Several Brandeis students attend the Starr Seminar at the Museum of Jewish Heritage by the Forward

‘I am so grateful’: Brandeis alumni reflect on the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program

The Jewish professional community is a fast-growing, ever-changing field, with more career opportunities than ever before. You could work in a start-up, federation or Jewish community center. A human service agency, synagogue or Hillel. Or you can study Israel education, work in a summer camp or make a career of fundraising — and so much more.

Brandeis University has been supporting the Jewish professional community for 50 years through the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program. The graduate degree program aims to shape the next generation of Jewish leaders, combining academics, hands-on experiences and opportunities abroad.

“We train people to work in Jewish institutions, as well as teach leadership and managerial skills,” said Leonard Saxe, Chair of the Hornstein Program. “The Jewish world needs people who are innovators and visionaries, who lead communal organizations, who design and manage Jewish educational programs.”

In honor of its 50th anniversary, to be celebrated on the Brandeis campus May 3-4 2020, with a gathering of Hornstein alumni and Jewish leaders, we asked several alumni to share their favorite moments at Hornstein, as well as how the program prepared them for their current careers within the Jewish professional community.


Rachel Eisen: Mayyim Hayyim, director of development, Graduated 2016

For me, the mixed-cohort model was both the draw to attend, the highlight in having attended, and one of the top ways that Hornstein prepared me for my current positions. As someone who chose not to take the majority path of getting an MBA, it was so important that I sat in my core Hornstein classes with students who were receiving a different degrees than I was (not just MBA, but MPP, as well). Because of this model, I worked on projects with fellow students who approached the work with a different kind of framework or mindset, which in turn meant I was exposed to these frameworks and learned how to incorporate that learning into my own skill set, both in the program and now in my current position. I did not intend to go into development, but I fell in love with Mayyim Hayyim’s mission, values, and work during my Hornstein fieldwork there. So when a fundraising job opened up at Mayyim Hayyim as I was about to graduate Hornstein, I decided to apply. Although I’d never been a fundraiser before, the mixed cohort model meant I’d learned the basics and made it possible for me to quickly learn what further skills and frameworks I still needed.

Teri Mcguire: Foundation For Jewish Camp, associate program manager, Graduated 2016

The highlight of Hornstein for me was definitely the immersive experiences we were gifted. Having the chance to leave the Brandeis bubble and travel to places like Israel, Lithuania and Belarus to do learning on the ground was exceptional. Hornstein’s Starr seminar in NYC also provided an opportunity to get to visit and better understand many innovative Jewish non-profits.

Hornstein gave me a language to better understand the Jewish non-profit world. Prior to my time there I knew nothing about organizational culture or fundraising or evaluation. I note the foundation Hornstein gave me in these areas on a regular basis.

Rosa Kramer Franck: Hebrew College, donor engagement officer, Graduated 2007

How to choose just one [highlight]? My cohort — many of us are still close and serve as resources and sounding boards to each other. The faculty. They cared so much. Outside of the faculty, the Israel seminar and New York trip. For me, meeting with the heads of national and international Jewish organizations was like meeting celebrities. My internships were also priceless - the experiences I had still inspire and inform me as a professional. A post-highlight of Hornstein was job placement — up to this point, my Hornstein connections have made finding a job when I was looking for one effortless. It’s a wonderfully connected and caring network.

The unique mix of academic learning paired with intensive, excellent internships taught me so much, and I am so grateful!

Herschel Singer: Harold Grinspoon Foundation, project lead, Graduated 2018

I could share dozens of highlights about my time attending Hornstein – from the close friendships I built, to the mentorship I have and continue to receive from professors, to the immersive experience of traveling to Israel multiple times as a group. If I had to choose one, it would probably be the opportunity I had to work with a fellow student in the design and pursuit of an independent study focused on the intersection of Jewish camping and Systems Thinking. It was an amazing chance to work at the intersection of both degrees being pursued (MA/MBA), and learn more about two areas of significant interest to me.

Hornstein helped prepare me for my current position in many ways. Providing me with technical skills in evaluation and analysis, process mapping and systems design positioned me to work across teams and in a variety of areas. Experiences such as my fieldwork and Team Consulting Project afforded me the chance to learn by doing, and to figure out what I find most professionally satisfying. Perhaps most importantly, Hornstein continued to help me hone my skills as a learner and a questioner – two of the most critical identities one can bring to the modern Jewish workplace.

Natasha Nefedyeva: Rosov Consulting, portfolio and special projects manager, Graduated 2017

I was very lucky to be a part of a great cohort and built meaningful relationships with both classmates and professors. For an international student, the whole experience is a highlight — living in a foreign country, studying abroad. The experience was very intellectually stimulating and challenging at times. Through Hornstein I was also able to get two internships and work side by side with amazing Jewish professionals like Barry Shrage (then at CJP) and Sami Sinclair (at JCC of Greater Boston).

I am using both MBA and Jewish community skills and knowledge obtained through Hornstein on a daily basis. The knowledge about Jewish communal organizations, community’s history, and Jewish values in leadership are very relevant for all Rosov clients and therefore in my work with them. It also allows me to speak the same language as other professionals in the field. My MBA knowledge allows me not only to support the clients when it comes to strategy, evaluation and impact, but also to be a successful project manager, supervising budgets and managing teams.

Deryn Pressman-Mashin: Epstein Hillel School, director of community engagement, Graduated 2018

I graduated in May of 2018, but I was hired by the Head of School just after my fieldwork experience in the summer of 2017 at EHS. In the second year of my double degree program through Hornstein, I worked 3 days a week at EHS and then transitioned to full-time when I graduated.

My time at Hornstein had a lot of highlights, but specifically, I remember the Starr seminar as being especially pivotal. Professor Mark Rosen took us on a one-week trip to NYC to meet with the CEOs and Executive Directors of some highly-esteemed Jewish non-profits. I remember that every leader we met with more or less told us “you will never be successful in this field if you do not know how to fundraise.” I took that to heart and shortly after the trip, told Professor Rosen that I wanted to learn about fundraising for my summer fieldwork, which is how I was placed with Epstein Hillel School.

I knew I wanted to pursue my master’s degree, and before Hornstein, I always thought a graduate degree was just an extra piece of paper I needed to get to put on my resume. But what I received from the experience was so much more than I had ever imagined. I made so many important and foundational relationships with individuals that have played a role in my success. I took a course with David Whalen through the Heller School and David Mersky through Hornstein that opened my mind to a world of fundraising that is fundamental to everything I do today. Because of my financial accounting courses, I am able to help guide the Board of Directors through complex audited financial statements and I am often invited to the Finance committee meetings. Through my organizational behavior course with Mark Rosen, I am able to help the Head of School solve complex leadership problems. I rely on what I learned at Hornstein pretty much every single day, and likely will continue to for years to come.

Larry Tobin: The Shapiro Foundation, director, Graduated 2017

I built four powerful relationships while there — one with a faculty member who remains a mentor and friend, and three with dear friends and colleagues who continue to help and push me regularly. The two trips to Israel with the best teacher I’ve ever had in my life, Rachel Fish, were also tremendous gifts that taught me limitless nuance which I use daily in my work.

The two academic courses on Israel introduced me to the history and complexities of Israel as a Jewish democratic state. The Shapiro’s and I walk a fine line between two bifurcated groups in our work, and the tremendous nuance I gained from Professor Fish and Hornstein enable us to bring people together for common-sense approaches. I also took two incredible international finance courses towards my MBA which have been invaluable. My HR course taught through The Heller School was taught with such a tremendous bias towards people vs. profits, and in retrospect the lessons learned of how to work with an activist professor and peers have been very beneficial to my ability to work in the international refugee landscape.

Joel Abramson: Jewish Federation of Nashville, financial resource development officer, Graduated 2016

The highlight for me was building an incredible cohort of relationships, including and beyond my years of study, and getting access to Jewish thought leaders and CEOs from around the country and the world. Networking is critical to success, and Hornstein empowered me and gave me access to some of my role models as well as introducing me to new people with new ideas.

Hornstein gave me the critical analysis skills which enable me to analyze my professional environment and access and engage on a higher level. The business classes, leadership coursework, and real-world applications have given me the tools to succeed and grow as I pursue my career. It’s a rigorous academic pursuit that I’m very grateful to have experienced and would recommend to others looking to advance their careers and follow their passions.

Two Master’s degrees in two years was certainly a lot of work. There were times when I triumphed and times when I struggled. I gained a deeper appreciation for the connectedness of Jewish institutions and appreciated the value of Jewish innovation and ingenuity. Our professors were demanding but fair and always pushed our understanding and expectations.

Brandeis alumni reflect on the Hornstein Program

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‘I am so grateful’: Brandeis alumni reflect on the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program

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