The Seminary Leadership Project sponsors organizing internships for promising rabbinical students from Hebrew Union College, Jewish Theological Seminary, American Jewish University, and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. The work with HUC students is led by Just Congregations, the organizing initiative of the Union for Reform Judaism.
Internships are either part-time school-year long placements with synagogues that have made organizing a priority or full-time summer internships with broad based organizations, also known as congregation based community organizations. Internships are paid, and some provide seminary field credit. In some synagogue-based internships, rabbinical students combine organizing responsibilities with other rabbinic duties such as teaching, preaching, and pastoral work. The opportunity is available to students who have already been trained through the Seminary Leadership Project or Just Congregations. The application process is different depending on the seminary and the placement; to find out more, contact Meir Lakein.
For rabbinic students who really want to learn how to incorporate organizing into their future work, internships offer the practical opportunity to learn by doing that learning organizing in a classroom alone cannot provide. In synagogues, interns practice relational meetings, identifying and recruiting leaders and developing leadership teams, helping synagogue leaders run campaigns, and engaging synagogues in the work of congregation based community organizations. They learn the nuance, the excitement, and the challenges of being a rabbi who leads through organizing their community and develop a much deeper understanding of how synagogues actually work. Interns all say that they complete their internship much more prepared to serve as rabbis and leaders. Interns who work in congregation based community organizations see these organizations from the inside and learn how to work with leadership teams and in community campaigns through work alongside master organizers. Through their internships, rabbinical students develop relationships with other clergy, congregations, and organizations that they maintain after ordination.
Synagogue-based internships are partnerships with their host congregations. Synagogues seek out these internships, and are willing to do the work to sponsor them, provide support and mentorship for the intern, and help pay for them, because successful interns have proven to have a significant impact on their organizing. Organizing interns have helped synagogues expand their core teams, organize previously unengaged populations, conduct successful campaigns, and involve more people in broad based organizing – not by doing the work for congregation leaders, but by providing another trained organizer with the legitimacy of rabbinical school with the time and dedication to seek out, engage, and support leaders in their work. In this way, the Synagogue Leadership Project does not only invest in the future of synagogue organizing – we positively contribute to work going on today.
In 2011-2012, there are 10 rabbinic organizing interns in the New York City area and Los Angeles.