David Ellenson

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David Ellenson on November 7, 2014

David Ellenson is an American rabbi and academic who is known as a leader of the Reform movement in Judaism. He served as president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) from 2002 to January 1, 2014, and is now the chancellor of that college.[1]

He is the I.H. and Anna Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought there. He is also a fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jerusalem, and a fellow and lecturer at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Early life and education[edit]

Ellenson was born in 1947 in Brookline, Massachusetts, and grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Newport News, Virginia.[2]

Ellenson graduated from the College of William and Mary with a B.A. in 1969. In 1972, he earned an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia. He was then ordained at HUC-JIR in 1977 and received his Ph.D from Columbia University in 1981.[3]


Ellenson has been a member of the faculty at Hebrew Union College since 1979.[2]

Ellenson was named as HUC's eighth president in October 2002, succeeding Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman. Upon his retirement and assumption of the role of HUC-JIR's first Chancellor, he was succeeded as president by Rabbi Aaron Panken.[4]

Ellenson is the author of Tradition in Transition: Orthodoxy, Halakhah and the Boundaries of Modern Jewish History (1989), Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy (1990), and After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity (2004).

David Ellenson and his daughter Ruth Andrew Ellenson, editor of The Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt, both won the National Jewish Book Award in 2006 ,[5] the only father and daughter to do so in the same year since Abraham Joshua Heschel and Susannah Heschel.

President George W. Bush appointed Ellenson to serve on delegation to accompany him to Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008.[6]


  • Jewish Meaning in a World of Choice: Studies in Tradition and Modernity. The Jewish Publication Society, 2014
  • National Jewish Book Awards on the same year,*After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity. HUC-Press, 2004.[7][8]
  • Between Tradition and Culture: The Dialectics of Jewish Religion and Identity in the Modern World. Scholar's Press, 1994.
  • with Stanley Chyet. Bits of Honey: Essays for Samson H. Levey. Scholar's Press, 1993.
  • Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy. University of Alabama Press, 1990.[9]
  • Tradition in Transition: Orthodoxy. Halakhah and the Boundaries of Modern Jewish Identity. University Press of America. 1989.[10]