As part of ongoing efforts to catalyze congregational change, engage the next generation, and expand its reach, the Union for Reform Judaism launched the URJ Faculty initiative. Rabbi Rick Jacobs has convened a diverse array of leaders and thinkers in todays Jewish world who will help to creatively and constructively envision, build, sustain, strengthen and enrich Reform Jewish communities throughout North America.
Serving as scholars, experts and guides for our Movement, faculty includes URJ staff members as well as acknowledged leaders and professionals throughout the Jewish world at-large. Faculty members will:
Provide expertise on key strategic issues to URJ congregations via written materials, webinars, and occasional in-person presentations at major gatherings, including the Movements Biennial convention.
Collaborate with URJ staff and lay leaders to identify, devise and implement strategic priorities to catalyze congregational change, as well as strengthen and enrich Reform Jewish communities.
Convene annually to help craft a vision for the future of North American Jewry.
Recognizing that collaboration among experts and institutions leads to strong, vibrant communities, the URJ is proud of its Faculty initiative and the role it will play in enriching the Jewish world for generations to come.
Strengthening Congregations: Amy Asin is Vice President, Strengthening Congregations at the URJ.
Sacred Communities of Caring: Rabbi Edythe Mencher, LCSW, serves on the faculty at the URJ, offering consultation to congregations, lay leaders, educators and clergy on creating caring communities that address the concerns of individuals and families.
Early Childhood Education and Young Family Engagement: As Director of Early Childhood Education at the URJ since 2007, Cathy has provided support to congregations that seek to ensure the early childhood center is a gateway to a lifetime of Jewish engagement for both children and their families.
Social Justice: Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center, was selected by Newsweek magazine in 2009 as the most influential rabbi in the country and described in a Washington Post profile as the "quintessential religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill."
Youth Engagement: Rabbi Bradley Solmsen is Director of Youth Engagement for the Union for Reform Judaism. He has served as the director of Brandeis University's Office of High School Programs.
Coordinator of Israel Engagement: Rabbi Yehudit Werchow is the Jewish Agency's Senior Shlicha to the Union for Reform Judaism. She was born in Argentina and grew up in Israel.
Adjunct Faculty Members
Leadership: Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson assumed her role as President of The Wexner Foundation on October 1, 2011.
Inclusion: Shelly Christensen, MA, is the award-winning Program Manager of the Minneapolis Jewish Community Inclusion Program for People with Disabilities at Jewish Family and Childrens Service of Minneapolis.
Spirituality and Wise Aging: Rabbi Rachel Cowan received her ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1989.
Networks and Social Media: Allison Fine is the co-author of the bestselling The Networked Nonprofit, and author of the award-winning Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age.
Jewish Communal Service and Service Learning: Dr. Anita Friedman has served for 30 years as Executive Director of Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma Counties.
Digital Media and Games for Learning: Rabbi Owen Gottlieb, Ph.D. is the founder and director of ConverJent which nurtures, develops, and spreads Games for Jewish Learning.
Synagogue Change & Outreach: Dru Greenwood's career has been dedicated to opening opportunities for deeper engagement for individuals and families in Jewish life and to strengthening the ability of congregations to fulfill their potential for building such sacred communities.
Learning and Leadership: Rabbi Samuel K. Joseph, Ph.D. is Eleanor Sinsheimer Distinguished Service Professor of Jewish Education and Leadership Development at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, where he teaches in the rabbinical school.
Jewish Education: Ari Kelman is the Jim Joseph Chair in Education and Jewish Studies at Stanford University.
Amichai Lau Lavie
Literature: Amichai Lau Lavie, the Founding Director of Storahtelling, is an Israeli-born teacher of Judaic Literature, specializing in the fusion of the performing arts with Jewish Education.
Israel Engagement: Dr. David Mendelsson is head of Israel Studies at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem and lectures at the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University.
Mussar: Dr. Alan Morinis is an unusual Jewish spiritual teacher and the Dean of the Mussar Institute.
Informal Learning: Joseph Reimer is the director of the Institute for Informal Jewish Education and associate professor and former director of the Hornstein Program at Brandeis University.
Benjie Ellen Schiller
Music and Spirituality: Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller is Professor of Cantorial Arts at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music.
Worship Environments and Sacred Spaces: Richard S. Vosko, Hon. AIA has been working throughout the United States and Canada as a designer and consultant for worship environments since 1970.
Spirituality: Sheila Weinberg has worked in the Jewish community in multiple educational capacities for over 40 years, twenty-five years as a rabbi.
Lifelong Learning: Dr. Aron is Professor of Jewish Education, HUC/JIR, Los Angeles.
Spirituality and Jewish Music: Rosalie Boxt currently serves as Cantor of Temple Emanuel in Kensington, Maryland, a Reform congregation just north of Washington DC.
Technology & Social Media: Lisa Colton is the Chief Learning Officer at See3 Communications.
Mindy B. Davids
Education: Mindy Davids has worked as the Director of Religious School and Educational Innovation at Shaaray Tefila since 2006.
Spiritual Practice and Leadership: Rabbi Nancy Flam was the first Director of the IJS and a co-founder of the Jewish Healing Center in 1991.
Strategic Planning: Dale Glasser is a trainer of leaders, providing organizational assessment and resources for meeting ambitious strategic goals.
Lisa D. Grant
Israel Education: Dr. Grant is Professor of Jewish Education at Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion (New York campus).
Spirituality, Worship & Synagogue Change: Dr. Lawrence A. Hoffman was ordained as a rabbi in 1969, received his Ph.D. in 1973, and has taught since then at the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, in New York.
Synagogues, Finances, and Funding Models: Rabbi Dan Judson is the Director of Professional Development and Placement for the Hebrew College Rabbinical School and a doctoral candidate in Jewish history at Brandeis University.
Israel Engagement and Applied Judaica: Yehuda Kurtzer is President of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America.
Choreography, Creativity and Evaluation: Liz Lerman is a choreographer, performer, writer, educator and speaker.
Global Justice and Service Learning: Ruth W. Messinger is president of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an international development organization that supports human rights for marginalized people around the world.
Music and Engaging 20s & 30s: Josh Nelson is one of the most popular performers and producers in modern Jewish music.
Interreligious Affairs: David Fox Sandmel serves as Crown Ryan Professor of Jewish Studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and Director of Life-Long Learning at Temple Sholom in Chicago.
Sacred Management: Livia Thompson worked for many years in the non-profit sector both at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Lawyers Alliance for New York before joining Central Synagogue as executive director in 1993.
Congregational Learning and Synagogue Transformation: Dr. Rob Weinberg has served since 2001 as National Director of the Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE), an initiative of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles.
Sacred Community: Ron Wolfson is a visionary Jewish educator whose enthusiasm for bringing Judaism alive in homes and synagogues has shaped his work in the community.