Spring 2018 Issue

From the Editors

Spring is just around the corner and with it we celebrate arrival of our second issue of Wise.

In this issue, you will find examples of their Torah ranging from edible midrash to a new (uniquely Jewish) poetic form to sensational original compositions.

We hope that you learn from their work was much as we did.

We welcome your feedback at hucwisejournal@gmail.com.

Lech Lechallah By Vanessa Harper

These challot are part of a current year-long project to create an easily digestible (pun intended), visual Torah commentary in the form of a new challah design for each parasha. View the project so far and follow along on instagram @lechlechallah.

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A Note from the Artist:
I have found that the process of making bread on a Friday morning–kneading the dough, rising, shaping, rising again, and baking–causes me to think about time differently as I prepare to go into Shabbat, as I must prioritize the bread’s schedule over my own. Making the dough is also a meditative exercise; it is repetitive, but also requires attention to what the dough needs that day, be it more flour, water, kneading, or rest. I may be stretching a bit by saying that learning how to make bread well can teach us how to take care of ourselves or others, but it’s not far from the truth. Plus, having homemade bread on the table for Shabbat dinner lends new depth and meaning to saying Hamotzi.
My occasional Friday challah-making practice developed into a challat hashavua project as something of a happy accident this year. I have come to appreciate that as a result, not only do I need to study the parasha in full each week, but I also approach the parasha from a very different angle than I do when preparing for a d’var Torah. I have to find one or two verses that convey an interesting idea from the parasha as a whole, but that are straightforward enough that I can represent them within the limitations of the dough and my own minimal artistic skill. Drashing through bread dough encourages close reading, focus and brevity in teaching, and creative visual thinking; it also makes for some very tasty Torah.
By the way, if anyone wants to develop an exercise hashavua project to help me counteract the side effects of this challat hashavua process, I would be most grateful.

Vanessa Harper is a second-year rabbinic and education student on the New York campus, a Wexner Graduate Fellow/Davidson Scholar, and a UJA Graduate Fellow. When not at school or running the Off-the-Bima B-Mitzvah program at the JCC Manhattan, she is either making or eating entirely too much bread.

Let The Day Break By Jacob Niemi

This original composition was originally meant to be used when teaching older religious school students about the story of creation in Genesis. It specifically draws upon a midrash about the first light of creation and its connection to the light that is sewn for the righteous (Psalms 97:11).

Jacob Niemi is a fifth-year cantorial student on the New York campus. He currently serves as a pastoral intern with DOROT in Manhattan. His time at HUC-JIR has inspired, among other things, a great love for composing and arranging Jewish music.

Flood By Josh Gischner

This image is inspired by the Ramban’s commentary on Genesis 9:13, where he argues that the use of the past tense in the Torah proves that the rainbow was present throughout the entire flood narrative. Medium: Water colors and permanent marker.

Flood - Gischner

Josh Gischner is a third-year rabbinical student on the New York campus. He serves as the student rabbi at Temple Beth Am in Monessen, PA and as a history teacher at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. In his free time, Josh enjoys cooking, painting, performing magic tricks, and hanging out with his pet parrot Charlie.

Yonati By Shani Ben Or and Boaz Dorot

This composition is based on Song of Songs 2:14, “O my dove, in the cranny of the rocks, Hidden by the cliff, Let me see your face, Let me hear your voice; For your voice is sweet And your face is comely.”

Shani Ben Or is on her way to becoming the first Reform Israeli ordained cantor. She has served in cantorial roles in Israel and around the world including Central Synagogue in New York. She is in a dual international ordination program for rabbinical and cantorial studies of the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem and New York. Shani is the co-founder of Nigunim Ensemble, together with Boaz Dorot. This pioneering ensemble creates, arranges and performs music, accompanying religious services throughout Israel.  

I Met Elijah By Sam Kaye

I Met Elijah - Kaye

Sam Kaye is a fifth-year Rabbinical Student at the Cincinnati Campus. He currently serves as the Rabbinic Intern at Temple Sholom of Cincinnati and in July will begin as the Assistant Rabbi for The Temple in Atlanta. Sam is a board game geek, amateur oudist, and accidental mystic. 

Khaifectae By Benjamin Dyme

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Ben Dyme continues his rabbinical studies in his second year on the New York campus. He teaches Jewish Studies at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. Ben enjoys exploring Manhattan and Brooklyn, and looks forward to getting to know the rest of the boroughs. Ben also passes spare time reading, writing, cooking, baking, and touring museums.

Rabbinic Search Committee By Tobias Moss


Tobias Divack Moss is a fourth-year rabbinical student on the New York campus. Currently, he serves as a rabbinic fellow at B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan. In addition to the rabbinate, Tobias is passionate about bluegrass music, backpacking, and the oft-lowly New York Knicks.

What is My Lifespan? By Rachael Pass

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Rachael Pass is a second-year rabbinical student on the New York campus. She teaches at Congregation Emanu-El of New York City. Rachael serves as the Women’s Rabbinic Network Campus Ambassador, and enjoys promoting gender equality on campus through education, activism, and prayer.

Speaking Worlds into Being  By Max Chaiken


Max Chaiken is a fifth-year student on the Los Angeles campus. He currently serves as the rabbinic intern at Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, CA. In addition to his academic pursuits, Max composes original Jewish music and poetry, and he enjoys cooking and exercise.

Whose Tradition Is It?: Is Fiddler on the Roof a Jewish story or a universal one? By Maya Glasser

This paper examines the story of Fiddler on the Roof and how it relates to contemporary culture.

Maya Glasser is a fifth-year rabbinic student on the New York campus. She has enjoyed serving various communities in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Belarus and is currently the rabbinic intern at ARZA. She spends spare time seeing as many different Broadway shows as possible and praying for the New York Mets.

From Generational Isolation to Resilience: Reimagining Parsha Toldot By Laura Rumpf

This personal essay explores the consequences of generational isolation, particularly between Millennials and elders. Through a range of sacred Jewish texts, and my personal experience as an intern at the Jewish Home in San Francisco, I advocate for inter-generational relationship as a necessary component of resilient leadership for rising young activists.

Laura Rumpf is a fifth year rabbinical student on the LA campus. She currently serves as the rabbinic intern at Leo Baeck Temple, running a monthly fellowship for millennials. Beyond the classroom, Laura enjoys urban hiking, dance, creative writing and frequent road trips to her native Bay Area.

Sound as Symbol, Sound as Identity By Cantor Jordan Shaner

This essay explores the important role musical sound plays in Jewish liturgical expressions of communal identity, and the importance of intentionality in the sounds we choose.

Cantor Jordan Shaner was born in Denver, Colorado. Jordan was ordained a Cantor in 2017 after five years of study at HUC-JIR in New York City, where he continues his studies toward rabbinic ordination. Jordan also serves as the cantor, part time, of Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, New York, and lives in Greenwich, Connecticut with his wife Kate.

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