Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion

06/20/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/20/2024 22:14

HUC-JIR Expectations for Clergy Students

Dear HUC-JIR Community,

Following a multi-year effort to reevaluate admissions and ordination requirements for our rabbinical and cantorial students, we have decided to rescind the requirement that the partners of our students in long-term committed relationships must be Jewish. Moving forward, the religious identity of a student's or applicant's partner will no longer disqualify students for admission or ordination.

This change is the result of 18 months of substantive discussions with our HUC-JIR community and leadership, as well as with leadership from across the Reform Movement. This new approach was endorsed by HUC-JIR's Board of Governors at its June 10th meeting.

Initially formalized as a policy in the early 2000s, the requirement that students in a relationship may only have a Jewish partner aimed to ensure that rabbis and cantors, as role models, would maintain a Jewish home and family. While we recognize that clergy are role models, and that marrying within the Jewish community is highly predictive of future Jewish engagement, we also recognize that many Jewish individuals with non-Jewish partners maintain a Jewish family and home in which Judaism exclusively is practiced and are deeply engaged with Jewish communal life and peoplehood. We believe we should welcome these individuals into HUC-JIR and into leadership roles in Jewish communities.

As part of a range of expectations for its clergy students, HUC-JIR will continue to expect students to commit to meaningful and substantive Jewish choices, including maintaining an exclusively Jewish home and family, and will add a new provision that students with children are expected to raise them exclusively as Jews engaged with Jewish religious practice, education, and community.

This expectation brings HUC-JIR into alignment with the dominant practice of our rabbinical and cantorial alumni who perform intermarriages with the provision that the couple agrees to maintain a Jewish home and raise their children within the Jewish faith. This change also aligns HUC-JIR with our Reform Movement partners, including the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the American Conference of Cantors (ACC), which do not have prohibitions or requirements regarding the religious identity of their members' partners.

The widespread conversations that led to this change illustrated that while there is broad support for this decision, there are members of our community who oppose this change. We are grateful for their thoughtful and constructive engagement, which strengthened this process.

HUC-JIR continues to set high standards for its applicants, as articulated in the admissions Policies and Expectations drafted in 2014:

  • Torah: Habits of the Mind and Striving for Wisdom
  • Avodah: Habits of the Heart and Searching for God
  • K'lal Yisrael: Israel and the Global Community
  • Menschlichkeit: Ethical Living and Righteous Deeds
  • Am Yisrael: Representing the Jewish People, Working for All People

As a seminary based on liberal Jewish education, we believe the best way to cultivate these commitments is through education, deliberation, and by creating a space for students to wrestle with and explore Jewish tradition. Through a rigorous and thorough application process and ongoing process of clergy formation, students are encouraged to authentically embrace these values for themselves and manifest these commitments in their religious practices and daily lives.

We remain grateful for your continued engagement as we make important changes and strive to advance our cherished institution and fulfill our vital mission.

Sincerely,

Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D.
President

Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Ph.D.
Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost

David B. Edelson
Chair, Board of Governors