Virtual Town Hall Recap (with video commentary on Parashat No’ach 5783)

by Rabbi Jonah Rank, President & Rosh Yeshivah of Hebrew Seminary

Thank you to the whole Hebrew Seminary community for a successful Virtual Town Hall this past Wednesday evening, October 26. Listening to your questions, suggestions, concerns, and comments was very inspiring and grounding to me as we enter a new stage in the life of Hebrew Seminary. Our hope is to hold a Town Hall during each fall and spring semester to maintain this public forum for transparent communications. As indicated at the meeting, I am always eager to meet with each of you, the members of the Hebrew Seminary family; please do reach out. To find a time when you and I can speak together over Zoom, please be in touch via e-mail.

A summary of a few highlights from last night’s meeting:
After some introductory remarks, I noted that the number of concurrent rabbinical students in our program today likely renders our student population higher than at possibly any previous point in our institution’s history. I also noted a few courses to look forward to in the spring semester of 2023:

Bavli & Halakhic Literature on Birth & Sexuality II
Beginning Hebrew II
Intermediate Hebrew II
Liturgy for Shabbat Morning / Shabbat Morning Signing
Modern Books in Jewish Thought (tentative title)
Spirituality Behind the Words of the Torah
Survey of Jewish Mystical Texts

I noted that, as a matter of attracting students to our rabbinical school, we will be solidifying a variety of curricular matters, and I am privileged to have the following members of our community serving on Hebrew Seminary’s Curricular Renewal Committee:

Rabbi Dena Bodian (Wellesley College Chaplain and Campus Rabbi; HS ordainee)
Rabbi Shari Chen (HS Executive Director; HS ordainee)
Rabbi Dr. Laurence Edwards (HS Professor Emeritus of Bible, Jewish Thought, and Jewish History; Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion ordainee)
Rabbi Tirtzah bat Levi Israel (HS Assistant Professor of Spirituality, HS ordainee)
Rabbi Debra Nesselson (Founder, Amichai; HS ordainee)
Rabbi Marcey Rosenbaum (HS Assistant Professor of Practical Rabbinics; HS ordainee)
Rabbi Daniel Vaisrub (HS Professor of Talmud; Israel Chief Rabbinate ordainee)

There are many things we get right at Hebrew Seminary, and one of the things we have long done well is understand that the power of Torah is most felt when we open the doors of our yeshivah wider to invite more students. To study more deeply how we can do this work, I am grateful for the volunteered energy, time, and talents of the members of our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisory Council:

Rabbi Menachem Cohen (HS Assistant Professor of Spirituality; HS ordainee)
Susan Cohen (President, Jewish Deaf Resource Center)
Rabbi Capers Funnye (Rabbi, Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation)
Rabbi Tirtzah bat Levi Israel (HS Assistant Professor of Spirituality, HS ordainee)
Cantor Rabbi Dr. Rob Jury (Spiritual Leader, Anshe Tikvah; HS ordainee)
Rabbi Emily Aviva Kapor-Mater (Activist & founding rabbi, Portland Open Beit Midrash)
Matan Koch (Senior Policy Advisor, Respectability)
Rabbi Juan Mejia (Global rabbi, koltuvsefarad)
Rabbi Lauren Tuchman (Fellow, SVARA)

Our Town Hall was not only a time for presentation but a time to welcome communal discussion. We considered different steps to take in recruitment and curricular development in order to thrive as an institution as different generations of learners have arrived with different needs. At this meeting, I mentioned that we are likely to add programs to Hebrew Seminary that lead to certifying new Jewish leaders aside from rabbis. I noted further that we are gradually moving towards accreditation, increasing mentorship and employment opportunities for our students, and seeking new partnerships within and beyond Jewish Chicagoland.

Hebrew Seminary is a holy community, and the work ahead of us is holy work. With each of us spreading the word of what makes Hebrew Seminary special, and with each of us contributing to the majesty of what is Hebrew Seminary, we will continue to see Hebrew Seminary grow and thrive in the years to come.

May God in this season grant us all good strength, good health, good torah, good deeds, and good tidings.