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Letter from the President — Winter 2017

Letter from the President — Winter 2017

Nir Etzion

Teaching Spertus students in Israel

The following is an excerpt of a letter sent by Dr. Hal M. Lewis on September 29, 2016, to members of the Spertus Institute Board of Trustees.

I recently returned from Israel where I had the extreme pleasure and privilege of teaching students in the Israeli cohort of the Spertus MA in Jewish Professional Studies program.

In the week in which Jews mourned the death of Shimon Peres, I took solace from these Spertus students — who represent the promise of a new tomorrow in Israel. It is they who will write the next chapter in Israel’s history and in the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora.

The course, entitled On Becoming An Effective Jewish Leader, is one I have taught previously to our US and Canadian students — who work for nonprofit organizations serving their local Jewish communities.

With the Israeli students the focus shifted a bit, given the differences between nonprofit groups in Israel and in North America. Our Israeli students lead cutting-edge NGOs in Israel, work with Birthright Israel and other programs designed to bridge relationships between Americans and Israelis, and are engaged in innovative educational endeavors in a number of Israeli government ministries. Without exception, they look to their Spertus education as an integral and unique contribution to their personal and professional growth.

As part of the course, I scheduled guest lectures with Barack Lozoon, who heads the San Francisco Jewish Federation’s Israel office, and Chicago’s own Alan Solow, former Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. I am indebted to both for making the trip and devoting time to our students.

During the course of our class, discussions focused on the academic study of effective leadership, both from the perspective of classical Jewish sources and contemporary best practices. Our students were also eager to explore new models for building meaningful relationships between young Israelis and Diaspora Jews. And not surprisingly, there was a great deal of interest in the [then-pending] US presidential election, particularly since the first debate occurred mid-way through the course.

For me it was a wonderful trip on many levels. Notwithstanding more than two dozen prior visits to Israel, every trip remains a moving and spiritually exhilarating experience. I am inspired by our students. Time with them is a reminder that despite the challenges each of our communities face, there is great promise on both sides of the ocean.

Many years ago, a former Spertus faculty member named Simon Ravidowicz — who went on to head the Jewish Studies program at the then-newly-established Brandeis University — referred to Israeli and Diaspora Jewry as “two that are one.” Never have I been more convinced of that. Our Israeli students are a credit to themselves, their families, and their country. They should make each of us, as Spertus trustees, swell with pride.

Thank you for your dedication and commitment to Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.


Dr. Hal M. Lewis

Dr. Hal M. Lewis
President and CEO
Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership

Read The Leading Edge, Dr. Hal M. Lewis’ blog about Jewish leadership.

Monday, September 26, 2016

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Kibbutz Nir Etzion, site of recent seminar for Spertus Israeli students.

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 >