April 12, 2022
The Central Conference of American Rabbis, today as throughout its history, stands with our North American Reform Jewish seminary, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. Today as every day, the CCAR stands with each of its members, at times of celebration and innovation and at times of grief and anger, often holding all of those and many more simultaneously.
The Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) have just voted to change the Reform seminary’s rabbinic training offerings at its Cincinnati campus and no longer offer residential rabbinic training in Cincinnati. HUC-JIR will continue to offer best-in-class rabbinic training at its New York, Los Angeles, and Jerusalem campuses, while planning for a new, flexible program that will enable more people called to become Reform rabbis to make their dreams a reality. We recognize that this vote, while historic, is only a first step. We look forward to learning more as HUC-JIR’s administration moves forward with the details of an implementation plan. Additionally, we are heartened that the remaining unique jewels of the Cincinnati campus—the American Jewish Archives, Klau Library, and the Cincinnati Skirball Museum—as well as the faculty, will be central to HUC-JIR’s future.
The Central Conference of American Rabbis recognizes that this decision is painful for many members of our community. While many CCAR members advocated for adoption of the strategic plan, many others offered reasoned arguments to oppose it. Generations of CCAR members studied and were ordained in Cincinnati and have a deep commitment to that campus. The Reform Movement in North America has deep roots and important ties to the city of Cincinnati and the Midwest and South. We understand the pain and grief of this decision and its impact on so many individuals and communities. We also know that the HUC-JIR Board of Governors and administration did not make this decision lightly or without serious thought, and we emphasize that the process was not easy for anyone.
While we know that opinions are mixed and emotions are fraught, we remain hopeful that HUC-JIR’s new plan will strengthen rabbinic education for all. We have tremendous faith in the future of HUC-JIR, and we pledge our ongoing support to its success. We welcome the creation of a hybrid rabbinic program based on the same rigor, integrity, and meaningful clergy formation of HUC-JIR’s residential programs. And we share HUC-JIR’s concern with and emphasis on the importance of recruitment of rabbis. While major institutional changes do not occur without their challenges, we are hopeful that this shift will enable HUC-JIR to welcome more rabbinic students, and therefore future rabbis, who are in such great demand within the North American Jewish community.
As the largest professional rabbinical association, the Central Conference of American Rabbis remains committed to supporting Reform rabbis at all stages of their careers and to serving Reform congregations and Jewish communities across North America and around the world. Moreover, we remain committed to our strong relationships with our Reform partners—Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion and the Union for Reform Judaism—as we continue to build a vibrant, vital, and robust Reform Jewish Movement that reflects our common values and our commitment to Torah, tikkun olam, and the modern Reform Judaism community.
Rabbi Lewis Kamrass
Rabbi Hara Person
Central Conference of American Rabbis