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Student Profile: Ellie Gettinger

Student Profile: Ellie Gettinger

Ellie Gettinger

Milwaukee Museum Educator Never Stops Learning

Ellie Gettinger, Education Director of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, is a student in a graduate program designed specifically for those who work for Jewish organizations. She spoke recently with Betsy Gomberg, Director of Communications at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, about her participation in this unique program and the impact it’s making in the Milwaukee community. This profile comes from their conversation.


Graduate school had long been in Ellie Gettinger’s plans. She’d assumed, when she completed her undergraduate degree in Jewish Studies and History from Stanford University, that she would work for a few years before going back to school full time. She moved to Wisconsin and began her career as the Young Leadership Coordinator at Milwaukee’s Jewish Federation.

At the point where she had thought she would be looking into master’s programs, she instead found herself offered a key role helping to create the new Jewish Museum Milwaukee. This was too wonderful an opportunity to pass up. She became part of the museum’s founding team, advanced in her career, married, and had two children. Because going back to graduate school as a working adult with young children is a formidable proposition, that particular part of her plan was put aside, at least for the time being.

When Gettinger learned that Chicago-based Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership was launching a Milwaukee-area cohort of its Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies (MAJPS) — a program designed to advance the leadership credentials of those who work for Jewish organizations — she felt the program came specifically for her.

Gettinger describes the program as a “Dayanu” (Hebrew for “enough”) referring to a term Jews use on Passover to indicate the abundance of good things received when they were brought out from slavery in Egypt. She says, “It would have been enough that classes are held right in my community, with subject matter directed specifically to the work I do. But unlike other programs, it doesn’t require me to give up every weekend, and it is affordable, and it provides a cohort of colleagues from Jewish organizations across Milwaukee.”

As predisposed as Gettinger was to the idea of the MAJPS, the program itself impresses her more. She appreciates the intellect of the faculty and the ways in which they tailor material to students’ real-life situations.

As Education Director of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, Gettinger plans exhibits and connects them to curriculum for a diverse range of Milwaukee students. Right now, she’s laying the groundwork for a 2018 exhibit focusing on the Hollywood Blacklist. As part of her role, she reaches out and develops partnerships. As on small staffs everywhere, she takes on a range of other duties as well, handling at various points everything from fundraising to social media.

As a historian and educator teaching about the Jewish experience, Gettinger fully expected to be learning new things in the portions of the Spertus program that covered leadership and management. She expected this would be less true for courses covering Jewish history and the contemporary Jewish world. But she has been surprised at how much she’s learned in these area, areas in which she already had considerable expertise.

Another surprise has been about her own abilities. She was worried about homework, how she’d be able to get readings and papers done with a job and a family. But she has made the time, generally after she puts her kids to bed. While it requires commitment, she’s found that the work, even writing papers, cements concepts from class and leads to new discoveries.

A second cohort of the MAJPS program will begin in Milwaukee in August, with introductory seminars in June. Gettinger’s message to her Milwaukee community colleagues is, “If you want to work in the Jewish organizational world, there isn’t a better program. It’s flexible and balanced, both intellectually stimulating and practical.” She finds that she comes to work and talks about what she’s learned, sharing tactics and information from class with her co-workers and putting her new knowledge immediately to work. While she suspects she’d be doing bits of this if she was in an MBA or nonprofit management program, she is certain she’s doing more of it, more often, and with more alignment and applicability, because of the targeted nature of the program.

About the fact that a number of professionals in a range of positions from an array of Milwaukee's Jewish organizations are taking the program, Gettinger saysThere is no question that it provides a framework for the community in a region the size of Milwaukee. Important partnerships between organizations have been created through relationships built in class.” She’s excited to see what new initiatives and opportunities this brings for the future.

More information about the program is available at spertus.edu/majps.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

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