Dear HUC-JIR Community,

During these days of reflection and repentance, HUC-JIR is continuing our work to strengthen a sacred and respectful culture for our community. Begun at the start of this calendar year in a response to the Morgan Lewis report of fall 2021, this first phase of work will run through 5783, and we will continue to provide updates each quarter on our progress.

To strengthen a culture of respect and accountability, we have pursued two complementary sets of initiatives – one that looks forward, and another that focuses on our past.

One area of work is aimed at changing behaviors and attitudes from the inside out. This is deep and thoughtful work, being undertaken on several levels throughout our institution.

• Our Teshuvah Working Group, chaired by Rachel Margolis, RJE, and Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, Ed.D., will help develop a community-wide process of introspection and healing. The Working Group spent the summer studying themes of teshuvah and restorative justice through learning sessions they developed for all Reform Movement partners engaged in this work. This study will ground and shape their efforts in the months ahead, helping our community address the findings of the Morgan Lewis report.

• Our experienced DEI consulting firm, Strategic Ethical Expert Solutions (SEES), has been working throughout the summer to conduct a cultural assessment that builds a foundation for dynamic revitalization of our values. Over the next phases of their work, SEES will lead substantial community conversations and thoughtful DEI programming, ultimately inspiring long-term recommendations to enhance our educational mission through reflection on equity and inclusivity as well as development of initiatives to combat bias to help celebrate growing diversity at HUC-JIR.

These efforts must be supported by a clear articulation of our expectations of each other, regular communication of our policies and practices, and a well-defined system of accountability. We are making progress on these fronts as well:

• Following a comprehensive review of our non-academic policies, we updated our website’s policies page to ensure understanding of our communal standards of behavior. We also clarified our protocols for formally reporting inappropriate conduct. Well-defined, accessible processes that empower all individuals to speak up when wrongdoing has occurred are essential to creating an environment of mutual accountability. We have created a dedicated webpage laying out many of these steps, and encourage you to review the substantial materials available on our website.

• We are beginning to implement a new performance management program for all employees. With this program, we expect to enhance transparency around expectations, develop ongoing feedback loops, encourage professional development, and ultimately support an equitable environment among our staff.

• Finally, we recently adopted comprehensive guidelines for considering the renaming of features and funds at HUC-JIR when named individuals are found to have violated our cherished values and behavioral expectations. These guidelines define a process to reconsider existing names, principles and factors for evaluating requests, and steps to reach decisions. Working with our Board Chair David Edelson, we are empaneling a committee to consider our approach to features named after the six individuals identified in the Morgan Lewis report.

We are also committed to working with our partners in the Reform Movement, who initiated their own ethics assessments and embarked on teshuvah and accountability processes. URJ, CCAR, HUC-JIR, WRN, ARJE, and ACC collaborated to provide On Repentance and Repair: A Reform Movement Program for the High Holidays and Beyond, which I encourage you to explore on your own or with your community.

These initiatives underscore the reality that if we are to achieve our highest aspirations as Jewish educators and leaders, our efforts must be thoughtful, deliberate, and sustained. We remain committed to cultural renewal of our sacred community through inclusive action and encourage your engagement in this process.

I look forward to continuing to update you on our progress and will share additional information on ways to engage with us as we continue this critical, challenging work in the coming months. Please visit our dedicated webpage for more information on these efforts and to read past community updates.

Shana tovah and g’mar tov,

Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D.


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