Dear Students, Staff, and Faculty,

As we advance our efforts to strengthen the safe and respectful culture of HUC-JIR, I am pleased to announce that we have taken an important step forward with the engagement of an expert consulting firm with deep, relevant experience in all aspects of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work (DEI). Following a comprehensive search process that involved feedback from faculty, staff, and students, we have engaged Strategic Ethical Expert Solutions (SEES) to partner with us in our long-term efforts to strengthen our policies, accountability and community at HUC-JIR.

SEES and its directors, Dr. Stacey Floyd-Thomas and Dr. W. David Nelson, have extensive experience partnering with academic and theological institutions to design and embed best practices for cultural change and renewal. Their team comprises scholars of religion and theological educators who deeply understand our essential mission as stewards of the Reform Movement and of Jewish education in North America. Dr. Nelson is in fact one of our alumni! The whole team is eager to work in tandem with our campus stakeholders to tackle our historical challenges and build a foundation for dynamic revitalization of the values we cherish.

Their work with the College-Institute will span 18 months and cover four phases:

Phase 1: Information (Cultural Assessment). SEES will spend several months conducting conversations and assessments with students, staff, and faculty across our campuses to garner a data-driven, holistic perception of HUC’s culture and lay the groundwork for targeted DEI initiatives.

Phase 2: Inventory/Introspection (Cultural Awareness). SEES will engage staff and administrators in a set of workshops and programs, cultivating an institutional infrastructure that supports the celebration of diversity and the elimination of explicit and implicit workplace biases and discrimination.

Phase 3: Instruction (Cultural Development). SEES will develop immersive DEI workshops, focus groups, and programming that build intentional community within campus culture and sub-cultures – with particular attention to faculty, students, identity-driven groups, program cohorts, and student organizations.

Phase 4: Implementation (Cultural Change). Finally, working across our institution, SEES will seed long-term structural reform that will entail the implementation of a detailed program for students, staff, and faculty consisting of policies, protocols, and procedures for performance review.

These steps are designed to promote a sacred and respectful culture that will strengthen our educational mission – founded on principles of freedom of expression necessary for intellectual exploration – and bring us into greater dialogue with each other across differences. Each step will inspire new awakenings, new learnings, and new practices in our community. We hope that you will engage actively and openly with these initiatives, with the same spirit of intellectual curiosity that you bring to your studies, teaching, and work, as SEES works to support our commitment to institutionalize equitable and inclusive practices throughout our system.

At every stage, we will continue to be guided by the fundamental principles of our purpose as a vibrant institution of learning and Jewish community. We look forward to remaining engaged with you as we advance these critical efforts. Stay tuned for more information as we move forward together!

Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D.


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