How Open is HUC to Dissenting Views?

Hebrew Union College prides itself on being open and pluralistic. But some Reform rabbinical students say the reality contradicts this vision.

from Tablet Magazine:


Earlier this year, word spread that the president of Hebrew Union College had been approached by a potential funder who wanted to endow the school with a chair for a politically conservative scholar. Like countless other religious and academic institutions, HUC had suffered tremendously in the aftermath of the financial meltdown of 2008. Less than three years ago, the seminary faced a $3 million deficit. Professors’ salaries had been cut, tuition had been raised, and reports surfaced that the school was considering closing two of its three American campuses. The school “was in the most challenging position it has faced in its history – even more so than during the Great Depression,” HUC President David Ellenson wrote at the time.

And yet, the conservative chair never materialized – a fact that came as a disappointment, if not a surprise, to some. Although American Judaism’s largest religious denomination prides itself on being a big tent – part of HUC’s mission statement is to apply “the open and pluralistic spirit of the Reform movement to the study of the great issues of Jewish life and thought” – certain students and observers are sensing a troubling trend that directly contradicts this vision, particularly on the matter of Israel.

… HUC – like all educational institutions – is a bubble of sorts, and it is often difficult to find genuine ideological pluralism inside any such closed environment, especially on a subject as complicated as Israel. Nevertheless, some have grown concerned about the ways the political culture of HUC could influence the future texture of Reform Judaism and the broader American Jewish community.

This excerpt was updated on January 3, 2012, to reflect changes in the original Tablet article.