update deskReligion

Efforts underway to launch new seminary for Reform movement in Cincinnati

“It’s not a challenge. It’s a crisis,” Micah Greenstein, senior rabbi at Temple Israel in Memphis, Tenn., said of the struggle to replace retiring rabbis.

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) displays its graduates during coronavirus lockdowns in 2020. Credit: HUC-JIR.
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) displays its graduates during coronavirus lockdowns in 2020. Credit: HUC-JIR.

The loss of an ordination program two years ago at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati left a gap in the training of Jewish leaders that a new religious college seeks to fill.

Attorney Andy Berger serves as chair for College for Contemporary Judaism, a nonprofit that has spent $89,000 investigating if it can open a new university for training and ordaining rabbis.

It will seek to “promote the academically rigorous study of the Jewish religion, history, texts and literature” and “train persons for the Jewish ministry, research and community service,” according to ABC’s Channel 9 in Cincinnati.

Berger said Cincinnati would “lose a lot by the absence of a rabbinical school here,” pointing to the role rabbinical students play in the community, as well as in supporting adult education, social-service agencies and interfaith relations.

HUC graduate Micah Greenstein, senior rabbi at Temple Israel in Memphis, Tenn., said “Cincinnati is the mothership for the Reform movement,” saying he values the diploma he received because “it has the signatures of some of the greatest scholars of all time.”

Greenstein warned that the number of new rabbis coming out of synagogues was “a crisis,” not certainly high enough to replace the older generation retiring.

“There’s no plan for the training of highly skilled and effective rabbis for America’s Jewish future,” he said.

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