Rabbi Daniel Nevins to Step Down at End of Academic Year
Message from Chancellor Schwartz
Dear JTS Community,
I write to share the news that at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year, Rabbi Daniel Nevins will complete his long and fruitful tenure as the Pearl Resnick Dean of The Rabbinical School and dean of the Division of Religious Leadership. His letter to the community is below.
Since 2007, in the course of what will be the longest deanship of the Rabbinical School in fifty years, Rabbi Nevins has enriched JTS in numerous ways. His efforts to strengthen, expand, and enhance our education of future rabbis and cantors have resulted in graduates who are exceptionally well prepared to serve and lead today’s Jewish communities and the wider world. Like all great teachers of Torah, Rabbi Nevins’s legacy can be seen in the remarkable students he has mentored and taught. Each day they connect people to Judaism through rich study, music, and prayer. They bring new vision and innovation to synagogues; reach Jews not comfortable with traditional institutions; inspire young people at camps and schools; counsel those in crisis; forge bonds with college students; fight for social justice; and much more.
To me, Danny epitomizes the way that JTS has always made a difference in the world: by training what he calls “the head, the heart, and the hands.” Throughout his time here, he has worked to weave together a curriculum and programs that integrate all three of these critical aspects of leadership in the rabbis and cantors we educate. And during my time as a fellow dean, my work improved because of his collegiality, friendship, and wise counsel.
But Rabbi Nevins’s impact extends beyond JTS, as well. Students and the Jewish community at large have benefited immensely from his mastery of Jewish texts and his lucid writing on Torah and halakhah, Jewish law. These are evident in the many commentaries he has written for JTS Torah Online, his much-read Tachlis and Torah weekly letter, and of course, his stature as an erudite and humane interpreter of Jewish law. Rabbi Nevins has authored or co-authored significant responsa for the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, including groundbreaking work on normalizing the status of openly LGBTQ people within the Jewish community, allowing them to become Conservative rabbis and cantors and to celebrate their partnerships with religious ceremonies sanctioned by the Conservative Movement. Other responsa offered Jewish ethical and halakhic guidance on complex scientific and technological issues, including “brain death,” genetic engineering, and the consequences of using autonomous machines such as self-driving cars. Most recently, Rabbi Nevins has helped guide Conservative rabbis wrestling with the acute Jewish ethical and halakhic challenges posed by Covid-19.
It is no wonder that journalists have frequently turned to Rabbi Nevins for comment in articles exploring religious approaches to contemporary cultural issues and technological advances.
I know that everyone who has worked or studied with Rabbi Nevins will share my feelings of gratitude and admiration, since he is someone we’ve come to appreciate and value so much as a teacher, colleague, mentor, and friend.
There is no doubt that, as Rabbi Nevins begins the next chapter in his career, whatever he does will enhance the Jewish world. And I know, too, that he will always remain an integral part of the JTS community.
Please join me in wishing him the best.
Shuly Rubin Schwartz
Message from Rabbi Nevins
I thank Chancellor Schwartz for her kind words and wish her every success in her leadership of JTS. As we begin the year 5781, anticipating new opportunities and challenges, we realize that all beginnings prompt us to learn new skills and contribute in ways we had not previously explored.
Thirteen years ago, my family and I embraced change by moving to NYC and JTS from Michigan, where our children were born, and I began my rabbinate. I loved my first job as rabbi of Adat Shalom Synagogue. My experience there transformed me from freshly minted assistant rabbi to leader of a large and vibrant community. Still, I was honored by the invitation from Chancellor Arnie Eisen to become Pearl Resnick Dean of the Rabbinical School, following in the footsteps of my beloved mentor, Rabbi Bill Lebeau.
These years at JTS shared with students and colleagues have been extraordinary. I anticipated many of the opportunities but could not have known just how much I would enjoy the work. From recruitment through graduation and beyond I’ve had great nachas witnessing our students develop their voices as rabbis, cantors, chaplains, and educators. I have learned and developed greatly in response to their insights and am enormously proud to be associated with our alumni as they do innovative and holy work across the Jewish world. The team of professionals in our Division of Religious Leadership is incredibly talented, and I have been honored to work with them.
Now, the time has come to begin another chapter of my own rabbinic story. At the conclusion of this academic year I plan to return to working directly with the Jewish community. The coronavirus pandemic has reminded me that community building is essential, and I look forward to serving again in a local capacity. I will be a different rabbi this time, prepared by my work with JTS students to serve a Jewish community which looks and lives much differently than when I was ordained in 1994.
I am grateful to all the students, staff, faculty, and supporters of JTS with whom I have worked, and I am committed to the success of our institution under the leadership of Chancellor Schwartz. The training of Jewish leaders is vital, and the depth of Jewish learning available at JTS is a precious gift to the world. May we soon gather in our renovated campus to enjoy the embrace of our talented and dedicated community.
With wishes for a sweet and successful new year for us all,
R’ Danny Nevins