Dear HUC-JIR Community,

On December 14, 2021, following the release of the Morgan Lewis report, we presented our Board of Governors with a comprehensive action plan to strengthen our core commitment to a sacred, respectful community of academic inquiry and spiritual exploration.

Working on multiple parallel tracks, we are writing now to share with you the progress we have made.

Most recently, we have named two co-chairs to lead our Teshuvah Working Group and determine a process for institutional teshuvah: Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, Ed.D., and Rachel Margolis, RJE. This effort is central to our path forward and will establish a mechanism for collecting testimony from individuals who encountered misconduct at HUC-JIR, design ritual moments of healing, and explore meaningful options for reissuing ordination documents for those who like them.

Here is more about our two co-chairs:

Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, Ed.D., is a faculty member and Director of the Master of Educational Leadership program. She earned a Master of Arts in Jewish Education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education and rabbinical ordination at HUC-JIR, and a doctorate in Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary Davidson School of Graduate Education. Her research interests have included sexual ethics through a Reform Jewish lens.

Rachel Margolis, RJE, has been a member of the Board of Governors since 2018. She serves as a member of the Board’s Academic and Faculty Affairs Committee, Communications Committee, Governance Committee, Recruitment, Admissions, and Placement Committee, and Student Life Committee. She earned a Master of Arts in Jewish Education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education. She is the Associate Director, Congregational Innovation & Education, at the URJ.

In addition to the Teshuvah Working Group, we have advanced the following key efforts:

After a thorough review process including input from students, staff, and faculty, we are finalizing the engagement of a DEI consultant who will lead a cultural assessment within the College-Institute. Their engagement will guide our communal development of a system of practices and policies to support broad, lasting cultural change throughout our system. Expect to hear more from us about this in the coming weeks.

Following the recommendations of the Morgan Lewis report, we are updating our employee, faculty, and student handbooks for consistency and clarity on policies and community behavioral expectations. We expect to distribute these updated materials throughout our system within the next month. This marks an essential step in our efforts to hold ourselves to standards that promote and reinforce the treatment of one another in a manner consistent with our mission and the fundamental principles of our Jewish tradition. In connection with this work, we will be implementing a new employee performance management program that includes a performance review process to strengthen accountability and establish clear expectations for all employees.

One priority identified by many of those who came forward during the investigation is our naming practices and our approach to public honors. Working closely with a committee of faculty, staff, and Board members, we have developed a systematic and consultative approach to this topic and our policy will go to the Board for affirmation shortly. In a related recognition of the importance of symbolism, new smichah-signing procedures, developed in consultation with administrators of the clergy programs, will likely go into effect this graduation/ordination cycle in May 2022.

Given the importance of reporting to ensure accountability, we continue to clarify and reinforce reporting mechanisms for all staff, faculty, and students. We are committed to reminding our community about reporting avenues on a quarterly basis and will be launching a new web page to help students, staff, and faculty report inappropriate behavior in a timely fashion.

Over the past few months, many members of our community have shared with me their hopes for the kind of institution we can be. We will honor those who came forward to share their painful histories and their experiences will guide our efforts. Through our continued work, we will strengthen our sacred learning community.

I will continue to keep you updated on our progress and encourage your active participation in our cultural assessment and teshuvah process.


Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D.


Responses to this email account will go to our Communications team along with President Rehfeld.