Kellogg Teaches Management Skills for Rabbis

With today’s shifting economic landscape, rabbis across the country have come under increasing pressure to raise funds to keep their synagogues healthy and oversee budgets that are being squeezed as members lose their jobs, the Jewish Daily Forward reports. Trouble is, many rabbis lack crucial business skills to run their synagogues successfully.

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management offers the first ongoing, rigorous executive education program geared toward both rabbis and their executive directors.  During the first week of December, 55 rabbis and executive directors from leading Reform, Conservative and Orthodox synagogues attended the inaugural five-day Kellogg Rabbinic Management Program to learn how to better manage a staff, resolve conflict, raise funds and polish their leadership skills.

The program is the brainchild of Efrem Goldberg, senior rabbi at the Orthodox Boca Raton Synagogue in Florida. “We have such rich rabbinic training with so little management training, despite the fact that so much of what we do now involves fundraising, conflict resolution, crisis management, governance, managing people,” he says.

Fellow Boca Raton Synagogue member Dinah Jacobs, whose husband Donald Jacobs is dean emeritus of the Kellogg School, urged Goldberg to attend one of Kellogg’s advanced executive programs. Goldberg describes the experience as transformative, and thought it seemed well-suited for rabbis, who could gain valuable management skills.

Of all the courses offered at the Kellogg program, professor Liz Livingston Howard’s fund-raising class garnered top marks, the Jewish Daily Forward reports. In evaluations, many participants praised the course’s practical nature, saying it was enormously valuable for synagogue life. Given the current financial environment, participants spoke frankly about bolstering the skills needed to relate to their lay leadership, who may be experiencing hard times.

“In a climate that is very nice and rosy, you can get away with not the best or optimal management technology or thinking,” says Jacobs, the dean emeritus, who taught a class on synagogue governance. “In an environment that’s very fraught with danger, with the economy turning down, not up, it’s more important that you have an optimum methodology to operate with, because frankly, you don’t have the space to make mistakes.”

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