How Four Jewish Professionals Are Shaping Their Future

Ellie Rips, Chaya Eishevitz, Tzipi Weins, Melissa Rivkin

Photo (left to right): Ellie Rips, Director of Jewish Student Life, Hillel UW, Chaya Elishevitz, Head of School, MMSC Day School, Tzippy Wiens, Chief Operations & Advancement Officer, Northwest Yeshiva High School, Melissa Rivkin, Director of Day School Strategy, Samis Foundation. Photo by Maggie Russo.

From Seattle to Spertus Institute, Jewish leaders strengthen their professional and leadership skills


Republished from the Samis Foundation.

In the community of Greater Seattle, four Jewish professionals recently embarked on a journey to enrich their careers and community through the Chicago-based Spertus Institute, which offers advanced degree programs as well as certificates in Jewish professional studies.

Melissa Rivkin, Director of Day School Strategy, Samis Foundation; Ellie Rips, Director of Jewish Student Life, Hillel at the University of Washington; Chaya Elishevitz, Head of School, MMSC Day School; and Tzippy Wiens, Chief Operations & Advancement Officer, Northwest Yeshiva High School recently traveled as a group to attend a weeklong seminar offered through Spertus. Their experiences offer a glimpse into the value and impact of this unique Jewish professional degree program across the Jewish community.

The Educational Leader

Chaya Elishevitz is a dedicated educator and head of the MMSC early childhood through 8th grade Jewish day school in Seattle. She chose to enroll in Spertus Institute’s Executive MA in Jewish Professional Studies program for its focus on deepening skills in Jewish educational leadership.

“The program’s emphasis on leading a learning organization through change and addressing today’s most critical issues are a big reason why I chose Spertus,“ Elishevitz explains. “Not only am I learning from professors, I am also engaging with fellow day school leaders on issues ranging from contemporary curriculums to enrollment growth strategies.”

The Day School Strategist

As Director of Samis Foundation’s Day School Strategy, Melissa Rivkin plays a pivotal role in leading strategies and programs that ensure the continuity and growth of a vibrant, Jewish day school ecosystem in the Seattle area. This includes developing strategies for making Seattle-area day schools both academically excellent and affordable for all families.

“The program’s emphasis on real-world applications has been invaluable. Jewish day schools are the anchor in long-term Jewish identity, so attending a program that is about implementing real solutions that work now is vital,” she says.

In addition to its robust leadership curriculum, the executive program combines courses in American Jewish life, the role of Israel, and Jewish Studies. Rivkin is set to graduate from the Executive MA in Jewish Professional Studies program in June 2024.

The Student Advocate

Ellie Rips enrolled in Spertus in January of 2024, and is the Director of Jewish Student Life at Hillel UW. In this role she is dedicated to enriching Jewish life through social programming that engages and supports students at the University of Washington. Through Spertus Institute’s MA in Jewish Professional Studies, Rips expects to gain new skills in Jewish nonprofit leadership, as well as effective strategies for communications and operations.

“In my role at Hillel, I am responsible for creating student activities that support community building,” explains Rips. “Spertus will help me to extend my skill set even wider. Not only will I be able to expand my repertoire for creating engaging Jewish social activities, I hope to gain new understanding of the operations and management of a Jewish community nonprofit institution.”

The Operations and Development Leader

Tzippy Wiens is the Chief Operations and Advancement Officer at Northwest Yeshiva High School on Mercer Island. Wiens enrolled in Spertus Institute’s MA in Jewish Professional Studies for its broad programming across nonprofit management, Jewish leadership, and Jewish life. “The classes are a fantastic mix of practical applications in skill areas like fundraising, communications, and change management, as well as thoughtful discussions around core issues like Jewish peoplehood. I am also especially grateful for the opportunity to continuously expand and grow in my leadership skills” says Wiens.

Common Threads

Though their paths and careers are different, each of these professionals share a common experience of professional growth and networking through Spertus. The program’s combination of online and in-person learning makes it possible for mid-career Jewish professionals from all over North America to grow their professional skills despite busy schedules and geographical distance.

Additionally, the Spertus cohort model enables the development of a network of like-minded Jewish professionals that will provide synergistic benefits across all the Jewish communities they serve.

Each of these professional journeys demonstrates how professional development education can be a powerful tool for advancing excellence across Jewish community organizations, even in cities that have smaller institutions. “Jewish leaders are not born, they’re cultivated,” Rivkin says. “Spertus is doing the work of cultivating the future of Jewish leadership, which is always important but now feels even more critical.”