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Renni S. Altman

In 2008, Renni became the Associate Dean and Director of the Rabbinical Program of the New York Campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the seminary for the training of rabbis, cantors and educators for the Reform Jewish movement in North America. As Associate Dean, Renni serves as the director of student life, overseeing all community and co-curricular activities on campus; as Director of the Rabbinical Program, she coordinates all aspects of the rabbinical program including rabbinical admissions and rabbinical placement. She was ordained a rabbi from the New York Campus of HUC-JIR in 1988 and now enjoys this opportunity to return to her alma mater and share the insights she has gleaned from twenty years in the active rabbinate.

After graduating with a major in Communication Arts, Renni fulfilled her desire to spend time in Israel and volunteered on one of the first kibbutzim established by the Reform movement. She returned to the States to serve as a Legislative Intern at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC. A year later, she returned to Israel working in public relations and for the Reform movement’s youth programs. Ultimately, Renni decided to follow a professional path that she had considered since her youth -- the rabbinate -- as a career that would combine her love of Judaism, youth work, education and service to others. She returned to the New York campus of HUC-JIR where she earned a Masters of Arts in Hebrew Letters and rabbinical ordination.

Renni’s first position was as Assistant Rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El in Houston, TX. While she enjoyed life in Houston, her boyfriend turned fiancé was a die-hard New Yorker. Renni returned to New York when she and Richard Wender were married. For the next four years, Renni served as the Director of Programs for Reaching the Unaffiliated of the Union for Reform Judaism. Despite the rewards and challenges of that work Renni yearned to return to the congregational rabbinate; in 1994, she assumed the position of Associate Rabbi of Temple Beth-El of Great Neck, NY and was named Senior Associate Rabbi in 2008.

Renni has enjoyed her 21 years in the rabbinate, both for the incredibly profound nature of the work and for the diversity of professional opportunities it has offered to her. The greatest challenge of her career thus far has been the constant search for that ever elusive balance between her professional demands and time for her husband, three children (Carly, 18, Daniel, 16 and Rachel, 13) and herself. She eagerly anticipates the challenges and joys of this new phase of life after 50!