Boston Interfaith Leadership Initiative (BILI)

A Fellowship Program for Undergraduate Students

Sponsor: Hebrew College 

Partner Institutions: Boston University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, Tufts University, Wellesley College

Need: We live in an age of unprecedented interaction among people with different religious identities and communal affiliations. To foster a healthy democratic society and enrich our religious and cultural communities, we need leaders that can help their constituents engage this diversity in constructive and meaningful ways. Nowhere is the fact of religious diversity more apparent than on U.S. college and university campuses. While there are several successful interreligious programs on individual campuses throughout Greater Boston, there is currently no opportunity for student leaders from these schools to meet for regular and ongoing discussion, learning, and joint action across campuses.  

Response: Hebrew College, in partnership with several leading Boston-area institutions of higher education, is excited to announce the establishment of the Boston Interfaith Leadership Initiative (BILI). This program grows out of conversations among the staff of the Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership at Hebrew College and the chaplains and directors of religious and spiritual life at five outstanding schools with nationally-regarded ecumenical, interfaith, and cross-cultural programs. In designing the fellowship, we draw on several different leadership education initiatives from the participating schools, including Hebrew College’s Boston Bridges program for emerging religious professionals. Among the unique features of this initiative is that fellows will participate together in planning a spring retreat for 30 additional students from across Greater Boston. This will provide the fellows with the opportunity to put their leadership skills to use, engaging others interested in this important civic and religious enterprise.  

Program StructureThe BILI fellowship will consist of six in-person meetings at the Boston Theological Institute offices in Central Square in Cambridge. Each meeting will be three hours and will include the following components: 

  • Informal Dinner (30 minutes) 
  • Opening Meditation/Intention (2 minutes)
  • Leadership Development Presentation (45-60 minutes) 
  • Religious & Cultural Exchange (30 minutes, student-led)
  • Group Planning – Spring Retreat (45-60 minutes, small/large group work)
  • Closing Meditation/Intention (2 minutes)

Sessions will be facilitated by fellowship coordinator, faculty and staff from the participating schools, as well as outstanding religious, cultural, and civic leaders from the Greater Boston area and beyond (see below). Presentations and discussions will include the following subjects:

  • Facilitating Difficult Conversations
  • Coalition Building
  • Program Design & Implementation
  • Public Voice: Speaking & Writing on Religion
  • Fundraising & Financial Planning 
  • Practices for Personal/Professional Sustainability

*Site visits to houses of worship and other relevant organizations will be made available to interested participants.

2017-2018 Meeting Dates: Participants will meet on Tuesdays from 6:00 - 9:00 PM on the following dates: 

  • Oct 17, 2017
  • Nov 28, 2017
  • Feb 6, 2018
  • Mar 6, 2018
  • Mar 27, 2018
  • Apr 10, 2018

Eligibility: This fellowship program is open to outstanding undergraduate leaders from the participating schools with a passion for interreligious and cross-cultural engagement.

Participant Expectations: Each participant will actively engage in all six of the in-person sessions. There will be brief readings to be completed in advance of each meeting. In addition, each participant will also be expected to write two blog posts (750-1,000 words, fall and spring) on a topic relevant to the fellowship experience as well as contribute to the planning & implementation of the spring student retreat.  

Fellowship Stipends: Each participant will receive a $500 stipend upon completion of the program, submission of their blog posts, and a brief exit interview and written evaluation with the fellowship coordinator.

Sponsoring Organization: Hebrew College is a national leader in Jewish pluralistic education, offering a wide range of programs for youth, adult learners and professionals. Founded in 1921, HC serves as a bridge between the academy and the public, fostering the values of intellectual rigor, spiritual creativity, and communal responsibility. Over the last decade, it has emerged as a catalyst the field of interreligious education through its innovative programs for religious professionals, lay leaders, and graduate and undergraduate students (

Fellowship Steering Committee:

  • Jessica Chicka, University Chaplain for International Students, Boston University
  • Lucy A. Forster-Smith, Sedgwick Chaplain to the University, Harvard University
  • Celene Ibrahim, Islamic Studies Scholar-in-Residence, Hebrew College & Muslim Chaplain, Tufts University
  • Alexander Levering Kern, Executive Director, Center for Spirituality, Dialogue, and Service, Northeastern University
  • Rev. Gregory W. McGonigle, University Chaplain, Tufts University
  • Rabbi Or Rose, Director, Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership, Hebrew College
  • Rev. Dr. Tiffany Steinwert, Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life, Wellesley College
  • Rev. Dr. Charlene Zuill, Spiritual Life Coordinator, Boston University School of Theology

Program Coordinator: Rabbi Or Rose is the founding director of the Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership at Hebrew College. Prior to assuming this position in 2016, he directed the Center for Global Judaism and served as an associate dean of the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. A prolific writer and editor, Rabbi Rose co-edited the award-winning anthology, My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation (Orbis Books). Rev. Soren Hessler, Associate Director of the Miller Center, and a doctoral candidate at Boston University School of Theology, will assist Rabbi Rose in coordinating the fellowship program.

How to apply: The 2017-2018 application is now available here or via:


Application deadline: 12:00 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.

2017-2018 fellows will be
selected by Thursday, October 12, 2017.

For further information, contact Miller Center Community Engagement Associate, Tom Reid:


Rabbi Or Rose

Rev. Soren Hessler
Associate Director