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Letter from the President — Spring/Summer 2018

Letter from the President — Spring/Summer 2018

Passover & Transitions

Though it seemed impossible to believe at the time, the subzero temperatures of December and January have given way to the warmer promise of spring. During Hanukkah, when we celebrated light, precisely because it seemed so hard to come by, it was hard to imagine that buds would reappear on the trees and warm(ish) weather would make its return anytime soon.

And yet, here we are about to celebrate Passover, the holiday our tradition refers to as hag he’aviv — the celebration of spring. Many of the rituals of the seder are vivid reminders of the emergence of warmer weather, rebirth, and renewal. This transition, from the gloominess of winter to the optimism of spring, is a major theme of Passover. But it is not the only transition that comes to mind at this time of year. 

The essence of the Passover story is the journey me’avdut le’herut — the historic transition of the Israelites from slaves to free people. The metamorphosis, from the “narrow” straits of Egypt (the Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, derives from the root word tzar meaning “narrowness”) to the expanse of freedom — existential and national — gives the Passover story its eternal resonance.  

Dr. Dean P. BellIn addition to these transitions: from the cold darkness of winter to the blossoming of spring, and from the depths of enslavement to the pinnacles of human freedom, there is another more prosaic transition on our minds here at Spertus. I refer to the pending transition of executive leadership about to take place at the end of June. At that time, when I step down from the Presidency, my friend and esteemed colleague, Dr. Dean P. Bell, will become the ninth CEO of the Institute. 

I am learning that transitions are a time for reflection and promise, and most of all, a time for profound gratitude. To you who have supported our efforts, attended our programs, enrolled in our courses, given generously of your time and treasure over the years, please accept my heartfelt appreciation. To the Spertus Board of Trustees and its chair people over these past years, to the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, and to the intrepid group of extraordinarily generous philanthropists and foundations, who stuck with us during good times and less good times, please know that we would not be here today but for your unwavering commitment to lifelong Jewish learning and the training and development of Jewish leaders. 

To our students and alumni, I hope you know that you truly are the very reasons for our being. You, more than most, understand that Judaism is an adult religion that must never be relegated to the realm of the pediatric. 

To our faculty, your work at Spertus is much more than an academic appointment. The rigor of your research and the intensity of your classroom instruction leave little doubt that, while there are larger institutions of higher learning, none is more seriously devoted to the transformation of Jewish life across the continent, and indeed, around the world. And finally, to my many professional colleagues, those who were with us during the dark days when the Institute’s future was in question and those who have since become part of this truly incredible enterprise, I am grateful and proud to have worked with each of you. 

In this season of freedom and rebirth, I ask you to join me in renewing your commitment to Spertus Institute, now and in the future. Please accept my best wishes for a happy, sweet, and meaningful Passover.

Dr. Hal M. Lewis

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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 >

Introducing Dr. Keren E. Fraiman

Dr. Keren E. Fraiman

As Dr. Dean P. Bell prepares for his new role as Spertus Institute’s President and CEO, we are proud to announce the appointment of Dr. Keren E. Fraiman as Spertus Institute’s new Dean and Chief Academic Officer. 

Dr. Fraiman, who has been teaching in our MA in Jewish Professional Studies program for the last year, comes to Spertus from the iCenter for Israel Education, where she has been serving as Director of Research and Evaluation and she continues to serve on the faculty of their Master’s Concentration in Israel Education.

Dr. Fraiman received her PhD in International Relations and Security Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her BA in Political Science and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago. She was a Schusterman Israel Scholar, has worked at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis, led multiple Birthright Israel trips, and served as an officer in the IDF.

About her, Dr. Bell said, “Keren is an outstanding educator, who uniquely combines academic acumen and administrative savvy, making her especially well-qualified to help Spertus advance in areas critical to our students and constituents here in Chicago and around the world.” Read more >