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Milwaukee Community Professionals Receive Leadership Degree

Milwaukee Community Professionals Receive Leadership Degree

Milwaukee Jewish Community Professionals Complete
Innovative Professional Leadership Program From
Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership

On December 10, 2017, eight accomplished organizational professionals from Milwaukee’s Jewish community participated in an inspiring graduation ceremony at Chicago’s Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. They were presented the distinguished Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies, an honor they earned as part of cohort of colleagues with whom they have been studying and learning together for two years, part of a Milwaukee partnership with Spertus Institute.

Together these graduates have created a community of best practice devoted to dynamic leadership. They have invested significant energy in understanding issues of identity, diversity, and demographics, helping them — as leaders — confront the realities that face Jews in today’s rapidly changing world. They have grown personally and professionally, cultivated crucial skills, and gained insight into how to meet constituent needs. In addition, a rigorous mentoring program provided them the opportunity to gage professional goals and learn from acknowledged leaders in their field.

The graduates are: Carrie Barbakoff, Administrative Coordinator, Anshe Sfard Kehillat Torah and Educator, Congregation Shalom; Lauren Berger, Young Leadership Director, Milwaukee Jewish Federation; Toni Davison Levenberg, Director, Steve and Shari Sadek Family Camp Interlaken of the Harry and Rose Samson Family JCC; Ellie Gettinger, Education Director, Jewish Museum Milwaukee; Elana Kahn, Director, Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation; Benjamin Kranitz, Former Executive Director, Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid; and Rabbi Shari Shamah, Jewish Family Specialist, Harry and Rose Samson Family JCC. Grace Kaplan, who began the program while working at Hillel Milwaukee and today serves as Community Engagement Coordinator at the Raleigh-Cary Jewish Community Center in North Carolina, was not able to attend. 

The commencement address was presented by Harlene Winnick Appelman, Executive Director of the Covenant Foundation and a pioneering Jewish educator, giving graduates and their guests a chance to learn from her more than three decades in the field. 

As a student speaker, Elana Kahn spoke passionately on behalf of her fellow graduates. About the program’s cohort model, she said, “We learned to trust each other’s wisdom and leadership, to ask each other, to root for each other, and to work together, as one community, thereby exponentially increasing the power of our individual work.”

A Midwest Regional Cohort serving Wisconsin and the surrounding region will begin next year, with fellowship funds available for those who apply before March 26, 2018. Additional information about the program is available at


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Image at left

Graduates pictured left to right: Ellie Gettinger, Carrie Barbakoff, Benjamin F. Kranitz, Toni Davison Levenberg, Elana Kahn, Rabbi Shari Shamah, and Lauren Berger.

Photo by Dan Rest.

About Spertus Institute

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership offers dynamic learning opportunities, rooted in Jewish wisdom and culture and open to all. Graduate programs and workshops train future leaders and engage individuals in exploration of Jewish life.

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership is a partner in serving our community, supported by the JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.