The Shalom Hartman Institute recently welcomed the fourth cohort of the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative (RLI) for its annual winter seminar at the Institute’s Jerusalem campus for a week of intensive study. This multi-denominational cadre of North American rabbis kicked off their first year of study together in the company of the graduating third cohort of RLI during the Hartman Institute summer programs this past July.
Although they have since studied together via long distance learning for eight hours a week, this retreat is the first opportunity for the cohort to begin defining themselves as an independent group, without the accompaniment of any other cohorts or programs. Previous cohorts of the Rabbinic Leadership initiative have commented on the unique friendships that are formed among rabbis in the course of the three-year program—friendships which cross denominational lines and impact upon rabbinic approaches and perspectives. Rabbinic Leadership Initiative participants do not only learn together—they also learn from one another, in ways which will ultimately enrich their rabbinates and congregations. Alumni of the first three RLI cohorts just arrived home from several enriching days of learning from top Hartman scholars and from one another at the Inaugural RLI Study Retreat in Malibu, CA.
During the winter retreat in Jerusalem, RLI participants engaged in peer learning sessions and attended lectures by leading Hartman scholars with a focus on the theme of the ethical foundations of Judaism as they relate to religious holidays, Israeli national holidays, and Israeli society. The seminar began with a study session led by Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman on the ethics of Shabbat. Throughout the week, the group “moved through the holidays”, examining the ethics of Hanukkah with Noam Zion, the ethics of Sukkot through study of the Zohar with Dr. Melila Hellner Eshed, the ethics of Passover with Dr. Micah Goodman, the ethics of Shavuot, as seen in Biblical and rabbinical literature, with Professor Yisrael Knohl and concluded with the ethics of the upcoming holiday of Purim with Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman.
Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman and Rabbi Dr. Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi led a session on the Engaging Israel project, aimed at establishing a new covenant for world Jewry and Israel based on a narrative of Jewish values and ideas. Participating rabbis can bring this learning to their home communities through the soon to be released Engaging Israel: Foundations for a New Relationship video lecture series.
As the week of study concluded, participants reflected on their time at Hartman:
“As a rabbi for almost 30 years there are few experiences I’ve had as a rabbi in my movement or inter-denominationally that have been as worthwhile, nourishing, and nurturing as the programs at Hartman. If the Rabbinical Torah Study (RTS) seminar is m’ain olam haba, RLI is a rabbinical gan eden. The winter seminar has nourished our bodies, our souls, really every aspect.” –Rabbi Eric Gurvis, Temple Shalom, Newton, MA
“A highlight of the RLI winter seminar is the outstanding experience of learning with strong attention to our nourishment as individuals and as a rabbinic community.” –Rabbi Amy Small, Congregation Beth Hatikvah, Summit, NJ
“I never thought my rabbinical school experience at JTS could be trumped until I came to Hartman. This has been the most enriching, rewarding experience of my rabbinate in terms of personal growth. RLI is a must for any colleague who is looking to rejuvenate, deepen, and strengthen their rabbinate.” –Rabbi Jacob Herber, Congregation Beth Israel, Glendale, WI