From a simple one-pager on a laptop to a nearly $1 million Center, Atra: Center for Rabbinic Innovation has grown exponentially over the years. It all started with the Fellowship for Rabbinic Entrepreneurs program piloted by Hillel’s Office of Innovation in 2016, which aimed to encourage rabbis to build and lead new forms of community.
After three successful cohorts and establishing a proof of concept, the Office of Innovation’s leadership led by Rabbi Dan Smokler, PhD, had a vision to share their methodology with even more Jewish spiritual leaders. In 2019, the Center for Rabbinic Innovation was launched with Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein as its inaugural Executive Director.
With the support of private philanthropy and the Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund (JCRIF), Atra more than quadrupled its programmatic scope between 2020-2022, training and supporting over 450 rabbis from all denominations to launch and grow thriving communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Atra’s strategic planning process in late 2021 resulted in a 3-year, approximately $6 million expansion plan. Atra has become a central platform and network that trains and supports visionary leadership, career growth, and adaptive practice among rabbinic leaders from every background and denomination.
In 2023, the Center for Rabbinic Innovation became Atra, derived from the Aramaic term for a rabbi as a “mara d’atra,” or “authority of the place.” Atra published its first research study, showcasing their commitment to innovative spiritual leadership in the Jewish community.