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AJR’s Rabbi Gottlieb leaving academic posts, will shift focus to writing

by Tom Tugend

August 1, 2012 | 1:22 pm

AJR’s Rabbi Gottlieb Leaving Academic Posts, Will Shift Focus to Writing

Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, president of the Academy of Jewish Religion, California, who last year co-founded a Jewish-Christian-Muslim graduate school, is leaving his academic posts to devote himself to writing full time.

Gottlieb said that his writing will focus on the same goals underlying his university leadership — to build bridges among all Jewish denominations, as well as among the world’s major faiths.

His upcoming book will emphasize the spiritual dimensions of Judaism, he said, a subject he has been teaching weekly.

“I want our people to grow, and any religious growth must include spirituality,” he said.

A graduate of Yeshiva University, Gottlieb also holds doctorate degrees in psychology and theology. For the past 11 years, he has served the Academy of Jewish Religion (AJR) as dean of the rabbinical and chaplaincy programs, as well as president.

Gottlieb will retire at the end of this year. Looking back on his tenure at AJR, he said, “We started out in a radical way to serve all of Am Yisrael and to emphasize the oneness of the Jewish people. We then expanded the concept of ‘unity within diversity’ to all religions.”

Last year, backed by a $50 million private donation, Gottlieb co-founded the interreligious Claremont Lincoln University with the Rev. Jerry D. Campbell, president of the Claremont School of Theology, and Imam Jihad Turk, of the Bayan Claremont/Islamic Center of Southern California.

This fall, Claremont Lincoln has received about 100 applications for its graduate courses, emphasizing multicultural, multireligious, spiritual and secular value systems.

The same announcement carrying Gottlieb’s departure also reported Campbell’s retirement as president of both the Claremont School of Theology and of Claremont Lincoln University as of next June, though he will continue to serve the latter as adviser and ambassador.

Gottlieb said that the timing of his and Campbell’s retirement was coincidental.

Previously, Gottlieb held posts as Hillel director at MIT and Princeton, and as rabbi at Kehillat Ma’arav in Santa Monica and at the Westwood Village Synagogue.

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