Center for Rabbinic Innovation
Center for Rabbinic Innovation

The Center for Rabbinic Innovation is a program of the Office of Innovation. We are a start-up project entering its third year of development and growth. We approach our work with creativity and responsiveness as we support clergy and provide them with the training, tools, resources and coaching to be successful in building and leading new communities; we believe that the title rabbi no longer comes with a pew full of Jews. In the Pew Study “ Jewish Americans in 2020 ,” a full 52% of American Jews report attending synagogue “seldom or never.” Yet, large percentages of American Jews report “other ways of expressing their Jewishness.” The notion that rabbis will serve existing synagogues and pulpits that will simply attract a next generation by continuing business as usual is becoming more tenuous. Without a synagogue, most American Jews do not have a relationship with a good rabbi. As many of us know from the experiences of being deeply moved by, or disappointed by, a rabbi: Our clergy can have a disproportionate influence on Jews and Jewish communal life. However, clergy are largely trained and paid to serve synagogues, and thereby don’t reach the Jewish majority. Our clergy are an underleveraged resource in connecting Jews and Judaism--and can do so with the incentive and tools to do so. Covid-19 has proven our rabbis are ready to radically change in order to reach our people where they are. To succeed in the 21st century Jewish community, rabbis and Jewish spiritual leaders need on-the-job skill-training to attract and engage people who do not flock to existing institutions. Seminary training strives to fit courses on Jewish textual, legal, and ritual knowledge, pastoral care, public speaking, and synagogue management into four or five years of education, and often presumes rabbis will lead community institutions filled with “members.” Clergy often find themselves trained to be “jacks of all trades, masters of none.” The Center for Rabbinic Innovation is transforming and elevating the quality, impact and reach of rabbinic leadership through pluralistic, cohort-based training and support for contemporary Jewish spiritual leaders as they serve in the field. CRI’s strategy for ensuring that more Jews find meaningful access points for Jewish living, learning, and connecting is to invest in talented clergy with entrepreneurial aptitude. We have an established and proven methodology for training clergy to start and succeed in launching spiritual startups, and we see that it only takes relatively small investments to allow talented and visionary clergy to launch new spiritual start-ups.
Founded in August 2019

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