Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI)

“Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential.” – Warren Bennis

CLI fellows having a discussion while seated in a circleThe Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI) is a two-year program to support and encourage rabbis in organizational leadership, change management and institutional transformation. The program is open to rabbis serving congregations or rabbis who have created or are in the process of creating new models of spiritual community. For Cohort 3, which will commence in June 2017, the program will be open to rabbis who have been serving in the field between 5 to 15 years.

The program focus of CLI is on visionary leadership and innovative practice. The acronym CLI reminds us that clergy are intended to be human vessels that create sacred communities in which Jews can find meaning and purpose (klei kadosh). CLI’s partnership with Cambridge Leadership Associates allows CLI Fellows to access some of the leading trainers in the discipline of adaptive leadership which is offered through executive leadership programs at Harvard University. CLI Fellows are supported by both a member of the CLI national mentor team and by a peer cohort that will form an interdenominational community of practice. A strong premium is put on fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in order to establish spiritual communities that can be compelling to 21st century Jews. The CLI program is directed by Rabbi Sid Schwarz.

Key elements of the program include: Two-year syllabus with monthly readings; monthly participation in a Community of Practice of rabbinic peers; monthly consultation with a rabbinic mentor with significant experience and success in the field; three retreats of three nights each in different venues around the country; coaching and training from nationally prominent practitioners in field of leadership, organizational change and synagogue transformation.

Applications for CLI Cohort 3 will be open and available on this website in January 2017.

Program Goals:

  1. Voice– To help early career rabbis engage in the work of personal discovery, better identifying their particular gifts, their rabbinic calling and finding their rabbinic voice.
  2. Vision-To advance the rabbi’s vision of what a vibrant, engaged spiritual community looks like so that they can help move their congregations in healthy, new directions, transforming the paradigm of their synagogues in ways that engage ever more Jews.
  3. Spiritual Leadership-To provide the tools, strategy and support so that participating rabbis can evolve into visionary spiritual leaders who have the ability to be effective change agents in their communities. Each participant will work towards implementing an innovation in their respective institution that has the ability to transform the organizational culture in accordance with the vision developed in goal #2.

Program Content

An active moment at a CLI retreatThe goal of CLI is to train rabbis to help effect transformative change in the institutions that they are serving. During the course of the two-year program, each CLI Fellow is charged with developing a specific innovation that s/he will seek to implement in the community/institution that s/he is serving. Fellows are trained in the theory and strategy of design thinking to develop personal vision statements and innovation projects.

The visionary leadership sequence of CLI will use the new paradigm synagogue model from Sid Schwarz’s book, Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews can Transform the American Synagogue. The four core principles of the “synagogue-community” paradigm are:

  1. a) institutions that are mission-driven and program-aligned;
  2. b) promoting and educating for a “maximalist Judaism”;
  3. c) framing Judaism as a tool-kit for human flourishing;
  4. d) creating an empowered and re-generating community.

A key part of the CLI program is using adaptive leadership theory to help understand the communal system in which rabbis function. The CLI program helps its Fellows navigate their respective congregational/organizational cultures to develop an innovation project that has the ability to begin shifting the culture of the synagogue itself. Each CLI cohort includes a sub-set of rabbinic entrepreneurs who are developing new models of Jewish spiritual community. But the entrepreneurial spirit informs the entire approach of CLI since even rabbis serving synagogues with long and storied histories are encouraged to think about ways that their institutions can be re-imagined and re-energized.

The CLI support system methodology

CLI fellows sitting on benches around a fireThere are four ways that CLI participants will progress through the program. First are the in-person retreats. There are three retreats over the course of the two years—at the start of year 1, the start of year 2 and then to conclude the program at the end of year 2. The retreats are led by Rabbi Sid Schwarz and nationally prominent trainers in the fields of organizational leadership, social psychology, program evaluation and community building.

The second support is a syllabus designed specifically for the CLI Fellowship. With assigned readings for each month, the syllabus includes critical ideas and practical suggestions that become part and parcel of the tool kit for visionary rabbis.

The third support for CLI participants are the peer cohorts. The twenty participants in the program are divided into five, cross-denominational groups. Each forms a community of practice (COP) that convenes once per month for 60-90 minutes (via phone, webinar or alternate platform). Participants have the chance to present regularly to their COP and benefit from the feedback and input of their peers.

The fourth support for CLI participants is an assigned rabbinic mentor. The CLI national mentor team consists of some of the most innovative and successful rabbis in the country. The mentors meet with CLI Fellows monthly and serve as advisors, spiritual guides and role models. Even as the goal of CLI is for each participant to find their own, authentic voice, the career path, accomplishments and orientation of the mentor provides a compelling ideal for the CLI Fellow, inspiring them with the belief that they too can mold a career that can make a difference in the lives of Jews and in the nature of the Jewish community.

Feel the Magic

CLI Fellows are already implementing new ideas in their respective communities, serving to engage Jews in new and different ways. Many of those ideas are featured on the Synagogue Innovation Blog that appears on this website. Here is a short video that shows a project introduced by CLI Cohort 2 Fellow, Rabbi Dan Horwitz at The Well in Detroit. It was then adopted by fellow CLI Fellow, Rabbi Michael Knopf at Temple Beth El in Richmond, VA.