Jewish Professionals Seize Educational Opportunities with Spertus Institute and Other Programs | Shalom Austin

Jewish Professionals Seize Educational Opportunities with Spertus Institute and Other Programs

Community News, The Jewish Outlook

Jun 23, 2021

Jewish professionals Alachua Nazarenko and Robyn Burch work on their University of Texas course. Credit: Rachel Stern.

By Rachel Stern

“Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears and never regrets,” stated Leonardo Da Vinci.

Judaism is a religion that celebrates and even commands lifelong learning. For Jewish professionals, the staff serving the Jewish community, this can be a tall order. Being a Jewish professional is holy work and is also all-encompassing work.

Finding time for a Jewish professional’s individual learning can sometimes feel impossible while balancing big jobs and personal lives. Another reason holding Jewish professionals back from their continued learning is the expense, making many programs cost prohibitive. 

The stars aligned this year with many programs shifting to virtual platforms and some funding sources became available, making many staff seize the opportunity. The most noteworthy of the funding sources came from Phil and Sylvia Spertus who offered an extremely generous subsidy for any Jewish professional participating in any of the programs at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. 

Phil and Sylvia shared, “We believe that it will help the enrollees and our Jewish community and that it will enable the Spertus Institute to better fulfill its mission.”

Phil and Sylvia’s funding led to five Austin Jewish professionals participating in programs:

Casey Cole (Congregation Agudas Achim) – MA in Jewish Professional Studies

Angie Harrison (Texas Hillel) – Certificate in Jewish Leadership

Jessica Ochs (Shalom Austin) – MA in Jewish Professional Studies 

Jennifer Rubin (Congregation Agudas Achim – MA in Jewish Professional Studies

Rachel Wimberley (Shalom Austin) – MA in Jewish Professional Studies

In addition, there are others also participating in exciting programs:

Lisa Apfelberg (Shamayim) – Jewish Women’s International’s Jewish Communal Women’s Leadership Project

Robyn Burch (Shalom Austin) – UT Certificate in Non-Profit Management

Rabbi Amy Cohen (Shalom Austin) – Wexner Foundation Field Fellows

Maiya Edelson (Texas Hillel) – EdD from USC’s Rossier School of Education

Amanda Espinoza (Shalom Austin) – UT Certificate in Non-Profit Management

Wendy Goodman (Shalom Austin) – Jewish Women’s International’s Jewish Communal Women’s Leadership Project

Ashley King (Shalom Austin) – Professional in Human Resources (PHR) Certification from HRCI

Zoe Miller (Child Development Center at Congregation Beth Israel) – MA in Innovative Early Childhood Education at University of Denver (Boulder Journey School) 

Alachua Nazarenko (Shalom Austin) – UT Certificate in Non-Profit Management

Rachel Stern (Shalom Austin) – Jewish Women’s International’s Jewish Communal Women’s Leadership Project

These professional development opportunities show a tremendous commitment of time, money and focus at a time when many are still feeling overwhelmed from the effects of COVID. 

The group listed also happens to be all women which is amazing in and of itself. The impact of these learning experiences will not just benefit the participants, it will also impact the entire Jewish community. New knowledge, insights and networks will find their way into the community through these professionals. This group of professionals exploring continued learning also shows that the Jewish community is one that supports, promotes, and celebrates learning and growth.

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