JTS Wants Student Input, After All

From The Jewish Week

Students at the Jewish Theological Seminary — many of whom favor a more progressive chancellor than retiring Ismar Schorsch — were shut out from a seat on the committee searching for his successor.

Now, students at the Conservative movement’s seminary were likely surprised this week to find a letter from the search committee soliciting their views.

“The members of the search committee are mindful that the position we seek to fill has been occupied by truly outstanding personalities, including Solomon Schechter, Cyrus Adler, Louis Finkelstein, Gerson Cohen and Ismar Schorsch,” the co-chairmen of the search committee wrote to the students. “We seek a person of comparable distinction who can lead JTS to meet the important opportunities and challenges facing JTS and the Jewish community over the years ahead.”

The co-chairs, Robert S. Rifkind and Gershon Kekst, then wrote: “We earnestly solicit your advice as to the direction the search should take to meet the needs of JTS and the Jewish community it serves. We invite any suggestions you may have as to particular candidates who should be considered by the committee.”

A spokeswoman for the seminary, Elise Dowell, said the students were not the only ones to get the letter. She said it went to hundreds of people from all streams of Judaism, including all members of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, the association of Jewish academic professionals, and undisclosed Jewish foundation executives and community leaders.

Dowell said that since the letter was sent last week there have been “quite a few recommendations.” Asked how the committee would react if there was overwhelming support for one candidate, particularly one who favors the ordination of gay rabbis, she replied: “All suggestions and recommendations are evaluated and taken seriously by the committee.”

It is up to the seminary’s board of directors to make the final selection, and Dowell declined to say how many names the selection committee was asked to send the board.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |