Politics, Religion

What's in a Name?

Name changes in the Torah tend to indicate profound personal transformation–Avram becomes Abraham, Sarai becomes Sarah, Jacob is renamed Israel all at critical turning points in their stories and their lives.
It’s just been announced that the University of Judaism is merging with the Brandeis-Bardin Institute to become the American Jewish Univeristy (AJU).
(Looks like they’ll have to share the initials with Birmingham, Alabama’s Andrew Jackson Univeristy.)
I’m not quite sure what the practical implications of this merger are, except for some hints that UJ students will have some sweet access to the horseback riding and hiking of the Simi Valley campus formerly known as BBI. It looks like there’ll be coverage in this week’s Jewish Journal, I’m sure they’ll explain more concretely what this means. It sounds like the Simi Valley campus will be pretty big, though.
As for the theological implications, I leave it to you all to speculate.
ETA: The Jewish Journal article is out now. Some snippets:

With two campuses, a roster of about 15,000 students and a remarkable range of educational, experiential, cultural and political offerings, the American Jewish University instantly becomes one of the largest and most unique Jewish educational institutions in the country.
The merger allows Brandeis to expand an educational mission that for years has been stagnating under the weight of financial insecurity and struggling lay leadership. It also allows the UJ to reintroduce itself to a local community that can’t seem to shake the image of UJ as a lower-tier university affiliated with the Conservative movement. As American Jewish University, it hopes to emphasize its pluralistic identity and the non-academic educational and cultural offerings that in fact form a much larger part of the institution than the graduate and undergraduate schools.
In its new configuration, these two Jewish academies hope not only to boost their California image, but to raise a national profile with an organization that now includes graduate and undergraduate schools, a rabbinic school, two overnight camps, kosher conference and retreat facilities, an extensive listing of adult courses, a commitment to the arts, Israel programming — and 2,800 acres in the Santa Susana mountains that include a working farm with goats, horses, chickens, cows and some crops.

Oddly, it seems that Judge Wapner of the “People’s Court” was the person who originally came up with this idea.
Full article in the JewishJournal.

9 thoughts on “What's in a Name?

  1. As a kid I attended Camp Alonim at BBI. As a Reform Jew I always felt welcome and a part of a truly pluralistic environment. I wonder what will happen to BBI now that it is officially a partner with a Conservative university. I also wonder what will happen to the UJ’s affiliation.
    All very interesting in the world of large Jewish orgs.

  2. I think the original and ultimately best comment on Jewish mergers/name changes was Woody Allen’s classic line – “Commentary and Dissent merged to form Dysentary”.

  3. Pissed- As a youth, I also attended camp at the BBI, but not in a strictly Reform-atmosphere, which, as it turned out, was truly pluralistic. I’m wondering at your comment, and what exactly are your reservations against the UJ?

  4. Squad-
    I know it wasn’t Reform. But I am Reform and I felt welcome and “safe” to be Reform. I took part in Hebrew High at UJ and felt like an outcast…I am just interested to see what happens.

  5. as someone who is a graduate of the undergraduate school at the UJ and who attended BCI in 1997 and created an alumni dinner program for Los Angeles residents from 1997-2000, I would like to first clarify the following:
    *** The University of Judaism as an institution is not connected to any denomination of Judaism. The Zeigler School of Rabbinic Studdies is affiliated with the Conservative movement, but the rest of the University including all other degrees -both graduate and undergrad- and all certificate programs, dept. of continuing studdies, etc. are very clear about their not technically being part of the movment. (I wouldn’t blame someone for drawing their own conclusions based on certain curricula, but anyway…) …The Brandeis Bardin Institute has also gone out of its way to not affiliate with any movement.
    I do find it fascinating that these two institutions are joining forces and am curious to see what the logistics entail since the two campus’ are a 45 minute drive apart without any traffic (ha ha, this is L.A., there is ALWAYS traffic!)
    I will say however what is interesting is that both of these institutions were dreamed up by great visionaries (Justice Brandeis & Shlomo Bardin for BBI, and Mordechai Kaplan for the UJ) who ultimately had little if anything at all to do with the actualizations of their places. And certainly not with their development over the years. Actually Bardin did, but he died early on. But all of these great men envisioned a place of Jewish Culture and higher learning that was Jewishly inspired and not necessarily religious in nature (similar to many of the new and hyped counter-cultural organizations funded/supported by organizations like Joshua Venture -dead, I know; so sad- Reboot and ROI 120) and hoping to bring members of the various Jewish communities together. And THAT is why it is fascinating and, in a way, not surprising that the two have joined together.

  6. Thanks for the clarification, Shana.
    Pissed- I don’t know if it’s too personal, and if it is, don’t answer, but what specifically was it that made you feel like an outcast at that Hebrew High program?

  7. Well I am not one to be quite or keep opinions to my to myself. As an out spoken Reform Jew, I was told I was wrong a lot. It isn’t all that personal, but it was a bummer. I was very turned off by the institution.
    But I still love Alonim as I remember it.

  8. POLJ-
    As an LA Hebrew High graduate, I think it sucks that you were called out for being “an outspoken Reform Jew”. I had plenty of my own issues with LAHHS, among them (humorously, enough) that too many of my teachers were pushing their own modern orthodoxy, reconstructionism, [fill in the blank], which is all fine and well, except that seeing as LAHHS is the “high school of the Conservative Movement” (quoting of the website), I was still trying to get a handle on what ‘we had to say’ about things. All of that said, I really did learn Hebrew there. No, really. Well.

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