Historic Reform seminary in Cincinnati ends rabbinical training program

(RNS) – The nation’s oldest Jewish seminary will end rabbinical training at its flagship Cincinnati campus by 2026, the board of trustees of the Hebrew Union’s Jewish Institute of Religion voted Monday (April 11). Reform Movement College.

The college was founded in 1875 by Isaac Mayer Wise who also founded the Reform movement in the United States. For the past two years, its Ohio campus had seen declining enrollment as students moved to its coastal campuses in New York and Los Angeles.

The vote to close the Cincinnati campus was fiercely resisted by faculty, students and alumni. A letter from nearly 300 Hebrew Union College alumni urged the board to reject restructuring recommendations.

In the end, the restructuring plan was approved by more than a two-thirds majority.

This year, the Cincinnati campus had just 27 rabbinical students, a steady decline from the 51 students in the 2008-09 school year. The campus has seven buildings; two are no longer used by the college. But the five that remain include valuable institutions, such as the Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives and the Skirball Museum. The campus will remain a research center and will continue to offer graduate-level courses.

In contrast, Hebrew Union College’s LA campus has 40 students; New York students 45.

“We recognize the pain this decision causes and we hope to take the appropriate time and care to implement this decision in a sensitive and constructive way, in collaboration with our community,” President Andrew Rehfeld said in a statement.

The recommendation to close the rabbinical degree program in Cincinnati was spurred by both declining enrollment and financial difficulties. The college faces a record deficit of $8.8 million.

“Given declining enrollment and future population projections, it is no longer practical or prudent to continue to provide rabbinical education as we currently do, with three full residential programs,” reads the recommendation to the board. of Hebrew Union College.

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