Where The Rabbinate And Academia Meet

Each year, a group of the world’s leading scholars of Judaic studies and beyond gathers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies to study a shared topic at the forefront of the field of Jewish studies. Their research on Jewish civilization, past and present, has the potential to enhance Jewish life and shape Jewish culture beyond academic borders. While scholars have opened up vast unexplored areas of knowledge, the task of translating this knowledge for the Jewish community is best achieved by rabbis, who are expert in translating relatively complex data and research into increasingly accessible, meaningful and usable wisdom.

LEAP brings together outstanding academics with equally outstanding rabbis. Just as there is now an emergent field of translational medicine, whose goal is to move from the bench side to the bedside, Clal created LEAP to bring what might be called translational Jewish wisdom from the academics to the rabbis, who in turn will bring this wisdom to the communities they serve.

This Year’s Theme:

America’s Jewish Questions

In the 2020–2021 academic year, the Katz Center is delving into some of the most pressing debates within US history and Jewish history and is examining vital questions shaping Jewish cultural studies, literary theory, and social scientific inquiry. Visiting scholars are directing attention to the diversity of Jewish practices, politics, and peoples, at home and abroad, and are reconsidering many of the basic assumptions and concepts that have shaped the study of American Jews. Throughout the year, the international cohort of fellows pursues research that revises, reframes, or expands our understanding of American Jews, their history, religious life, politics, culture, and experience.

This Year’s Fellows

Rabbi Debra Bowen

Rabbi Debra Bowen is a native of Philadelphia and is the spiritual Leader of Congregation Temple Beth’El, located in the West Oak Lane section of the city.  It is an eclectic synagogue whose membership is majority African American.  She is the daughter of the late Rabbi Louise Elizabeth Dailey, z”l, who was a brilliant teacher of Torah and the spiritual leader of CTB for 50 years.

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Rabbi Peter Berg

Rabbi Peter Berg became the fifth senior rabbi of The Temple since 1895 in July 2008. Rabbi Berg is passionate about Jewish learning and meaningful worship, and he is an advocate for social change.

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Rabbi Sarah Barukh

Rabbi Sarah Barukh is one of the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) educators at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a 950-bed acute care and teaching facility located in Los Angeles. Prior to serving in this capacity, Rabbi Barukh provided direct patient care as one of the medical center’s Jewish Chaplains.

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Rabbi Jordie Gerson

Rabbi Jordie Gerson, rabbi of Greenwich Reform Synagogue, was ordained as a rabbi at Hebrew Union College in New York City; she also holds a Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Bachelor of Arts from Bates College. Read More

Rabbi Nate Crane

Rabbi Nate Crane is the Rabbi of Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah, and in 2020, he was appointed to serve on the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS), the governing body determining Jewish law and practice for the Conservative movement as a whole.

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Rabbi Noah Cheses

Rabbi Noah Cheses grew up in Boston where he attended Maimonides School. He received his rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University (RIETS) and earned his Master’s in Theology from Yale University. During his studies, he was a Norman Lamm Fellow in Jewish Thought and a Wexner Graduate Fellow.

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Maharat Victoria Sutton

Maharat Victoria Sutton is the Director of Education and Community Engagement at Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley. She was ordained through Yeshivat Maharat in 2014. A graduate of Barnard College, with a BA in Biological Sciences, she also holds a Grand Diploma in Pastry Arts from the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan.

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Rabbi Michael Ragozin

Rabbi Michael Ragozin began his tenure at Congregation Shirat Hayam (CSH) in July 2015.  He offers multiple pathways to Jewish life, learning, and prayer, striving to deliver the most fulfilling spiritual experience and the best supplemental childhood and teen education on the North Shore.

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Rabbi Mitchel Malkus

Rabbi Mitchel Malkus has served as Head of School at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School of Greater Washington, D.C. since 2013. Previously he was Head of School of the Rabbi Jacob Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles, CA for twelve years.

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Rabbi David Wolkenfeld

Rabbi David Wolkenfeld is rabbi of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation (ASBI). He grew up in Manhattan where he attended Stuyvesant High School. He has a B.A. in History from Harvard University and has completed graduate coursework in Medieval Jewish History at Yeshiva University.

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