Lifelong Learning for All Reform Rabbis


The CCAR has identified a need and embraced a desire for continued lifelong learning for Reform Rabbis, naming Torah study and professional development as pillars of its Mission, in order to provide excellence in rabbinic leadership and enhance the Jewish community. This CCAR mission-based imperative reflects recognition in the CCAR leadership and membership, that today, rabbis are indeed expected to master not only the traditional areas of rabbinic studies of developing spiritual and theological leadership, teaching Torah, offering pastoral care and officiating at life-cycle events, but at the same time they must also assimilate the instrumental, management and leadership skills required of an effective executive. 

The expectations of rabbinic leadership in the 21st century reflect the complexities of the Jewish community at a time of rapid change.  Many have noted the changes in the American Jewish community’s synagogue affiliation rates, perception of authority and institutions, levels and types of engagement, financial support and giving, political and societal shifts to the right, permeability of ethnic and religious identities, and connectedness to Israel.  Earlier 20th century institutional models are under siege.  Rabbis depend on Torah learning as the authentic source of their integrity as leaders but they need to develop capacities for meeting the uncertainties of this new era. As it engages in discussions about the challenges and opportunities for the Reform rabbinate in the 21st century, the CCAR seeks to strengthen rabbinic leadership to result ultimately in a more effective, seriously involved and enriched Jewish community.

Recognizing the unique scope and demands of rabbinic work, the CCAR has designed and initiated implementation of a continuing education system that begins with its mentoring process, bridging the transition from seminary to full time rabbinic work.  Further, the CCAR’s board, committees, and rabbinic staff seek to further the educational options into a spectrum of coordinated, relevant, professional and integrated lifelong learning. 

All CCAR learning events, whether in person or long distance, whether one hour long or multi-day, whether focused on practical rabbinics or intellectual thought, are grounded in Torah and/or T’filah.  Text and spiritual growth permeate throughout.  In addition, this training advances competencies in these primary areas:

Leadership: Magnitude of spiritual leadership; issues in Jewish communal life; strategies for community organizing; decision-making, participative process and consensus building; leadership cultivation and maintenance.

Professional Skills: Strategic thinking, clarity and alignment; principle-centered leadership; appreciative leadership capacity; collaborative leadership styles; emotional intelligence; social intelligence.

Organizational Management and Growth: Capacity-building in organizational life; team-building; non-profit management and long-term planning; financial systems, oversight and sustainability; revenue enhancement, including fundraising and development.

Communication Systems:  Accessing information technology; outreach and marketing; public speaking in different situations; engaging in difficult conversations; mediation and advocacy skills. 

At the same time, these learning sessions for Reform Rabbis seek to encourage self-reflection, balance, and self-confidence tempered by humility. 

Through its continuing education and professional development programs, the CCAR seeks to enhance “rabbinic capital,” that is, the many leadership blessings of competence, knowledge, personality, and emotional and intellectual intelligence that Reform Rabbis bring to our communities.  These are indeed precious assets for the future of the entire Jewish community.