JTS Names Its Graduate School for Gershon Kekst, Former Board Chairman

The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) has announced that its Graduate School will be named the Gershon Kekst Graduate School in honor of its longtime leader, advisor, and supporter, Gershon Kekst.

“I am truly delighted that The Graduate School at JTS—site and source of the teaching and scholarship that has powered Jewish commitment, innovation, and community for many tens of thousands of Jews in North America and beyond—will henceforth bear the name Gershon Kekst Graduate School,” said Professor Arnold M. Eisen, chancellor of JTS. “Gershon is one of the most extraordinary human beings that many of us have been privileged to know. He cares about the Jewish people, about Conservative Judaism, and about JTS far more than words can say. Naming The Graduate School in his honor is our way of expressing gratitude for who he is and what he has meant to JTS and the Jewish community.”

Mr. Kekst is founder and chairman emeritus of Kekst and Company Inc., a leading strategic communications firm serving publicly traded and private enterprises worldwide. He has been a member of the JTS Board of Trustees since 1989, serving as board chair from 1991 to 2009, and is currently chair emeritus. During his tenure as board chair, he was instrumental in shaping the direction of JTS and ensuring the high quality of education and training of its students. His 18 year tenure is the longest continuous service in that role since Louis Marshall, the foremost Jewish communal leader of the early 20th century.

Mr. Kekst oversaw the strengthening of The Graduate School’s intellectual focus, distinguishing it as the academic anchor for all JTS schools. Further, its rigorous training in Jewish Studies was publicly recognized by the National Resource Council, which ranked it one of the top ten doctoral programs of religion in the United States. Mr. Kekst guided JTS through such critical undertakings as the construction of Kripke Tower, the establishment of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education—the largest graduate program of its kind in North America—and the selection and appointment of Professor Eisen as chancellor. 

The board of trustees was unanimous and enthusiastic in its decision to name the Graduate School in honor of Gershon Kekst. “Gershon led the board of this institution for a generation and he created an indelible legacy in many areas. During his tenure, he attracted many people to the board who are committed to the evolving role of JTS at the center of traditional Judaism,” said Abby Joseph Cohen, chair of JTS’s Board of Trustees. 

“We are so fortunate that Gershon Kekst has agreed to honor The Graduate School by gracing it with his name, and I feel deeply privileged to be dean of the school at the time JTS is doing so,” said Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz, Irving Lehrman Research Associate Professor of American Jewish History and Sala and Walter Schlesinger Dean of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies. “Students of the Gershon Kekst Graduate School will be inspired by Gershon’s love of scholarship—and of the faculty and students engaged in it—his boundless commitment to the Jewish people, his personal modesty and loyalty, and his unstinting generosity. As alumni, they will honor him in turn by spreading those values to future generations through the institutions that they serve.”

The Gershon Kekst Graduate School provides the most extensive Jewish studies graduate program in North America, offering course work in nine areas of specialization, including Jewish Ethics, Jewish Professional Leadership, and Bible. Students gain a sophisticated foundation in Jewish studies while pursuing advanced training in a specific concentration. The Gershon Kekst Graduate School has raised the level of excellence for Jewish Studies programs nationwide. Its renowned faculty—representing unparalleled depth and breadth in Jewish study—author award-winning publications that set the standard for Jewish scholarship.