The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, a seminary and graduate school for Judaism's Reform movement, is facing such financial woes that it is considering closing two of its three U.S. campuses, including one near downtown Los Angeles.The news of a possible decision by the Hebrew Union College’s board of governors to close two of its three campuses is sad. Hebrew Union College graduates have made great contributions to Judaism and to the study of the Hebrew Bible.
In a letter sent this week to members of the college community, its president, Rabbi David Ellenson, said pension funding problems, flat donations and declines in its endowment had placed the institution "in the most challenging financial position it has faced in its history -- even more so than during the Depression."
As a result, Ellenson wrote, Hebrew Union's board of governors will meet next month to discuss such scenarios as whether to keep just one of its three U.S. campuses in Los Angeles, New York and Cincinnati, where the college was founded.
Alternatives include merging some academic programs but keeping more than one of its U.S. campuses open, he wrote in the letter released by his office. A decision is expected in June.
The college also has a campus in Jerusalem, which faces budget reductions but does not appear to be in danger of closing.
Hebrew Union College was founded in 1875 and later merged with the New York-based Jewish Institute of Religion. A major force in liberal American Judaism, it trains Reform rabbis, cantors and lay leaders and offers courses to students of all religions in such subjects as biblical archaeology and sacred music.
Let us hope that a few donors can come to the rescue of the institution so that the closing will become unnecessary.
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