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Emory Selects New Rabbi

By Tiffany Han Posted: 04/14/2008
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Victoria Armour-Hileman has been appointed as an associate dean of Religious Life and chaplain, the Office of the Dean of the Chapel and Religious Life announced Friday. Armour-Hileman, who will also serve as a resident rabbi, will begin on Aug. 1.

As associate dean and chaplain, Armour-Hileman will share in administrative duties but will also act as a liaison to various Jewish groups and students on campus.

Although some students question whether a Reform rabbi would be able to meet the needs of the Conservative Jewish students on campus, Dean of the Chapel and Religious Life Susan Henry-Crowe said that Armour-Hileman’s personality, understanding of higher education and experience with interfaith dialogue and liturgy make her the best candidate to work in several aspects of religious life on campus.

“There’s a certain amount of administrative work, but she’ll also be seen as a spiritual leader,” Henry-Crowe said.

Armour-Hileman said she has always wanted to be on a university campus.

“I really like the life of the mind and being with people who are asking important questions,” she said. She said she sees two main tasks ahead.

“One is to help people discover their own personal spiritual path, and the other is to create connections with people of other traditions,” she said. “Every little bit that we can do that brings people together across boundaries ... creates conditions for a more peaceful loving world.”

A selection committee spearheaded by Associate Professor of Jewish Studies Eric Goldstein was formed in November to steer the hiring of a campus rabbi.

Armour-Hileman was selected from a pool of approximately 30 applicants and four finalists after meeting with campus officials and students.

Director of Emory Hillel Michael Rabkin wrote in an e-mail to the Wheel that Hillel worked closely with the Office of Religious Life in the selection of the new rabbi.

“This is a positive step forward for the Emory community, and we look forward to a solid partnership with [Armour-Hileman],” he wrote. Hillel is considering plans to hire its own rabbi in the future, Rabkin added.

College junior and Inter-Religious Council member Jeff Schram said the committee was looking for someone who could both connect with students and act as an administrator.

Armour-Hileman, who will receive her rabbinic ordination in May 2008, has had a long academic career. She has three master’s degrees and a doctorate degree. In addition, she has authored two books, organized an interfaith conference in California and done extensive volunteer work abroad.

Schram said the committee realized that hiring a Reform female rabbi was a risk, but said they believed Emory was open-minded enough to see what Armour-Hileman could contribute to the University.

President of Emory Students for Israel and College sophomore Jaclyn Blumenfeld said she believes Armour-Hileman will be a valuable resource for students.
“I hope she can help Jewish students individualize what Judaism means and help them break out of Judaism as a label,” Blumenfeld said.

Students rarely seek spiritual advice from just one person, she said, so Armour-Hileman could still be a source of guidance for conservative Jewish students, though not the sole source.

Blumenfeld said she is also looking forward to the interfaith initiatives that Armour-Hileman could help undertake.

Henry-Crowe said the University has become increasingly committed to developing inter-religious interaction and religious life on campus.

Two years ago, the Office of Religious Life brought on Muslim Religious Advisor Aysha Hidayatullah and Hindu Religious Advisor Harshita Mruthinti. Henry-Crowe added that part-time Buddhist Religious Advisor Brendan Ozawa-de-Silva might be brought on as a full-time employee in the future, which would further expand “the face of religious life.”

Religious life on campus will also be expanding with the recognition of two new organizations, Chabad and the Korean Student Association, which will be working closely with the Presbyterian Church USA.

As of June 1, Chabad, which offers a more traditional service to more than 100 Jewish students of different denominations, will be officially recognized by the University. Rabbi Zalman Lipskier, executive director of Chabad house, will officially become a University minister.

“Emory is heavily populated with Jewish students, and there should be an outlet for every type of Jewish student,” President of Chabad Board and College sophomore Maddy Schiller said.

—Contact Tiffany Han

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