The Jewish Emergent Network comprises the leaders of seven path‐breaking Jewish communities from across the United States who have come together in the spirit of collaboration. These include: IKAR in Los Angeles, Kavana in Seattle, The Kitchen in San Francisco, Mishkan in Chicago, Sixth & I in Washington, D.C., and Lab/Shul and Romemu in New York.
The seven communities in the Network do not represent any one denomination or set of religious practices. What they share is a devotion to revitalizing the field of Jewish engagement, a commitment to approaches both traditionally rooted and creative, and a demonstrated success in attracting unaffiliated and disengaged Jews to a rich and meaningful Jewish practice. While each community is different in form and organizational structure, all have taken an entrepreneurial approach to this shared vision, operating outside of conventional institutional models, rethinking basic assumptions about ritual and spiritual practice, membership models, staff structures, the religious/cultural divide and physical space.
The Network ran an innovative Rabbinic Fellowship in from 2016-2020, its first major collaborative project. This Fellowship placed two cohorts of seven select early career rabbis into each of the participating Network communities for a two-year period, in order to train the next generation of enterprising rabbis to take on the challenges and realities of 21st century Jewish life in America in a variety of settings. Stay tuned! The Network is using what it learned in piloting this Rabbinic Fellowship to design path-breaking programs set to launch in 2021. The Network also recently partnered on major justice and holiday programming, including the DAWN Shavuot festival with REBOOT, Confessions of the Heart with Yavilah McCoy, Yom Kippur's For the Sin Of..., Simhat Torah Coast to Coast, Hanukkah at Home, and more.
Jewish Emergent Network Announces New Director: Justin Rosen Smolen Joins the Organization As It Goes Into Its Sixth Year
June 22, 2021 – After a vigorous national search, the Jewish Emergent Network is pleased to announce that Justin Rosen Smolen will be joining as its incoming director. In that role, he will lead collaborations across the seven Jewish Emergent Network communities to advance a bold and inspired vision for Jewish life.
“I am honored to join this collaborative of visionary leaders and organizations reimagining Jewish life and creating new pathways for Jews and co-journeyers to build community, make meaning, and pursue justice,” Rosen Smolen says. “I am inspired by the Network’s innovative, optimistic, and inclusive approaches to Judaism, and look forward to strengthening and forging new and diverse partnerships to collectively transform our communities and our world in service of these values.”
Rosen Smolen brings over 15 years of experience in the Jewish professional world, where he launched and scaled innovative national programs with a focus on education, access, and inclusion, and built robust networks and ecosystems to support them. He is a Certified Diversity Practitioner through The People Company Inclusion Institute. He holds an MPA in nonprofit management and an MA in Jewish Studies and is an alum of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and the Generation Now Fellowship. Rosen Smolen lives in northern New Jersey with his partner and their two young children.
Rosen Smolen will succeed Jessica Emerson McCormick, who has led the Jewish Emergent Network as its inaugural director since 2016. Jessica will assume the executive director position at the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation in July.
“The Jewish Emergent Network has been blessed to be the beneficiary of the enormous talent and skills of Jessica Emerson McCormick,” says Melissa Balaban. “She joined us as director and created the entire Network infrastructure and contours of our programming for our first five years. University of Arizona Hillel is so fortunate to have Jessica. And although Jessica is irreplaceable, we are thrilled to have found Justin, who brings incredible amounts of vision, skill, creativity, and enthusiasm to this role. The Network is at an interesting inflection point and the entire Network leadership team is excited to work with Justin as we navigate through this next iteration of Jewish life.”
The communities in the Network do not represent any one denomination or set of religious practices. What they share is a devotion to revitalizing the field of Jewish engagement, a commitment to approaches both traditionally rooted and creative, and a demonstrated success in attracting unaffiliated and disengaged Jews to a rich and meaningful Jewish practice. While each community is different in form and organizational structure, all have taken an entrepreneurial approach to this shared vision, operating outside of conventional institutional models, rethinking basic assumptions about ritual and spiritual practice, membership models, staff structures, the religious/cultural divide, and physical space.
The Network is working with past funders and cultivating prospective funders in connection with its next major projects and ongoing field-building work. Past funders include: the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Crown Family, the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Diane & Guilford Glazer Philanthropies, the William Davidson Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, and Natan.
Justin Rosen Smolen
The Network in the News
As the Jewish Emergent Network processes the learnings from its rabbinic fellowship and recent holiday and social justice programs—and looks towards future projects—the leadership has taken a moment to breathe, apply gained wisdom to their view of the field, and assess their goals and value proposition.
[ Read More ]
The term “Jewish emergent” was coined in 2005 by Synagogue 3000/S3K’s Shawn Landres, after a parallel Christian movement with a similar organizing philosophy, and analyzed in his 2006, 2008, and 2012 Sh’ma articles and elsewhere as a new movement of new rabbi-led congregational startups, lay-led independent minyanim, and other “para-shuls” and non-liturgical communities (see also Cohen, Landres, Kaunfer, and Shain, 2007). Landres and Joshua Avedon were the architects of S3K’s Meyerhoff Funds - and Nathan Cummings Foundation-funded Jewish Emergent Initiative (2006-2008). After 2008, Jewish Jumpstart/Jumpstart Labs, under Avedon and Landres, succeeded S3K in stewarding its work in the Jewish emergent field.
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