Spertus Institute to hold first commencement here; 10 to receive degrees

Spertus Institute to hold first commencement here; 10 to receive degrees

David Shapira
David Shapira

Ten Pittsburgh Jewish professionals will receive master’s degrees from the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership during a commencement exercise, Monday, Oct. 7, 7 p.m., at Rodef Shalom Congregation.

Carly Adelmann, Adam Joseph Baron, Jacqueline Ellean Braslawsce, Joshua Donner, Deborah Fidel, David Samuel Katz, Johanna Kitman, Susan Rosenberg Linzer, Alexander David Speck and Aaron Weil will each receive a master’s of arts in Jewish professional studies.

In addition, honorary doctoral degrees will be conferred upon John S. Ruskay — the commencement keynote speaker — and David S. Shapira.

It is the first time a commencement exercise has been held in Pittsburgh for the Chicago-based Spertus Institute, an accredited graduate school that offers master’s degrees in Jewish professional studies, and nonprofit management. It also offers professional workshops and public educational and cultural programs.

Students attend classes at Spertus’ landmark glass-facade building on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, though the school also has programs in select locations across North America, such as Pittsburgh.

The Agency for Jewish Learning coordinated the program here with funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and its president, Jeffrey Finkelstein.

“[Rabbi] Scott Aaron, [AJL community scholar], originally proposed the program when he arrived in Pittsburgh. He had been on the faculty at Spertus when he worked in Chicago,” said AJL Executive Director Ed Frim. “In Pittsburgh he has served as the program coordinator, working closely with Spertus Institute. Scott also was an instructor.”

Frim said AJL also recruited Barbara Burstin and Ronald Brauner as instructors.

Aaron said he expects to have another Spertus class in Pittsburgh judging from local interest in the program.

Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, Inc., has previously been the educational director of the 92nd Street Y and vice chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He also served as a senior consultant to the Wexner Foundation and the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Foundation. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and earned a doctorate in political science from Columbia University.

Shapira, a longtime leader in the Pittsburgh Jewish community, has served the Jewish Federation as its chairman of the board, its annual annual campaign chair and in numerous other capacities.

The executive chairman of Giant Eagle, Inc., Shapira also serves as vice chairman of the board for both Carnegie Mellon University and The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and he serves on many other boards in the business, education and arts sectors.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and a master’s degree from Stanford University, both in economics.

Tuition for the graduates was covered through numerous sources, according to the Federation.

“Each agency that has a staff member [or members] participating in Spertus is paying a portion of the tuition, with the students paying an equal amount,” a Federation spokesperson said. “Essentially, we’ve got several people ‘investing’ in the program — donors, agencies, the students themselves — knowing it will ultimately serve the community well.”

Want to go?

What: A reception to follow the Spertus Institute commencement exercises.

When: Monday, Oct. 7

Where: Rodef Shalom Congregation

How: RSVP, indicating the number of guests, to rsvp MAJPSPittsburgh@spertus.edu.

(Lee Chottiner can be reached at leec@thejewishchronicle.net.)

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