Spertus Launches Center for Jewish Leadership

Spertus ChicagoBy Abigail Pickus

The Jewish nonprofit world is about to catch up with the for-profit world, thanks to the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership’s Center for Jewish Leadership (CJL).

Opening in the fall, the new training ground for Jewish professionals and volunteers aims to meld a deeper understanding of Jewish life, culture, and history with insights and best practices from the worlds of business and nonprofit leadership.

“I dreamed of creating the ‘Kellogg for nonprofit training’ for the Jewish community because the work that we do is sacred and significant,” said Hal Lewis, President and CEO of the Chicago-based Spertus Institute.

In referencing Northwestern University’s well-known business school, Lewis is alluding to the vast disparity between the targeted professional development available in the for-profit world versus its scarcity in the nonprofit world – an absence keenly felt in the Jewish professional world where such a “rigorous, thoughtful, planful training program” of that caliber does not exist.

In the face of this absence of professional training, numerous studies have predicted what could become a crisis in Jewish leadership.

According to the March 2014 report Cultivating the Next Generation of Leaders for Jewish Nonprofits by the Leadership Pipeline Initiative, 75% to 90% of Jewish nonprofits must find new executive leadership in the next 5-7 years.

CJL, which is funded by the Crown Family and an anonymous foundation, bills itself as a holistic way of responding to this challenge through its menu of graduate degrees, certificates, master classes, workshops, mentoring programs and micro-grants.
“This center will help prepare volunteer and professional leaders to have the vision and skills to respond to a rapidly changing Jewish world,” said Lewis.

Spertus, a 90-year-old Chicago Jewish institution, has emerged over the past few decades as a key training ground for Jewish communal leaders offering mid-career professionals “the Judaica and leadership training and mentoring they need,” according to Lewis.

It currently offers a Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies, a master’s in nonprofit management and a Certificate in Jewish Leadership, sponsored jointly with Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies.

The Center for Jewish Leadership will officially launch on Sunday, October 26, with an inaugural symposium titled, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Jewish Leadership. Serial entrepreneur and high tech venture capitalist Jon Medved will be the featured presenter, alongside Ariel Beery, co-founder/CEO of MobileOCT, an Israeli biophotonics startup enabling mobile phones to detect cancer, Jay Goltz, founder/CEO of the Goltz Group, Dr. Lewis of Spertus, and Toby Rubin, founder/CEO of UpStart Bay Area, a nonprofit that accelerates projects of Jewish social entrepreneurs.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunities that come with this Center for Jewish Leadership,” said Lewis. “It is the next logical step in the development of this institute as we invest in the future of the Jewish community through the training of Jewish leadership and development.”