Tech-savvy rabbi says Reform movement and its 900 congregations are strong, but must meet young people where they are.
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Rabbi Aaron Panken, 49, the newly tapped president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, likes to mention that he was trained as an electrical engineer and is an amateur pilot. It’s his way of saying he’s tech-savvy, a focus he’s likely to bring to the job as he takes over the Reform seminary at a time of great educational change.
As I pushed through the jampacked Kotel on Rosh Hodesh Sivan, thousands of religious girls pointed at my kippa and screamed in my face. Not only did they stick out their tongues, but they made the shape of a gun with their hands and rotated between pointing it at their heads and pointing it at mine. Scanning through the faces of the young girls, I wondered if in a different setting, we could’ve been braiding challah or lighting Shabbat candles together as friends. Some of their eyes leaked with hatrid and disgust, while some overflowed with intrigue, curiosity, and at times boredom. A large portion of the girls seemed to be mulling about, happy to be spending time with friends, and waiting for us to leave.
Six New York programs will receive a total of $744,000 this year from the Covenant Foundation. The grants are among $1.2 million in grants the foundation, which seeks to “support and advance excellence and impact in Jewish education,” approved last week.
Now, with just a bit less tumult (one hopes) comes B’nai Mitzvah Revolution, a Reform Movement pilot initiative to “radically rethink” the Jewish rite of passage and its place in synagogue life and education.
Just a few more days….Can you begin to picture it? We will all gather together, in anticipation of the New Year, and the new beginnings that come with it. The melodies we wait for all year will be surrounding us. Our prayers and supplications will rise towards the heavens and we will pray “Sh’ma Koleinu” - that God will hear our voices. The Shofar will wake us from our physical and spiritual slumber. The sweet apples and honey will delight taste buds of all ages.
Rabbinical students, in generational divide, seen disenchanted with Jewish state; time to rethink year-in-Israel study?
Editor And Publisher
A second-year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary says her year-in-Israel experience, as part of her academic training, has been “enriching and incredibly painful” in terms of what she sees of Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians.
“The Israel I see does not seem to reflect so many of the Jewish values that my family and community raised me with,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Jewish Week.
NEW YORK (JTA) -- Spurred by a major grant from one of the largest Jewish foundations, the rabbinical seminaries of three major synagogue movements are forging a groundbreaking partnership to train Jewish educators.
The Jim Joseph Foundation announced Monday that it was giving a combined $33 million to the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute for Religion, the Modern Orthodox Yeshiva University and the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary of America.