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Dear Friends:

We are now in the midst of the period of counting the Omer (see more on the Kabbalistic take on this ritual below).  This “count-up” to the holiday of Shavuot, z’man matan torateinu – the time of the giving of our Torah, is a great opportunity for a foundation dedicated to “Living Torah” to do some special reflecting on its work.
Take, for example, the term matan (giving) that’s used to describe how the Torah comes to be ours to study and teach, to observe and to do.  One implication is that we should see Torah as a gift, a present (Heb: matanah).   A major part of our work is seeking ways for more Jews (and others) to appreciate it as such, as something that can enrich and ennoble their lives.
Of course, the term “giving” suggests other reflections as well.  Foundations are usually thought of as “givers.”  We make grants; we give gifts to help others do worthwhile and important things.  But, the more we’ve gotten into our work, the more I’ve come to recognize that we are perhaps even more the recipient of gifts.  Our partners and grantees give us the opportunity to make a difference.  Without them, we can do very little on our own.
Foundations often hear “thank you” (and mostly, those who say it are sincere in doing so).  But, in this season when we anticipate receiving the gift of Torah, we want to say thank you as well for the gifts we receive.  Like the children of Israel at Sinai, we’re all in this together – and that’s something to celebrate.

          Jon Woocher, President

Join a Conversation
We want to hear from you.  Chime in, challenge us, help us ask and answer new questions. 

Speaking of questions - our board member Mamie Kanfer Stewart gave an ELI Talk last year; that inspired some thoughts from our Executive Director Dara Steinberg on the responsibility of philanthropy to wield our questions as carefully as we would any other tool.  What do you think?


A significant part of our portfolio is the funding of innovation - both funding innovative projects and programs, and the innovation sector as a whole.

eJewishPhilanthropy featured a short piece by Jon Woocher and Dara Steinberg this month - We were pleased to share our thoughts on how and why we think about "innovation" when we look for partners and make our funding decisions. 

On our own blog Dara reflected further on the nature of risk in the philanthropic community.  By embracing Nachshon as a core value, our relationship to risk has changed.

Are you persuaded?  Do you dive into riskier endeavors, or are you more drawn to steady but sure investments? We want to hear your stories of innovation and risk - both the successes and the lessons. Click here to email Dara directly.


Today is 31 days, which are four weeks and three days, of the Omer...Tiferet she b'Hod, Compassion in Humility.

Since the second night of Passover, we have been counting the omer as an organization.  We find this Jewish practice offers a concrete foundation for self-reflection and personal growth, as well as a way to more fully appreciate the changing seasons and passing of time. (For more on Why, click here.) 

On our blog, we've featured weekly pieces by a distinguished group of colleagues to inspire other counters in their exploration of the Sephirot - a kabbalistic system of symbols that can be used for rich self-discovery.  We are honored to be able to offer a platform for the voices and insights of our partners in this series.  

To date we have counted:
Chesed (with Rabbi Lee Moore)
Gevurah (with Rabbi Zac Kamenetz)
Tiferet (with Rabbi Ariel Burger)
Netzach (with Rabbi Avi Orlow)
Hod (with Rabbi Lisa Goldstein)

To get the remaining installments sent to your inbox, sign up to "follow" our blog (in the upper right corner after you click).


MyOmer and Omer Count are two of the omer counting apps on the market today.  We don't have an endorsement, just an appreciation of technological applications to torah...and there are some more tangible options as well.  If you're inspired, check it out - we've still got time before we reach Sinai!

Experience & Jewish Education, a meaty but very digestible collection of articles edited by David Bryfman has been out for a few months, but we're still chewing on many of the thoughts therein.

Podcasts are something that many of us at the foundation consume, enthusiastically, (even before Serial made it cool).  Our interests are too diverse to list favorites, but we want you to know about two fine hubs of Jewish audio programming: JCast Network and Jewish Public Media.  

The Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative has just released a case study detailing the work of the Collaborative - it not only offers insight into the working structure of the group, it highlights some important practical lessons in reaching, engaging and educating Jewish teens.  We're proud to be a small part of this endeavor.

What else should we be sharing?  Click here to send us your recommendations!
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