Jewish Professionals Seize Educational Opportunities with Spertus Institute and Other Programs
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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Jewish National Fund-USA partnered with Austin Jewish Academy, Congregation Agudas Achim, and Austin firefighters to host a 9/11 ceremony.