A health care worker, an outdoor educator, an investment banker, a multidisciplinary performance artist and the author of a book on Jewish dietary laws are among the 20 new rabbinical, cantorial and Rav Hazzan students who will enter Hebrew College in the fall. Hailing from England, Israel, California, Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota and New York, the students—who will join Mekerot (preparatory year), Shanah Aleph and Shanah Bet—are part of one of the largest entering classes in Hebrew College history.
“We are delighted that so many people have chosen to come this year to Hebrew College. In any year, it would be a wonderful statement for our program that it is attracting such large numbers. But particularly in a year of such turmoil, it is validating for the work that we are doing that students are choosing to come here,” said Rabbi Daniel Judson, dean of the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. “We believe that the incoming class is special not just in terms of numbers, but in the outstanding quality of students who are joining our learning community. Their presence here will surely make a significant impact on our institution.”
“We’re finding that people are drawn to Hebrew College because of our pluralistic approach, our open and engaged atmosphere, the warmth and creativity of our student community, as well as the depth of learning that takes place in our beit midrash and classrooms,” added Rabbi Daniel Klein, associate dean for admissions and student life of the rabbinical and cantorial schools. “Our commitment to in-depth learning in our beit midrash, spiritual reflection and social justice speaks directly to the values of future Jewish leaders.”
Interdisciplinary artist and activist
Lawrence Dreyfuss, a performing theater, spoken word and slam poetry artist and activist from New York who is entering his Mekerot, or preparatory year, says he is coming to Hebrew College because of the spaces the school creates for experimentation and creativity.
Dreyfuss has been an ensemble member of Theater in Asylum and The Poetry Brothel, and a volunteer and movement teacher in the ecstatic dance community. He also served as a Teach for America Corps member, where he taught at a native Hawaiian Title I school on Oahu, and has worked at the Democratic Socialists of America fighting against wealth inequality in the United States and abroad. He hopes his rabbinical education will help him “support the resurgence of embodied spirituality in the Jewish world.”
“I chose Hebrew College because it is a community that encourages both investigation and re-imagination of Jewish texts through a lens that not only transcends denominational lines but encourages bold re-imaginings of what Jewish community and spiritual practice can be,” he said.
Community organizer and health care worker
Jayce Koester, an organizer, teacher, ritual leader and care worker from Minneapolis who runs “J-Pride,” a program that builds ritual spaces, leadership opportunities and community for LGBTQIA+ Jews, is looking forward to “learning and working at the intersections of healing, trauma care, community building and Jewish ritual.”
An incoming Mekorot student, Koester teaches Torah to elementary schoolers, is a trained street medic, co-convenes Jewish singing space and organizes for healing justice and an end to incarceration.
Instructional designer and project manager
Todd Nelson, an incoming Shanah Aleph student who formerly worked for renewable energy start-ups in Detroit, says he is “excited to learn how to create inclusive and accessible forms of Judaism that incorporate engaging pedagogy, meditation, ecstatic prayer, creative expression and organizing.” For the past few years, he has been designing learning experiences about entrepreneurship, leadership development and emotional intelligence for groups ranging from rabbis and priests to recent college graduates, and collaboratively building Jewish communities in New York City, Detroit and Jerusalem.
“The faculty, staff and students I met at Hebrew College were incredibly kind,” he said. “I love Hebrew College’s theology and vision and consider myself a part of neo-Hasidism, so I am looking forward to studying with Rabbi Art Green and Hebrew College’s faculty. Also, I believe strongly that denominations are no longer a helpful approach to American Jewish life and am excited to be part of a Jewish institution that affirms people from traditionally marginalized backgrounds.”
Food writer and editor
Lisë Stern, a Massachusetts-based writer and editor with a focus on food, said she appreciates Hebrew College’s pluralistic nondenominational approach to study and prayer, coupled with deep intellectualism and joyous spirituality. She was increasingly drawn to Jewish text study after writing “How to Keep Kosher: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Jewish Dietary Laws” in 2004.
“The idea of learning text every day, of expanding my Jewish knowledge, would mean doing something I absolutely love full-time,” she said. “I feel deeply spiritual and connected to God and to my faith, and I know I can share that spirituality with others, even those who feel no connection to God. My hope as a rabbi is to work with people in the narrow places, in difficult times, to use my learning to help ease them through.”
Allen Lipson, a former community organizer at UNITE HERE, the hotel workers union, and Faith in New York, an interfaith coalition, who is entering Shanah Bet after one year at another rabbinical school, said he is coming to Hebrew College because of its focus on bridging traditional Jewish learning and relational social change.
“Hebrew College struck me as teaching with the clear sense of religious urgency and purpose I want to be part of my rabbinate,” he said. “Its program sets ambitious goals for fluency in beit midrash learning. Finally, I’m profoundly drawn to the Boston Jewish community, which integrates a diverse range of observances and world views, a culture of active listening and a commitment to social change.”
Read more on the Hebrew College website.