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Steps Down At HUC
New York (JTA) — On a recent
visit to Shanghai, Alfred
Gottschalk's guide translated his
name into Chinese characters.
"Gau Chou Chok," was the
transliteration, meaning "tall in-
tellectual who travels a lot."
The description is an apt one
for Rabbi Gottschalk, 64, who re-
cently announced his retirement
after 24 years as president of the
Hebrew Union College-Jewish
Institute of Religion, the Reform
movement's rabbinical seminary
and academic center.
An ordained rabbi with a doc-
torate in religion, Rabbi
Gottschalk towers above the smil-
ing rabbinical students in the
snapshots lining HUC's promo-
He is also a noted traveler and
author of numerous books and es-
says, representing HUC-JIR, and
the Reform movement in acade-
mic and fund-raising ventures
around the world.
In a recent interview at his
spacious corner office at HUC's
Manhattan campus, Rabbi
Gottschalk reflected on his quar-
ter-century at the helm of an in-
stitution that during his tenure
saw the ordination of female rab-
bis and cantors, the admission of
openly gay and lesbian students
and the ordination of the first Is-
raeli- born Reform rabbis.
He said the ordination of
women was one of his seminal
"This is not a question of gen-
der; it's a question of the use and
abuse of power," he explained.
Rabbi Gottschalk said the
biggest problem facing contem-
porary Judaism — assimilation
— is one that requires innovative,
"We need an entirely new ap-
proach to this generation," said
"I'm not that provincial to be-
lieve we have all the answers in
the Reform movement. We don't.
We're constantly seeking new di-
rections," he said.
A noted manager and fund-
raiser, Rabbi Gottschalk steered
the 118-year-old school through
difficult financial times, oversee-
ing its branches in New York,
Cincinnati, Los Angeles and
Jerusalem while expanding and
revamping their facilities, facul-
ty and curricula.
He also managed the trans-
formation of what was once strict-
ly a rabbinical and cantorial
school into a major academic cen-
HUC now offers advanced aca-
demic degrees in education, com-
munal service and graduate
studies, and has extensive library
and museum holdings.
Recognizing the need for
trained Jewish professionals,
Rabbi Gottschalk founded the Ir-
win Daniels School of Jewish
Communal Service in Los Ange-
les, the first school of its kind, as
well as numerous other programs
He has also pushed to
strengthen the Reform move-
ment's profile in Israel, greatly
expanding the facilities of the
school's Jerusalem campus, es-
tablishing a mandatory year in
Israel for rabbinical students and
founding a program to train Is-
raeli leadership for the Israel Pro-
Despite his modernization ef-
forts, Rabbi Gottschalk said that
in the Reform movement's tug-
of-war between modernity and
tradition, he has often rallied for
Rabbi Gottschalk — who will
assume the newly created posi-
tion of chancellor once his suc-
cessor is chosen — explained his
departure along generational
"My internal clock tells me it's
time" he said with a smile. "The
college needs to have a president
of this generation as I was the
president of my generation."
A search committee has been
formed by the school's board of
directors to select a new presi-
dent. Rabbi Gottschalk will re-
main as president until a
successor is chosen.