Leadership Program

The IISHJ Leadership Program develops professional leaders to serve the needs of the Secular Humanistic Judaism. The first program created by the IISHJ in 1987, graduates of the Leadership Program earn the title of Leader/Madrikh(a)/Vegvayzer, a Jewish professional who serves as a community guide, ceremonial officiant, philosophic counselor, educator, and movement spokesperson. Leaders serve the needs of their communities and the Jewish community in general in their area. Upon completing the Leadership Program, the Leader/Madrikh(a)/Vegvayzer is certified by the IISHJ as a recognized leader in the movement with all the rights and responsibilities of clergy.

Admission Requirements

  • Membership in the Secular Humanistic Jewish movement
  • Completion of the application process, including application form, advance screening, and two letters of recommendation, preferably from leaders in the Secular Humanistic Jewish movement
  • Interview with the Admissions Committee

An undergraduate degree is preferred but not required. Click here to read more about the roles, admission requirements and graduation competencies of a Secular Humanistic Jewish Leader/Madrikh(a)/Vegvayzer.  For more information or to request an application, go to Admissions and Financial Aid.

Requirements for Graduation

  • Completion of 7 credit hours of weekend seminars (4 required, 3 elective)
  • Completion of 9 credit hours of graduate seminars (3 required)
  • Completion of papers for each seminar
  • Completion of 6 supervised fieldwork projects designed to give the students practical experience in their field. (PS 390 – 2 credit hours). The fieldwork projects may be completed concurrently with the program.
  • Reading proficiency in Hebrew or Yiddish

Required Seminars

Seminars required for the Leadership Program are offered throughout the year. All seminars for the Leadership Program are offered by the Institute. Field Work is supervised by the IISHJ Associate Professor of Professional Development in collaboration with an approved Leader/Madrikh(a)/Vegvayzer. The Associate Professor of Professional Development also advises students on required program paper or project topics.

Required Weekend Seminars

  • SHJ 100) Roots of Secular Humanistic Judaism
  • SHJ 110) Basic Ideas of Secular Humanistic Judaism
  • JC 200) Celebration of Jewish Calendar and Holidays
  • JC 210) Celebration of the Jewish Life Cycle

Required Summer (week-long) Seminars

  • PS 400) Jewish Education and Curriculum Planning
  • PS 410) Leadership, Management, and Community
  • PS 430) Philosophic Guidance and Counseling

Elective seminars eligible for Leadership Program credit are any 100-level IISHJ seminars in Jewish Culture, Jewish History, or Jewish Music other than JC 100 or JC 110. Independent study opportunities are also available.


The IISHJ Leadership programs develop individuals to be Secular Humanistic Jewish community leaders through both academic study (seminars, questions, papers) and practical experience (fieldwork requirements) in relevant Areas of Expertise.

The five Areas of Expertise for Fieldwork for the Leadership Program are:

  • Educator or Educational Consultant
  • Philosophical Consultant or Spokesperson/Philosophical Counselor
  • Community Administrator
  • Festival Ceremonialist
  • Life Cycle Ceremonialist

Fieldwork experience for these areas consists of completing supervised and approved Tasks, relevant to the student’s program and one for each Area of Expertise. The supervision of all Tasks is provided by the student’s chosen mentor and the Associate Professor of Professional Development (PPD). The PPD and the student’s mentor are available for discussion of resources and options if the student encounters difficulties in completing a Task. Students should read the full list of task examples before beginning their supervised fieldwork. Task examples serve as guidelines and should not stifle the student’s creativity. Students may elect to perform tasks in each Area of Expertise that varies from the examples by submitting a request with full details to the PPD and the student’s mentor. Click here to read more about the roles, admission requirements and graduation competencies of a Secular Humanistic Jewish Leader/Madrikh(a)/Vegvayzer. You can also find more on the work of our Leaders through the Leadership Conference of Secular and Humanistic Jews, or by reading about our alumni.