Dr. Bernard Steinberg - 2010 Award Recipient
Dr. Bernard Steinberg has served as President and Director of Harvard Hillel since 1993. He is known across the field of Jewish education for an entrepreneurial and expansive vision that has strengthened institutions and enlightened and empowered new generations of Jewish youth to shape the Jewish people, become leaders and improve the world.
“Many of the students who pass through our program will continue into positions of leadership in their careers or communities. Will their leadership be grounded in Jewish values, nurtured by Jewish sources, and inspired by Jewish vision? My goal is to motivate the most energetic, talented, and idealistic young Jews to assume responsibility for the future.”
Under Bernie Steinberg’s leadership, Harvard Hillel has become one of the largest, most active, and most visible student organizations at Harvard University. It is known for the scope and depth of its programs, as a model pluralistic community, as a voice for Israel, and as a leader in interfaith work. In addition to leading Harvard Hillel, Bernie is a master teacher and designer of educational programs, and he has lectured and taught throughout the world on a wide range of topics.
“I see pluralism as a value rooted in Jewish ideas,” he writes. “Every person is unique in an absolute and precious sense, as testimony to God’s greatness. Every person experienced the revelation of Torah in his or her own way. Every Jewish movement and individual is part of a truth whose totality is beyond our grasp.”
After beginning graduate work at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Bernie moved to Jerusalem, where he lived for thirteen years. During that time, he was a founding Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, one of the founders of the Pardes Institute, and the Director of the Wesleyan University Israel Program. He also taught at the Hebrew University. Because he considers Israel to be among the richest political, cultural, and spiritual landscapes in which to cultivate Jewish values and citizenship in a global world, Bernie created Netivot (Pathways), an intensive, year-long program—nationally recognized for its educational excellence—that takes undergraduates from Harvard, Yale, and New York University to Israel.
Before moving to Cambridge, Bernie also lived in Cleveland, Ohio, where he taught at the Cleveland College of Jewish Studies and Case Western Reserve University and founded the department of Jewish Education at the Jewish Community Centers of Cleveland. He holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University, an M.A. from Brandeis University, and a Ph.D. in Jewish Philosophy from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Bernie was a recipient of the Benjamin J. Shevach Award for Distinguished Leadership in Jewish Education, conferred by the Boston Hebrew College, and serves with the White House Conference on Interfaith Service in Higher Education. He and his wife Roz have two children, Adena and Avi.
“Struggling with critical life decisions, university students must choose whether and how they might help shape a turbulent, rapidly expanding world that cries out for creative possibilities and hope. How our young people link their deepest questions of identity with their passions, talents, energy, and idealism will determine the future of our planet.”
From his Letters of Nomination and Support:
“Because Bernie’s focus has been leadership education, his students have received more accolades than he has. But I can think of no better role model for an aspiring educational leader and no worthier recipient of a Covenant Award.”
Daniel Libenson, Executive Director
Newberger Hillel Center at the University of Chicago
“I met Bernie when I participated in a faculty seminar on the roots of the social justice tradition in Judaism. Although I teach leadership, organizing, and advocacy – and am the son of a Rabbi – it was Bernie’s instruction that taught me how to read Biblical text for the first time. It was a revelation. I came to experience what I had only heard described as the ‘sweetness’ of learning.”
Marshall Ganz, Lecturer in Public Policy
Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University
“Bernie’s ability to inspire young adults to pursue innovative careers in Jewish education is extraordinary, perhaps unparalleled. He conveys, in words and actions, the nobility of being a Jewish educator. While brutally honest about the challenges, he is unremittingly positive about the intrinsic life-giving rewards. He has always fought to elevate standards and expectations, making Jewish education attractive to incredibly talented people.”
Charles Herman, Founder and Executive Director
The Nesiya Institute
“Bernie’s message of leadership has been internalized by his students, many of whom are passing forward the gifts of his influence through the work that they are doing, in lay and professional Jewish roles and as global citizens. Bernie’s work can particularly be seen in the creation and development of independent minyanim, the Jewish home for so many of my generation.”
Anna Solomon-Schwartz, Doctoral Student
George Washington University, Department of Political Science