Enriching Jewish Life and Training Future Leaders in Maine

Organization: Center for Small Town Jewish Life, Waterville, ME

Grant Year: 2017

Project Director: Rabbi Rachel Isaacs and Melanie Weiss

Type of Grant: Signature

Grant Amount: $149,693.00 (3 years)

Website: http://www.colby.edu/jewishlife/

Center for Small Town Jewish Life – To enhance its year-round training and mentorship  programs, rabbinical internships, teen track initiatives, lay leadership sessions, Fall Shabbatonim, and social entrepreneurship workshops. 

The Center for Small Town Jewish Life at Colby College (CSTJL) showcases how academic and community institutions can work together to improve the cultural life of small towns while enriching the education of college students. Its annual Maine Conference for Jewish Life (MCJL) brings together participants from across the state and beyond for a weekend of exemplary Jewish learning and celebration. Conference-goers have the opportunity to engage in meaningful Jewish educational programming while exploring sound pedagogic approaches to Jewish education in the small-town setting. 

The MCJL will operate in tandem with a year-long suite of developing initiatives, including teen programs, rabbinical mentorships, social entrepreneurship workshops, and lay leadership sessions. 

Clergy Learning Sessions/Community Conversations: CSTJL will offer clergy learning sessions three times a year. Hosted by a different Jewish thought leader each session, a forty-minute moderated panel discussion will take place followed by a Q&A with participants. Each session will explore different pedagogic strategies, innovative Jewish educational programming, and contemporary themes that examine a plurality of issues within a Jewish context.

Rabbinical School Student Cohort for Year-Long Mentoring with Local Rabbis: Throughout the year, the CSTJL will bring rabbinical students interested in serving in small-towns to Maine. Rabbinical students will be introduced to their mentors – local Maine rabbis – during the MCJL. After rabbinical students are paired with local rabbis and introduced to their local congregations, CSTJL will craft sessions that provide forums for lay leaders to talk about what makes small-town Jewish life distinct. Rabbinical students will learn about congregational leadership strategies, sound pedagogic approaches, and innovative Shabbat and High Holiday planning in the small-town setting. 

Teen Tracks: CSTJL’s newly constructed teen track will be facilitated by Maine rabbis and Waterville Jewish Leadership Fellows with extensive experience in activism and community organizing. CSTJL will convene its teen participants at the 2018 MCJL conference to explore what would interest them the most, both in terms of educational content and format, and to recruit its first cohort for 2019. The new teen track will nurture a year-long cohort of students committed to learning and action who will then present their experiences each year at the MCJL.

Developing Social Entrepreneurship and Lay Leadership Sessions: CSTJL will spend the next year researching and working with organizations like UpStart to access materials, curricula, and best practices for encouraging and facilitating social entrepreneurship. It will work with consultants in each of the movements to design sessions on board management, fundraising, and clergy oversight. CSTJL will identify best practices for encouraging and sustaining programming that are not only innovative, but also collaborative. 

Fall Shabbaton: Every fall, the CSTJL will host a Shabbaton for community leaders, faculty members, students, and professors to come together for educational and community building activities. CSTJL will also cultivate a children’s track for the Shabbaton to broaden its reach to young families and children.