You are here

Leading the Leaders...

Leading the Leaders...

By Pauline Dubkin Yearwood for Chicago Jewish News

Great Jewish communities require great leaders.

That may be a truism, but underneath it is a profound truth that the leaders of Chicago’s Spertus Institute for Jewish Leadership and Learning are taking to heart. And to class.

Which is why Spertus has launched the Center for Jewish Leadership, which will offer an array of professional training opportunities for both professionals and volunteers working in Jewish communities and organizations.

The institution is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and has always been committed to adult Jewish learning, President and CEOHal Lewis said in a recent phone conversation. “But increasingly over the years I’ve become convinced that we have a critical role to play in the preparation of leaders, whether in congregations, Jewish camps, federations or JCCs,” he said.

His vision for the new center, he said, is “to become one of the great business schools for the Jewish community – the Kellogg (School of Management) for the Jewish community. I would like volunteers and professionals who work in Jewish organizations to take their leadership as seriously and be as productive and innovative as their counterparts coming out of Kellogg or Wharton (School of the University of Pennsylvania).”

Lewis cited a report by the Leadership Pipeline Initiative that 75 to 80 percent of Jewish nonprofits will need to find new executive leadership in the next five to seven years.

The center was launched in October with an inaugural symposium, “Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Jewish Leadership,” featuring Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, Chicago’s new hub for digital startups, and other entrepreneurs.

The center’s first offerings include two master classes, “Jewish Values for Professionals and Lay Leaders” and “Strategic Planning.” More workshops and master classes will be added.

In the spring, a community mentoring project will be launched and awards given for innovation and collaboration. These will be geared to Spertus alumni, Lewis said, and will highlight the work many are doing in collaborating across various fields and agencies.

Projects to come later will include graduate degree and certificate programs, an annual symposium and micro-grants for innovation and collaboration, Lewis said.

Some already existing programs, such as the Certificate in Jewish Leadership, sponsored jointly by Spertus and Northwestern University, were subsumed under the new center.

The project was started with a grant from the Crown Family Philanthropies, Lewis said, and one of the first tasks was to recruit a director.

The chosen one is Tal Rosen, former executive director of Chicago’s KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation. He also formerly served as executive director of the Miami University Hillel and holds an MBA from that university.

Rosen said he jumped at the chance to head the new center because “studies show the importance of a very strong connection to Judaism in Jewish people. One of the ways the center will have a huge impact on the community will be in developing communal leaders and getting more Jewish people engaged in a deep, meaningful way. I’ve been passionate about that throughout my career, whether at Hillel or the synagogue,” he said.

Rosen said that as the center grows, he envisions “a lot of different things – master classes geared toward Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders, a community mentoring project for young Jewish professionals, a “Leaders on Leadership” series and much more.” Some of these projects will be launched in the next year, he said.

“I see one of the critical missions (of the center) to inspire and educate Jewish leaders to address the constant change in the landscape – local, national, international.”

Lewis noted that Spertus is moving forward in other directions as well. The Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies program will expand to Milwaukee and Pittsburgh (Chicago is on its eighth cohort of students), and Israel will join Canada as the second international location.

In everything the center and Spertus Institute does, “we’re committed to mirroring best practices,” he said. “We want to embody best practices of good business.”

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dr. Hal M. Lewis

Dr. Hal M. Lewis is Chancellor and Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at Spertus Institute and principal consultant for Leadership For Impact LLC, a leadership consulting practice that serves the needs of nonprofit executives and their boards.

For ten years, he served as Spertus Institute's President and Chief Executive Officer of Spertus Institute. A recognized expert on leadership, he has published widely in the scholarly and popular press and is a member of the faculty of the Center For Creative Leadership in Greensboro, NC. His books include Models and Meanings in the History of Jewish Leadership and From Sanctuary to Boardroom: A Jewish Approach to Leadership. You can follow his blog at Leadership for Impact >