Ismar Schorsch is the sixth chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary and its Rabbi Herman Abramovitz Professor of Jewish History.
Founded in 1886, JTS is the spiritual and academic center of Conservative Judaism. Dr. Schorsch has worked throughout his thirteen years as its leader to convey his vision of Conservative Judaism as the most authentic contemporary expression of rabbinic Judaism. In 1995, he published Sacred Cluster: The Core Values of Conservative Judaism, his highly-acclaimed monograph outlining the seven fundamental tenets of Conservative Judaism.
Under Dr. Schorsch's leadership, JTS continues to inform and elevate the religious lives of Jews far beyond its Manhattan campus. As an engine for outreach, JTS is committed to introducing religious alternatives and new leadership in Israel through its Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem; to training a new Jewish intelligentsia for Russian Jewry through Project Judaism, its Jewish studies program in Moscow; to raising a generation of literate and observant Jews in North America through the Ramah camps and Schechter schools; to providing Jewish knowledge and experience to adults through a panoply of innovative programs; and to creating a responsible Jewish voice on public issues from religious pluralism in Israel to bioethics.
Chancellor Schorsch's belief that the survival of the Jewish people depends on education resulted in the creation of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at JTS in September 1996 thanks to a generous gift of $18 million from William Davidson of Detroit. Through this premier graduate school, the chancellor hopes to effect a revolution in the field of Jewish education in this country. And Dr. Schorsch was a guiding force behind the Solomon Schechter High School of New York, established on the JTS campus in 1992. The only Schechter high school serving New York City and northern New Jersey, having outgrown its space, the school recently relocated to a new state-of-the-art educational facility on Central Park West in Manhattan.
Commitment to Israel remains a top priority. The leading voice in the fight to expand the rights and religious identity of Conservative Jews in Israel, Dr. Schorsch continues to strengthen JTS's Israel campus. His public statements and published writings have attracted wide attention in the secular and Jewish press, including front and editorial page coverage in the New York Times. His longtime support of the peace process was capped by an invitation from President Clinton to serve with the official presidential delegation witnessing the peace treaty signing between Jordan and Israel in October 1994.
Dr. Schorsch continues to enhance JTS's standards of academic excellence. A top scholar in the field of modern Jewish history, Dr. Schorsch addresses the important issue of modern Jewish scholarship as a central factor in the reconstruction of Jewish identity and self-presentation. In 1998, the Russian State University awarded Dr. Schorsch an honorary degree in recognition of the extraordinary success of Project Judaica--the first time in that country's history that such an honor was given to a Jewish scholar. Dr. Schorsch's most recent book, From Text to Context: The Turn to History in Modern Judaism, was published by University Press of New England.
During his tenure as chancellor, Dr. Schorsch has become increasingly recognized as one of the foremost spokesmen on a range of critical issues besetting society. He brings a unique Jewish dimension to such national issues as the environment, separation of church and state, health care and welfare reform. Dr. Schorsch achieved national recognition on the environmental crisis through his participation in a Middlebury College symposium, televised nationally by Bill Moyers, entitled "Spirit and Nature: Religion, Ethics and Environmental Crisis," where he shared the podium with the Dalai Lama. And working closely with Vice President Al Gore, Dr. Schorsch helped create the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, a coalition of religious and scientific leaders, which succeeded in using the moral influence wielded by religious leaders to effect change.
He also spearheaded the creation of a coalition to bring that moral influence to the debate over the delivery of health care in this country. The chancellor launched this partnership effort with a national conference in 1996 entitled "Health Care: Right or Privilege?" jointly sponsored by JTS and its neighbors, the Union Theological Seminary and the Columbia University School of Public Health.
Dr. Schorsch and his wife, Sally, have three children and seven grandchildren.