Rabbis Without Borders
A New Initiative of CLAL - The National Jewish
for Learning and Leadership
In America today, Jewish influence can be felt throughout
our culture ─ from movies, television, and books, to politics, business, and
art. As the primary teachers, creators and mediators of Jewish thought and
practice, rabbis are the most important developers and disseminators of
Jewish wisdom. At present, however, rabbis often don’t communicate in ways
that make Jewish wisdom useful and meaningful to most Americans.
The American Jewish community needs rabbis who remain deeply committed to
synagogues and Jewish institutions, but who also appreciate that life goes
beyond these walls. Rabbis Without Borders seeks to position rabbis as
American religious leaders and spiritual innovators who contribute Jewish
wisdom to the American spiritual landscape. Its mission is to nurture and
develop a network of rabbis who are seen as American religious leaders
capable of conveying Jewish wisdom in accessible and significant ways to
improve people’s lives. By developing this capacity, rabbis will be
immeasurably better teachers and builders of vibrant Jewish life and
communities, and Jewish wisdom will contend in the marketplace of ideas for
the attention of anyone seeking greater meaning and purpose.
The goal is to create a network of between 200 and 300 rabbis in ten years.
The first step will be to establish a highly selective rabbinic program
focusing on rabbis who are already primed to make Judaism meaningful in the
public sphere a group that will represent Rabbis Without Borders
best. This pioneer group will serve as role models and teachers both inside
and outside of the Jewish community. We will add to this group by creating a
training program for rabbis who want to reach a broad audience but who may
not have the communication skills or resources to do so. These rabbis will
gain the proficiency and tools through several training methods including
one-on-one mentoring, group retreats, and consultations with professionals
in a variety of fields to strengthen their knowledge of the American
societal and cultural scene to better see where Jewish thought can
contribute. Through the Rabbi Without Borders initiative, rabbis will learn
how to craft their teaching of Jewish wisdom so that it will bring meaning
and purpose to individuals’ lives.
In addition, we will create a three-year program for rabbinical school
students. The first year introductory Beit Midrash learning series will be
open to all rabbinical school students who want to learn how to better
address issues in contemporary American life. The selective second-year
intensive internship will be parallel to the rabbinic training program. Like
the rabbis, students will gain the skills and resources they need to make
Jewish wisdom accessible and meaningful by experiencing one-on-one
mentoring, group retreats, and consultations with professionals in other
fields who can educate the students about a variety of issues facing 21st
century Americans. For the third year, students will be asked to submit
proposals for a specific project that they would like to develop to make
Jewish wisdom accessible and meaningful in new and innovative ways. The most
creative and inspiring proposals will be developed with the help and support
of Rabbis Without Borders and CLAL.
Jewish tradition has so much wisdom to offer to help us lead fuller, more
meaningful lives. Strengthening rabbis’ abilities to disseminate this wisdom
will benefit both the Jewish people and the world at large.
Rabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu, Director of Rabbis Without Borders, is a
graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of
Vassar College. She is the founding director of the MetroWest Jewish Health
and Healing Center and the Center for Jewish Life, both at JCC MetroWest in
New Jersey; and of Rimon: Collaborative Jewish Learning, an adult Jewish
learning program involving 40 partner institutions and synagogues from
across the denominational spectrum. Rabbi Sirbu has presented on Jewish
healing and spirituality at several national conferences and is a partner at
the Kalsman Institute for Judaism and Health, a program of Hebrew Union
College. A trained hospital chaplain and pastoral counselor, she is an
excellent communicator, teacher, community organizer, and manager.
Rabbi Irwin Kula, the President of CLAL, is a respected religious leader,
teacher, lecturer, and commentator, he is the author of Yearnings:
Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life, winner of a "Books for a Better
Life Award," and selected as one of the "10 Best Spiritual Books of 2006,"
which was featured in the public TV special, "The Hidden Wisdom of Our
Yearnings." Listed two years in a row as one of the nation’s 50 most
influential rabbis in Newsweek, Rabbi Kula was named one of the new
leaders to watch on the American spiritual landscape by Fast Company
magazine and "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly" (PBS). A regular on The
Today Show, he hosted his own public TV series, Simple Wisdom,
and was featured in the acclaimed film, Time for a New God. A
nationally recognized speaker who appears frequently in the media, he has
worked with such luminaries as Queen Noor and the Dalai Lama on
compassionate leadership, and was featured in PBS-TV’s "Frontline: Faith and
Doubt at Ground Zero." He is a blogger for the Washington
Post/Newsweek—On Faith online column.
For more information, contact
Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu.