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Letter from the President — Fall 2020

Letter from the President — Fall 2020

Reflections on Resilience: A Message from Spertus President and CEO Dr. Dean P. Bell

Dear Friends:

This summer, as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged and then intersected with our society’s crisis of racial injustice, I found myself reflecting with friends and colleagues. Two threads emerged over and over.

The first is on an experiential level. People report a sense of blurring of time. It is not clear at what point something happened—days collapse one into the next, with only hazy lines demarcating days of the week and events both small and substantial, personal and professional.

The second is more profound. Many people have shared with me their uncertainty about the future. What does the future look like? How will we work, travel, live? How will these changes shape us and our communities?

In a very real way, the fall Jewish holidays offer a time-based boundary, an opportunity to recognize both change and continuity. The New Year is a time for reflection, as we plan for new starts—indeed as we plan for change—in a way that also recognizes deep connections to familiar traditions and practices.

In that spirit, I am inspired by the programs that Spertus has developed and offered in the midst of—and in response to—our current crises.

We presented important and bold series that provided new perspectives and skills for communal leaders, educators, and learners. They featured Spertus’ signature concept of applied Jewish learning—applying the rich depth and diversity of Jewish thought, texts, and experiences to contemporary and emerging challenges.

Program topics included leadership in crisis, problem solving, team building, applying the lessons of history, and cultivating resilience.

This last topic—resilience—is the organizing theme for our programming in the coming year. It underpins the programs and initiatives that will be presented over the course of the academic year.

At Spertus we do not use resilience in the sense of an attempt to return to some elusive status quo; rather we seek complex resilience, defined as a call to be open, agile, and adaptive; to take the opportunity to be creative, innovative, and risk tolerant, to learn and grow from the challenges we face.

This may be the perfect New Year’s message to help us address the challenges of these uncertain times.

Best wishes for a happy and especially healthy New Year.






Dr. Dean P. Bell
President, CEO, and Professor of Jewish History
Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership


Monday, August 31, 2020