Spertus program unites a new generation of Jewish community leaders
As Spertus Institute’s MA in Jewish Professional Studies program increases its reach, organizations with multiple alumni are realizing a multiplier effect. Spertus Director of Academic Administration Brooke Herszage spoke with pairs who are professional colleagues. These excerpts are from those conversations.
Building Programs for Young Leaders
Lauren Silverman, MAJPS 2021 (pictured above left), is Associate Director, Changemakers Engagement and Strategic Partnerships, for the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). From her Chicago base, she connects young Jewish adults, including nearly 2,000 graduates of the Jewish Changemakers Fellowship, with leadership opportunities and pathways to Jewish engagement.
Zvi Zobin, MAJPS 2023 (pictured above right), recently moved from Los Angeles to New York, stepping into a new role at JFNA as Director of Atid Programs. Atid means “future” in Hebrew, and Atid is a new JFNA program that works with young Jewish philanthropists at a time when they are first starting to think about their future impact.
Lauren and Zvi met for the first time at an in-person conference for JFNA colleagues from across North America. Lauren recognized Zvi from Spertus materials announcing his new position, and Zvi quipped that Lauren was a conference celebrity because she led a discussion with JFNA President & CEO Eric Fingerhut for attendees.
Talking about their work sparked ideas for synergies between their programs. In fact, Zvi has already been looking to members of Lauren’s team for insights about launching a new JFNA program for young adults.
Both are putting their Spertus education to work in many ways. Among them, Zvi mentioned his increased understanding of the Jewish landscape and Lauren cited strategic planning skills. But key for two professionals who work regularly with new people and partners, the faces of other Spertus alumni in the room (or on Zoom), provide an important circle of skilled and welcoming professional connections.
New Ways to Engage in North Texas
When educator Brandi Hunter (pictured left) was considering Spertus Institute’s MAJPS program, she wanted to talk about it with someone from her own community. Spertus put her in touch with Katie Babin, MAJPS 2022 (pictured right). From their first Zoom call, they found common ground around their evolving Jewish community careers. Over coffee dates, they helped each other tease out what brought them meaning, what motivated them, and how they sought to manifest their passion for Judaism in their next professional roles.
In April, Katie fulfilled that dream, becoming the first Chief Administrator (a job comparable to Executive Director) of Congregation Beth Torah in Richardson, Texas. She invited Brandi to apply for another opening on the synagogue’s leadership team, and today Brandi serves as Principal of Beth Torah’s Learning Center and Director of Youth Engagement. According to Katie, as millennials and working moms, they are bringing fresh ideas to the ways Beth Torah engages its community.
One of those ideas comes from a theme that Katie drew from her Spertus experience: the idea that there are multiple ways to connect to Judaism. With this idea as a guide, Brandi and Katie are shaping Beth Torah’s engagement model, giving congregants a bigger range of ways to plug in. The latest is a beautiful mural (pictured here) in the youth lounge, created by young people as a way to engage with their Judaism and each other.
Shared Creative Vision in Austin, Texas
Jessica Ochs, MAJPS 2023, and Ethan Lane-Miller, a current MAJPS student, work at Shalom Austin, the hub of Jewish life in Central Texas. Both were awarded promotions earlier this year, Jessica to Senior Youth and Teen Director and Ethan to JCamps Director. Jessica attributes these promotions to Spertus. She says that she and Ethan were able to elevate what they do professionally, very quickly, because of their work in the MAJPS program.
As part of a high-energy, highly integrated team, Jessica and Ethan work together closely. The language of leadership they share from their Spertus experiences infuses their work with a professional shorthand rooted in Jewish community and best practice.
Ethan learned to structure meetings based on action items, which has led to planning efficiencies and ways to communicate more effectively with seasonal staff. Jessica says that Spertus gave her a compelling professional language to talk about the things she’s passionate about, including why everyone else should be passionate about them too!