A new program in Los Angeles dedicated to finding and training emerging leaders for local synagogues graduated its first class this month.
Called the Los Angeles Synagogue Leadership Institute, the program, crafted by the Los Angeles Board of Rabbis, gathered 35 students from all the major denominations and taught them, over the past two years, how they can better serve their colleagues and congregations as they move into leadership positions. Students were nominated by their rabbis and synagogue presidents, or by those already in the program.
With regular sessions, the classes focused on topics ranging from developing relationships among synagogue staff and lay leadership to extracting lessons in leadership conduct from Jewish texts. According to a report produced by the Board of Rabbis, the program was instituted to instill in a generation of emerging synagogue leaders “Jewish textual learning, leadership theory and hands-on leadership skills”; to strengthen their understanding of and commitment to multiple levels of leadership; and to foster joint programming between synagogue and institutional partners.
At the program’s final class before graduation this month, teacher Marla Abraham discussed the cosmological concept of tzimtzum — that God withdrew the divine presence in order to make room for the world — as a guiding principle for learning how to establish limits. “Sometimes saying no is giving others space,” she told the students.
One of them, Carole Stein, a congregant at the Conservative congregation Mishkon Tefilo in Venice, Calif., said she benefited greatly from the program, specifically the “discussion about rabbi/lay relations and how to optimize them to help the congregation grow.”