what is spiritual leadership and social impact?

During the 20th century, the role of spiritual leaders evolved from one focused on doctrinal interpretation to either executive management of large congregations or pastoral healing to those in need. In the 21st century, a time of accelerated change, rabbis are challenged to lead their communities through rapidly emerging challenges and opportunities. The more they see themselves as “entrepreneurs” working within innovative cultures, the more likely their success.

The key to raising entrepreneurs, as governments, corporations, and NGOs have learned, lies in a different kind of education more than anything else. This Certificate borrows from the best of entrepreneurial education, tailoring it to the field of spiritual leadership. It breaks down the components of “Entrepreneurial Mindset” and “Culture of Innovation,” inviting their paradigmatic adoption through the proven pedagogies in the field:

  • Problem-based learning and case studies

  • Storytelling

  • Systemic thinking

  • Experimentation

  • Mentorship

  • Inspiration and models of success

To be sure, the 21st century will continue to need managers and pastors, just as the 20th century did not dispose altogether of scholar-jurists. However, rabbis who serve in these roles and others with an entrepreneurial mindset stand to contribute exponentially–both in their immediate communities and to the field at large.

The Certificate program is proud to partner with Yeshivat chovevei torah rabbinical school, as supporters of the program, thought partners in curricular development, and in making participation in the certificate program an essential part of their rabbinic training. Yeshivat Chovevei Torah has consistently adopted a changemaking approach to its work, attracted and produced innovative rabbis, and earned wide acclaim.


  1. learn about the fields of entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, innovation and system change— and its direct relations to your work.

  2. acquire concrete skills in community organizing, vision-crafting, particularly with an eye towards launching new communities

  3. Develop a compelling personal narrative, in shorter and longer forms, which communicate the unique passion that a rabbi brings to their innovative work

  4. explore the priorities and network with the leaders of the Jewish innovation eco-system to facilitate future mentorship and funding

  5. Cultivate a shared ethic of responsibility

  6. Instill confidence that each individual possesses the power to make change


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Rabbi Yehuda Sarna serves as the University Chaplain and Executive Director at the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at New York University. He is a Senior Fellow at the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership at NYU, where he designs educational experiences and curricula to train the next generation in interfaith action.

Rabbi Sarna was one of the principal subjects of Chelsea Clinton's 2014 documentary, Of Many, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and aired nationally on ABC in 2017. The documentary is utilized as a teaching tool for universities and high schools around the country seeking to establish norms of religious and spiritual diversity within their institutions. The Of Many Institute designed an award winning training module, Faith Zone, to train university students, staff and administrators in religious literacy. Rabbi Sarna was appointed to the Muslim Jewish Advisory Council, a project of the American Jewish Committee and the Islamic Society of North America, to lobby for legislation increasingly vigilant of hate crimes.

Within the Jewish community, Rabbi Sarna is known for his innovative disposition in launching new initiatives. In 2007, he started the Jewish Learning Fellowship, a ten-week course in Jewish thought for college students, which has since been replicated on dozens of campuses. In 2010, he helped develop the Jewish Disaster Response Corps (JDRC) which mobilizes the American Jewish community to provide direct support to communities recovering from natural disasters. In 2016, the Bronfman Center incubated Knock Knock Give a Sock, a student led initiative to break the stigma of homelessness which has since launched as an independent venture.

Rabbi Sarna has recognized for his outward looking and innovative approach. He was awarded the Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence from Hillel International in 2008 and was the honoree at the Orthodox Union/Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus Awards Dinner in 2009. In 2009, he was listed as one of“36-under-36 Change-makers” by the New York Jewish Week. 

He is the editor of The Koren Shabbat Evening Siddur (2011) and Orthodox Forum Series: Toward a Jewish Perspective on Culture (2013). Rabbi Sarna is married to Dr. Michelle Waldman Sarna, a psychologist, and they have six children.

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Dr. Nir Tsuk is a seasoned practitioner, academic and facilitator with over 20 years of international experience in the fields of social capital, entrepreneurship and culture of innovation. Serving as a Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship at King's College London and the University of Osaka, Nir is now leading the Bronfman Center’s new focus on impact and entrepreneurship.

Prior to this, Nir has served as the head of growth at Idealist.org – the world's largest social online talent acquisition platform, and brought Ashoka –  the world's largest social entrepreneurship organization – to Israel, after serving as a Ashoka's Global Fellowship Director in Washington DC, connecting more than 3000 social entrepreneurs in 72 countries. Nir holds a PhD from Cambridge University in social and political sciences – where he wrote his dissertation on social networks, social capital and intentional communities (such as the Israeli Kibbutz and the English Garden City). Previously, Nir led policy research initiatives at the Community Development Foundation in London and at the Committee for Social Affairs in the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem. 

 He has been, among other things, a curriculum developer at the Rabin Centre and the Israeli national authority for Holocaust remembrance, the editor of Israel's bestselling computer magazine, a restaurant manager, and a street cleaner. Nir advises and lectures citizen organizations, entrepreneurs, government bodies, and companies. He is also a compulsive tea drinker and a fan of animated movies. 







Rebekah Thornhill is the Managing Director of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at New York University. Originally from Austin, Texas, she earned a BA in History and Jewish Studies from NYU in 2011 and an MA in Jewish Education from NYU in 2016. While an undergraduate, she was an Eryk Spektor Jewish Studies Scholar, a member of the dance team, and studied abroad at NYU’s Tel Aviv campus. Rebekah was a UJA-Federation of New York Shapiro Fellow in 2014-2015, served as vice chair of UJA’s Global Leadership Society in 2015-2016, was on the steering committee for Limmud New York, and founded the Orthodox Converts Network. In 2014, she relocated to Europe to develop Bronfman Global, a program designed to connect NYU students at NYU’s 14 global sites to Jewish communities all over the world. She started the NYU Global Ambassadors program which has since been scaled by Kahal Abroad and created the Bronfman Global Fellows, a program which aims to train emerging Jewish leaders from all over the world. Rebekah received the NYU Student Affairs Hallmark Award in 2013 and the Give-A-Violet Award in 2014 and has been asked to facilitate at Hillel International’s Global Assembly several times. Rebekah studied at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and is currently a PhD candidate in Jewish Education at NYU’s Steinhardt School. She lives in Chelsea with her husband, Max, and son, Sami.


Danielle Goldstone is Principal of Goodforce, the founder of innoFaith and the Senior Advisor to Ashoka. She was the founding director of Ashoka’s global Empathy Initiative and the associated Changemaker Schools network. Danielle also served as Ashoka's Legal Director and was interim regional representative for Ashoka in francophone West Africa. Her background additionally includes policy advocacy with the Jubilee 2000 debt relief campaign, as well as legal work on Guantánamo detainee cases and human rights analysis related to the U.S. war on terrorism. Danielle has a B.A. in economics and international relations from Stanford University, and a Juris Doctor, Master of Theological Studies, and Graduate Certificate in Human Rights from Emory University, where she was Editor in Chief of the Emory International Law Review. She is an attorney, admitted to the New York Bar. 


Chelsea Clinton is the vice chair of the Clinton Foundation. She also serves on the board of the Clinton Foundation’s affiliated Clinton Health Access Initiative as well as on the board of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Chelsea currently teaches at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and previously worked at McKinsey & Company and Avenue Capital. In addition, Chelsea serves on the boards of the School of American Ballet, the Africa Center, IAC, Expedia, Clover Health, and the Weill Cornell Medical College. She is the co-chair of the Advisory Board of the Of Many Institute at NYU. Chelsea holds a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford, a Master of Public Health from Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, and both a Master of Philosophy and a Doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. Chelsea is co-author with Devi Sridhar of “Governing Global Health: Who Runs the World and Why?” Chelsea is also the author of “It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going,” “She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World” and "She Persisted Around the World.”


Rabbi Nikki DeBlosi, PhD, was ordained in 2013 by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City and currently serves on the rabbinic staff of the pluralistic Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life/Hillel of NYU. She holds a BA summa cum laude in Women's Studies from Harvard University and an MA and PhD in Performance Studies from New York University. Before pursuing graduate-level study, Rabbi DeBlosi worked as a campus organizer and writer for the Feminist Majority Foundation. At NYU, she primarily serves the Reform and LGBTQ Jewish communities and teaches an all-denominational conversational course called Sex Love and Romance. 


Paul Light is NYU Wagner's Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service and founding principal investigator of the Global Center for Public Service. Before joining NYU, Paul served as the Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, founding director of its Center for Public Service, and vice president and director of the Governmental Studies Program. He has served previously as director of the Public Policy Program at the Pew Charitable Trusts and associate dean and professor of public affairs at the University of Minnesota's Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Paul’s most recent book is Government by Investigation: Presidents, Congress, and the Search for Answers, 1945-2012. His award-winning books include The President's Agenda: Domestic Policy Choice from Kennedy to Clinton, Thickening Government: Federal Hierarchy and the Diffusion of Accountability and A Government Ill Executed: The Decline of the Federal Service and How to Reverse It. Paul is also a co-author of a best-selling American government textbook, Government by the People.

John Sexton is President Emeritus of NYU, the Dean Emeritus of NYU Law School, and the Benjamin Butler Professor of Law. He joined the Law School faculty in 1981, was named the School's Dean in 1988 and became the University's President in 2001. He returned to the faculty in 2016. Sexton also serves as President of the Catalyst Foundation for Universal Education, Chair of the University of the People President’s Council, and Chair of the Mary Christie Foundation. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the Council on Foreign Relations. He serves on the boards of the Institute of International Education, the College Advising Corps, and the Trinity School. Sexton received a B.A. in History from Fordham College; an M.A. in Comparative Religion and a Ph.D. in History of American Religion Fordham University; and a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. He is the author of Redefining the Supreme Court's Role: A Theory of Managing the Federal Court System in addition to several other books, articles and Supreme Court briefs. In 2014, his Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game was a New York Times best seller.

Linda G. Mills is Vice Chancellor and Senior Vice Provost for Global Programs and University Life at NYU. Linda is the inaugural Lisa Ellen Goldberg Professor at New York University. She also serves as Co-Chair of the NYU Advisory Board of the Of Many Institute and as Executive Director of the NYU Production Lab. Linda is currently the Principal Investigator of National Science Foundation and National Institute of Justice funded studies in Salt Lake City, Utah. Additionally, Linda is an accomplished producer; her projects include The Reality Show: NYU, which received the 2010 Silver Award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), and The Heart of Intimate Abuse, for which she received a Telly Award. In 2010, Mills co-produced and co-directed the documentary Auf Wiedersehen: 'Til We Meet Again. Linda is the director, with Chelsea Clinton as Executive Producer, of the documentary short, Of Many.

curriculum development team

Rabbi Jon Kelsen is Dean at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, where he has previously taught Talmud and Pedagogy. Prior to this, Rabbi Kelsen was Rosh Kollel of the Drisha Kollel as well as an adjunct faculty member at the Pardes Institute. He received ordination from Rabbis Daniel Landes and Zalman Nehemiah Goldberg, holds an MA in Jewish Civilization from Hebrew University, and is currently pursuing doctoral studies in Education and Jewish Studies at New York University as a Wexner Graduate Fellow.

Rabbi Chaim Marder is an adjunct faculty member at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah’s Department of Practical Rabbinics. He has also served as Rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of White Plains since 1995. He is a graduate of Yeshiva University, holds an MA in Jewish History and received rabbinical ordination from RIETS. He is a former officer and a member of the executive board of the Rabbinical Council of America and other rabbinic and communal organizations.