Arnold M. Eisen Named New Chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950

April 10, 2006, New York, NY

The Jewish Theological Seminary announced today that Professor Arnold M. Eisen has been named the seventh Chancellor in its 120-year history. The Jewish Theological Seminary is the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism worldwide.

A product of the Conservative Movement, Professor Eisen is Koshland Professor of Jewish Culture and Religion and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University. He is also one of the world's foremost experts in American Judaism. For the past twenty years he has worked closely with synagogue and federation leadership around the country to analyze and address the issues of Jewish identity, the revitalization of Jewish tradition, and the redefinition of the American Jewish community.

Professor Eisen succeeds Dr. Ismar Schorsch, who will step down from the position on June 30, 2006, after twenty years as Chancellor. Dr. Schorsch will continue as a member of JTS's distinguished faculty.

Professor Eisen will serve as Chancellor-Elect starting this July 1 and throughout the coming year will actively engage with JTS students, faculty, staff and supporters as well as rabbis and lay people in the Conservative Movement and beyond — to better understand the opportunities and challenges ahead. He will do so while he fulfills his teaching commitments to Stanford. He will assume the Chancellorship on July 1, 2007.

"I have long felt strongly that JTS is a premiere center of scholarship in the Jewish world and hope to work with my colleagues to bring that scholarship to bear on the pressing issues of the day. By marshalling the resources of one of the greatest institutions in Jewish life, I am convinced that JTS can contribute to the revitalization of the Conservative Movement and the American Jewish community as a whole," said Professor Eisen. "I see all these goals as part of JTS's core mission. It has been exciting to me to take part in the re-imagination of the American Jewish community over the past twenty years. We are enabling many more Jews than before to experience a palpable sense of richness, fulfillment, and meaning. Our mission includes producing cutting-edge scholarship and sharing that scholarship — the heart and soul of JTS — with our congregations and capitalizing on the enormous resources here and across the religious spectrum of Jewish life. And so personally crucial to me, it's about making Israel a greater part of American Jewish life," he said.

"The appointment of Prof. Eisen comes at a moment of transition for the Conservative Movement," said Gershon Kekst, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of JTS and Co-Chairman of the Search Committee. "There is no doubt that the days and years ahead will be exciting, demanding and inspiring. I am delighted that we have been able to bring Professor Eisen to JTS and confident that he is the right person, with the vision and leadership to ensure the vibrancy of JTS, the Conservative Movement and the Jewish people."

Robert Rifkind, Co-Chairman of the Search Committee, said, "Professor Eisen is deeply committed to JTS's role as the spiritual center of Conservative Judaism, embodying the Conservative Movement's deep reverence for tradition, combined with great appreciation of the pluralistic nature of American Jewry. His entire life's work has been centered on the revitalization of Jewish life. He is an extraordinary individual and uniquely qualified to lead JTS forward."

Professor Eisen received a PhD in the History of Jewish Thought from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; a BPhil in the Sociology of Religion at Oxford University; and a BA in Religious Thought from the University of Pennsylvania. He previously served as Senior Lecturer in the Department of Jewish Philosophy at Tel Aviv University, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. His recent publications include a personal essay, Taking Hold of Torah: Jewish Commitment and Community in America (1997), which addresses the renewal of Jewish community and commitment in America through a series of five essays built around the Five Books of Moses; a historical work about the origins of contemporary dilemmas concerning these issues entitled Rethinking Modern Judaism: Ritual, Commandment, Community (1998); and The Jew Within: Self, Family and Community in America (2000), co-authored with sociologist Steven M. Cohen (2000), which examines the meanings of Judaism and Jewish belonging to contemporary American Jews.

His most influential teachers, Professor Eisen reports, include Conservative Rabbis Nahum Waldman, Samuel Lachs, and Shlomo Balter, all of whom profoundly impacted his childhood and teenage years. The most crucial figure of all in his Jewish development — a personal hero — is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who, says Professor Eisen, changed his life following a personal meeting thirty-five years ago at JTS.

Professor Eisen is married to Dr. Adriane Leveen, a scholar of Hebrew Bible, and they have two children, Shulie and Nathaniel.

JTS is the premiere center for the academic and religious study of Judaism and the Jewish experience in North America. It is the academic center of Conservative Judaism with five schools dedicated to educating the future leaders of the movement, be they clergy, Jewish educators, or lay people.

Editors/Reporters: To schedule an interview with Arnold M. Eisen or for more information about The Jewish Theological Seminary, please contact Sherry Kirschenbaum in the Department of Communications at (212) 678-8953 (office), (973) 650-6018 (mobile), or email.

Founded in 1886 as a rabbinical school, The Jewish Theological Seminary today is the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism worldwide, JTS trains tomorrow's religious, educational, academic and lay leaders for the Jewish community and beyond.

Schools and facilities include The Graduate School; The Rabbinical School; H.L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music; William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education; Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies; the Rebecca and Israel Ivry Prozdor, a model supplementary high school; a summer school; five research institutes, including the Melton Research Center for Jewish Education and the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies; lay leadership and professional institutes; community education programs; and the incomparable collections of JTS's world-renowned Library. The world-renowned Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary is home to the most extensive and significant Hebraic and Judaic collection in the western hemisphere, housing more than 380,000 volumes extending from the tenth century to the present.

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