Rabbi David H. Ellenson of Los Angeles on Tuesday was appointed president of the four-campus university of the nation's largest Jewish denomination.
Voting Tuesday in New York, the board of governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion made Ellenson, 53, their unanimous choice among six semifinalists.
The university is the nation's oldest institution of Jewish higher education and is Reform Judaism's center of academic and rabbinical training in the United States. It has campuses in Los Angeles, New York, Cincinnati and Jerusalem.
Ellenson succeeds Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, who resigned in December after it was disclosed that he had inappropriate "personal relationships" with women before he became president in 1996. Ellenson said he expects to assume his new office next month.
Regarded as a leading scholar of Jewish religious thought, ethics and modern Jewish history, he plans to continue Zimmerman's emphasis on recruiting students and faculty. Ellenson noted that of 16 faculty members hired recently, 10 were women.
"This gives a very, very needed shot of intellectual and religious vitality to the entire college institute," he said.
Ellenson has taught at the Los Angeles campus since 1979. He also served as director of the Jerome H. Louchheim School of Judaic Studies. He is a fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jerusalem and a fellow and lecturer at the Institute of Advanced studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is also the author of numerous books on Judaism in transition.
Ellenson, who is married to Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson, said he and his family will stay in Los Angeles at least through the next school year. He may then move his family--they have five children--to one of the other cities.