One legacy, many voices.
The Academy for Jewish Religion was founded in 1956 as a rabbinical school. Initially called The Academy for Liberal Judaism (and then The Academy for Higher Jewish Learning), it was granted a charter to ordain rabbis and instruct Jewish leaders by the Regents of the University of the State of New York. Renamed The Academy for Jewish Religion during the sixties, it continued to be a much needed still small voice on the rabbinical scene.
From its inception, the Academy was inspired by Rabbi Stephen Wise’s vision to educate rabbis and other spiritual leaders for klal Yisrael, the entire Jewish community. Launched with courage and initiative by Rabbi Louis I. Newman, the Academy is indebted to many learned scholars for their superior teaching and extraordinary dedication in forming and sustaining an independent seminary. Rabbis Felix Levy, David Neiman, and Chaim Pearl, along with Professors Cyrus Gordon and Max Kadushin, gave enormous support and enthusiasm during the early years. As Dean, Rabbi Stephen Leon served with distinction and was devoted both to the institution and its students. Rabbis Robert Aronowitz, Michael Gelber, Emily Korzenik, and Albert J. Lowenberg also contributed greatly to the early administration.
The Academy experienced a period of growth and development during the 1990s, under the leadership of Rabbi Dr. Shohama Wiener, Rabbi Samuel Barth, and Cantor Kenneth Cohen including a growth in the student population, and the addition of a cantorial program.
In 2001, AJR moved to its current location in Riverdale. This move brought with it the opportunity for continued growth and development as AJR was now in dedicated space on a campus full of valuable services for students and possibilities of educational and spiritual interactions with the College of Mount Saint Vincent. The Academy benefitted greatly from the devotion of leaders such as Rabbis David Greenstein and Cherie Koller-Fox, and Hazzan Ramon Tasat.
Since 2003, Dr. Ora Horn Prouser, who has served as Professor of Bible, Academic Dean, and Executive Vice President has overseen AJR’s rapid and significant growth. An inspiring teacher and author, Dr. Prouser has made noteworthy contributions toward making the Bible speak to central existential concerns, specifically regarding ethical dilemmas and individual growth.
In June 2012, AJR will move to a new larger location in Yonkers, New York. This move will allow AJR to serve our students and the larger community in new and exciting ways. Its larger, tailor-made space and its proximity to public transportation will make this move a wonderful next step in AJR’s growth.
The Academy has taken its place as a Jewish seminary of major significance preparing men and women to serve the Jewish community as congregational spiritual leaders, chaplains, educators, and administrators in Jewish communal service organizations. AJR alumni serve in Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal, and unaffiliated congregations and Jewish settings throughout the United States, as well as internationally. AJR’s pluralistic communal life, rigorous training in traditional text, and faculty which represents the full range of the Jewish community prepares our students to truly meet the spiritual needs of twenty-first century Jews.
AJR is chartered by the Board of Regents of the State of New York and is a registered 501(c)(3) federally tax-exempt organization.