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What we're doing:  instigated questions and provoked answers.
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Dear Friends:

I’ve always found it intriguing that the Jewish year, which begins (appropriately) in solemn reflection, quickly turns to the experience of simcha - “joy” - to launch us on our way forward into the months that will follow.  Sukkot – for the ancient rabbis, the festival of the year – is described as “the time of our rejoicing.”  It’s an occasion to give thanks for the abundance of blessings we enjoy.  Sukkot is followed immediately by Simchat Torah, when we celebrate both the completion and the re-starting of our annual cycle of weekly Torah reading and study – the wellspring from which the incomparably rich corpus of Jewish teaching that has been accumulating over the centuries flows.
 
My colleague at the foundation, Rabbi Lee Moore, wrote eloquently over the summer about the power of “joy” to motivate engagement with Jewish ideas and practices.  “Joy” is not synonymous with “fun” or “pleasure.”  Rather, it evokes a deep sense of gladness, well-being and fulfillment that often overflows into seeking to bring similar joy to others.  As I think about the work of our foundation, I find that “joy” plays an enormous and often unrecognized role as the disposition (what we call a “sensibility”) that undergirds and infuses much of what we do. 
 
And, that’s a good thing, I would argue.  It’s not unfair, I believe, to say that the Jewish community today is often pre-occupied with “bad news.”  (This is an ancient, honorable, and often functional Jewish practice, immortalized by the Jewish historian-philosopher Simon Rawidowicz in his essay, “Israel: The Ever-Dying People.)  The reaction to the Pew Study of the American Jewish population in 2013, like that 20+ years earlier to the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey, was dominated by expressions of concern and even alarm about growing disaffiliation and its potential impact.  These past few months have seen dire predictions of an American Jewish community both divided against itself and increasingly alienated from Israel.
 
The concerns are not unfounded.  But, one need be neither an ostrich nor a pollyanna to assert that this is hardly the whole story.  From our perch, there is much to be joyous about as we scan the Jewish landscape.  In setting after setting, we see creative and effective work being done to bring Jewish teaching and practice to diverse populations as an engaging and practical source of meaning, relationship, and fulfillment – a Judaism of simcha, joy.  If you look at the list of our foundation’s grantees, I hope you’ll agree that the number and variety of ways in which the organizations represented are exposing individuals to Jewish ideas and experiences that are both weighty and uplifting is impressive.  The truth is that in many respects, Jewish life today is thriving, joyously so, to a greater extent than ever before in our lifetimes.
 
We take joy in being able to contribute in some small measure to this flowering.  Foundation work like ours isn’t always fun (there’s actual work involved!).  But, it is immensely gratifying, especially when one can feel, as we do, that momentum is on our side and that we work alongside a host of allies and partners, many of whom have also become our friends.
 
So, we begin this year in tune with the season, with a sense of joy and possibility.  Last year’s harvest is in, and it was a rich one.  Now, we begin anew, but with the knowledge that what will unfold in the year ahead will bring further riches and, without doubt, many reasons and opportunities for celebration.

Yours,
Jon Woocher,
President

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NEW PODCAST!
Listen here. Susan Terkel chats about her interconnecting thoughts on Teshuvah and forgiveness.

And if you missed our previous episodes, go back and listen: 
Episode 2  features Sarah Lefton of G-dcast, who shares her perspectives on work, art, and parenting in an imperfect world.
Episode 1 with Zelig Golden recounts his stories of why and how we might Lech Lecha, and go out to the edge.

GIVING 

Nope, they’re not shouting (though they are fantastic organizations with plenty to shout about) they just all happen to have names that require CAPS Lock.  The Foundation is so pleased to announce three recent grants: BBYO, KOLOT, and RAVSAK.
 
All three grants extend the organizations’ capacity and tools to share relevant Jewish wisdom with their participants: either by strengthening their staff’s abilities, developing new models for engaging learners, or extending existing resources.
 
The Board of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah approved:
  • $75,000 over two years to BBYO to develop The Learning Ambassadors, a new professional development initiative to strength staff ability to design, implement and evaluate meaningful Jewish experiences.
     
  • $100,000 over two years to RAVSAK to pilot a Hebrew badging program that utilizes Jewish Sensibilites and encourages and recognizes students’ application of Hebrew.
  • $30,000 to KOLOT to support their Beit Midrash and have it serve as a content and methodology resource for their educators to facilitate programs that translate core Jewish values into a relevant, shared Jewish narrative, and help equip KOLOT participants to integrate their concepts into their professional leadership.

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Hopefully, you had a chance to read the collaboration between Sh'ma and the Forward, either the attractive insert in the physical publication or online.  We were particularly taken by the Short Takes on Possibilities section - what is your "short take" on possibility?  

(And please help Sh'ma out by taking their survey after you read the articles!)

LEARNING

It can be a wonderful thing to carve time from everyday life, to separate from standard operations, and focus intensely on an idea, to dive in fully to a practice, an application of Jewish Wisdom and learn how it can be relevant to contemporary needs.  And yet, if we take that step, if we clear a place where we can devote ourselves to a particular practice, whether religious or borne of organizational and behavioral psychology...what happens when the world rushes back in?  

Our colleagues at Hazon are in the transition now from Shmita to Hak'hel...and then beyond, through to 2022, and have contributed some worthy thoughts from several perspectives. Rabbi Arthur Waskow shares his thoughts on maintaining momentum in a community that embraces cyclical life.  Nati Passow discusses what he has learned during a year in which the Jewish Farm School embraced shmita institutionally.

What have you learned - personally, professionally, institutionally - during this cycle's release, this shmita?

SHARING


Five perspectives on being a Jew without being white.  Collected by the Huffington Post for the High Holidays, but timeless.

Parental involvement in education - Zelig Golden of Wilderness Torah and Steven Green of the Jim Joseph Foundation make a excellent argument for the importance of taking lessons from secular education on parental engagement.  A worthwhile read for anyone developing or managing programs.

How to ask for forgiveness - featuring wise words out of Mechon Hadar; another article written with Yamim Noraim in mind, but important for anyone who might need to make apology at any time - i.e., everyone.

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