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Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning Rebrands

The Spertus Institute in Chicago has a new name and a revamped mission.

The Jewish academic center is now the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, media reported this week.

Spertus President Hal Lewis told the Chicago Tribune that the rebranding was part of an overhaul at the institution, which was founded in 1924.

“During the past 3 1/2 years we eliminated a $3.8 million deficit, largely by dramatically reducing our programmatic footprint,” said Lewis, who took over in 2009.

Lewis said the name change was needed to better explain the institute’s mission to the public.

“When I first became president, I spent a good solid four months on a listening tour in which people told me, ‘Oh yeah, I knew something about Spertus,’ but there was uncertainty as to the work we did,” he said.

Spertus offers 400 students a range of programs from one-day workshops to a doctorate in Jewish studies.

It took a hit during the financial crisis of 2009 that sliced its endowment to $6 million and building endowment to $12 million, the Tribune reported. Those figures have rebounded and stand at $7 million and $17 million, respectively.

The rebranding was mostly funded by a grant from the Harvey L. Miller Foundation.

“I should say I’m generally skeptical of consultants,” Lewis said. “But they taught me something elegantly simple: Spend more time talking about the why and less time about the how.”

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