It is with great delight that I celebrate the appointment of Professor Arnold Eisen as the chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary. Professor Eisen has distinguished himself as one of the preeminent scholars in religious studies and Jewish studies in this nation. He has provided leadership both to the academy and to the communities to which the academy is related. He is an intellectual who will bring a deep and broad understanding to his role at JTS. Professor Eisen is someone who builds community in all that he does and is a person of enormous integrity, generosity, and grace. Professor Eisen has worked closely in the context of interreligious dialogue and has the exquisite ability to relate to a wide variety of audiences. At the Graduate Theological Union, we have benefited enormously from his always insightful and astute collaborations. Professor Eisen brings to JTS superb leadership abilities and personal skills will further the distinguished tradition of JTS. All of us in the religious and intellectual world will benefit from his new position.
I was thrilled to learn that my friend Arnie Eisen had been appointed as chancellor of JTS. Arnie Eisen is a brilliant scholar, but he is far more than "just" a Jewish academic. A riveting teacher of modern Jewish thought and a visionary on the themes of contemporary Jewish identity and community, Arnie has long been a national leader in the Jewish federation world . . . he has served on the board of the Jewish Agency (he is a long-time passionate Zionist), and has served as scholar-in-residence at easily scores of synagogues, always to rave reviews.
Professor Eisen is a serious and observant Conservative Jew, a revered leader of his Conservative congregation for many years, a passionate davener and, most of all, a brilliant student and teacher of Torah. While not a rabbi, he is a religious leader of the highest order. I have many times watched him inspire groups of lay people—children and adults alike—with his brilliant Torah teaching. The deepest desire of his work life has always been to inspire Jews to Torah and mitzvot, and to re-envision and reinvigorate contemporary Jewish life. As a human being, he is a kind, funny, and engaging man, a person of great integrity, and a devoted husband, father, son, and friend. I believe that Professor Eisen has the giftedness, expertise, and fresh perspective to reinvigorate the discourse that guides the life of our movement.
I believe that his background in modern Jewish thought, his personal and professional fascination in the process by which modern Jews choose deep engagement with Torah and mitzvot, and his expertise in the state of Jewish life in America will enable him to take our movement deeper and higher than before, transcending our usual internal debates to refocus on what is most important to us as a movement. I wish him a most successful and rewarding chancellorship.
Professor Arnold Eisen's appointment as the new chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary marks a wonderful day for the Conservative Movement worldwide and for American Judaism as a whole. His knowledge of Judaism is profound, and he is an unparalleled scholar of Judaism in the modern world. Professor Eisen possesses a warm personality and he will be able to employ the insights he has garnered from his work to provide a vital and cogent vision that will guide and inspire the Conservative Movement in exciting and authentic ways in the years ahead. His appointment as chancellor is a gift to klal Yisrael.
The entire Jewish community (klal Yisrael) has a stake in the revitalization of Conservative Judaism; a healthy Jewish spiritual future requires that the center hold. With his winning mentshlichkeit and “outsider” status, not to mention scholarly stature, perhaps Arnie Eisen can steer the movement to deal with its issues without a damaging split. To the urgent task of spiritual renewal, Eisen brings academic excellence and deep reflections on modern and postmodern Judaism, as well as fresh thinking on the relationship of Jewish tradition and American society. I believe he will be wise enough to harness vital spiritual and rabbinic resources to join him in the task of religious renaissance. This is a surprising but highly promising selection.
Arnold Eisen is an exciting choice for chancellor. He is an inspiring speaker and creative scholar who has thought deeply about the state of American Jewry and modern Judaism. He strives to bring Jewish scholarship to bear on the issues of greatest concern to contemporary Jews, and he succeeds in making his ideas memorable to those he addresses. He has a vision of a Conservative Judaism that is fully engaged in the spiritual and social issues of our time.
Think about it: Arnie Eisen is one of the most nuanced scholars of contemporary American Jewish identity and broad issues related to Jewish peoplehood. When translated into institutional vision and leadership and combined with his scholarly depth and personal integrity, he will be positioned for an extraordinary chancellorship. I firmly believe that Professor Eisen has everything needed to provide strong leadership for JTS, Conservative Judaism, and the American Jewish community.
Your appointment is great news for the Seminary, the Conservative Movement, and for the Jewish people. It is a great tribute to you (and to Ace) that you both agreed to take this on. While the task ahead will not be easy, I am certain that you will prove equal to it. So yashar koah, best of luck, and may you proceed mechayil el chayil.