Why I’m Supporting Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion

A $15 million grant from Taube Philanthropies will allow Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform Movement’s headquarters in Israel, to update, enhance and beautify its Jerusalem campus. /Moshe Safdie
A $15 million grant from Taube Philanthropies will allow Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform Movement’s headquarters in Israel, to update, enhance and beautify its Jerusalem campus. /Moshe Safdie

I’ve always felt that the best way to ensure the health and well-being of the Jewish people in the future is to care for that health and well-being right now.

This is particularly true today, as we face resurgent anti-Semitism, and as Israel grapples with new challenges in its relationship with the Diaspora community. To ensure the future of our people, we feel it’s vital that we support all segments of our Jewish peoplehood, regardless of differences in our preferred manner of worship. When we build each other up, we bind our community closer together, and are better prepared to meet future challenges.

Of course, it’s in the very nature of Judaism to support and celebrate mutuality and pluralism. We are so open to debate and differences of opinion that we’ve enshrined argument in our holy texts – from Abraham and Moses arguing with The Almighty Himself, to rabbinic discourse spread over centuries across the pages of the Talmud.

These traditions are what stand behind the $15 million Taube Philanthropies is gifting to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform Movement’s headquarters in Jerusalem. The Reform Movement is growing across Israel, and its leaders, scholars, and its international membership deserve a state-of-the-art facility in Israel in which to to learn and worship.

Bay Area-based Taube Philanthropies’ $15 million gift to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem is the foundation's largest grant ever to a Jewish organization. /Moshe Safdie
Bay Area-based Taube Philanthropies’ $15 million gift to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem is the foundation’s largest grant ever to a Jewish organization. /Moshe Safdie

Our gift will allow HUC-JIR to update and enhance its campus by renovating the institution’s very first building, as well as creating a new, spacious piazza to serve as shared public space for worship, cultural events, and smachot. As we are a people of community as much as we are a people of pluralism, we look forward to the HUC-JIR campus encouraging increased interaction between members of the HUC-JIR community and leading Jewish institutions around the world — from Israel to North America to Europe.

Even in our darkest days, our great leaders and rabbis carried on exhaustive dialogues among Jewish communities to learn from each other. Building up and supporting Israel’s institutions, encouraging scholarly engagement across oceans and continents – this is all in keeping with our heritage and history, and promotes greater understanding and involvement among generations.

Our tradition teaches that whenever we can, we should “beautify” our mitzvot – that is: embellish and enhance them, so that our good deeds are not only holy, but also an aesthetic testament to our dedication. I’m very excited and proud that this gift from Taube Philanthropies will both strengthen and beautify HUC-JIR’s work of scholarship and community-building.

We believe that the beauty our gift represents will do much more than enhance the tasks immediately at hand. There is nothing more important to me, or indeed more beautiful, than ensuring that the Jewish people will thrive and grow not only today, but for generations to come. I am confident that a newly updated Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion campus will have a central role in helping to achieve that goal.

HUC-JIR and Taube Philanthropies will celebrate their new partnership with a groundbreaking ceremony in Jerusalem on June 29, 2016.

About the Author
Tad Taube, a Bay Area business, philanthropic and community leader, is chairman of Taube Philanthropies and honorary consul of the Republic of Poland.
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