Founded in 1974 by Rabbi Irving Greenberg, Elie Wiesel, and Rabbi Stephen Shaw.
Originally called the National Jewish Resource Center, the name was changed to CLAL -The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership in 1985.
Original programs focused on the challenges confronting Jewish life in the wake of the Holocaust and the birth of the State of Israel.
Rabbi Irving Greenberg and CLAL were central in establishing the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and the Holocaust Memorial Museum through Zachor, our Holocaust programming division.
Another goal of CLAL — to establish retreat centers for Jewish programs — resulted in numerous centers across North America.
By the mid 1980s, CLAL was known for its courses and classes which enabled lay leaders to connect meaningfully and spiritually to reimagine Judaism through its Shamor division.
CLAL’s renowned faculty of rabbis has from its inception represented all the denominations of Judaism, the only national organization with this unique composition.
In the early 1980s, CLAL established Am Echad (One People), a division devoted to pluralism in American Jewish life.
In 1986, CLAL held the first Critical Issues Conference examining the issue of pluralism, “Will There Be One Jewish People in the Year 2000?” When new issues arise, CLAL continues to gather Jewish communal leaders to address them, i.e. The Ethics of Jewish Power, Arab/Jewish Coexistence, Jewish healing.
In 1986 the CLAL internship program commenced with senior rabbinic students of all the denominations studying together at CLAL and learning about pluralism, unity and diversity within Judaism.
In 1988 CLAL initiated a Fellowship Program, renamed in 1997 as the Rabbi Irving Greenberg CLAL Fellowship Program. Outstanding young rabbis and scholars spend a year studying and working at CLAL. Rabbi Irwin Kula, CLAL’s new President, was the first CLAL Fellow.
In 1991 CLAL initiated its two-year young leadership seminar. More than 750 people have participated in this program from cities across North America.
In 1992 CLAL began a series of continuing education retreats for rabbis, communal professionals and educators across denominational and institutional lines. With funding from Andrea and Charles Bronfman, these intensive pluralist seminars forged new relationships, provided new perspectives about the Jewish community and offered new ways to reimagine Judaism in Jewish life.
Since 1992 CLAL has hosted six Scholars Conferences, bringing together significant Jews who are experts in a variety of fields to address key issues facing the Jewish community.
In 1995 CLAL commenced an intensive community building and institutional change program in which transformation and revitalization of the Jewish communities within a city are undertaken. The Denver Initiative, begun in 1996, is an example of this effort.
In 1997 Rabbi Irving Greenberg became President Emeritus and Rabbi Irwin Kula succeeded Rabbi Greenberg as President of CLAL.
In November 1997, Rabbi Kula addressed the General Assembly in Indianapolis, laying out CLAL’s philosophical approach to transforming and reimagining Judaism in North America.