the Cincinnati campus. So couldn’t we contact the presidents of the congregations across the country and ask them what they think about a special campaign? A website already exists entitled “Save Hebrew Union College”. A full page appeal in the Cincinnati Enquirer or the Sunday NY Times might reach unaffiliated Jews who understand the importance of keeping the Cincinnati campus alive. The importance of keeping the Klau Library intact is reason alone for any Jew to help. I will be contacting Dr. Mitchell Cohen at Wise Temple here in Cincinnati to see what I can personally do to help. I’m willing to stand on any sidewalk passing out flyers if it will do any good. Closing the Cincinnati campus will cause severe damage to midwestern and southern Reform congregations who will understand the low regard in which the Cincinnati campus was held if closed.

Dr. Barbara King


Dr. David Ellenson
Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion
Brookdale Center
One West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012-1186

April 21, 2009

Dear Dr. Ellenson:

I am writing to you on Yom Ha-Shoah, a time dedicated to reverent memory of a dark time in the Jewish people’s history. Today, our thoughts turn to great questions about Jewish survival and the Jewish future. It was vitally important to me that I write you today, because from my perspective, now is a critical time for our nationwide Reform Jewish community to make vital – but very difficult – decisions about how to ensure our survival for generations to come.

The dismal economic climate in our country has left no Jewish institution unscathed. In every community, in every city, Jewish leadership has had to make painful sacrifices in order to ensure that centers of prayer, study, and communal life will not disappear altogether. We Reform rabbis are realistic about the fact that the cherished institutions of our movement are not immune to these challenges either. We understand, and accept solemnly, that the Reform Movement of the 21st century will certainly look different than that of the 20th century, due wholly to the financial disasters of recent days. I am writing you because I believe that despite these extraordinary circumstances, the leadership of HUC-JIR must make decisions which will not compromise the College-Institute’s ability to fulfill its sacred mission in the future.

I have not been a part of the agonizing deliberations which have taken place behind closed doors. I do not know the particulars of HUC-JIR’s budget, or the specifics of the restructuring scenarios that you and the Board of Governors have contemplated. I am soberly aware, however, that whatever course of action is decided upon will have serious and long-lasting effects on the way HUC-JIR functions. Further, I realize that the current financial realities will most likely mean saying goodbye to cherished facilities and beloved professors. I realize that it may mean changing the academic disciplines in which the College-Institute trains its students, the amount of debt these students will incur, and the list of places in which its graduates will serve after graduation or ordination. All of these realities are unfortunate, but they are unavoidable. I must beg, however, that you not make the grave mistake of dismantling the holdings of the Klau Library or the Jacob Rader Marcus American Jewish Archives.

I understand that the temptation to sell off some or all of these collections is painfully tempting. They are incredibly precious and could indeed deliver valuable cash into the coffers of the College-Institute. But we cannot barter these priceless possessions for quick financial gain. More than any building, more than any faculty who teach there, the holdings of the Klau Library and the AJA are the soul of HUC-JIR. Serious scholarship can go on without the buildings and even without the teachers we love, but it is impossible that the College-Institute will be able to fulfill its mission, and the mission of its founders, without the incalculably valuable books, manuscripts, papers, and archival materials that empower it to do the sacred business of educating scholars and Jewish professionals.

In the letter you wrote one week ago, you referred to Rabbi Stephen S. Wise’s charge that we “create a premiere center for the education of Jewish professionals and intellectuals who will address the totality of the Jewish people.” It is undeniable that HUC-JIR has succeeded in this measure. We are justifiably proud of the fact that it has become one of the world’s premier institutions for serious Jewish study. The materials in the Klau Library and the Marcus Center allow students access to Jewish study that is literally unavailable anywhere else on earth. How can we possibly contemplate pawning them to temporarily raise operating cash? The holdings of these two institutions, gathered at great financial and personal cost (many of them, we must recall, having arrived safely after the Holocaust in which their original owners perished), even more than the sustenance of HUC-JIR’s students, are a vital heritage of the entire Jewish people. We have a serious obligation to preserve and care for them.

The charter upon which the College-Institute was built specifies that its mission is to advance “the critical study of Jewish culture and related disciplines in accordance with the highest standards of modern academic scholarship.” If we are to remain faithful to this charge, if we are to maintain our fidelity to the vision with which our predecessors entrusted the care of the College-Institute to us, we must act with care, deliberateness and foresight. If we are hasty or short-sighted, the decisions we make now may miscarry the future of the entire Reform Movement and its leadership.

The future of Reform Judaism, murky and intimidating though it is from today’s limited perspective, must be one in which the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion retains possession of the priceless holdings of the Klau Library and the Jacob Rader Marcus American Jewish Archives. It would be absolutely unthinkable for this “People of the Book” to do otherwise.

I thank you very much for your time and your attention, and I respectfully request that you share my thoughts with the members of the Board of Governors.

Wishing you and the Governors strength for the difficult decisions which lie ahead,

Rabbi Oren J. Hayon


Just a few of my thoughts

1. Your operating costs in Cincinnati will be much lower than in either Los Angeles or New York.

2. To shut down the Cincinnati campus, the birthplace of Reform Judaism would be like moving the capital of Israel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

3. Cincinnati has an abundant supply of cultural,medical and educational facilities.

4. Closing the Cincinnati campus brings the real danger that Reform Judaism will be a east coast/west coast philosophy. You will be saying to middle America you really do not count . A truly balanced view of the issues of the day whether social or religious is not found on either the west coast or east coast.

Sincerely yours

Len Bartel

4 Responses to Letters

  1. why the fuss says:

    Dear HUC,

    This is clearly a business decision that should be made by the board of directors of HUC. there are many things to consider in this choice but it would be bettter to close 1 campus now (after considering which the best option would be) than to go bankrupt.

    Please advise the board of directors to act logically and not be swayed by the emotional responses here. If they truely value Cincinnati it will stay open.

  2. an alumn says:

    Re: Dr. King’s letter – any possibility of having the letter to Dr. Ellenson and his response posted?

    I suspect Dr. King is correct (at least regarding Cincinnati) and that the decision has been made. I’d still like to see DR. Ellenson’s reply instead of the odd snipet showing up. The College has refused to provide any public written statements at all on what options exist.

    It’s also interesting that apparently HUC is not the owner of the Cincinnati property but the URJ is.

  3. Devon Spier says:

    To the Voting Members of the HUC board;

    My name is Devon Spier and I am 20 year old Reform Jew who has acted as NFTY-NEL Songleader and Israel Chair and the Relgious and Cultural Vice President of the TYG MITY at the local level. I have also been blessed with fruitful summers of Jewish learning at URJ Camp George, the Kutz Campus and most currently, URJ Camp Newman-Swig. Throughout my Jewish journey, I have been taught by the example of educators who have hailed from HUC and who have bequeathed Jewish lessons to multitudes of Jewish children. These men and women – whether at HUC College Colloquiums or at my Reform Jewish congregation in Mississauga – have provided me with the foundational Jewish knowledge to live an intentional Jewish life and keep my Judaism alive in the diaspora. I have learned so much from their informal classes, their congregational projects and moreover, their holistic involvement in Jewish life throughout their individual lifespans. My immersion in Jewish learning has lead to me to the long-term goal of pursuing a career in the Rabbinate and the short-term goal of facilitating outreach initiatives in my new synagogue in Waterloo, Ontario. In essence, HUC-Cincinnati’s educators have provided me with the tools to teach a new generation of Jewish people; without their input and support of my Jewish identity, I would not have realized the importance of the Jewish community in my personal development. The Torah commands us to teach G-d’s commandments diligently unto our children (Deut. 6:7). As such, I urge you to reconsider closing HUC-Cincinnati in light of the lessons that flow from its educators and consequently, the lessons that flow from students and families of Reform Judaism.

    Respectfully Submitted,
    Devon Spier

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