Oldest teaching institution for Reform clergy and educators faces $8 million debt.
By ELAN LUBLINER
On Monday, the Reform movement's Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) announced that it may have to close down two of its three US campuses due to the economic crisis.
The institute - Reform Judaism's oldest body for training rabbis, cantors and educators - is coping with a projected debt of $8 million. College president Rabbi David Ellenson explained in a letter that the greatest challenge came from a reduction in revenues collected from the 900 Reform congregations in the United States and from pension liability obligations.
"Those alone amount to about $6.5m. to $7m., either in lost revenue or added expense," Ellenson said.
HUC-JIR has campuses in Cincinnati, New York, Los Angeles and Jerusalem. Ellenson said on Monday that due to the economic crisis, it was possible that only some of the campuses would be able to remain active.
The Cincinnati campus, where Hebrew Union College was founded in 1875, seemed to be in greatest danger of closing. Many of the faculty, alumni and other supporters are already mobilizing in support of keeping it open.
Rabbi Gerry Walter of the city's Temple Sholom said that closing the campus would be "a blow to American Jewry."
However, nothing has been decided yet. College officials are still considering other scenarios that would allow academic programs to continue at more than one campus. The board of governors plans to meet next month and to have a final decision regarding the closure of any schools at the board's meeting in June.
No matter the outcome, Ellenson made it clear that the Jerusalem campus would not be affected if any others were eliminated.
Rabbi Michael Marmur, dean of the Jerusalem branch, told the Post on Tuesday that "each campus is part of an integrated institution, and we are all being affected by the budget cuts in the short term. Rabbi Ellenson and I agree, though, that Jerusalem's campus is still very strong."
Ellenson made it clear that closing any of the campuses would be a terrible blow to the Reform movement.
"I wish with all my heart and soul that this were not so," he said. "Yet all the wishing in the world cannot alter the reality we face."
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