Last week the Jewish Emergent Network sent off seven early-career rabbis with love and blessings, after they’d been immersed in the practices and communities of the Network’s seven organizations for two years. The Rabbinic Fellows include Rabbi Keilah Lebell at IKAR in Los Angeles, Rabbi Joshua Weisman at Kavana in Seattle, Rabbi Tarlan Rabizadeh at The Kitchen in San Francisco, Rabbi Emily Cohen at Lab/Shul in New York City, Rabbi Jeff Stombaugh at Mishkan in Chicago, Rabbi Mira Rivera at Romemu in New York, and Rabbi Jesse Paikin at Sixth & I in Washington, D.C.
The Jewish Emergent Network’s Rabbinic Fellowship spanned four years and two cohorts, and helped shape 14 members of the next generation of entrepreneurial, risk-taking, change-making rabbis. Each Fellow took on a variety of independent rabbinic tasks while immersed as a full-time clergy member at one of the Network organizations, and received supervision and support from leaders within the host organization. Throughout the program, Fellows met regularly as a fully assembled cohort, traveling to each of the seven Network communities for learning intensives at which they trained with Network and non-Network rabbis, teachers and other experts from around the country. Throughout, the Fellows had the chance to engage and share best practices around innovation and creativity with regard to Jewish community building. The Fellowship aimed to fortify these early-career rabbis with skills that will equally prepare them to initiate independent communities, and be a unique value – and valued – inside existing Jewish institutions and synagogues. Each Fellow was steeped in the spirit and best practices of the Network organizations and is poised to educate, engage, and serve an array of target populations, especially young adults and families with young children.
To mark the end of their Rabbinic Fellowship, the Fellows released a podcast that was intended to be part of a capstone project presented at the Jewish Emergent Network’s postponed (RE)VISION20/20 conference. Listeners can tune in here to listen to these seven dynamic rabbis answer a real congregant’s question about whether a drug-induced state is a credible way to get close to God.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Jewish Emergent Network organizations are using what they learned in piloting this Rabbinic Fellowship to design path-breaking adult education and leadership development programs set to launch in 2021. The Network also recently partnered with REBOOT to produce 12-straight hours of streaming Shavuot content experienced by over 30,000 people, and is currently working on collaborative and accessible Elul and High Holy Day programming. Stay up-to-date at jewishemergentnetwork.org and on social channels @JewishEmNet.
The communities in the Network do not represent any one denomination or set of religious practices. What they share is a devotion to revitalizing the field of Jewish engagement, a commitment to approaches both traditionally rooted and creative, and a demonstrated success in attracting unaffiliated and disengaged Jews to a rich and meaningful Jewish practice. While each community is different in form and organizational structure, all have taken an entrepreneurial approach to this shared vision, operating outside of conventional institutional models, rethinking basic assumptions about ritual and spiritual practice, membership models, staff structures, the religious/cultural divide and physical space.
Funding for the Jewish Emergent Network and its Rabbinic Fellowship program was generously provided through a grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation. Significant additional funding was also provided by the Crown Family, the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Diane & Guilford Glazer Philanthropies, the William Davidson Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, and Natan. The Network is working with current funders and cultivating prospective funders in connection with its next major projects and ongoing field-building work.