Announcing New Director

Professor Shirley Idelson, Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program Director-designate

Shirley IdelsonWe are pleased to announce that Professor Shirley Idelson has been appointed the director of Hornstein, effective July 1, 2020. Prof. Idelson brings to Hornstein deep experience working at the intersection of higher education, Jewish life, and leadership. A historian, rabbi and journalist, Idelson served as dean of the New York campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), where from 2007-2016 she oversaw all aspects of academic and campus life, and created innovative programs in areas including social responsibility, entrepreneurship and contemplative practice. 

She is currently completing a book on Stephen S. Wise’s Jewish Institute of Religion and the reorientation of American Liberal Judaism, while also serving as Senior Advisor at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and Visiting Rabbi at Dartmouth College. She has contributed to numerous anthologies, written and reported for Newsday and Minnesota Public Radio, and is co-editor of Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation (Rutgers University Press). 

A graduate of Dartmouth College with a B.A. in History, Idelson received her rabbinical ordination from HUC-JIR, her Ph.D. from the CUNY Graduate Center, and an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University. She began her career as director of religious life at Vassar College, and prior to joining HUC-JIR, she also served as rabbi at Carleton and Macalester Colleges. 

“Brandeis is extraordinarily fortunate to have recruited Shirley Idelson,” said Jonathan Sarna, University Professor, Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, and chair of the Hornstein search committee. Sarna noted that, “Shirley’s interests span both the academy and the Jewish community as a whole. She is the perfect person to lead the Hornstein Program into an exciting new era of growth and development.” 

“I am honored to be joining the Hornstein Program and Brandeis University at this critical moment,” Idelson said. “As the premier graduate program in Jewish professional leadership, the Hornstein Program fosters the innovative research and creative practices necessary to meet the challenges of 21st-century life. I look forward to building on the inspiring work of my predecessors by partnering with the faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters of Hornstein and the Brandeis community in order to train the ethical, wise, and creative leaders our world needs.” 

Shirley Idelson will succeed retiring Ellen Smith (Hornstein Director, 2012-2020) and Leonard Saxe (Hornstein Chair, 2018-2020).