On June 8, 2018, the student-run newspaper of the University of California, Berkeley, The Daily Californian, published an article about the next president of the GTU, Rabbi Daniel Lehmann. In preparation for that article, reporters from The Daily Cal e-mailed a series of questions to Rabbi Lehmann. To help you get to know our new president better, we are pleased to present his full responses here.
Can you explain your background and why that makes you qualified to be president of GTU?
I have spent the last ten years leading Hebrew College, an institution of higher learning that provides graduate and professional degree programs in Jewish Studies, Jewish education, and religious leadership, as well as adult education programs for the wider community. In addition, I have been an active trustee and recent board chair of the Boston Theological Institute, an interreligious consortium of graduate schools representing different religious traditions, communities, and academic orientations. These two leadership roles along with my passion for interreligious learning and leadership provide me with the type of skills and experience that align with GTU’s mission and goals.
Why do you want to be president?
I think GTU is at the forefront of the type of interreligious scholarship and leadership that the world desperately needs. The distinctive culture of religious pluralism and inter-disciplinary discourse that has taken root at GTU is a powerful paradigm of the kind of robust and rigorous engagement with the diversity of religious traditions, texts, and thought that can be truly transformative. I am incredibly excited to help nurture, enhance, and support the creative scholarship, innovative leadership and inclusive community-building that makes GTU so special.
What are your goals for the GTU?
Since I am new to GTU and not yet sufficiently familiar with the complex and diverse cultures that make up the schools, centers, and institutes, I will need to spend time and energy learning and listening to the members of the GTU community before articulating a specific vision or set of goals. However, I can say that I want to collaborate on strategic initiatives that will expand GTU’s impact and extend its reach so that more people will become engaged in the GTU community of scholars, leaders, and learners. I also would like to enhance the digital footprint of GTU as a way to bring the unique educational resources to people around the globe. GTU has the potential to be an even more powerful catalyst for compelling public conversations about the ways religious traditions and the spiritual wisdom that they offer can help address our most pressing ethical, environmental, political, and economic challenges. Of course, bringing new financial and human resources to the GTU will be a top priority. I am also excited to build on the strong connections between GTU and UC Berkeley, and I hope to foster further collaborations that will benefit both institutions.
How do you feel about Zaytuna College and the Institute for Buddhist Studies wanting to join as GTU schools?
Zaytuna College and the Institute of Buddhist Studies are very important and innovative educational institutions that contribute significantly to our interreligious mission. GTU has already developed meaningful and generative relationships with both of them over the years, and I am excited to continue the conversations that have begun about how we can move those institutional relationships and partnerships forward in ways that will further advance our mission to expand and deepen the experience of interreligious higher education. Though I have not even begun my new role at GTU, I am excited to get to know Zaytuna and the Institute of Buddhist Studies as I become more familiar with the member schools, centers, and other affiliates of the GTU. From what I understand, there is a specific process through which schools can become new members that involves not just the GTU itself, but the current member schools as well. It will take me some time to get up to speed, but I look forward to working in collaboration with the other presidents and deans as we consider how to expand GTU’s interreligious resources.