Last Thursday, May 4th, I had the pleasure of attending the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s (HUC-JIR) Graduation Ceremony at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York, at which JOI’s Executive Director, Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky, received his Doctor of Divinity honorary degree on the 25th anniversary of his graduation from the HUC-JIR. HUC-JIR is the academic, spiritual, and professional development center of Reform Judaism, preparing men and women for careers as rabbis, cantors, educators and communal professionals.
Kerry can be described with many different titles including doctor, educator and executive director, but he is foremost a rabbi. He sees his role as using the tools of our tradition to teach, motivate, and provide healing for others. His innovative training, teaching, and writing (he is the prolific author of over 60 books and hundreds of articles) have been motivated by lowering the barriers to Jewish engagement.
Kerry regards outreach as literally “reaching out” to where people are in order to share the rich resources of the Jewish tradition. His compassion and concern for people in underserved populations, especially people in recovery, the elderly and those in intermarried families, has been the catalyst for many of his accomplishments in the North American Jewish community.
He has touched many lives over the past twenty five years. The Jewish community is very fortunate to count him as one of our leaders. And we look forward to celebrating many more milestones with him in the years ahead. Yasher k’oach! (Keep up the good work!)
Rabbi David Ellenson, President of HUC-JIR, presents Rabbi Olitzky with his honorary doctorate.