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Lighting Learning and Libations

Lighting Learning and Libations

Spertus Israeli Cohort

Evening of Learning and Libations Showcases
Community-Transforming Projects

By Betsy Gomberg for JUF News

Members of Chicago’s Jewish community were recently treated to a taste of innovative work being done by young leaders who are transforming the Jewish future.

The reception, hosted by Spertus President and CEO Dr. Hal M. Lewis, introduced groundbreaking projects from students of Spertus Institute’s Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies (MAJPS) program. Through Spertus Institute’s Center for Jewish Leadership, this program teaches students to address 21st-century Jewish community needs, in both North America and in Israel. Applications are now being accepted for two upcoming Chicago-area MAJPS cohorts, one for Jewish organizational professionals, the other an accelerated program for executives.

At the event, four students presented projects in a lightning-fast format called Pecha Kucha, which started in Japan and is now used around the world to showcase creative ideas and elicit feedback from peers.

The intrepid presenters were Scott Frankel of Chicago's iCenter, Yulie Kromchenco of the Education Innovation Center at Israeli's Institute for Democratic Education, Nadav Savaia of the Union of Reform Judaism, and Elana Kahn of the Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. Their work illustrates why Spertus Institute's Center for Jewish Leadership is rapidly becoming the gold standard for Jewish leadership training, not just in Chicago, but around the world.

Frankel kicked off the presentation using a story about his grandmother to illustrate the significance of the Jewish Moments Project, an initiative he is developing with the iCenter. This project grew directly out of his Spertus graduate thesis. When complete, it will be a multimedia platform on which users can share Jewish stories of personal importance, then enhance them with photographs, key words, and dates. The platform will create an interactive path for individuals and families to grasp the role of Judaism in their own lives and the lives of others around the world.

Kromchenco shared how her team is composing ways for Israeli educators to use music to connect students to diverse Jewish traditions, broadening their perspectives of Jewish history and enhancing their skills in important areas such as critical thinking and teamwork.

Savaia and Kahn both presented projects that address the challenges of building bridges between North American and Israeli Jews. Savaia illustrated, with passionate examples from his own experience, how long-term placements of shlichim (emissaries) from Israel with American Jewish communities broaden understanding and create lasting bonds. Kahn shared ways her Spertus education has empowered her to open up her community’s dialogue about Israel. With her team, she is creating way for Jews in Milwaukee to grow their understanding beyond politics and reports in the press—to reveal among Israel’s many facets areas where authentic, personal connections can be made.

Among those in attendance were community leaders Andrea and Alan Solow, Spertus Institute Trustees Donna Barrows, Janice Feinberg, Eric Joss, and Harold Israel, and Julia Malkin from the Jewish Federations of North America.

About the evening, Dr. Lewis said, “The passion and projects of these individuals illustrate why we at Spertus are so committed to the training and development of first-rate Jewish leaders. We understand that Jews today live in complex and volatile times. In a world in which all the rules have changed, the stakes are too high to leave leadership to chance. By fostering careers and creating growth opportunities for those who serve our communities, we build more effective and responsive organizations, and enhance the quality — and in fact the very future — of Jewish life.”

Spertus Institute’s Center for Jewish Leadership is rooted in the belief that great Jewish communities need great Jewish leaders. The Center seeks to transform Jewish life by cultivating innovative approaches to leadership and enhancing the abilities of Jewish professionals and lay leaders. Leadership development opportunities are designed to strengthen the knowledge, effectiveness, creativity, and strategic agility of current and future Jewish leaders, magnifying the vibrancy of their communities and advancing the missions of the organizations they serve. More information about the center and the MAJPS programs can be found at

The Center for Jewish Leadership is supported by generous grants from the Crown Family. Spertus Institute is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Pictured Left

Israeli students in Spertus Institute’s MA in Jewish Professional Studies program, enjoying an evening of learning and libations with members of the Spertus faculty. Project presenter Yulie Kromchnco, back row center. Nadav Savaia, front row far left. Photo by Dan Rest.