Ismar Schorsch is the sixth Chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary and is the Rabbi Herman Abramovitz Professor of Jewish History.
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.
Sources: Jewish Theological Seminary