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The Jewels of Judaism

Posted on Thursday, February 14, 2019 by Rabbi Jay Henry Moses

As a young rabbi starting my career in Chicago I had the privilege of learning from my late teacher and friend Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, z”l. Rabbi Wolf was a principled, philosophical, religious liberal, but even his liberalism took an occasional backseat to his other strong inclinations: he was a poetic soul and a contrarian. And so it was that he developed a lilting visual metaphor for a liberal approach to Judaism, but it was a metaphor which explicitly drew on the imagery of halacha, l…

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Pluralism: Are we the Zealots of the Second Temple Period or the Sages of Yavneh?

Posted on Monday, February 11, 2019 by Samara Minkin

Back when the Temple was destroyed in 70 BCE, tribalism and sectarian infighting defined our people. Our response to that loss - so monumental that it permanently altered the physical and psychological landscape of Judaism - was the emergence of pluralism as a value.    It could not have been easy. Judaism in the late-Second Temple period was splintering. Jewish community comprised battling sects like Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, who often excommunicated one another. Remember too…

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A Do Diligent Dozen List

Posted on Tuesday, February 05, 2019 by Rabbi Elka Abrahamson

We need a word for that feeling one experiences when you either a) reply all in error or b) send a sensitive (or worse) email to the wrong person…an easy mistake given the number of say, rabbis or David’s or Rachel’s you have on your contact list. If you don’t know that feeling, you are not only lucky, you are unusual. And also, the odds that you will experience it at some point is highly likely. I suggest we call it a kishkor – a mash-up of kishke and error becaus…

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Gleaning Optimism and Agility from Pop Culture, Academic Theory and Jewish Practice

Posted on Wednesday, January 09, 2019 by Mark S. Young

I am an idealist, my Wexner class knows this. I prefer to identify hope and opportunity even during difficult times. Yet, I am not always the optimistic person I appear to be. I, perhaps like you, have moments my Mom would call, “the pits,” when life is bringing me down and all I want to do is pity myself and shut off the world.  It is then when I turn to the years of my adolescence and emerging adulthood, the 1990’s and early 2000’s. For in the pop culture of a gen…

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Turning Blockbuster Synagogues into Netflix Synagogues

Posted on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 by Wes Gardenswartz

The leadership team of Blockbuster was in the throes of a principled disagreement. Some believed that the wave of the future was to promote streaming and subscription-based DVD rentals. Others believed that the company needed to double down on what it had always been, a video rental company where a customer picked up the video from a store and paid laid fees if the video were returned late. The side that said double down on videos, stores and late fees won that battle but lost the war. Blockbust…

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Innovating From Within

Posted on Monday, December 10, 2018 by Jonathan Spira-Savett

Last year, of around 150 alumni of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship who came to the annual Institute, there were less than a handful of Conservative pulpit rabbis like me. How different from 25 years ago, when almost everyone in the fellowship was heading for synagogues, day schools and Federations. Much of our network today is in new niches and disrupters. In my own career I have moved from the new sector back to the synagogue. I believe that even a traditional shul that is not urban, hip or cen…

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Leading with Honor and Derech Eretz

Posted on Sunday, December 09, 2018 by Judd Kruger Levingston

When I began my new job at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy nearly ten years ago, I was surprised to learn that as much as my colleagues were interested to work with me on the curriculum, they also were interested to work with me on raising student awareness about honesty. According to one study that I read that was included in James Davison Hunter's book from 2000, The Death of Character, between 10-20% of high school age students are willing to cheat on a test or paper. Thus, even if our student…

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Leadership Transition Done Well: Rabbi Rachel Cowan's Legacy

Posted on Thursday, November 29, 2018 by Rabbi Jennie Rosenn

Rabbi Rachel Cowan, z"l did many remarkable things in her lifetime - some were very public, some behind the scenes. In 2004 she did a remarkable thing that was both known and quiet: she passed on the role of heading up the Jewish Life and Values Program at the Nathan Cummings Foundation to me, someone her daughter's age, in a way that was so smart, graceful and full-hearted that both the program and I were able to thrive and succeed. She did this again in 2011 at the Institute for Jewish Spiritu…

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The Journey from Lay to Professional Leadership

Posted on Friday, November 16, 2018 by Caryn Rosen Adelman

When I reflect on my personal journey as a lay, communal and civic leader to a paid professional, consulting to and for philanthropists and philanthropies, my first reaction is that it wasn’t easy. As a lay leader I had reached the top of every organization in which I chose to be involved. I was given incredible opportunities to represent, lead and shape organizations and institutions, but at some point I wanted more.   The “professionalism” of volunteers was “…

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Paying WITNESS to Elie Wiesel

Posted on Monday, November 12, 2018 by Ariel Burger

The origin of Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel's Classroom was tied to a conversation I had with Professor Wiesel about leadership. After yet another public moral failure by a well-known politician, I asked my teacher what it would look like to create a leadership institute based on his approach to ethics, deep learning and empathy. In his modest way, he demurred, but I found the holy chutzpah to raise the question several more times. This led to the beginnings of a plan for a fellowship for em…

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