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Many hoped an agreement would save Cincinnati HUC's rabbinical program. It didn't

About 80 people gather at Hebrew Union College after 6:30 p.m. April 8, 2022 to rally against proposed changes at the institution.
Jolene Almendarez
About 80 people gather at Hebrew Union College after 6:30 p.m. April 8, 2022 to rally against proposed changes at the institution.

The Hebrew Union College Board of Governors in New Yorkvoted Monday to sunset rabbi ordinations at the college's Cincinnati campus by the end of the 2026 academic year. More than two-thirds of the board voted in favor of the change, which was hotly contested by others, especially those in Cincinnati. Some hoped a consolidation agreement from decades ago could be a way to save the program. That's not the case.

According to the official resolution, the board members altered the consolidation agreement, which previously said a rabbinical program must always remain at both New York and Cincinnati institutions. That's no longer a requirement.

WVXU news partner WCPO reports the 1950 merger agreement allows for revisions if two-thirds of board members authorize a change. School officials didn't reveal the vote tally, only telling WCPO the resolution to alter the agreement passed with more than a two-thirds majority.

The dissolution of Cincinnati's rabbinical program was contested by hundreds, some of whom signed a letter of opposition and others who demonstrated at a rally in Cincinnati last week.

They say the historic school's rabbinical program should have been upheld for two reasons: historic significance and finances.

Cincinnati is the birthplace of American Reform Judaism. The college was founded here in 1875 by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise and trains rabbis how to teach Reform Judaism — using the vernacular and modernizing education practices.

It's also, some say, a much cheaper campus to run than the Los Angeles and New York locations.

Officials at the local Hebrew Union College have declined interview requests, but online documents say the institution is facing a projected record $8.8 million deficit in fiscal year 2022, part of a decade-long trend.

The institution also said there's been a nearly 60% decline in the size of the rabbinical student body locally, from 66 to 27 over the past 16 years.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.