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Dear Friends:

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.

Jon Woocher,

Meet the Foundation's new President, Aaron Dorfman
In the words of Board Chair Marcella Kanfer Rolnick: “Aaron brings passion, vision, and expertise to our Foundation’s work. His experience building and leading teams and strategic change will help advance our impact in the Jewish community.  We look forward to what he will be able to bring to our partner and grantee relationships, as a thought leader and an experienced educator in his own right.”  
Read the full release here.


We have some interesting reports coming in from the field - several initiatives we have helped to fund are returning to us with insights we are honored to share in connection with their impressive work:
Moishe House – we funded a Lifecycles learning retreat to help train young adults to facilitate Jewish lifecycle events for their peers.  The retreat empowered participants to think of themselves as spiritual choreographers for their communities, and participants were eligible to apply for a mini-grant to create and facilitate a lifecycle event in their own community.  The results were diverse, from welcoming new roommates with a Hanukat Bayit, to a visit to the mikvah, to a make your own Judaica night, to a Russian Jewish tradition of a Vishick – an engagement party where they made a fruit alcohol to drink in later years with notes for the guests to the couple to read while enjoying the bottle.  The pilot confirmed that Millennials are looking for ways to mark traditional lifecycle events and moments in their lives that have special meaning in Jewish ways.
Mayyim Hayyim – we funded efforts to improve, evaluate, expand, and create curriculum for two programs, Beyond the Chuppah and Now What: Questions and Answers for those who have Chosen Judaism (the curricula will be available shortly from Mayyim Hayyim).  The programs indicated that there are transitional moments where Jews are receptive to drawing on Jewish wisdom for integration into their lives and to guide daily concerns (finances, relationships) as well as seeking ways of “doing Jewish” and want to understand options for how to use ritual in ways that can be incorporated into their life.

Reboot – we funded part of their reBar pilot.  The pilot surfaced interesting observations about the role of nostalgia and retelling, as participants revisited who they were at 13 and how their Jewish values are part of their life today.  The team curated more than 70 reflections and organized them according to 4 themes: Radical Reinvention, Coming of Age, Reminiscing and Reimaging, and Wrestling with the Torah.  Stories and DIY toolkits are available online.
Dare to Prepare,
from the Jewish Studio Project

Too often Jewish holidays catch us off guard and we are spiritually unprepared to engage in them meaningfully. Dare to Prepare, a yearlong series of creative learning workshops from The Jewish Studio Project, is designed to help participants, including disenfranchised or disinclined Jews, prepare spiritually for upcoming holidays to make these key moments in the year transformative. 

Recent studies show that Jews are increasingly disengaged from Jewish life and community and, in significant numbers, lack a sense of Jewish identity and connection. The Jewish Studio Project addresses the need for new ways of meaning making and investment in Jewish community by offering an innovative and dynamic framework for Jewish engagement that promotes creative empowerment and ownership over Jewish tradition.

Jewish Studio Project offers a new approach to Jewish creativity - one in which art is not just for artists and texts are not just for scholars. Dare to Prepare workshops utilize JSP’s unique learning methodology (The Jewish Studio Process), which combines two proven approaches—traditional hevrutah study and practices from the world of art therapy.


Learn more about Dare to Prepare, a Semi-finalist for the Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom.

Impact Investing with Jewish Values

What's your Jewish Wisdom?

LAVAN is a rapidly growing global community of impact investors, social entrepreneurs, and Jewish professionals bringing together Jewish values and the power of business to repair our world. We share a vision of Israel and the Jewish world at the forefront of the global impact investing movement by 2025, creating a powerful avenue for Jewish engagement and a bold communal track record of social and environmental impact.

We tap into Jewish texts, traditions, and values to inspire the members of our community to use their capital and business acumen in pursuit of a better world. Judaism seeks to bring all aspects of life under the umbrella of holiness, and that includes our investing.

One of the clearest and least-known iterations of this unity comes from the most famous Jewish prayer, the Shema. Many Jews know to recite V'ahav'ta eit Adonai Elohekha b'khol l'vav'kha uv'khol naf'sh'kha uv'khol m'odekha, but few know the meaning of uv'khol m'odekha, often translated as ‘to love God with all your might/very-ness’. The Talmud interprets me’od as money or possessions. Our earthly possessions are not exempt from our responsibility towards something greater than ourselves.


Learn more about LAVAN, a Semi-finalist for the Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom.


During this past year of 5776 we have chosen the topic of blessing (berakha) to explore further as a profound example of Jewish wisdom. Berakha contributes to a life well-lived both as a habit-forming ritual technology, as well as a mindset that takes hold when we see ourselves as both being blessed and being a blessing, as Genesis 12:2 says.

In June, we held a conversation on the power of berakha as a tool for developing  well-being, featuring teachings on the Tree of Life with Rabbi Mordechai Bar Or.  We brought together some wonderful thinkers to help us challenge our assumptions and push our ideas about berakha even farther.  The conversation focused mostly on berakha as a practice, and the various ways it functions.  Some fertile questions that emerged from our conversation:
  • What if we regularly started our prayers by blessing others?
  • Is cultivating awareness sufficient? Does a sense of blessing demand some type of action in the world?
  • Suppose that giving and receiving were easier?
  • How would it be different if we really felt we were 'stealing from God' when we didn’t bless something that we enjoyed in this world (see Talmud Bavli Berachot 35b)?
Saying a blessing is, at its core, a moment of stopping.  Some have framed this as a mindfulness practice, which it is, and a gratitude practice, which it also is.

But saying a blessing is also more than each of these important moves.  By taking a moment and creating a space between the moment and the experience of it, the blessing offers a chance to do a powerful ‘re-frame’ of what is happening, connecting it with something larger.  For some, that is God, and the practice of berakha is definitely a way of ‘bringing God’s presence into the world.’ For others, the sheer act of connecting a moment to something larger than one self is a powerful context reset that gives texture and meaning to life.

Our many thanks to the participants who joined us for this conversation.

Do you have thoughts on berakha?  Tell us.


In a political season full of vitriolic rhetoric, T'ruah offers this prepared text study, an excellent example of Jewish wisdom as guidance for modern lives.  "Death and life are in the hand of the tongue," teaches the biblical Book of Proverbs.

As Summer Camps around the country see the end of the season fast approaching, this story from Matan Koch about his time on faculty at URJ Greene Family Camp is an inspiring tale of tightly woven Jewish wisdom applied and disability inclusion work manifested - with transformational results.

Pokemon Go has made quite a splash - but can it be a vehicle to connect kids (and their grownups) to Jewish wisdom?  Some ideas from Jewish Education Project's Digital Jlearning Network.

Interested in the work of Lippman Kanfer Prize Semifinalist Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom?  Earlybird registration for their third Muslim Jewish Women's Conference is now live. 

It's not too early to starting thinking about November 20, 2016, the Global Day of Jewish Learning - register your community!

Lastly, it's not too late to pull together a great way to participate in the third annual Character Day on September 22, 2016.  Sign up and find resources, both digital and hands-on kits.

What else should we be sharing?  
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One GOJO Plaza, Suite 350 | Akron, OH 44311

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Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah · One GOJO Plaza, Suite 350 · Akron, OH 44311 · USA

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