Dinah Jacobs is the Academic Director of the Kellogg Management Education for Jewish Leaders (KJL). Formerly the Corporate Director of Customer Affairs at a global financial institution for 17 years, she is a recognized expert in building customer-centered organizations.  She and her husband regularly host Shabbat dinners at Kellogg where more than 100 students and faculty celebrate and learn together. She can be reached at dinah-jacobs@kellogg.northwestern.edu

Rabbis report they spend as much as 40% of their time on responsibilities other than the traditional rabbinic activities of religious leadership, teaching, and pastoral counseling.  “Can I do 40% better?” is the question I hear so often.  The “40%” includes managerial leadership, fundraising, governance, crisis management, conflict resolution, people management, etc.  And many other Jewish leaders confirm their own “need to know.”

After a 30 year career as a senior corporate executive and participant in the Kellogg School of Management community, I realized rabbis and other Jewish leaders could benefit from executive education.

Kellogg at Northwestern University is a top ranked business school.  In addition to our renowned MBA programs, more than 5000 not-for-profit and for-profit senior managers participate in executive education every year.  Courses range from four week MBA updates to several day intensives on specific subjects.

Kellogg Management Education for Jewish Leaders (KJL) is a new executive education program which moved into the classroom seven months after I originated this idea.

Fifty-five Jewish leaders, across the Jewish spectrum, from the US, Canada, and the UK, came together at our Evanston, Illinois executive education center for the inaugural KJL On-campus Session in December, 2008.  36 rabbis with 757 years of combined rabbinic experience were in the first cohort.  Rabbi and executive director teams are invited in order to build teamwork and to more readily implement KJL learning.

After the On-campus Session, learning continues with volunteer Kellogg alumni advisors, webinars, and a KJL Blackboard learning website.

Participating rabbis themselves initiated a Text Project to bring Judaic texts into dialog with four values-based leadership principles studied on campus:  self-reflection, balance, true self-confidence, and genuine humility.  Talmudic and Hasidic texts and a variety of commentaries are now posted to the KJL Blackboard. I never envisioned such postings when I began this management program.

2009 KJL is now enrolling and the On-campus Session takes place November 29 – December 3.

Sometimes I am asked if I am trying to turn synagogues and other Jewish institutions into businesses?  Absolutely not!  However, the need for our very special organizations to be managed as effectively and efficiently as possible – in order to accomplish their primary goals – is increasingly clear, especially in these challenging times.

Feedback from KJL Colleagues substantiates the practical value of their learning.  Here are examples of rabbis’ comments:

• “I have gained a wealth of practical information in diverse areas such as fundraising, management, leadership skills, budgeting, capital campaigns, and the list goes on and on…”

• “I’ve really begun to reflect about our organization as a whole; about my own style as a leader, and my goals and values as a leader, and about how we work together as a team.  I have a much broader perspective than I did before.”

• “KJL will shape and define how I look at leadership, crisis management, governance and metrics.  The quality of education, pedagogy, and professionalism enabled me to strive for greater goals as a professional committed to serving the Jewish people.”

This week as we read Parashat Pinchas, we once again reflect on the renewal of Rosh Chodesh.  I always note the prominence of this offering in the text.  Renewal is so central to whom we are as a people and as individuals, I find this very significant.

Renewal also is central to the goal of KJL.  Our initiative is inspired by the words of Rav Kook, quoted in all of our communications:  “What is holy must be renewed, and what is new must be made holy.”  (Iggerot Harraya, Letter 164)