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Certificate in Jewish Leadership for Educators

Certificate in Jewish Leadership for Educators

Spertus Institute announces new cohort of Jewish educators for exclusive leadership training program in partnership with Northwestern University

Program made possible by an investment from the Jim Joseph Foundation

Since its founding in 1924 as Chicago’s College of Jewish Studies, Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership has been on a mission: to train teachers and future Jewish leaders for positions across the Jewish community, to advance higher Jewish education, and to assist Jewish communal organizations in meeting current and future needs.

Rooted in that history, Spertus Institute—now approaching nearly 100 years of service to Jewish communities worldwide—proudly announces the newest cohort of 20 Jewish educators admitted to its prestigious Certificate in Jewish Leadership for Educators program, presented in partnership with Northwestern University.

According to Spertus President and CEO Dr. Dean P. Bell, “This program reflects Spertus Institute’s core values of academic excellence, programmatic experimentation, collaboration, and community responsibility. It brings together thought leaders and practitioners. And, importantly, it animates our organization’s new Strategic Plan for our next century. This plan calls for Spertus to produce and present compelling, relevant Jewish learning that can be adapted, developed, and scaled for reach and impact, strengthening Jewish communities across the globe.”

The Certificate in Jewish Leadership for Educators is a yearlong selective enrollment program that serves senior-level educators on the front lines of shaping the Jewish future. Taught by top-tier faculty from Spertus Institute and Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies, participants learn to lead with authenticity, collaborate across institutions and communities, effectively communicate their educational vision, and lead schools and organizations through times of change. They explore new approaches to recurring and emerging issues seen in educational environments with professional coaching, special experiential learning components, and a capstone project that is tailored to each student’s professional work and individual goals. The program was made possible by a generous initial investment from the Jim Joseph Foundation. This is the program’s second cohort.

Sue Penn, Director of Congregational Learning at University Synagogue in Irvine, CA, and an alum of the first cohort said: “Not only did the program introduce me to a cohort of smart, innovative, and resourceful colleagues, but it also gifted me with a skill set that resulted in substantial career growth and a deeper understanding of the Jewish communal leadership in an ever-evolving world.” Echoing Spertus Institute’s historic recognition of both formal and informal education, the 2020 cohort includes an impressive roster of educational professionals from day schools, supplementary schools, community organizations, camps, and innovative experiential learning programs.

Certificate in Jewish Leadership for Educators 2020 Cohort

  • Ilan Adar is the Education Director for Temple Sinai in Rochester, NY. In addition to more than twenty years as a professional Jewish educator, Adar holds a PhD in Music Education.

  • Ronit Amihude is the Head of School at Richmond Jewish Day School, Richmond, BC, Canada. Amihude previously helped Toronto’s Heschel School grow from its early days to a thriving school of over 300 students. She is a recent graduate of the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) run by the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York.

  • Eli Bass is the Jewish Education Coordinator at Macks Center for Jewish Education in Columbia, MD, where he supports Baltimore’s Jewish educational community. He has a Master’s in Jewish Education from JTS, served as Director of Jewish Life for Susquehanna University’s Hillel, and has hands-on experience as an outdoor educator.

  • Ruth Bergman is the Director of Education at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, MI. She served for many years as an instructor and mentor for the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning, training instructors around the country, and has taught courses for Jewish adults on antisemitism and the Holocaust.

  • Julie Blair is the Deputy Program Director at Valley Outreach Synagogue in Northridge, CA. She is a veteran Hebrew and religious school teacher who was recently awarded the 2019 Lainer Award for teaching excellence in Jewish education.

  • Kelly Cohen is the Executive Director of JumpSpark Atlanta in Dunwoody, GA, whose mission is “to connect Jewish teens through interest-based experiences inspired by a Jewish lens.” Previously, Cohen served as Judaic Studies Coordinator at The Alfred and Adele Davis Academy in Atlanta and lived in Jerusalem for four years as a member of the Pardes Educators Program.

  • Vanessa Ehrlich is the Director of Lifelong Learning at Makom Solel Lakeside in Deerfield, IL. She believes education is a lifelong journey (something she is very familiar with, having run a supplementary school for more than 30 years). Passionate about Jewish camping, she serves on the faculty of Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute.

  • Wendy Falchuk is the Director of Admissions at Gann Academy in Newton, MA. She spent many years as an early childhood educator—while sitting on school boards and advocating for special education in Jewish and secular settings. A consummate learner, she has worked with Jewish Montessori and supplemental schools as a learner and policy leader.

  • Rabbi Avi Finegold is Founder/Principal of The Jewish Learning Lab in Westmount, QC, Canada, a nexus for inclusive adult Jewish education in Montréal. Finegold was a founding co-chair of Limmud Chicago and part of Le Mood Montréal. He is also developing new projects through Espace MO, a Jewish nonprofit incubator, and Kol/Lab, a Jewish music-based community.

  • Barbara Glickman is the Education Director at Ohev Shalom of Bucks County, in Richboro, PA. An experienced Jewish educator and nonprofit professional, she has a passion for identifying and implementing innovative and inclusive programs to ensure all students and families are engaged.

  • Lisa Handelman is the Camp Director at Capital Camps in North Bethesda, MD. She previously served as the Community Disabilities Inclusion Specialist at Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, where she developed, implemented, and monitored opportunities for inclusion all aspects of Jewish life.

  • Abby Andiman Mars is the Early Childhood Center Director at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, CA. She has more than fifteen years of experience in Jewish early childhood education as an administrator, curriculum specialist, mentor, educator, and workshop facilitator and presenter.

  • Lori Sagarin is the Director of Congregational Learning at Temple Beth Israel in Wilmette, IL. She is a seasoned educator whose passions for Hebrew, reading, children, and Jewish camping have followed her throughout her 36-year-long career. In addition to her synagogue work, Sagarin serves as a consultant at the iCenter.

  • Justin Sakofs is the Director of Congregational Learning at Jacksonville Jewish Center in Jacksonville, FL. A passionate, human-centric educator, he believes in meeting the learner where they are and providing experiences which challenge them to grow. He is the creator of MagneticShul, an interactive toy designed to engage young children in ritual synagogue life.

  • Susan Siegel is Head of School at B’nai Shalom Day School in Greensboro, NC. She has more than 18 years of experience in Jewish Day School education and administration, and more than 25 years of experience as an educator.

  • Franny Silverman is the Director of Learning and Action at Kolot Chayeinu in Brooklyn, NY. A creator of theater, ritual, and experiential learning for all ages, she helps communities have conversations across differences and move towards broad inclusivity. Drawing on her background in theater and ritual, she also officiates at tailor-made lifecycle ceremonies.

  • Terri Swartz Russell is the Director of Family and Adult Education at Temple Emanuel in Newton Center, MA. She is passionate about Jewish education for all ages and has spent her entire professional career working in synagogues and as an educational consultant.

  • Julie Tzucker is the Education Coordinator at the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio, TX, where she helps convey the lessons of the Holocaust. A long-time secondary school teacher, she is passionate about educating the community in order to develop empathy and good citizenship in all people.

  • Dr. Margot Valles is the Director of Lifelong Learning at Shaarey Zedek in East Lansing, MI, where she strives to educate students to live a meaningful Jewish life and be lifelong Jewish learners. She holds a PhD from Indiana University and has served on the faculty of the Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel at Michigan State University.

  • Rabbi Jeremy Yoskowitz is a Jewish Studies Instructor and Jewish Student Life Coordinator at Frankel Jewish Academy in Farmington Hills, MI. He is also a chaplain and ethicist for the Beaumont Health System and has served as a chaplain for the U.S. Navy and a Campus Rabbi for Solomon Schechter in Dallas, TX, and Duke University in Durham, NC.

These new students will soon be able to tap into a network of colleagues from across North America. “I learned a tremendous amount about myself as both a Jewish educator and as a leader,” said past participant Beri Switzer, Director of Congregational Learning at Congregation Beth Torah in Richardson, TX. “The icing on the cake was the network of professionals that I met and stay in touch with; they have proved to be a vital resource to me!”

Applications are now being accepted for the 2021 cohort. With generous support from The Hariette and Ted Perlman Family Foundation, the cost to participate in the third cohort is only $1,000 including individual professional coaching. The cost does not include travel and accommodations. Information is available at


Spertus Institute 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. We often hear from students and participants that their experiences at Spertus are inspiring and even transformative. That is by design, because the Institute strives to offer thought-provoking content with real-world application, unparalleled resources, and a welcoming environment that encourages people to connect in an open exchange of ideas.

The Certificate in Jewish Leadership for Educators is presented under the auspices of Spertus Institute’s Center for Jewish Leadership, supported by a generous grant from the Crown Family.

Spertus Institute is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Pictured at left

From top row, left to right: Justin Sakofs, Lori Sagarin, Susan Siegel, Julie Tzucker, Ruth Bergman, Abby Mars, Eli Bass, Avi Finegold, Franny Silverman, Wendy Falchuk