The Origins of ACRE (Alliance for Continuing Rabbinic Education)
Until now, there has not been an organization overseeing, evaluating and endorsing the various continuing educational opportunities that today’s pulpit rabbi can take advantage of.
In 2007, representatives of Lasko Family Foundations, STAR (Synagogues, Transformation and Renewal), IJS ( The Institute for Jewish Spirituality, Oraita (Hebrew College) and JESNA’s Center for Research and Evaluation met in Philadelphia to discuss ways to formalize and strengthen those continuing education opportunities.
In April, 2008, 34 professional leaders of all of the rabbinical schools, rabbinical organizations and individual program providers met in New York to address the possibility of creating an Alliance for Continuing Rabbinic Education. Consensus was reached to form a Steering Committee and a smaller Design Team to plan the First National Conference on Continuing Rabbinic Education. Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Rabbi Gerald Weider were chosen as co-chairs of the Design Team and the Conference.
Seventy-eight leaders, representing the diversity of the Jewish community, actively participated in the Conference, held in New York on September 10, 2008. The overwhelming consensus of the participants was that an Alliance for Continuing Rabbinic Education should be created and that the first steps in its development should be a Mission, Vision and Values Statement, governance procedures and a website which would be the clearinghouse for information about all continuing rabbinic education programs.
Founding Mission Statement
The Alliance for Continuing Rabbinic Education (ACRE) is dedicated to advancing the field of continuing rabbinic education in order to enrich the communal, spiritual and educational life of rabbis, and through them, the entire Jewish community.
Vision of the Alliance for Continuing Education
Rabbis, congregations, congregants, organizations and philanthropists and other stakeholders recognize the need for a continuum of education for all rabbis. As such, it is expected that rabbis will spend the Alliance-recommended, additional designated time in continuing rabbinic education learning experiences beyond their seminary training. Those who employ rabbis are willing to budget the time and expense for continuing rabbinic education and will not count such study time as vacation or personal days.
The Alliance will serve as a clearing house for CRE information as offered by rabbinical schools, rabbinical organizations and other providers of continuing rabbinic education. The Alliance member providers will regularly share these listings of continuing rabbinic education opportunities with one another by posting the information on an open access website. Moreover, the organizations of the Alliance will meet annually to assess gaps in continuing rabbinic education programs and, where feasible, collaborate in developing initiatives which fill those gaps.
The Alliance will endeavor to foster a cooperative interchange regarding the recruitment and training of faculty for continuing rabbinic education experiences. The Alliance will develop guidelines for what constitutes high quality continuing rabbinic education, based on research and evaluation. The Alliance will advocate for securing additional funds for research and evaluation. While unable to evaluate every program and experience, all members of the Alliance agree to devote resources to assessing the impact of key programs and sharing that information with one another through conferences and publications sponsored by the Alliance.
Through the Alliance, CRE programs will help rabbis remain current on cutting-edge academic Judaic research and enhance practical rabbinic skills which rabbis acquired during their years of seminary education. For rabbis, CRE will provide a sense of ongoing educational, spiritual and collegial renewal so that they might be energized to create dynamic Jewish experiences on a regular basis with their congregants and organizations. Additionally, through CRE, rabbis will acquire new skills to meet the evolving and complex challenges of congregational life and as such find their own sense of spirituality nurtured through their continuing education experiences and through the colleagues they encounter from within and outside of their other organizational affiliations.
Through the Alliance, continuing rabbinic education will become the norm for rabbinic, organizational and congregational life. Indeed, the impact of continuing rabbinical education programs will become evident throughout local communities. Through their own continued study, rabbis will be role models for the individuals whom they serve. Thus, congregations, organizations and philanthropists will be encouraged to devote resources to ensuring that rabbis immerse themselves in ongoing learning throughout their congregational experience.
As a diverse alliance of stakeholders of continuing rabbinic education, we will be guided in our working relationships with one another by the following values:
ללכת בדרכיו Lalekhet bederakhav – seeking constantly to deepen and renew our devotion to God, to love and serve God with a whole heart and humble spirit, we will be better able to love and serve our communities, leading them to deeper devotion to God and Torah.
תלמוד תורה לנגד כולם Talmud Torah ל‘neged kulam – raising the profile and accessibility of talmud torah for rabbis of all religious streams
כבוד הצבור K’vod ha-Tzibbur – engaging in study that responds to the spiritual and educational needs of the communities we serve
אהבת ישראל Ahavat Yisrael – following our sage, Hillel, and lovingly accepting people where they are with regard to their learning, curiosity and desire for knowledge.
כבוד הרב K’vod ha-Rav – while honestly acknowledging our religious differences as rabbis, working together in a way that respects our shared aspirations for learning and for the Jewish people.
כבוד הבריאות K’vod ha-Bri’ot – respecting the diversity of the rabbinic community by fostering different paths of continuing education.
קירוב Keruv – however we define it, understanding that we have the sacred task of drawing people closer to Torah.
פנים אל פנים Panim el Panim – meeting face-to-face; gathering together periodically in real-time to foster a rabbinic community dedicated to the goals of the Alliance.
שמחה של מצוה Simcha shel Mitzvah – celebrating our opportunity to work together on this endeavor.
All rabbis are engaged in the sacred task of increasing kedushah in the world. Therefore, it is incumbent upon them to develop their teaching and leadership skill through continued study. While we may never reach the state of complete knowledge and perfection, we must strive towards an ever higher level of knowledge through a continuing learning process.
Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor, v’lo ata ben chorine l’hibatel memenah.
לא עליך המלאכה לגמור, ולא אתה בן חורין להבטל ממנה