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Letter from the President — Fall 2018

Letter from the President — Fall 2018

It is not your responsibility to finish the work,
but neither are you free to desist from it.
— Pirkei Avot

Letter from Dr. Dean P. Bell

Dear Friends:

This is my first opportunity to formally address the Spertus community in my new role as President of the Institute. I am quite humbled by this appointment and thankful to the Board of Trustees for their faith and trust in me. I am inspired by the work of our talented faculty and staff and by the passion and engagement of our students. And I am excited about the future of an institution that profoundly impacts so many lives and communities here in Chicago, across the Midwest, and increasingly in national and international contexts.

I have had the great fortune to work with two remarkable predecessors in the President’s office at Spertus: Dr. Howard A. Sulkin, who for a quarter century labored to build and extend the reach of the Institute, and Dr. Hal M. Lewis, who engineered an impressive post-recession turnaround and set us on our current course, bringing leadership best practices to all that we do.

According to Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, in a frequently cited passage, “It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” I am honored to continue the work of my predecessors, recognizing their important role in our history and development of our institution. I thank Dr. Lewis for continuing on as Chancellor, a new role in which he will continue to teach, provide thought leadership, and give guidance to us all.

Although I may be discharged from the obligation of finishing the work — indeed, our work creating vibrant learning Jewish communities and training great Jewish leaders is never really done — I have been equally stirred by the notion that we must never desist in our work. The concept of responsibility is quite complex, especially in our religious tradition.

Over the course of this academic year, we will grapple with the theme of responsibility from many different vantage points in a wide range of programs.

Programs will merge theory with practice and constructively examine diverse opinions. Throughout, I look forward to working with our Trustees, faculty, and staff to expand our unique and valuable efforts in higher Jewish education. For that is our responsibility and commitment to each of you and to everyone with whom we interact.

As part of this work, we will conduct an institutional strategic plan, recognizing that, as expressed by The New York Times about their own assessment, “We must differentiate between mission and tradition: what we do because it’s essential to our values and what we do because we’ve always done it.”

In this fall season of introspection and renewal, I am thrilled to work with you to maintain the wonderful programs you have come to associate with Spertus Institute, as well as to dream together to develop and launch new and powerful initiatives. It is our responsibility to reflect carefully, plan thoughtfully, and creatively advance learning rooted in tradition and responsive to the needs around us.

For now, I wish you a wonderful holiday season and hope to see you at many of our programs and offerings in this new academic year. Thank you as always for your participation and support.







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

Dates of Distinction

October 21, 2018
Dr. Dean P. Bell> will be officially inaugurated the ninth president of Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.

October 21–22, 2018
Spertus Institute proudly hosts the 30th annual conference of the Midwest Jewish Studies Association, of which Spertus is a founding member.

Harvard University Seminar for New College Presidents

In July, Spertus Institute President Dr. Dean Bell participated in the Seminar for New College Presidents at Harvard University with 49 peers representing institutions from the College of William and Mary to the US Air Force Academy. Dean reported that he was inspired by the experience, particularly how “students and learning are at the heart of every institution, regardless of size or focus.” He added, “learning about contexts and concerns at other institutions made me truly appreciate the nature of our work, the excellence of our offerings, and the talents of our trustees, faculty, and staff.”

Friday, August 10, 2018