At Commencement ceremonies Spertus Institute recognizes and cultivates Jewish leadership

Spertus Commencement image
Graaduating students and faculty celebrate at Spertus March 27.
At commencement ceremonies March 27, Spertus Institute awarded the Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies (MAJPS) degree to 14 students (including JUF News Executive Editor Aaron B. Cohen and Associate Editor Stefanie Pervos, who reflected on the program in a post on Oy!Chicago).

Bradley Jason Finkel, associate director of JCC Camp Chi spoke on behalf of his fellow graduates.

“This program is a sign of Spertus’ ability to impact and help shape the Jewish community going forward....As we explored and pushed at each of the subjects we continuously had to apply them to modern day society and our relevant careers. This program has motivated me to keep making a difference,” Finkel said.

In Chicago the MAJPS program serves professionals from organizations including the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, the Community Foundation for Jewish Education, the Board of Jewish Education, the Jewish National Fund, The Hillels of Illinois, the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago, and the Solomon Schechter Day Schools, among many others. The program currently has 43 local students as well as cohorts outside of the Chicago area, including Pittsburgh and Canada.

Spertus also awarded the Master of Science in Jewish Studies to Thomas Brodersen of Prescott, Arizona and Maureen Chaffin of Mack, Colo., and the Doctor of Science in Jewish Studies to Dr. Ronald Lee Eisenberg of Boston, Mass., and Dr. Kenneth H. Firestone of Lancaster, Penn.

Dr. Steven M. Cohen, Research Professor of Jewish Social Policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University and leading sociologist of contemporary American Jewry, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Hebrew Letters. In his acceptance remarks, Cohen spoke about the challenges young American Jewish leaders face today, in a time of shifting politics and major changes in Jewish religious and cultural identity.

“The Spertus Master of Arts in Jewish Professionals studies program is so impactful,” he said, “because it develops students’ Jewish literacy and prepares them to lead Jewish communities.”

He charged the graduates—all professionals at Jewish organizations—to work for the collective good of the Jewish people by rejecting bilateral choices. Rather than accept the growing divide between Orthodox and non-Orthodox and between religious and secular, he challenged the graduates to form new networks to bring young Jewish people together, and “artfully blend mission and marketing” so the organizations they serve are relevant to today’s realities.

Rabbi Dr. Byron L. Sherwin, Spertus Distinguished Service Professor and Director of Doctoral Studies, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Sherwin, a Jewish theologian, ethicist, scholar of Jewish philosophy and mysticism, and prolific author who has been a member of the Spertus faculty for 40 years, was awarded his degree in absentia due to health reasons.

Spertus President and CEO Dr. Hal M. Lewis said that Cohen and Sherwin “have helped their students and Jews the world-over bridge the gap between theory and practice, in ways that both enhance and advance the quality of Jewish life.”

For more information visit Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies is a partner in serving our community, supported by the JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

About the Spertus Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies:
The MAJPS program meets the needs of those working in the diverse organizations that serve and inform the Jewish community. The two-year program provides grounding in classical and contemporary Jewish knowledge, combined with professional training based in the best practices of nonprofit management. The program draws students from a broad range of career areas, creating a dynamic environment for professionals to learn from one another. In addition, a mentoring program affords students the opportunity to discuss significant professional issues and network with acknowledged leaders in their field.

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