There is a major under-reported story that will effect Jewish religion in America.
Hebrew College in Boston just announced that their 32 million dollar debt has been renegotiated. (see Update below) see here and here. This is where they were 10 months ago..
Rabbi Daniel L. Lehmann, the college president who is a YU musmach, took over in 2008 to a 32 million debt left by the previous administration. The institution did not meet the interest payments the year Lehman took over and paid operating costs on credit. They will enter 2011 with a clean slate. he was able to do this in the midst of a recession. This will give Lehmann and the Rabbinical school headed by Arthur Green an ability to emerge as the premier non-orthodox non-denominational rabbinical school. (This makes Lehmann into one of the top fundraisers out there right now – worthy of the comparison to Norman Lamm who renegotiated YU’s debt and then raised funds to make YU one of the wealthier institutions.- see update that negates this line.) Currently JTS remains with a much smaller debt, but one that it cannot get out from under.
If Lehmann can keep this up, he can design from almost scratch any type of new Jewish institution he wants. One not tied to any denomination or burdensome institutional tradition. Knowing his track record, he will succeed. He built the new Jewish HS in Boston from scratch.
The Rabbinical school under Green will definitely draw students from HUC JTS, and RRC. We will see if he makes a pitch to attract liberal YU students like himself. His interests include music- he is likely to develop the existing music program. Expect his 2011 graduation-end of year speech to give a vision of where he is taking the institution and American Jewry.
Update- It seems that Hebrew College had to give up the building to pay off the debt. 32 million was not raised, rather they gave to the banks the ill conceived building that Gordis built. There is still no clear indication if the building was repossessed or if there is a lease to stay at that location. (I should know not to trust Rabbinical school announcements about their finances, oh well. ) If they vacate, where will they go? I stil have fond memories of their former location in a run-down mansion in Brookline. So, it shows strong leadership and does not show massive fund raising. Either way- they are now free to build Jewish programs when other seminaries are strapped for cash.