When it was announced earlier this week that Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and Siegal College will combine their adult education into a new initiative, the Laura and Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program at CWRU, representatives from all the involved entities expressed enthusiasm for what the future holds.

Michael Siegal, board chair of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, hopes that as the program takes shape for this fall, Northeast Ohio's Jewish community will be equally excited.

"(The partnership) creates a perpetuation of a great Jewish studies program, and certainly it enhances Case, which I think is very important for the future of Cleveland," he said. "We hope that the community recognizes that this positive outcome can lead to positive change. With the additional input of Case, this could be a much stronger program. I hope the community embraces it, and I hope the attention given to it will bring more support from the community."

Following months of discussion between its own stakeholders and representatives of the university, the Siegal College board of trustees approved the alliance - which will result in all of CWRU's continuing education offerings falling under the Siegal name - during its Jan. 30 meeting on the college's Beachwood campus.

The collaboration will integrate the continuing-education programs from each institution, which will increase the offerings available to their respective students, said Terri Kline, board chair of the Laura and Alvin Siegal College of Judaic Studies.

"The college has very extensive experience in providing high-quality Jewish adult education, and of course with Case Western Reserve being a premier educational institution, it's a perfect fit," she said. "It will increase opportunities for students in Northeast Ohio who are interested in Jewish subject matter and who are interested in Hebrew language."

Kline said Siegal students will have a seamless transition. "Case Western Reserve will engage current Siegal College faculty, and adult education programs will continue to be offered at the Agnon/Siegal College building in Beachwood."

CWRU President Barbara R. Snyder said the partnership draws on the strengths of both institutions and creates "even greater opportunities for intellectual engagement and exploration. It carries a great potential to enhance our university's existing continuing education programs as well as Siegal College's exceptional offerings in Judaic studies."

Noting CWRU's two endowed chairs in Jewish studies - the Abba Hillel Silver Chair and the Samuel Rosenthal Chair - Snyder also said the new partnership is an opportunity for the university to reach out to the Jewish community.

"It will certainly further our commitment to the discipline of Judaic studies," she said. "We think this is an opportunity to do great work in that area, and to do more in terms of outreach to the community, which is very important to us as well."

No Siegal College faculty will lose their jobs as a result of the partnership, Provost Brian Amkraut said. However, he acknowledged that some of Siegal College's administrative positions might be lost with CWRU taking over administrative oversight.

Moving forward, Siegal College will no longer be a beneficiary agency of the Federation, said Jewish Education Center of Cleveland (JECC) Executive Director Seymour Kopelowitz, who for the last three years has served as the college's interim president.

Instead, its endowment fund and assets will become a supporting foundation at the federation and will continue to fund Jewish adult education, he said. Supporting foundations are charitable grant-making organizations affiliated with the Federation.

JECC will assume responsibility for administration of the Aaron Garber Library, the @Akiva programs for high school students and professional development programs provided to local Jewish educators, Kopelowitz said.

As interim president of Siegal College, Kopelowitz already handled many of these responsibilities, he said, explaining that now they will be formally handled by JECC.

While adult education programs still will be offered at Siegal College's Shaker Boulevard building, the partnership will allow additional programs to be offered at Case Western Reserve's main campus in Cleveland's University Circle and at its Squire Valleevue and Valley Ridge Farms in Hunting Valley.

As for the future of the Siegal College building, Siegal said Federation will maintain ownership of the building and that currently "there is no intention of not having classes there."

An advisory board that includes constituents from Siegal College, Federation, the JECC and CWRU will assist the new program and essentially take over the role the college's board of trustees previously held, Federation chair Siegal said. He said that combined leadership will allow the Jewish community to provide input regarding the program.

Drawing a distinction between lifelong learning classes and academic courses for accreditation, Siegal said he doesn't expect tuition for the program to be affected by the partnership, adding that enrollment in the program will have a bigger impact on cost than the partnership.

Siegal College's degree programs are being phased out, with students completing their courses by June.

Benefactors Laura and Alvin Siegal, for whom the school is named, both said they feel the new partnership is "a good thing."

"I think it will be a distinct advantage for the adult learners because not only are we going to offer outstanding Jewish programs, but people will be able to take advantage of secular studies as well," Laura Siegal said.

Stephen H. Hoffman, president of the Federation, praised the partnership in a joint news release.

"This collaboration with Case Western Reserve creates immediate synergies for continuing education, and also lays a foundation for enriching and expanding Judaic studies more broadly in the decades to come," he said. "I commend the Siegal College community for its extensive and thoughtful reflection regarding the best ways to advance the institution's mission in the 21st century."

Amkraut said, "Much of the impetus was to achieve a win-win-win scenario: a win for Siegal College, a win for the Jewish community and a win for Case Western Reserve. We think we've achieved that."

mbutz@cjn.org