The Jewish Theological Seminary Launches New Center Dedicated to Ethics and Justice

April 4, 2019, New York, New York – The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) today announced the launch of the Hendel Center for Ethics and Justice. Endowed by Ruth and Stephen Hendel of Larchmont, New York, the center will formally weave the study of Jewish ethics and training in civic engagement into the curriculum at JTS. The gift marks a new step forward for JTS in its long history of harnessing the Jewish call for justice in pursuit of positive social change. It speaks powerfully, as well, to the needs and interests of students who increasingly see an intersection between their Jewish leadership and social activism.

Rooted in Jewish history, teaching, and texts, the Hendel Center will offer academic study, skills training, internships, panels, lectures, workshops, and research opportunities. The center will convene clergy, educators, and activists from various faith communities to study, share ideas, and collaborate to address pressing ethical issues. A key part of the center’s mission includes partnering across faith lines to help bridge the divides confronting society today.

“As an institution, we are devoted to educating students and developing leaders who view civic engagement as an essential element of Judaism,” said Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen. “Given the divisive state of politics today, the rise in anti-Semitism, and the fact that younger generations, especially millennials, skew more secular than older generations, we believe there has never been a more critical moment for such a center.”

“We are proud to support the development of the Hendel Center at JTS, which will encourage dialogue, collaboration, and the development of leaders who are equipped to bridge the divides in culture, religion, and politics today,” said Ruth and Stephen Hendel.  

Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay will serve as the first executive director of the center and Professor Yonatan Brafman will serve as the academic director. Chancellor Eisen will also be actively involved in the activities of the center and help to set its policies.

According to Pew’s 2013 survey of American Jews, 56 percent of respondents said that working for justice and equality is essential to what they believe “being Jewish” means. Through the establishment of the Hendel Center, JTS aims to create a preeminent training ground in ethics and justice for Jewish leaders. In addition to the new Hendel Center, JTS is undergoing a once-in-a-century redevelopment project that will open its doors both literally and virtually to the larger community.


About The Jewish Theological Seminary | JTS is a preeminent institution of Jewish higher education, training thoughtful, innovative leaders—rabbis, cantors, educators, lay leaders, and scholars—who strengthen our communities with a vision of Judaism that is deeply grounded in the Jewish past and thoroughly engaged with contemporary society. JTS also provides high-caliber lifelong learning and professional development to our alumni, adult learners, and Jewish communities throughout North America. Through its Library, JTS preserves and makes accessible to students and scholars throughout the world the greatest collection of Judaica in the Western Hemisphere.