Clergy Leadership Incubator
Taking your rabbinate to the next level
The Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI) is a two-year fellowship for rabbis to inspire innovative thinking and equip rabbis to serve as transformative change agents in the communities that they serve. CLI is fiscally sponsored by Hazon and is directed by Rabbi Sid Schwarz. The acronym—CLI—reminds us that clergy are intended to be human vessels (klei kadosh) that create sacred communities in which Jews can find meaning and purpose.
We are looking for rabbis who think big, are prepared to dramatically re-think how synagogues function or are engaged in launching a spiritual alternative to synagogues of their own design. The syllabus integrates methodologies from the fields of design thinking, adaptive leadership and the best thinking of the past twenty years in the field of synagogue transformation. In addition, CLI Fellows are supported by both a rabbinic mentor from the CLI national mentor team and by a peer cohort that will form an interdenominational community of practice.
The goal of CLI is to train a select group of rabbis with the skills to be effective change agents in their communities. The need for such rabbinic creativity has become ever more relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic. CLI alumni found that the skills acquired during the fellowship helped them navigate the challenges brought on by the pandemic. During the course of the two-year program, each CLI Fellow is expected to develop a specific innovation that s/he will seek to implement in the community/institution that they are serving. The program will help rabbis “incubate” their innovation projects and navigate their respective congregational/organizational cultures so that they can begin to shift the paradigm of the communities that they are serving.
Cohort 5 is open to rabbis in years 5-15 of their rabbinate. The program fee of $2,000/year covers three mandatory retreats, monthly meetings with a mentor, monthly meetings with a Community of Practice, all curricular materials and training from national experts in a wide range of fields and personal coaching. Applications for Cohort 5 open on December 15, 2020 and close March 1, 2021. Because it is a rolling admissions process, early application will benefit candidates. The program will begin in June 2021 and conclude in June 2023. There is no programming in the summer months.
For more information about CLI, check out: http://www.cliforum.org/
“I’m a continuing education groupie, taking advantage of any opportunity I can for professional development. The CLI program was one of the best programs I have ever done. The combination of content and structure was tremendous… I feel reinvigorated in my rabbinate and see a path forward to implement change rather than feeling stuck in false assumptions about the capacity of my congregation and my own limitations.”
“Running a synagogue during COVID has not been easy, but thanks to the skills and confidence I gained through CLI, it’s been an exhilarating challenge. I feel prepared to innovate and be flexible as I respond to the new ‘normal’.”
“I have been a part of other fellowships and have been grateful for the learning in them, but the CLI program has been the one in which I have learned the most, and I believe grown the most as a rabbi. Not only that but this is the one where I truly developed deep friendships and relationships with colleagues of my own and other streams of Judaism. And this is certainly the only program in which I had mentors who helped me gain tools and strength and perspective to bring to my work as a rabbi.”
“The CLI program was totally transformative for me. The toolkit of adaptive leadership, innovation, risk taking, communities of practice, and mentorship has been such a gift. I feel like I’ve been able to more fully articulate my vision for Jewish life and for myself as a spiritual leader. I am more comfortable taking risks and more strategic in my thinking.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who can apply?
A: An ordained rabbi from any denomination or rabbinic training program who is serving a congregation, be it a conventional one or an alternative spiritual community. Regardless of age, eligible rabbis must be at least in their fifth year in their rabbinate. Preference will be given to rabbis who have at least one year of tenure in their existing position with a mutual commitment (their own and the community being served) to continue for at least one more year. The most veteran rabbi we will consider will be in their fifteenth year of their rabbinate. While most Fellows are working as the sole rabbi for a congregation, we do accept assistants and associates with the permission of their senior rabbi. We also encourage applications from rabbis who are contemplating or are in the process of launching an entrepreneurial spiritual alternative for Jews outside the context of a conventional synagogue. CLI has been a valuable incubator for several start-up spiritual communities around North America.
Q: Who else will be in the program?
A: We will be selecting 20 rabbis for the two-year cohort. Our objective will be to create a cohort that is diverse in terms of gender, geographical location and religious ideology across the denominational spectrum.
Q: What is the timetable for applying to the program and for the program itself?
A: Applications for Cohort 5 will be accepted as of Dec. 15, 2020 and will close on March 1, 2021. We have a rolling admissions policy so it is to your benefit to apply early. The opening webinar will take place in June 2021. The three required retreats are as follows:
- October 3-7, 2021: Capital Retreat Center, Waynesboro, PA
- October 24-27, 2022: Brandeis-Bardin Institute, Brandeis, CA
- June 12-15, 2023: Isabella Freedman Retreat Center, Falls Village, CT
Subject to the advice of public health officials, we may choose to do one or more of these retreats virtually. If we do come together, we have insured that each retreat center has implemented extensive health and safety precautions.
No programming takes place in July/August.
Q: What is the financial obligation for the program?
A: The fee is $2,000 for each of the two years of the program. This represents a fraction of the cost that such training programs would cost at university sponsored programs. The fee includes the costs for the three 4-day retreats, one in year one and two in year two. The fee also includes all program materials and access to a rabbinic mentor and a peer community of practice. Transportation to and from the retreats will be the responsibility of the participant though travel subsidies will be available.
Q: What are the expectations of CLI Fellows?
A: In addition to the three required retreats, which are highlights of the program, there is a well-designed program that includes several additional expectations, all of which are guided and supported by the program.
- Each CLI Fellow will develop a vision statement and an innovation project;
- Monthly meeting with a Community of Practice of peers;
- Monthly meeting with a rabbinic mentor from the CLI national mentor team;
- Monthly readings from a syllabus of between 20-50 pages;
- Periodic assessment instruments that support the Fellow and provide input to the program design.
Q: There are a growing number of programs available for rabbis today. What is unique about CLI?
A: CLI is less a study program than it is a boot camp for visionary leadership. It is very practical. It will help rabbis expand their human potential. It will help rabbis explore their particular leadership styles. It will help rabbis shape a vision that inspires others. It will help rabbis better understand how organizations work and how they can be change agents within those organizations. We highly recommend that all candidates take some time to explore the CLI website to fully understand the program at: