Cross Seminary Course Spring 2016

Community organizing training for seminary students in rabbinic, cantorial, and education school

Spring 2016 Course Information

Open to students from all New York area Jewish seminaries including Jewish Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College, Yeshiva University, Yeshivat Maharat, and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.

This spring’s course begins on Sunday January 24, and then continues on Monday evenings between January 25 to April 18 from 6:45-9 PM. The class will meet in midtown Manhattan. Students will have the opportunity to further advance their learning through continued work during the spring semester. Apply today.

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Over the past years, hundreds of rabbis and cantors, lay leaders, and synagogues have begun to engage in congregation-based community organizing. Many organize as part of powerful interfaith organizations addressing issues of social justice, many organize within the Jewish community itself, building the synagogues and communities that we dream of and need, and many do both, finding ways for the two to buttress each other. Many of the movements themselves have begun to either employ or explore organizing as an approach to mobilizing around and realizing their vision. The Seminary Leadership Project has played a critical role in that growth through its more than 400 alumni.

Our cross-seminary course provides the training and reflective space to begin to learn and practice this mode of leadership, as well as relationships with students and clergy in the field across the movements who can be partners in a common vision for our community. This training provides professional skills that will be used long after the participants leave seminary as well as frameworks to guide their future work. Students learn how to uncover the stories, talents, and interests of the people they serve, as well as explore their own—learning how to lead with their laypeople, rather than over or under them. They learn how to lead a community by focusing on the development of people, how to look out for their own interests and learning, how to help their community develop a common mission and act on it, and how to work in an interfaith context to bring about social change that reflects the interests of the community and Jewish values.

The course covers topics such as:

  • Understanding the fundamentals of organizing: developing relational communities, building power, connecting people around their values and interests, and navigating between public and private life
  • Helping clergy cultivate themselves as leaders and protect their interests and time
  • Developing other leaders and leadership teams
  • Getting started organizing in a synagogue or other institution
  • The relational tools of the relational meeting and house meeting
  • Developing thriving congregations
  • Identifying common concerns and developing a collectively owned purpose
  • Moving beyond programming to run strategic campaigns that change the synagogue or change the world around us
  • Partnering for common social goals across lines of race and class

The course will utilize interactive and engaging training with discussion, role plays, small group work, and time for reflection on students’ current work. Sessions will be taught by experienced organizers and rabbis and cantors using these tools in the field.

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In addition to attending and participating in sessions, students are asked to identify an “organizing project,” a specific context where they can intentionally apply their learning and which they can discuss in class. Course instructors help identify and develop a project, ideally something the student intended to do anyway in their work or volunteer lives so as not to add additional responsibility. Optional reading and writing assignments will be given.