Alumni L’dor V’dor:
Prozdor Alumnus Offers Living Legacy of Tikkun Olam
Rand Hoch (Prozdor `73) looks back fondly on his time at Hebrew College. He spent the late 60s and early 70s as a teen making the two hour bus, train and trolley trek from the beachside town of Swampscott to Hebrew College some 13 miles away to take part in Jewish learning at Prozdor after school had ended for the day. It was a large time investment, between the transportation and the classes, he says, but a valuable one. “It was worth every minute I spent there and getting there,” he says. “It has had a tremendous influence on me.”
Reflecting on his successful career as a lawyer and a judge, he says he’s been a proponent of social justice issues since his days at Prozdor. “The Torah, it just resonated with me, and I’ve carried that along ever since,” he says. “I will always be involved in some social justice movement, because if we don’t participate, then we’re lost.”
The imperative to make change runs in the family. Hoch’s mother received a degree from Hebrew College, he notes, and worked as a Jewish educator for decades. She encouraged him and his brothers to continue their education on social justice issues at Prozdor. “I wanted to go, I wanted to further my education, and I was really interested in meeting people from other parts of the Greater Boston area,” he recalls.
He found Prozdor’s teachers dedicated to engaging students and helping them grow through active participation with the materials and each other. Similar to law school, he notes, they were dialoguing and making meaningful connections. “The teachers were great across the board. They weren’t just lecturing, they were challenging us,” he says. “Everybody had an opportunity to participate, everyone wanted to participate, and that’s how you learn.”
And so, in all of the ways he’s been involved in social justice, he’s always thinking back on Prozdor and what he learned there. It’s led him to support Hebrew College both through generous annual campaign donations and in his estate planning, where he has included the College. “For those of us who’ve been impacted tremendously by our education at Hebrew College, it’s very easy to say ‘this is what I want to do,’ so I made that a part of my estate,” he says.
Hoch joins other members of Hebrew College’s new Living Legacy Society who have made planned gifts to support the education of future Jewish leaders, help create innovative and inspiring programming, and build interdenominational and interreligious understanding, while gaining financial and tax benefits for their families.
When he goes to Boston, Hoch says he likes to trace the walk from the last trolley up Beacon Street over to Hawes Street, where he and his friends spent time in Hebrew College’s former Beaux-Arts building, exploring every nook and cranny. “I have tremendous memories not only of the classes and what we learned there, but of time with my Prozdor friends, just exploring and having a good time.”
Reflecting on the positive experience he had meeting people from different backgrounds and the discussions they had in class, he has chosen, he says, to “take the opportunity to encourage the next generations to get education, to seek out knowledge.”
His grandmother, he recalls, was adamant that each one of her 20 grandchildren find something they were passionate about and take action. “She said it doesn’t make a difference what it is, it can be in arts, the sciences, whatever it is, but you have to contribute back to the community,” he recalled. “She just told us we had to make a commitment to make this world better, tikkun olam.”
As such, his pursuit of tikkun olam inspired him to have a six-foot tall, stone statue of a shepherd and a lamb commissioned, which is bequeathed to the school. “I envision this as a place where people can see it through the window and smile, or spend some time there,” he says, adding that he finds art to be an element of both education and inspiration. Made by Israeli artist Boaz Vaadia, the shepherd and lamb are stacked on top of one another. “In my life I’ve been both the shepherd and the lamb,” he says. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been the shepherd more often, bringing people into the LGBTQ plus movement, working with them, and watching them go on to do other things in the social justice movement, so to me this was a special commission.”
Learn more about joining Hebrew College’s Living Legacy Society.