Distinguished Rabbi Stephen Pearce to teach at Center for Jewish Studies with the support of the Koret Foundation

Stephen Pearce, Photo by Sydney Brown for SPUR

Rabbi Stephen Pearce, Photo by Sydney Brown for SPUR

Berkeley, CA – The Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies (CJS) at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) is pleased to announce that Stephen S. Pearce, Senior Rabbi Emeritus at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, will be joining the faculty as Visiting Professor of Jewish Pastoral Care beginning 2014. This opportunity is made possible through a generous grant from the Koret Foundation.

CJS recognized a need for strong resources for Jewish chaplaincy, spiritual care, and counseling in the Bay Area. In recent years, interested persons have received training through the member schools of the GTU and supplemented this seminary education with courses in Jewish Studies through CJS.

With a doctorate in Counseling Psychology in addition to thirty-six years of rabbinical service, Pearce provides crucial expertise in educating students in Jewish approaches to suffering and death, Jewish life cycles, and the use of Jewish sources in therapeutic settings.

CJS Director Naomi Seidman remarked, “We are very fortunate to have an experienced community leader on our faculty. His scholarly expertise and rabbinical work will fill an important need among our students, many of whom are Jewish educators and leaders in their own communities.”

Pearce’s career has been marked by many awards for his commitment to community involvement and engagement. Newsweek recognized him three successive times as one of the 50 Most Influential Rabbis in the United States. One of his duties will be to advise students in religious and community leadership.

For the spring semester, the distinguished Rabbi will teach a course entitled, “Narrative, Metaphor and Transformation,” exploring the power of narrative and metaphor as a platform for teaching, writing and personal development. Pulling from his pulpit experience and scholarship, he will examine the transformative and redemptive capacity of myths, folk traditions, religious legends and sacred texts in the formation of communal and religious life.

Given the evident importance of a robust collective narrative (or narratives) in the endurance of Jewish identity and commitments, Pearce’s expertise in the uses of narrative will offer a significant contribution to the ongoing conversation about Jewish peoplehood.

CJS is also looking forward to drawing on Pearce’s reputation for interfaith dialogue and engagement, tenets at the core of CJS’ and the GTU’s mission. His presence will enhance the GTU’s connection to Jewish communities, especially in the Bay Area, and attract new resources to help serve this contingent of the student population.

Of this opportunity Pearce commented, “Teaching at the Center for Jewish Studies will provide an opportunity for students to study with an instructor who has served the pastoral, educational, and spiritual needs of ‘Jews in the pews’ for over four decades. Rabbinical, communal, and pastoral training combine to offer a multidimensional approach to study and its application to faith communities and individuals on spiritual journeys.”

About CJS

Building on its distinctive history, the mission of the Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union is to educate current and future religious and academic leaders about the history, texts, sources and practices of Jewish religious thought in the context of interfaith dialogue, particularly among diverse groups of Christians, Muslims and Jews.

About the GTU

Founded in 1962, the Berkeley-based Graduate Theological Union is a consortium of nine seminaries: American Baptist Seminary of the West; Church Divinity School of the Pacific (Episcopal); Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology; Franciscan School of Theology; Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University; Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary; Pacific School of Religion (multidenominational); San Francisco Theological Seminary (Presbyterian); and Starr King School of Ministry (Unitarian-Universalist).

The GTU's eleven Centers of Distinction provide opportunities to engage with Orthodox Christianity, Asian culture and faith traditions, the Black Church, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, the arts, the natural sciences, women's studies, and more.

Committed to creating conversations across faith traditions and disciplines, the GTU produces pioneering leaders in teaching, research, and service who are prepared to engage the increasing complexities of a global society.

Contact: Deena Aranoff, 510/649-2487, daranoff@gtu.edu