In the annals of party-going, the dinner hosted by USC President Steven Sample and his wife, Kathryn, at their impressive San Marino estate home last week, ranked right up near the top.
The food and drinks were excellent, the speeches short and few, and the general bonhomie so animated that Sample, citing a high noise level as a sure indicator of a party's success, was reassured that his 160 guests were enjoying themselves.
The occasion marked the 30th anniversary of the partnership between USC and the neighboring Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. As is customary at such celebrations, both partners viewed with pride the accomplishments of the past and promised even greater things in the years ahead.
"You ain't seen nothing yet," said Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, president of the four-campus HUC.
Even now, some 600 USC undergraduates, many non-Jewish, are taking Jewish studies courses through HUC, Sample noted, and the two institutions grant joint master's degrees in social work, gerontology, public administration and communications. Upcoming is a joint graduate program in business administration for future Jewish communal workers.
"No other seminary or research university can boast such an intimate relationship as between USC and HUC," Sample said.
Lest East Coast critics dissent, Zimmerman added that even the relationship between New York's Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary "barely begins to touch the vision" of the Los Angeles partnership.
Partially due to the two institutions, both speakers foresaw an increasing influence of Western Jewry on the American Jewish scene. USC has just opened its new Institute for the Study of Jews in American Life, and Zimmerman said that he looked forward to the ordination of Reform rabbis on the local HUC campus. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor