(1935 - )
Ismar Schorsch is the sixth Chancellor of The Jewish
Theological Seminary and is the Rabbi Herman Abramovitz Professor of
Founded in 1886, JTS is a Jewish university that serves
as the spiritual and academic center of Conservative
Judaism. Throughout his eighteen years as Chancellor, Dr. Schorsch
has worked to convey his vision of Conservative Judaism as the most
authentic contemporary expression of rabbinic Judaism. In 1995, he published Sacred Cluster:
The Core Values of Conservative Judaism, his highly-acclaimed monograph
outlining the seven fundamental tenets of Conservative Judaism.
Under Dr. Schorsch's leadership, JTS continues to inform
and elevate the religious lives of Jews far beyond its Manhattan campus.
As an engine for outreach, JTS is committed to introducing new leadership
along with religious alternatives in Israel through its Schechter Institute
of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem; to training a new Jewish intelligentsia
for Russian Jewry through Project Judaica, its Jewish studies program
in Moscow; to raising a generation of literate and observant Jews in
North America through the Ramah camps and Schechter schools; to providing
Jewish knowledge and experience to adults through a panoply of innovative
programs; and to creating a responsible Jewish voice on public issues
from religious pluralism in Israel to bioethics.
Chancellor Schorsch's belief that the survival of the
Jewish people depends on education resulted in the creation of the William
Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at JTS in September 1996,
established with a generous gift of $18 million from William Davidson
of Detroit. Through this premier graduate school, JTS has begun to stimulate
a revolution in the field of Jewish education in North America. Dr.
Schorsch was a guiding force behind the Solomon Schechter High School
of New York, established on the JTS campus in 1992 and now located in
a new state-of-the-art educational facility on Central Park West in
Manhattan. The only Schechter high school serving New York City and
northern New Jersey, the school put day high schools on the agenda of
the Conservative movement and triggered a spate of local efforts across
America to found new ones.
Commitment to Israel remains another top priority for
Chancellor Schorsch. The leading voice in the fight to expand the rights
and religious identity of Conservative Jews in Israel, Dr. Schorsch
continues to strengthen JTS's Israel campus. His public statements and
published writings have attracted wide attention in the secular and
Jewish press, including front and editorial page coverage in the New
York Times. His longtime support of the peace process was capped by
an invitation from President Clinton to serve with the official presidential
delegation witnessing the peace treaty signing between Jordan
and Israel in October 1994.
Dr. Schorsch continues to enhance JTS's standards of
academic excellence. A top scholar in the field of modern Jewish history,
he addresses the important issue of modern Jewish scholarship as a central
factor in the reconstruction of Jewish identity and self-presentation.
In the spring of 2000, Dr. Schorsch received an honorary degree from
Tufts University. In 1998, the Russian State University awarded him
an honorary degree in recognition of the extraordinary success of Project
Judaica - the first time in that country's history that such an honor
was given to a Jewish scholar. Dr. Schorsch's most recent book, From
Text to Context: The Turn to History in Modern Judaism, published by
University Press of New England, was translated into Hebrew and published
in Israel in l999.
During his tenure as Chancellor, Dr. Schorsch has become
increasingly recognized as one of the foremost spokesmen on a range
of critical issues. He brings a unique Jewish dimension to such national
issues as the environment, separation of church and state, health care
and welfare reform. Dr. Schorsch achieved national recognition on the
environmental crisis through his participation in a Middlebury College
symposium, televised nationally by Bill Moyers, titled "Spirit
and Nature: Religion, Ethics and Environmental Crisis," during
which he shared the podium with the Dalai Lama. And working closely
with Vice President Al Gore, Dr. Schorsch helped create the National
Religious Partnership for the Environment, a coalition of religious
and scientific leaders, which succeeded in using the moral influence
wielded by religious leaders to effect change.
He also spearheaded the creation of a coalition to
bring that moral influence to the debate over the delivery of health
care in this country. The chancellor launched this partnership effort
with a national conference in 1996 titled "Health Care: Right or
Privilege?" The conference was jointly sponsored by JTS and its
neighbors, the Union Theological Seminary and the Columbia University
School of Public Health.
Dr. Schorsch was ordained by JTS in 1962, holds master's
degrees from JTS and Columbia University and was awarded a PhD in Jewish
History from Columbia in 1969. He and his wife, Sally, have three children
and ten grandchildren.