The Rabbinic Leadership Initiative (RLI) has been described by many rabbis as the most transformative experience of their rabbinate. The three-year intensive fellowship program immerses an elite cadre of 25-30 North American rabbis in the highest levels of Jewish learning, equipping them to meet contemporary challenges with ever-increasing intellectual and moral sophistication.
RLI is one of the few structured frameworks for ongoing rabbinic study, enrichment, and intellectual leadership training. In addition to rigorous study, the program fosters a deep sense of community for diverse rabbis in an environment of open dialogue, collaboration, peer-learning, and personal support.
The objective of the initiative is to significantly impact the quality of contemporary Jewish life in North America by training exceptional rabbis of all denominations to serve as profound spiritual and intellectual leaders.
Since its inception in 2001, RLI has produced four cohorts of graduates with a community of 100 rabbinic alumni. The fifth cohort will graduate in July 2016. RLI VI begins in July 2016.
RLI Program Summary
Participants in the RLI fellowship spend 3½ weeks each summer and one week each winter studying together at the Hartman campus in Jerusalem. During the remainder of the year, participants engage in regular distance learning through havruta with rabbinic partners and webinars taught by leading Hartman Institute scholars.
The pluralistic framework of the program fosters a vibrant exchange of ideas aimed at integrating learning into rabbis’ ongoing work and creating a multidenominational community of colleagues uniquely able to elevate the quality of Jewish life.
RLI Program Components
Seminars in Jerusalem
During the course of the fellowship, participates spend 3 ½ weeks each summer and one week each winter at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. In the fourth summer, fellows participate in a ten-day rabbinic study seminar culminating in a special RLI graduation ceremony.
RLI summer and winter seminars incorporate several elements that contribute to the personal and professional growth of fellowship participants:
- Shiurim: Serious text-study classes with world-class Hartman faculty on the main pillars of the scholarship and mission of the Shalom Hartman Institute: 21st Century Judaism, Religious Pluralism, Jewish and Democratic Israel, Jewish Peoplehood, and Judaism and the World.
- Havruta: Daily havruta sessions in a vibrant and pluralistic beit midrash, giving participants regular opportunity to engage in in-depth text-study and form close study relationships with rabbis across different denominations and fields.
- Roundtables: Peer dialogue sessions in a safe and supportive fellowship community of mutual respect and openness to share the challenges, struggles, joys and successes of personal and professional life.
- Small Groups: Intimate, small sub-groups to process and apply learning to the lives and local communities of each rabbi in a working laboratory of reflection, shared best-practices, and action plans.
- Peer Teaching: Opportunities for participants to share their skills, passions, and ideas with their colleagues in a collaborative environment of peer learning and experimentation.
- Evening Programs: Encounters with leading public intellectuals in the fields of journalism, politics, ethics and cultural arts, to gain insights about the challenges and opportunities facing the North American and Israeli communities.
- Tiyyulim: Excursions throughout Israel which seek to provide rabbis with a personal, upfront view of Israeli life and contemporary issues in Israeli society.
In addition to the summer and winter seminars in Jerusalem, the RLI fellows commit to regular Distance Learning throughout the year from their home communities. This distance learning incorporates several components:
- Havruta: 2 hours of weekly havruta study in small groups of 2-3 RLI members, meeting through phone, Skype or in-person.
- Independent Work: Periodic e-learning assignments on the Hartman Online site to view video archives and background readings on timely Hartman curricular projects.
- Webinars: 16-20 sessions per year of video conference lectures with senior Hartman faculty on Mondays from 11:00 am-noon ET.
- Small Groups: 16-20 sessions per year of video conference dialogues in smaller sub-groups for reflection, peer learning, and periodic smaller intimate seminars with Hartman faculty, on Mondays from 12:15 pm-1:15 pm ET.*
*Video conferences for webinars and small groups take place on the same dates. Therefore, Monday learning sessions will last from 11:00 am-1:15 pm ET.
The overall theme of the RLI program is Foundations of a Thoughtful Judaism. Over the course of three years, RLI offers in-depth study of ancient and modern texts designed to map out the central ideas of the Jewish tradition in the fields of ethics, faith, and spirituality. Participants undertake a serious exploration of Judaism’s rich intellectual and spiritual mosaic and of the complexity and diversity inherent in the Jewish tradition, acquiring new resources for defining the relevance and importance of Judaism in the modern world.
Through the study of texts and ideas with renowned SHI scholars and with their own rabbinic colleagues, participants gain a better understanding of the central political, moral, and spiritual issues facing North American Jewry and the modern state of Israel, enabling the rabbis to serve as bridges between Israel and the Diaspora.
Rabbis who complete the three-year course of study with the RLI program receive the title Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute.
Four classes have graduated from the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative program, and a fifth began its study in Summer 2013. The sixth RLI cohort, which will begin in 2016.
For More Information on RLI
For more information about the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative, please contact Rabbi Lauren Berkun, Director of Rabbinic and Synagogue Programs, 305-407-5494.