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Hebrew Union College to lose rabbinical residency program

Restructuring program approved by HUC-JIR board
Ohio historical marker for Hebrew Union College
Posted at 7:32 PM, Apr 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-12 05:30:59-04

CINCINNATI — The board of Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion has voted to end its rabbinical residency program in Cincinnati by the end of the 2026 academic year.

The vote means the Cincinnati campus will end its 147-year tradition of ordaining rabbis in the nation’s oldest Jewish seminary, converting the Clifton Avenue property to a research center that rabbinic students visit while pursuing degrees in New York and Los Angeles.

The restructuring proposal was bitterly opposed by students, faculty and alumni of the Cincinnati campus. Critics warned it’s the first step toward closure of the historic property with deep cultural roots in the Tri-State. And the Ohio Attorney General's office said it might investigate whether the change would violate the school's 1950 merger agreement, which requires it to permanently operate rabbinical schools in Cincinnati and New York. But in the end, it passed the HUC-JIR board of governors by more than a two-thirds majority.

“It is a very, very sad day for all of us who have been affiliated with this institution,” said Dr. Gary Zola, an HUC professor and executive director of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.

President Andrew Rehfeld said the school will “move quickly” to provide a “detailed plan of action” to outline how the Cincinnati campus will be re-imagined over a period of years.

“Given the intensity of deeply held feelings on all sides of this historic vote, we will take time to navigate the right path forward,” Rehfeld wrote. “We will also be mindful that we are all stewards, charged with ensuring the next generations of Reform Jewish leaders are trained in an environment that prepares them to guide our movement in a rapidly changing world.”