Jewish peoplehood? What is our world view of modern Judaism? 

Zionism?  What are the laws, ethics and boundaries of Jewish nationalism?

Torah study? How can our ancient texts guide us through difficult conversations to strengthen our community? 

Now more than ever . . . Jewish communities nationwide are called upon to question and respond in a world changing at unprecedented speed. Here to help engage and strengthen Jewish communal life and to address some of the most pressing issues of our time, the Shalom Hartman Institute North America, a Jewish research and education institute, has expanded its reach with a new office in Detroit.

Founded in Israel, Hartman maintains a campus in Jerusalem and an office in North America in New York, with satellite offices in Washington DC, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. Now, with the support of the William Davidson Foundation and, in partnership with the JCRC/AJC (Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC) and other community organizations, Hartman Midwest will take shape in the Detroit office, under the direction of Rebecca Starr.

Rebecca Starr, Midwest Manager, Hartman

A respected educator and community organizer, Rebecca is well known in Jewish Detroit for her service as Assistant Director of Federation’s educational programming for teachers in congregational and day schools. Additionally, she has served as Director of the Detroit branch of the Florence Melton Adult Mini School, where she is still a faculty member. Well suited to her new role as Midwest Manager at Hartman North America, Rebecca will oversee all program development, organization and partnerships in the Midwest region.

In continuing her work in adult Jewish learning through the Shalom Hartman Institute, Rebecca observed that “The Detroit Jewish community is filled with committed leaders who are always searching for more opportunities to expand their knowledge. The educators, faculty members and curricula associated with Hartman will add a scholarly perspective as we continue to ask challenging and relevant questions for today’s Jews.” 

“The right time for the right match”

Commenting on the opportunities for collaboration and leadership development inherent in bringing Hartman to Detroit, Joel Tauber, current Hartman board member and past President of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, stated,  “It’s totally appropriate that the Shalom Hartman Institute, one of the most advanced and sophisticated education institutions from North America and Israel is coming here to work in the Jewish community. It’s the right time for the right match.”

Noting that collaboration is in the DNA of the Detroit Jewish community, Alicia Chandler, Board President of JCRC/AJC added, “The Shalom Hartman Institute is the thought leader in pluralistic thinking and civil discourse. Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC is grateful to the Davidson Foundation for their support of this incredible program and looking forward to hearing the many thoughtful and nuanced discussions about Israel that will grow from the members and their organizations.”

Alicia Chandler, President JCRC/AJC

Far-reaching in its programming, the Hartman initiative in Detroit provides educational opportunities working with executives in Jewish agencies and foundations, community lay leaders, rabbis, educators as well as the general public. Programs include:

Community Leadership — The iEngage Detroit Community Leadership Program (CLP), conducted in partnership JCRC/AJC, begins in November and runs locally through late 2020 with monthly sessions led by Hartman scholars. The program culminates in a celebration at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Participants in the 2019-2020 program represent a cohort of 21 agency professionals and lay leaders in Jewish Detroit.

As part of the Community Leadership program, Hartman also works with area agency executives, foundations and funders to provide strategies for “Courageous Leadership.”

The Rabbinic Leadership Initiative – the rabbinic track of the Hartman program – is an intensive 17-week course in Israel over a period of four years. Funded in part by a grant from the Davidson Foundation, Rabbi Arianna Silverman (of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue) and Rabbi Aaron Starr (of Congregation Shaarey Zedek) are set to begin their journey of learning this year with Hartman scholars and fellow rabbis across America and Israel.

Teach the Teachers – A part of the iEngage initiative, the Hartman Educators Cohort provides a track to “teach the teachers and train the trainers” for the purpose of sharing their knowledge with their schools and organizations focusing through the lens of our North American /Israel relationship. Led by Hartman guest scholars, the program is open to day schools and congregational school educators.   

Hartman Online — The web-based Video Lecture Series enables rabbis and educators to bring the curricula and resources of the Hartman Institute into their congregations, fostering high-level adult education. Videos are accessible online.

Hartman Scholar Lectures – Free and open to the public: Mark your calendar for the first Hartman Community event, Together and Apart: The Future of Jewish Peoplehood with guest speaker, Rabbi Lauren Berkun, Hartman V.P of Rabbinic Initiative[RS2] s. Monday, November 18, 2019, 7:30 pm at Congregation Shaarey Zedek.

 Save the dates for two more events:. Yossi Klein Halevi, guest speaker for the 78th Annual Rabbi B. Benedict & Ada S. Glazer Institute on Judaism Lecture, March 16, 2020, at Temple Beth El; and Rabbi Donniel Hartman, President of Hartman and noted author,  May 6, 2020, at Congregation Beth Am.

The Buzz: What Hartman participants have to say

Expressing her thoughts on the critical need for the Hartman program, Randi Sakwa, Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy Board member, Co-Chair of JCRC/AJC’s Israel Programming Committee and a Hartman Community Leadership cohort member had this to say:

With anti-Semitism on the rise, it is more important now than ever to strengthen our community’s connection between Israel and world Jewry. The iEngage Detroit Community Leadership Program will be an amazing opportunity to be part of a collective of Jewish lay leaders deeply committed to making a difference and impacting the “Israel conversation” in a meaningful and valuable way.”

Welcoming the Hartman initiative to Detroit, Scott Kaufman, Federation’s “CEO on the move” spent his summer vacation learning at Hartman’s Jerusalem Center and was impressed at how its educators were able to “foster the skillset and communal culture to have difficult conversations about a variety of potentially divisive topics.”

“Given the complexity of the challenges we face, having the expertise of the Hartman Institute on the ground in Detroit to help our communal professionals, volunteers, clergy and young adults develop the tools and methodology to have difficult conversations without demonization or creating barriers is essential if we are to maintain the sense of community and collective responsibility that has been a defining strength of Jewish Detroit for generations.” 

Honored to be part of the seventh cohort of the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative (RLI) of the Shalom Hartman Institute, Rabbi Arianna Silverman reflected in an article that appeared in The Detroit Jewish News 07/29/2019:

We live in difficult and complicated times, where the answers to our local, national and international problems — strategically and religiously — require deep conversations and intricate nuanced approaches, as well as a tremendous amount of humility and generous listening. We look forward to continuing this dialogue and this learning with each other and with our fellow rabbis; we also look forward to continuing this learning and to beginning this dialogue [at home]  . . . to make for ourselves ‘a heart of many rooms’ so that we can better learn and work together, celebrate and mourn together and, when appropriate, tear down and build up again … together.”

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