In a bid to give rabbis’ education a software update of sorts, the 92nd Street Y will give 13 students from rabbinical schools in New York City the chance to study design thinking and innovation.
The Jewish Innovation Fellowship, which kicks off next month, will introduce rabbinical students to topics — such as personal branding and how to build a social media presence — not usually offered in rabbinical schools. The program, which 92Y officials describe as a first for the institution, will include monthly workshops where students will study, network and work on a group project over the course of the semester-long fellowship.
Rabbi Peter Rubinstein, 92Y’s director of Jewish Community and the Bronfman Center for Jewish Life, sees the fellowship as a way to encourage “out-of-the-box thinking.”
“Design thinking presumes that there is no ‘box,’” Rabbi Rubinstein wrote in an email. “We need to be clear about the needs and desires of contemporary Jews without passing judgement on them and design responses and solutions for this and future generations.”
The students will be mentored by leading rabbis from synagogues across North America, including Rabbi Scott Perlo from Washington D.C.’s Sixth and I and Maharat Rachel Kohl Finegold from Montreal’s Congregation Shaar Hashomayim.
The inaugural class includes students from all denominations, representing Hebrew Union College, Jewish Theological Seminary, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Academy for Jewish Religion, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Yeshivat Maharat.
Rabbi Rubinstein says the nondenominational status of 92Y makes it a “force for collaboration” and a natural gathering place for New York Jews of all stripes.
“It is important to recognize every tradition began as an innovation,” said Rabbi Rubinstein. “Therefore, while recognizing the place of tradition, we must recognize a responsibility to innovate the next iteration of tradition.”