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Letter from the President — Fall 2015

Letter from the President — Fall 2015

100 Blessings

In Judaism, we have a tradition known in Hebrew as meah brahot — 100 Blessings. This refers to the practice of reciting 100 benedictions a day, benedictions that express thankfulness for things ranging from the food we eat to our personal health. Whether one takes this idea literally or metaphorically, there is something quite powerful about regularly articulating a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the manifold blessings we have received. The start of a new year offers a particularly poignant opportunity to do just that.

As Spertus President, there are many reasons I am grateful at the start of this new year of 5776. Our student enrollments are growing, evidence not only of the great interest in non-denominational Jewish Studies around the globe, but a resounding vote of confidence in the caliber and diversity of our faculty. With increasing frequency, Jewish organizations and institutions across North America are turning to Spertus Institute to help in the training and development of their volunteer and professional leadership. Our partner in community building, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, continues to support our important work and recently asked us to assume responsibility for a major community-wide initiative focused on adult Jewish learning. Individual donors and foundations, both locally and nationally, have come to recognize the unprecedented nature of what we do. Their continued funding allows us to expand our efforts as we seek to transform North American Jewish life by preparing the highest quality leaders to respond to a rapidly changing Jewish world.

I am especially grateful to work with an esteemed group of professional colleagues, who embody the twin beliefs that a learning Jewish community is a vibrant Jewish community and that great Jewish communities need great Jewish leaders. This past year, Spertus lost our long-time teacher and mentor, Rabbi Dr. Byron L. Sherwin. Byron served Spertus for 45 years in a variety of capacities, including most recently as the director of our Doctoral Programs. His impact on our institution cannot be overstated. He will be sorely missed. May his memory be for a blessing.

In addition to our faculty and staff, Spertus is also blessed to have an extremely dedicated Board of Trustees. Their talents and passion for the work of our Institute know no bounds. They care deeply about our students, visitors, and patrons.

Normally, I would be hesitant to single out any individual from among this group of dedicated board members because they are all instrumental to our success. But this year I am pleased to make an exception. At our August 30th commencement ceremony, where students from every one of our MA and Doctoral degree programs will receive their diplomas, the faculty and trustees will award a Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa to Marc Wilkow. Marc is a long time trustee and past Chairman of the Spertus Board. In recent years, he stepped forward to provide truly unparalleled leadership as we were forced to address a number of complicated financial issues associated with the recession and economic downturn that began shortly after we moved into our new building. With humility and grace, and significant assistance from the Jewish Federation, Marc led a team of Spertus trustees and staff through an extremely challenging period. He did so with dedication, tireless energy, great wisdom, and patience, all while running his own business and remaining active in other civic and communal activities. The bestowing of an honorary doctorate is the highest honor an institution of higher learning can give to someone whose voluntary contribution goes above and beyond. Marc Wilkow is a one-of-a-kind leader, and we are enormously grateful to count him as a member of our board. On behalf of his many friends and admirers, it is my honor to congratulate and thank him for all that he has done in support of Jewish learning and leadership.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to all those who participate in Spertus programming, visit our exhibits and collections, and make Spertus an important part of their journey. May you and those you love be blessed with a year of good health and happiness. You are the reason we do what we do.

L’shana tova tikateivu. Best wishes for a sweet new year.

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, August 3, 2015

Dr. Hal M. Lewis

Dr. Hal M. Lewis is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. A recognized expert on Jewish leadership, he has published widely in the scholarly and popular press. His books include Models and Meanings in the History of Jewish Leadership and From Sanctuary to Boardroom: A Jewish Approach to Leadership. He can be reached at