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Letter from the President — Winter/Spring 2020

Letter from the President — Winter/Spring 2020

How would you describe Spertus?
Letter from Dr. Dean P. Bell

Dear Friends:

At a recent meeting, a trustee mentioned “Spertus” and “exciting” in the same sentence. As is my wont, I quipped “How could one imagine one without the other?” While it was good for a laugh, I meant it seriously. I can’t imagine Spertus without thinking about the excitement of our degree, certificate, and public programs. My vision is that anytime someone uses the term “exciting” in the context of Jewish learning or leadership, the next thing they say is “Spertus.” And we are on our way.

As you page through this issue of Spertus News & Events, keep in mind how our programs engage and embrace community, a guiding theme for us this year. Community, of course, has many dimensions. In my estimation, two of the most important are relationships and responsibility.

In January, we welcome boundary-breaking interfaith leader Eboo Patel to a forum for our graduate students and the public. In his book Out of Many Faiths: Religious Diversity and the American Promise, Patel quotes thinker Alasdair MacIntyre, who said “I can only answer the question, ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’” Relationships, responsibility, community.

In a similar vein, in April, I am delighted to lead a ViewPoints program on interreligious dialogue with my colleague Professor Mike Hogue from Meadville Lombard Theological School.

Critical Conversations is an annual event endowed by dear Spertus friend and former trustee, the late Eric Joss. This year, the keenly relevant topic is climate change. The experts on the program’s panel will explore why it is so difficult to mobilize people around the urgency of the issue. One panelist, the trailblazing Bill McKibben, addressed this point in his new bestseller, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?. He wrote, “If ‘Let anyone do what they want’ is a flawed argument, then ‘No one can stop them anyway’ is an infuriating one. Insisting that some horror is inevitable no matter what you do is the response of people who don’t want to be bothered trying to stop it.” Responsibility, relationships, community.

We have many challenges in the world today. In response, we have the opportunity to form community around positive values and actions, to develop strong relationships and take responsibility. Please join us at Spertus, where we believe that learning communities are vibrant communities. I look forward to seeing you.

Best wishes,






Dr. Dean P. Bell
President, CEO, and Professor of Jewish History
Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership


Monday, December 9, 2019

Image at left

Dr. Dean P. Bell at the Kaplan Leadership Initiative’s Global Jewish Leadership Seminar, presented by Spertus in partnership with the JDC. At left is program manager Shai Kidishman, at right, program coordinator and interpreter Marina Gatskan.

Photo by Dogs + Not Dogs Photography.