This is the last time that I’ll be writing this opening letter for our enewsletter. As many of you are aware, I will be stepping down shortly as President of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah and transitioning to a new role as the Foundation’s first Senior Fellow. It’s a change I’ve planned for a number of months, and it’s coming at a time that I believe is right for me and for the Foundation.
I’m thrilled that Aaron Dorfman has been named as my successor. He brings a combination of passion, intelligence, experience, and fresh thinking that I know will enable the Foundation to go from strength to strength.
For me, the past three years heading up the professional staff at Lippman Kanfer Foundation have been a tremendous gift. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to build and to achieve, and even prouder to be doing it with an incredible Board and immensely talented and dedicated colleagues. As I’m sure you know if you’ve read these letters in the past, we have a singular vision and mission as a foundation: to promote and support endeavors that help Jews and fellow travelers use Jewish wisdom and sensibilities to live better lives and shape a better world. One of the most gratifying aspects of my work has been discovering how many individuals and organizations are contributing already to the realization of this vision and how many more are eager to do so. As a foundation with generous, but limited resources, we are constantly asking ourselves how best to deploy these in the service of our vision and mission – and I have no doubt that we will continue to do so.
We have opted for a multi-pronged approach which combines traditional grantmaking with convening, thought partnerships, and strategic communications with the aim of both helping the development of what we think of as a movement for applying Jewish wisdom and helping to supply that movement with accessible and relevant wisdom content and practice guidance in how to apply it effectively. To say that we still have much to learn is an understatement – so we’ve made learning from each of our grants and our relationships a hallmark of how we do our work. Most recently, we’ve introduced the Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom as a way both to recognize exceptional achievement and to showcase the many examples of programs that apply Jewish wisdom dotting the Jewish landscape.
I’d like to believe that the strength of our Foundation lies not just in what we do, but in what we believe, and in how we put those beliefs to work in our activities. We are optimists about Jewish life – not pollyannas, but seeing the glass as more than half full with talented people and creative initiatives that are reclaiming the riches of Jewish tradition and simultaneously refashioning these in a multitude of ways so that they speak to new generations of Jews. We are willing to take risks – hopefully, well considered ones, but knowing that not everything is predictable and that the path forward often passes through uncharted territory. We believe in collaboration – not for its own sake, but because it enables us together to do more than any one of us could do individually. We believe in acting with humility and respect – we are nothing without our partners. Most of all, we believe that the great accumulating corpus of Jewish wisdom has important lessons for our lives today, that engaging with that corpus, both traditional and emergent, can add richness, beauty, joy, dignity and purpose to our lives.
I was both deeply honored and excited when Marcella and Joe asked me in 2013 to head up the family’s new foundation in its early years. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with the Kanfer family for more than twenty years. They are simply the best. I knew that we saw the world similarly, shared the same values, dreamt the same dreams. Saying “yes” then was a no-brainer.
I’d like to believe that together we’ve built something worthwhile, an entity that is making a difference. I’ll readily confess that I’ve had a ball doing it. But, now it’s time to turn the reins over to Aaron, who I know will build further on what has been erected thus far. I’m glad that I’ll have some role in this next stage for Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah – I’m not going silent. Most of all, I hope that those of you who have been such important parts of our journey thus far will stay with us for the next leg of that journey. There’s important work to be done, and a great future to build together.
L’hitraot for now.