WHO WE ARE
The SPARK Fellowship to Ignite Innovation is a program of Clal: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
Rabbi Elan Babchuck
Rabbi Irwin Kula
SPARK Program Coordinator
Dan Libenson | SPARK Faculty
Dan is the founder and president of the Institute for the Next Jewish Future and co-host of the popular Judaism Unbound podcast, which promotes creativity and innovation in American Jewish life. Dan’s extensive background in Jewish communal innovation includes six years as Executive Director of the University of Chicago Hillel, three years as Director of New Initiatives at Harvard Hillel, and four years as Founding Director of jU: Jewish U. Dan was awarded Hillel International’s Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Award (Hillel’s highest professional award), has been named “Jewish Chicagoan of the Year” by the Chicago Jewish News, and was one of only ten Jewish leaders ever awarded the prestigious AVI CHAI Fellowship. He has been a fellow at the Mandel Leadership Institute and at the Shalom Hartman Institute and serves as a faculty member of the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Cornerstone Fellowship.
Dan has published a variety of articles and book chapters on Jewish innovation and served as translation editor for the English edition of Yochi Brandes’s The Secret Book of Kings (St. Martin’s Press 2016) (one of the bestselling novels in Israel’s history) and lead translator for The Orchard by the same author (Gefen Publishing, forthcoming 2017). He is working on a book on the future of American Judaism. Dan lives in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (a University of Chicago administrator) and two children (14 and 11).
Rabbi Elan Babchuck | SPARK Lead Faculty
I’m a rabbi and an entrepreneur, and spend much of my time exploring the rich intersections between these two traditions, and the abundant possibilities therein. I'm committed to leaving behind a world that is more compassionate, connected, and just than the one I found, and - in pursuit of that commitment - I am the Founding Director of Glean Network, an incubator and network for entrepreneurs who are building new models of faith in action, and Director of Innovation at Clal, a think-tank focused on the future of faith in America. I'm blessed to live and learn with my wife, Lizzie Pollock and our two children, Micah and Nessa, in Providence, Rhode
Island. I read broadly and voraciously, cook adventurously, and find sanctuary on the rock climbing walls of New England.
Cyd Weissman | SPARK Faculty
Cyd Weissman, is the Assistant Vice President, Innovation and Impact, at Reconstructing Judaism. Her portfolio includes new design of legacy projects like Ritualwell.org and launching new initiatives like Evolve and Reconstructionist Learning Networks. She teaches social entrepreneurship at The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
Formally, Cyd was the Director of Innovation in Congregational Learning for Greater New York, The Jewish Education Project, leading the field to create and spread new models of Jewish education. For a decade, she taught Organizational Dynamics, Curricular Design and Assessment, and Accompanying Families on their Spiritual Journey at the New York campus of Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute for Religion.
She and her husband value precious time with their four sons, daughter and son-in laws and grandchildren.The creative process of uncovering need and building anew directs her energies. When she grows up, she hopes to be a writer.
Rabbi Irwin Kula | SPARK Faculty
Rabbi Irwin Kula is a disruptive spiritual innovator and rogue thinker. A 7th generation rabbi he is Co-President of Clal–The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership a do-tank committed to making Jewish a Public Good. A thought leader on the intersection of innovation, religion, and human flourishing, Irwin has worked with leaders from the Dalai Lama to Queen Noor and with organizations, foundations, and businesses in the United States and around the world to inspire people to live with greater passion, purpose, creativity and compassion.
Named one of the leaders shaping the American spiritual landscape, he received the 2008 Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award for his work “toward equality, liberty and a truly inter–religious community” and has been listed in Newsweek for many years as one of America’s “most influential rabbis.” He is the Co-founder and Executive Editor of The Wisdom Daily.
A popular commentator in both new and traditional media, Irwin is the author of the award-winning book, Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life (2006), creator of the acclaimed film, Time for a New God (2004), and the Public TV series Simple Wisdom (2003), and is co-founder with Craig Hatkoff and Clay Christensen of the Disruptor Foundation.
Adele Anderson | SPARK Program Coordinator
Adele coordinates innovation programs at Clal - The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. A recent graduate of Brown University, she spent her time in classrooms learning systems-scale thinking through geology, physics, and applied mathematics, and hit the ground running with ideas after receiving various fellowships to fund scientific research. Projects housed at Brown University, the University of Texas at Austin, and the Ohio State University ranged from characterizing ancient feather coloration and birdsong to quantifying local watershed chemical levels for more informed policymaking.
Adele spent her time outside of classrooms coordinating interfaith programming for students at Brown University’s Office of Chaplains and Religious Life, seeking to expand the focus of the Office to dialogue between secular and religious students. She reinvigorated a weekly speaker series addressing modern questions of spirituality, inviting scientists, ethicists, local religious leaders, historians, social justice leaders, athletes, and musicians into conversation. She actively contributed to the Office’s Interreligious Working Group, making recommendations to increase diversity and inclusion based on religious identity at Brown.
Evidently, Adele seeks to situate herself at the nexus of novel interactions between disparate disciplines, particularly interested by science, ethics, religion, and human-centered design. Adele lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where she rock climbs, watches birds, and plays the organ.