Speak Differently and Think Bigly
Posted on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 by Rabbi Daniel Kirzane
In a year of surprising, radical and sometimes tragic transitions, at least one has been honorable and celebrated: the dignified retirement of Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, Ph.D. Dr. Hoffman taught liturgy at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion for 45 years, and during that tenure has guided the lives and careers of countless Jewish professionals. I am honored to be counted among them and to wish Dr. Hoffman a restful and enriching retirement.
As a rabbinical student, I studied with Dr. Hoffman whenever I could, signing up for electives like “Unapologetic Religion” and “Introduction to Ritual Studies.” He co-advised my rabbinic thesis, with WGF Alum Jonathan Krasner (Class 7), offering both personal encouragement during that hectic time as well as academic insight into my chosen topic of ritual in Jewish education. To me as to everyone he meets, Dr. Hoffman is always thoughtful and kind, approachable and supportive, serving as a rabbinic mentor and a trusted scholar. I join a very large group of learners enriched by the opportunity to study, pray and build community with him.
Raised in an observant home, and comfortable with — even fluent in — traditional Judaism, Dr. Hoffman nevertheless found progressive Judaism, the Reform movement and the Hebrew Union College to be his ideological and communal home. In eulogizing WGF Alum Aaron Panken (Class 8), z”l, Dr. Hoffman wrote of the bedrock affirmation they both shared: “The world needs Reform Judaism; Reform Judaism needs a Movement; and a movement needs a College, the key to it all.” Ever expansive, embracing people of all backgrounds, Dr. Hoffman continually embodies the best that Reform Judaism has to offer: reflective practice, thoughtful theology and inclusive community.
As well, Dr. Hoffman has remained a longtime friend and resource to The Wexner Foundation, serving as a beloved and reliable faculty member at dozens of Wexner Heritage Institutes and other special engagements. He curated and edited the Foundation’s first book, More than Managing: The Relentless Pursuit of Jewish Leadership, following the groundbreaking 30th anniversary celebration in Columbus. And Dr. Hoffman will lead a series of online courses for registered Wexner Heritage Alumni on the Jewish Life Cycle, beginning in January 2019. His dedication to Jewish leadership, focused most intently on his decades-long project Synagogue 2000/3000, has benefited the entire Jewish world, amplifying and harmonizing with the Wexner Foundation’s own vision and goals.
Reflecting on his career of scholarship and service, Dr. Hoffman summarized, “I speak differently, think bigly and deepen the Jewish conversation to appreciate the human condition.” No one could truly emulate Dr. Hoffman’s talents and contributions, but we could certainly do worse than to try.
May he go from strength to strength, celebrating this deserved milestone and considering the next project his passions lead him to.
Wexner Graduate Fellow Alum Rabbi Daniel Kirzane (Class 21) was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, where he also received an MA in Religious Education. He currently serves as Assistant Rabbi at Oak Park Temple in Oak Park, IL (Chicago). He is an alum of the CLAL: Rabbis Without Borders Fellowship and the T'ruah Human Rights Fellowship, and he serves on the WGF Coordinating Committee and the HUC-JIR Alumni Leadership Council. More at danielkirzane.com. You can contact him here.