Zschool Students Complete a Summer of Immersive Learning

Zelikow School Students
Rabbi Shirley Idelson Ph.D. Mandi Richardson Melissa Garai Rabbi Andrea Weiss Ph.D

Rabbi Shirley Idelson Ph.D., Mandi Richardson, Melissa Garai, Rabbi Andrea Weiss Ph.D

August 9, 2023

The Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management (Zschool) has completed a momentous summer of learning. After welcoming new Director Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Ph.D. in July, the Zschool launched an innovative hybrid approach that combined in-person and online learning with 35 full-time students hailing from various corners of the globe, including North America, Brazil, Belarus, and Australia.

To kick off the summer session, new and continuing Zschool students gathered for a five-day Immersive Experience in Los Angeles, CA. The program provided a range of innovative and experiential programming that oriented students to the Zschool and sparked the creative leadership mindset shifts Zschool graduates undergo. Most importantly, students forged strong connections in person that they could carry into the virtual learning space.

The Immersive, designed by Zelikow School Associate Directors Melissa Garai and Mandi Richardson together with faculty member Stefan Teodosic, garnered enthusiastic feedback from students. One student shared, “The Immersive experience was incredibly helpful in setting intentions for the summer. It made me excited to join Zoom classes every morning and share the virtual space with the friends I made.”

Highlights of the Zschool Immersive included:

A two-day innovation bootcamp focused on Design Thinking, conducted at the Cayton Children’s Museum, which provided an environment that fostered creativity and new ways of thinking and leading.

Wacky Wednesday, long a hallmark of the Zschool curriculum, allowed students to explore the vibrancy of LA and engage with senior leaders at a variety of Jewish nonprofits. The day began with a session on HUC-JIR’s history and strategic plans moving forward, led by Provost Rabbi Andrea Weiss, Ph.D. Students then explored the challenges and opportunities Jewish leaders currently face, through sessions at USC Hillel and Our Big Kitchen, a Jewish nonprofit dedicated to feeding the city’s hungry, as well as a dialogue with Rabbi David Wolpe, the Zschool’s Scholar in Residence.

Wacky Wednesday After Dark, a celebratory evening at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’s BAR Center on Venice Beach, where Rabbi Idelson interviewed Rabbi Noah Farkas, President and CEO of the Federation, on the major issues facing Jewish nonprofits today, and the essential skills needed for Jewish professional leadership.

Following the immersive experience, students returned to their home communities around the globe and studied together in virtual classes for the next six weeks led by the Zschool faculty of distinguished HUC-JIR scholars and leading professionals in the field.

At the conclusion of the summer session on July 31, seven students earned their Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Innovation (MSOLI), and three rabbinical students received their Certificate in Jewish Organizational Leadership.

Capturing the essence of her Zschool experience, recent MSOLI graduate Sumiko Ruiz Zayon ‘23 said, “Thanks to Zschool, my mindset has shifted in profound ways. I can say that I am prepared not only to lead but also to transform and innovate in my areas of expertise.”

Having completed their Zschool studies, these students are equipped with the knowledge and unique skills necessary to lead positive change within the Jewish community and beyond.