Spiritual Innovation In Action

Atra’s pluralistic, cohort-based training and individualized support for spiritual leaders  introduce our ideas, principles, and methodologies for developing, testing and measuring soul-centered, purpose-driven Jewish community building.

Wondering what innovation or changes Atra alumni are creating in Jewish communal life? Read on for a glimpse into spiritual innovation from clergy who were spurred by our programs, resources, and mentorship to pilot and learn from projects that are more meaningfully and sustainably engaging and serving the Jewish people.


Toronto rabbi connects interfaith couples

Rabbi Aaron Levy, a Toronto-based Orthodox rabbi, learned that many interfaith couples in his immediate area want Jewish connection but feel dismissed by the other traditional shuls in their area. Discovering that there are no specific Interfaith initiatives in his area, he used the support of Atra’s Rabbinic (re)Design Lab to pilot Interfaith Couples’ Meetups. These meet-ups were strategically centered on the Jewish holidays. Later, as a fellow in Atra’s Fellowship for Rabbinic Innovation, Rabbi Levy expanded his community – Makom: Creative Downtown Judaism – to fill the gap in teen engagement in Toronto. Through the fellowship year, Rabbi Levy steadily engaged new families and used Atra’s methodology to deliver programming that met the teens’ needs.



Burning Man meets Shabbat

Zvika Krieger, who grew up traditionally Orthodox, became the leader of Burning Man Shabbat for over 1,000 people each year while working at Meta. He then decided to go to rabbinical school and is currently pursuing ordination. He now calls himself a “subversive ritualist and radical traditionalist” and was hired as the spiritual leader of Chochmat HaLev, working to revitalize a longstanding progressive spiritual community in Berkeley. A member of Atra’s 7th cohort of the Fellowship for Rabbinic Entrepreneurs, he has been growing Chochmat HaLev as an intergenerational community with many hundreds coming to celebrate Shabbat, and now working to create “spiritual co-working space” serving those in the tech industry tired of remote work and seeking Jewish wisdom and community.


Jewish communal organizing in Cleveland

Rabbi Miriam Geronimus had been gathering and teaching other young Jews in West Cleveland who hadn’t found existing Jewish opportunities meaningful and relevant. Rabbi Geronimus had a vision to grow a peer-powered, radically welcoming Jewish community, but in order to realize it, she needed to develop a few new skills – data-driven community organizing, business planning, fundraising and engaging lay leaders. Through participation in Atra’s signature fellowship, she was able to learn and apply these skills in real time. She completed the program having developed a business plan, gathered 92 community members, and now has more than 10 lay leaders in place to develop and grow the Cleveland Jewish Collective.



Merging communities with a “Human Library”

Rabbi Paula Winnig came to Youngstown, Ohio at a time when demographic and economic shifts meant contraction of membership in their historic synagogues. Rabbi Winnig sought to build cross-institutional community relationships and preserve communal memories. She connected people across communities to share and record their stories for a “human library” to create good will and capture the unique identities of each community to mitigate concern that these will be lost with any merger or closure.

Merging these synagogues also necessitated finding new homes for several venerable Torahs. Rabbi Winnig partnered with Atra to identify buyers from emergent Jewish communities, and each Torah found a new home in Cleveland, OH, Harlem, NY, and beyond.

“The step-by-step help in creating a way to think about transforming a core concern into a positive success was really helpful for me. I really appreciate having the literal words to express the potential changes I can be looking toward.”
Rabbinic (re)Design Lab Participant

South African Jewish think tank

In the hopes of engaging those on the margins of Jewish community who have expressed interest in connecting, Rabbi Greg Alexander, a congregational rabbi in South Africa launched a communal visioning program. Through a think tank made up of disengaged Jewish individuals and their loved ones, they explored what their “ideal Jewish community” would be. Rabbi Alexander wanted to develop understanding about the kind of community to which they wish to belong–and then work alongside current and these potential community members to build it.

A rabbi of many firsts

As a fellow in Atra’s 7th cohort of the Fellowship for Rabbinic Entrepreneurs, Rabbi Hannah Kapnik Ashar rabbi launched Rahmana in Denver, a new community by and for women learning and praying together. This rabbi, a member of this first class of ordained clergy from Yeshivat Hadar, was also awarded a microgrant through an Atra-Natan Fund pop-up giving circle in 2023, and is engaging a growing number of people in community gatherings and retreats, highlighting women sages like Yemima Avital.