Featured Partner

Supporting Spiritual Leaders Who Will Shape the Jewish Future: Atra: Center for Rabbinic Innovation

May 30th, 2024

The Jewish leaders of today are facing an unprecedented Jewish tomorrow. Atra is deeply invested in training, equipping, and empowering us as rabbis to rise to the occasion and serve the Jewish future.
Rabbi Sivan Rotholz, Atra’s Fellowship for Rabbinic Entrepreneurs 2022-’23

Being an effective rabbi today demands a more diverse set of skills and knowledge than ever. People, especially young adults, want spiritual guidance from rabbis with whom they have personal relationships and can help them address needs and challenges in their lives. On top of this, since October 7th, rabbis are working tirelessly to support communities, engage people in spiritual leadership, and create moments filled with meaning and inspiration. Through rigorous research, vibrant communities of practice, innovative fellowships supporting rabbinic entrepreneurs, and ongoing professional training and support, Atra helps rabbis lead with vision and meet the ever-evolving needs of the Jewish people. 

We need to prepare rabbis to serve our people in every place they are, in every way that they need spiritual leaders. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the demand rise for rabbis who combine a deep knowledge of Torah with the ability to build Jewish communities centered on personal relationships. We work with a large cadre of rabbis to ensure they can harness this skillset to meet the many needs of Jewish communities.
– Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein, Executive Director of Atra

Atra helps rabbis learn how to engage people in new ways—both inside and outside of congregational walls—and strengthens connections among fellow clergy. More than 1,000 rabbis have engaged in Atra training, resources, support, fellowships, Master Classes, coaching, networks, and workshops. Of these, 71 spiritual innovators have participated in Atra’s national rabbinic fellowship program, experiencing pluralistic, cohort-based training and individualized support. Atra is now piloting this national model in other communities to build stronger local networks among rabbis so they can learn and grow together. Another platform, Atra’s Communities of Action and Practice, is designed for rabbis and other Jewish clergy to have space for sharing, learning, and growing together in both personal and professional realms. Atra’s research shows that strong collegial and mentor relationships, and knowing how to leverage those relationships, are key to managing crises.

Responding to urgent community needs in the wake of October 7th, Atra’s new 3-part virtual workshop on Facilitating Difficult Conversation provides spiritual leaders with a framework of understanding and a set of crucial skills around group dialogue, mediation, and conflict resolution. Other ongoing Atra programs help rabbis identify new approaches to supporting communities, gain new technology skills, onboard into new jobs, and much more.

In addition to programming, Atra is a thought leader for the field, committed to sharing best practices. Its research helps to understand communities’ needs and clearly define what excellent rabbinic leadership looks like. Key findings from Atra’s 2023 study showed that young American Jews want more experiences with rabbis because those interactions help them feel more spiritually connected and more connected to a Jewish community. Atra shared insights from the research about what factors make for positive interactions between young adults and rabbis, how these interactions help young adults feel more comfortable and confident being Jewish, and where rabbis can look to engage even more young people.

Young people want leaders in their lives who relate to them, accept them, and who signal to them that it’s ok to be vulnerable, to be unsure of things in life. With the right training and support, rabbis are those leaders! Now we need to figure out how to match as many rabbis as possible with as many young adults as possible to develop these meaningful relationships.
Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, Executive Director of NYU’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life and Co-director of the NYU dual MA in Jewish nonprofit management

For centuries being a rabbi meant presiding over a town or a synagogue. Today, rabbis are also working on campuses and in prisons, online and in person, in hospitals and in recovery programs, in homes and in cafes, in Yeshivot and on street corners–everywhere that communities are found and built.

American Jews need rabbis, and Atra uniquely provides the ongoing professional learning that rabbis needtraining and supporting rabbinic leaders from all backgrounds to adapt their practice for the real world and to drive their visionary leadership so that they can help people and communities thrive. Moving forward, Atra is poised to expand its programs and reach, to provide even more rabbis of all denominations and roles with ongoing professional support and training over the entire arc of their careers, and to strengthen the field of spiritual leadership. 

Visit atrarabbis.org for more information. The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of Atra.