Rabbis Without Borders connects rabbis who are creatively engaged in making Jewish wisdom meaningful and accessible to all. We offer a community where you can develop new ideas in a supportive environment, learn new ways of communicating, and build your religious leadership capabilities.
Are you – or do you want to be – a Rabbi Without Borders?
If so, we have a variety of learning opportunities available for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
RWB Seminars across the country
Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI)
CLI Forum website
Clal's Rabbis Without Borders (RWB) is a pluralist, interdenominational network of rabbis who are able to make Jewish wisdom and traditions relevant and meaningful to anyone seeking greater meaning and purpose in their lives. The RWB Fellowship helps rabbis develop and communicate a Judaism that can compete in a globalized, networked world in which identities and communal boundaries are increasingly permeable. By participating in the RWB Fellowship, rabbis learn how to use Jewish wisdom to speak to contemporary American issues, how to use language that is open and inclusive to reach a larger audience, and how to use Jewish wisdom to add meaning to people's lives.
RWB fellows gather in New York for two days, four times during the year to meet with leading thinkers in the fields of media, politics, business, and explore trends in contemporary religion and spirituality. By learning with these experts, rabbis will be better able to appreciate and contribute to the American religious landscape, especially beyond the borders of their respective denominations, institutions and communities.
Fellows engage in text study related to these topics and will be challenged throughout the year to think creatively, and express themselves in new ways. Continuity will be maintained between in-person gatherings through selected readings and online conversations. Fellows incorporate the ideas presented into their work as concrete projects.
The ideal candidate is a rabbi who believes that the teachings of Judaism can help navigate every aspect of modern American life. This rabbi seeks to have an impact both within and beyond his or her individual congregation or organization. Creativity and an ability to think outside the box are valued qualities.
All travel and hotel costs will be covered.
During the 2014-2015 academic year we will be embarking on an important research project with our alumni. You can read about it here.
We will be soliciting our next cohort of Fellows in the winter/spring of 2015. Application information will be available at that time.
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Rabbi Without Borders:
1. Deeply pluralistic and always aware of the partial truth in a view with which we deeply disagree.
2. Sees/experiences Jewish tradition and personal faith as a public resource and expresses them as such – at least a significant part of the time.
3. Speaks in the 1st person singular without being self-absorbed or narcissistic.
4. Recognizes that people always trump ideology.
5. Being good is more important than being right, or for the more precise among us, being good (loving, nurturing, compassionate, etc.) is a crucial piece of our understanding of what it means to be right.
6. Doesn't worry, at least not very much, about dilution or work from a narrative of erosion.
7. Places other peoples questions before their own answers, without shying away from the answers to which they are passionately committed.
8. Engages seriously with tradition and appreciates the necessity for strong ties/kinship/community in order to be happy and secure.
9. Is animated by a love of what they do and to those ideas and practices which animate their lives.
10. Is relatively fearless (because of "faith") of the future and of the new - be it technology, ideas, possibilities, innovations while appreciating the importance of fear in heightening awareness.
11. Places limited importance on boundary questions and realizes that they are personal, more than policy issues. We all have and need boundaries (even borders!), but they exist because of our need, not because of some absolute and independent necessity.
12. Embraces doubt and questions alongside answers and certainty. Appreciate that neither should ever hold sway over the other – at least not for very long, and not without revisiting the conclusion.
13. Privileges the question of to what they might contribute, as opposed to what they must resist or correct.
14. Is personally evolving and experiences that evolution as a coherent process, not as a betrayal of past conclusions. Coherence emerges from something larger than observable constancy.
15. Presumes that most dichotomies are false, at least ultimately, and relates to them and to the use of them as such.
16. Tends to learning about self, text, and world, based more on making connections than on making distinctions.
Do I need to make a financial commitment?
No. We have many generous funders who enable us to make CLAL's staff and other resources available to you at no charge.
Is RWB for both pulpit and non-pulpit rabbis?
Yes. What is important to us is not where your office is, but whether you have a passion and a vision that ought to be shared on a larger scale.
Do I have to be a member of a particular denomination to participate?
No. We welcome rabbis and rabbinical students from across the denominational spectrum.
By joining this network, how will I as a rabbi change?
- You will see your rabbinate as encompassing not just your congregation, or school, or institution, but everyone whom you come across.
- You will be better able to articulate what you find meaningful in Jewish tradition and be more open to experiencing the tradition in new ways.
- You will be better able to engage both Jews and non-Jews in conversations about what wisdom/traditions can be meaningful to them and help guide them on their personal paths to find what can be useful to them.
- You will be less lonely in your work since you will be connected to a network of other rabbis who are also thinking creatively about how to make Judaism meaningful in the lives of 21st century people.
RWB offers seminars for rabbis in various locations nationwide and on the web. We believe that there are various skills and methodologies you can learn to aid you in teaching without borders.
The seminars offer training in a variety of areas including:
- The sociology of the American religious and spiritual landscape (ie. what Americans really believe about God, trends and practices in American spiritual life, knowledge of other religious traditions);
- The theory and practice of pluralism (ie. why hearing different viewpoints strengthens our society, what kind of religious voices do Americans consider authentic and why);
- Innovative methods and pedagogies for translating Jewish wisdom and practice into useful contemporary idioms (ie. how we need to change our vocabulary to be understood by contemporary Americans Jews and non-Jews and ways that they can apply Jewish wisdom to their lives);
- Using technology and media to communicate your message to a broad audience (ie. how to use tools such as blogs, the internet, media and other technology more effectively in your work.)
RWB Online Learning
The goal of RWB is to build a national network of rabbis who share a common vision to make Jewish wisdom an accessible resource to help people across religious and cultural borders in America enrich their lives.
We will build the network by connecting rabbis who have areas of interest with each other in order to foster collaborative thinking and projects. This non-competitive environment will enable rabbis to speak honestly about the best ways to implement this vision. See our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rabbiswithoutborders forour latest blog posts and on going conversation.
Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI)
Shaping Visionary Spiritual Leaders
Visit CLI's website here: cliforum.wordpress.com/
"Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential." —Warren Bennis
The Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI) is designed as a two-year program for early career rabbis to encourage innovative thinking and equip rabbis to serve as transformative change agents in the communities that they serve. We are looking for rabbis who think big, prepared to dramatically re-think how synagogues function or are prepared to launch a spiritual alternative to synagogues of their own design. The syllabus will integrate methodologies from the field of leadership education with the best thinking in the field of synagogue transformation. The acronym—CLI—reminds us that clergy are intended to be human vessels that create sacred communities in which Jews can find meaning and purpose (klei kadosh).
Participants will receive training from nationally prominent experts in these fields, and be supported by both an individual rabbinic mentor and by a peer cohort that will form an interdenominational community of practice. CLI is the newest program in the Rabbis Without Borders (RWB) family of programs under the auspices of Clal and will be directed by Rabbi Sid Schwarz. RWB is transforming the American rabbinate by providing cutting edge methodologies and skills for addressing the challenges that people face today.
The selection process for participation will put a great deal of emphasis on assessing an innovation in program or in the way a spiritual community will function that applicants propose. We will consider both rabbis serving congregations and those who are seeking to launch an entrepreneurial spiritual alternative that will serve Jews. We are looking for rabbis who think systemically and who are prepared to be constantly challenged to re-think how they function as leaders.
The CLI Program There are three ways that CLI participants will be shaped by the program. Each year will be kicked off with a three-day retreat which will be a deep dive into the methodology of the program. In addition to working with Sid Schwarz's new paradigm for synagogues as developed in Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews can Transform the American Synagogue, leadership methodologies will be taught by Dr. Martin Linsky, one of the pre-eminent leadership consultants in the world from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and the co-author (with Ron Heifetz) of Leadership on the Line, and Clal faculty.
The second support for CLI participants will be peer cohorts. The twenty participants in the program will be divided into five, cross-denominational groups. Each will form a community of practice that will convene once per month for 60-90 minutes (via phone, webinar or alternate platform). Participants will have the chance to present several times per year on where they are in the program progression and benefit from the feedback and input of their peers.
The third support for CLI participants will be a mentor chosen from the CLI mentor team, consisting of some of the most successful and innovative rabbis in the American Jewish community. Participants will have regular access to their mentor as well as to the CLI program director. The CLI program will provide participants with an unparalleled opportunity to become the kind of change agent the American synagogue and the American Jewish community so desperately needs.
Clergy Leadership Incubator
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who can apply?
A: An ordained rabbi from any denomination or rabbinic training program who is serving a congregation, be it a traditional one or an alternative spiritual community. Regardless of age, eligible rabbis must be at least in the first year in their community with a mutual commitment (their own and the congregation) to continue for at least one more year. The most veteran rabbi we will consider will be in their seventh year serving a congregation. We will also consider applications from early career rabbis at least one year past ordination who are contemplating or in the process of launching an entrepreneurial spiritual alternative for Jews outside the context of a conventional synagogue.
Q: Who else will be in the program?
A: We will be selecting 20 rabbis for the first, two-year cohort. Our objective will be to create a cohort that is diverse in terms of gender and religious ideology across the denominational spectrum.
Q: What is the timetable for the program?
A: Applications are due June 21, 2015. Notification of acceptance will be on July 15, 2015. The opening retreat will take place Oct. 7-9, 2015 at the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Reisterstown, MD.
Q: What is the financial obligation for the program?
A: Participants will be asked to pay $500 for each of the two years of the program. That fee will include the costs for the three day retreat each year, all program materials and access to a rabbinic mentor and a peer community of practice. Transportation to and from the retreat will be the responsibility of the participant though travel subsidies will be available.
Q: What if I change jobs or career path during the two years of the program?
A: We recognize that in rare cases a rabbi may choose to leave the congregational rabbinate in the midst of the two year program. Such a rabbi may complete the CLI program; we expect that there are significant leadership lessons that will be applicable to other professional settings.
Q: There are a growing number of programs available for rabbis today. What is unique about CLI?
A: CLI is less a study program than it is a boot camp for visionary leadership. It is very practical. It will help rabbis expand their human potential. It will help rabbis explore their particular leadership styles. It will help rabbis shape a vision that inspires others. It will help rabbis better understand how organizations work and how they can be transformed.
Applications are due by noon on June 21, 2015. They should be sent in Word format via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The subject line should say "CLI application". Your space limit for all three questions is two pages in Times Roman 11pt font, 1-inch margins. There is no disadvantage if your answers are shorter than that. In addition please attach a resume of no more than two pages in length. If you have questions about the program or the application process, direct your questions to Zahara Zahav at email@example.com.
- Name/Year of ordination/ordaining institution
- Why do you want to enroll in the CLI program and what makes you a good candidate?
- Identify one thing that you failed at in your life and what you learned from it.
- (for those currently serving congregations) Assuming that you could muster the support to make any change you wanted to your current congregation, what would you do and why?
- (for those contemplating a new venture) What is the vision you have for your new enterprise? What need are you trying to meet and why do you think your project can fulfill that need?