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David Ellenson

(1947 - )

Dr. David Ellenson is President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion -- the 8th President in its 125 year-long history. He holds the Gus Waterman Herrman Presidential Chair and is the I.H. and Anna Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles. A member of HUC-JIR’s faculty since 1979, he has served as Lecturer, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor of Jewish Religious Thought. From 1981-1997, he also held the post of Director of the Jerome H. Louchheim School of Judaic Studies.

Dr. Ellenson received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1981 and was ordained a rabbi at HUC-JIR’s New York School in 1977. He holds masters degrees from Columbia, HUC-JIR, and the University of Virginia. He received his bachelors degree from the College of William and Mary in Virginia in 1969.

Dr. Ellenson is a Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jerusalem and Fellow and Lecturer in the Institute of Advanced Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem (1999 to present). He has served as Visiting Professor of History at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Lady Davis Visiting Professor of Humanities in the Department of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Visiting Professor in the Center for Jewish Studies and a member of the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (1986-97). He has also been the Blaustein Scholar at the Jerusalem Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies and regularly serves as a faculty member of the Wexner Heritage Foundation.

Dr. Ellenson has published and lectured extensively on diverse topics in modern Jewish history, ethics, and thought. He is the author of Tradition in Transition: Orthodoxy, Halakhah and the Boundaries of Modern Jewish Identity (1989), Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy (1990) (nominated for the National Jewish Book Council’s Award for outstanding book in Jewish History, 1990), and "Between Tradition and Culture: The Dialectics of Jewish Religion and Identity in the Modern World (1994). He is also at work on another book-length collection of his essays.

His work describes the writings of Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist leaders in Europe, the United States, and Israel during the last two centuries and employs a sociological approach to illuminate the history and development of modern Jewish religious denominationalism. His application of this method has allowed him to emphasize the interplay between Jewish religious tradition and modern society in unique ways, and has prompted him to write and lecture on topics ranging from early Reform and Orthodoxy in 19th century Germany and conversion to Judaism at the beginning of the 1900s to the problems of medical ethics in present-day America.

Along with Dr. Stanley Chyet, Dr. Ellenson co-edited Bits of Honey: Essays for Samson H. Levey (1993), and is the author of the commentary entitled "How the Modern Prayerbook Evolved" in the acclaimed Five Volume Series on the Jewish Prayerbook, Minhag Ami My People’s Prayerbook edited by Dr. Lawrence Hoffman. He is currently completing a book tentatively entitled, ‘For the Sake of Heaven’: Conversion, Identity, and the Politics of Modern Jewish Orthodoxy, co-authored with Daniel Gordis. He is also at work on another book-length collection of his essays.

He has written more than 200 articles and reviews in diverse academic and religious journals and books, including The Hebrew Union College Annual, The Journal of American Academy of Religion, Religious Studies Review, The Year Book of the Leo Baeck Institute, Journal of Religion, Modern Judaism, The Jewish Book Annual, The CCAR Journal, Conservative Judaism, The Reconstructionist, and Tradition. His academic lectures have been delivered at such institutions as Charles University in Prague, Ben Gurion and Bar Ilan Universities in Israel, Haverford College, Harvard, Yale, Brown, and the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Dr. Ellenson is a member of several professional and academic societies, including the Association for Jewish Studies, the American Academy of Religion, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Southern California Board of Rabbis, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He has served as a pulpit rabbi in Port Washington, New York, and Keene, New Hampshire, and has worked at several summer camps of the Reform and Conservative movements.

Born in Brookline, Mass., in 1947, Dr. Ellenson was raised in Newport News, Virginia. He is married to Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson, ordained at HUC-JIR in New York in 1983 and Chaplain at the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles. They are the parents of Ruth (married to Robert Guffey Ellenson), Micah, Hannah, Naomi, and Raphael.

Sources: Hebrew Union College