This semester, students in Hebrew College’s Innovation Lab will try to find new answers to this question. Drawing on Jewish texts, poetry and social and organizational psychology, students will identify and implement innovative approaches to build Jewish community through music, visual arts, sculpture, dance and social media as they focus on enhancing congregational and religious life during this unprecedented time.
“Projects have been chosen for their ability to serve as national models at a time when Jewish communities throughout North America are innovating in response to pandemic challenges and developing new approaches to artistic expression in spiritual and communal life,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, director of the Hebrew College Innovation Lab and research professor in the Department of Music and in the Judaic Studies program at Tufts University. “In our Innovation Lab seminar, we consider issues of personal transformation and spiritual growth, education for empowered engagement in Jewish life, and the impact of technology and social media on conceptions of community.”
The Innovation Lab at Hebrew College launched in Academic Year 2019-2020 and provides funding to 10-12 current or recent Hebrew College ordination students who want to design and implement innovative approaches to spirituality. Participants take part in a 90-minute weekly seminar on Zoom where they discuss models of leadership and characteristics that are essential to a leader’s success, such as fear of failure, resistance, courage, optimism and resilience, as well as practical models of project development and management, including evaluation and fundraising. This meeting is also an opportunity for participants to workshop their projects with each other to elicit critique and feedback and a space for reflection and support.
Last year’s projects included an alternative monthly Shabbat minyan, a day of study about interfaith and mixed-heritage relationships, a conference on spirituality and social justice, a spirituality fellowship for college students at Boston University and a pluralistic community of musicians and songwriters that provided an outlet for creative conversation and meaningful connection during an uncertain time.
“Last year, students in the Innovation Lab were implementing their projects just when the world as we knew it was changing profoundly: quarantine, isolation, the inability for communities to meet face-to-face,” Rabbi Summit said. “We are excited to bring together a new cohort and believe that their thoughtful and creative approaches to Jewish life will have an impact at this challenging time.”