EMA Convenes in LA: Intensive on the American Jewish Experience

January 25, 2024

Four students in a music classroom playing musical instruments

EMA Cohort 11 started the new calendar year with a 5-day Institute at HUC-JIR’s Skirball Campus in Los Angeles. Together with Leah Hochman, Ph.D., Director of the Louchheim School of Judaic Studies and Associate Professor of Jewish Thought, students explored the modern Jewish experience through multiple lenses: historical, cultural, political, social, and personal. According to Dr. Hochman, a core idea of the course is that “the academic study of Jewish experience provides educational leaders with multiple tools to construct and deconstruct the complicated relationships between religiosity, personal identity, cultural action, political agency, and non-Jewish opinion.” Students researched and created individual timelines of what they consider the core historical events and trends of modern times and then worked in small groups to share perspectives, opinions and, ultimately, make meaning of modern Jewish history for themselves as Jewish educational leaders.

A group of students and faculty smiling at the camera

Curating a timeline of the most influential Jewish events of the modern period can be a daunting experience. What to include? What to leave out? What is the narrative I am creating through my decisions? How does this influence how I see the future of the Jewish life? These and other questions animated the learning.

“As a Jew of color, when I look at Jewish history timelines I don’t usually see myself in it. This course is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to see Jews of color in history, because I was invited to bring my entire self into the assignment.” — Anjelica Ruiz

“The timeline project gave me a whole new perspective on my own personal place in Jewish history. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn from my chevrutah partner, but I could tap into my love of art and culture, and explore how the arts have been influential throughout the course of the Jewish experience. I can’t wait to see what is next on my journey through this EMA program!” — Sheri Gross

The Executive MA is a cohort-based program in which significant space and opportunity are provided for students to deepen their connections with each other and with their clinical and academic faculty. While in Los Angeles, students met individually and in small groups with their clinical faculty mentors. These meetings enabled students to focus on their unique personal goals and aspirations and to connect in a smaller, more intimate environment. Clinical faculty mentors Julie Vanek, Kathy Schwartz, Lisa Langer, and Tamara Gropper have been guiding students and shaping the arc of the Executive MA program since its inception in 2010. They are the magic glue enabling students to apply their learning to their practice in real-time.

During the Institute, students engaged in the practice of Kintsugi – healing our brokenness – led by Miriam Heller Stern, Ph.D., National Director of the HUC-JIR School of Education and Vice Provost for Educational Strategy. Dr. Heller Stern is a leading light in bringing the gravitas and power of the creative process to bear on our self-perception as Jewish educational leaders. Using Jewish texts as an anchor, students explored the brokenness and healing that we all feel at one time or another in our leadership roles.

Jewish educational leadership is a practice of the head, the hand, and the heart. Emerging from the January Institute, EMA Cohort 11 members engaged all three using multiple modalities: academic learning, relationship building, and creative process.

EMA Cohort 11 welcomed two new members, Sheri Gross and Cliff Wilcox, following their completion of the MTEI-HUC Certificate program, bringing the cohort to a full complement of 16 members.

We have recently accepted the newest EMA Cohort (Cohort 12) and hope you, as our partners, will introduce us to potential candidates for EMA Cohort 13. We look forward to continuing the holy work of deepening Jewish educational leadership practice for the next generation.