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Dear Friends:

We celebrated my father's 100th birthday a few days ago.  He was quite specific about how he wanted to celebrate:  a Shabbat dinner with immediate family at the excellent Jewish elder-care facility where he lives; services the next morning where he received the Kohen aliya together with my brother, and I got to chant the haftarah, followed by a special kiddush for his fellow residents; and a celebratory dinner at a nearby restaurant with children, grandchildren, one great grandchild, nieces and nephews, some of whom traveled hundreds of miles to be there, his new life partner (my mother died seven years ago, and he has been fortunate to find a wonderful woman to share his life with since) and her family - 25 of us in all.
My Dad has lived a life typical of his generation: growing up in the Bronx in a far-from-affluent family; educated in public high school and City College; putting himself through dental school; marrying a super-smart Hunter College girl who went on to manage our house and his office; serving in World War II; returning home to start a practice and a family on Long Island.  He had very little Jewish education, my mother even less.  But, they joined a synagogue, got involved, became close to the rabbi and cantor, started learning, and after retirement became dedicated volunteers and adult education students.  My Dad can no longer read the words in the Siddur or the Chumash, doesn’t hear well, and he's not especially pious.  But, he still loves to learn - mostly video lectures that he avidly devours - and he goes to services fairly regularly because he likes some of the visiting rabbis and to sing along with the melodies he knows.  He’s still mentally alert, with a remarkable memory.
What my father is above all is a good man, kind and generous, the living embodiment of Shammai’s injunction to "greet everyone with a cheerful countenance" (Pirkei Avot 1:15).  I cannot remember him getting angry.  He still answers the phone with a melodic "hel-lo," though if he isn't expecting my call, he sometimes can't place who it is that's calling.
I tell you all this because when it came time for him to make a brief speech at his celebratory dinner, he said something that surprised me, but shouldn't have.  He said, "I'm so glad you are all here because everyone of you has made the world better in some way.  Everyone of you has done tikkun olam."  As I looked around the room, I realized he was right.  There were teachers, mental health professionals, a physician, a public defender, other attorneys who work on public interest law and health care, a chef, a retired volunteer raising money for wounded veterans, a researcher on genocide prevention, a homeland security expert, and, yes, two Jewish educators (my daughter and me).
It says a lot about my father that what mattered most to him at this moment was being surrounded by people he perceived as trying to do good for others.  It's also a reminder that in fact there are countless ways, both large and small, of making a difference in the world.  One of the things I value most about Jewish teaching and practice is that these are not just about grand gestures.  My colleague Cyd Weissman speaks about "quotidian Judaism," the Judaism of the every day.  Yes, there are people doing tikkun olam in spectacular ways for which we must all be immensely grateful.  But, there are others repairing small pieces of the world, in the way my father repaired cavities with care and compassion, more than once forgetting to ask for payment when he knew that to do so would cause a hardship for the family he was treating.
As a foundation we at Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah are often privileged to support pace-setting, even heroic, work as we implement our mission to help people use Jewish wisdom to live better lives and shape a better world.  But, it's comforting to know that one doesn't need to be a hero to make the world better.  We can do it from wherever we stand, in small, but significant ways.
Oh, and if you're wondering what it takes to reach 100, my Dad says it's pretty simple: keep breathing.
To a hundred and twenty, Pop.

Jon Woocher,


We’re pleased to announce 3 new grants!

Our core portfolio supports initiatives that advance the application of Jewish wisdom, and in this area the foundation is pleased to commit grants to PresenTense and Pedagogy of Partnership. 

The PresenTense grant provides $10,000 to build on sensibilities curriculum development the foundation had supported over last year.  These additional funds will help transform the curriculum from a model of frontal content and workshop time into an immersive experience in which PresenTense Fellows learn Jewish values and design thinking principles through active engagement. 

Our grant to Pedagogy of Partnership represents the first time we are working directly with this organization (though we are in the second year of a grant with The Schechter Day School Network to support the Jewish Educator’s Institute which is a partnership with Mechon Hadar and Pedagogy of Partnership).  This $25,000 grant supports the creation of an Educator’s Guide that will enable more educators to receive effective professional development in employing this transformative approach to learning.   In addition to being an exciting project based on its own potential impacts (dayenu!), as a foundation we have seen several grantees working on articulating and testing new pedagogies and think this will be a fruitful area for comparing learnings in the near future. 

Our final grant is from our Justice portfolio (a stable group of 3-4 organizations the foundation has selected as doing deeply impactful work nationally or internationally).  We are pleased to increase our general operating support for Bend the Arc to $36,000 for the year and have awarded an additional one-time grant of $14,000 to help support their increased volume of work as they take on several new initiatives.
It's not too early to begin your plans for Character Day 2016 - circle September 22 on your calendar and visit the ever growing Character Day Resource Hub from Let it Ripple!


In what ways do you feel blessed? When do you feel you are a blessing?

Last month at the Jewish Funder’s Network conference in San Diego, our foundation led a conference session that brought Jewish wisdom to bear on the work of philanthropy. In a beautiful setting overlooking the Pacific Ocean, we looked at one of the foundational encounters between Avram and G!d:

Genesis 12:2
וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ וֶהְיֵה בְּרָכָה
And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; be a blessing!

We asked ourselves about the connection between blessing and the Jewish sensibility of zachor, or memory.  Josh Miller of the Jim Joseph Foundation pointed out that blessings are a spiritual practice – that asks us to stop in the course of our busy lives, focus on the action we are about to take or the piece of food we are about to eat, and give ourselves a chance to remember the origin of the food, or to remember  the significance of the action we are about to take. This act of remembering serves to connect us to land, people and more.

When we asked what these teachings have to do with philanthropy, Lee Hendler made a passionate case for the perspective that money that funders have does not actually belong to them. Rather, they are stewarding resources that have come through them, reminiscent of Leviticus 25:23. Money can absolutely be a source of blessing, if it is stewarded well. This view offers a radical, and radically powerful, perspective on the role philanthropists can play in the Jewish community.

What we've learned from conducting this and other workshops is that there are many deep and wonderful stories about the ways in which professionals, particularly those working in grantmaking, are not just inspired by Jewish wisdom, but are connecting it, directly and purposefully, to their work in ways that have significant impact and implications for the philanthropic field as a whole.  Stay tuned, because we are helping to coordinate a series on these stories, which deserve to be told, with our partners at eJewishPhilanthropy - coming soon to an inbox like yours.
Please visit The Forward and check out Sh'ma Now's first issue on the Jewish sensibility of Lech Lecha.

Among their thoughtful authors, Zelig Golden, who spoke with us about Lech Lecha on our podcast.  Check out his own story of taking yourself and going forth into the wilderness (literally and metaphorically) and then read his latest thoughts on this important Jewish wisdom.

Zelig is the Founding Director of Wilderness Torah - don't miss their upcoming leadership Training Institute!


We continue to kvell over our Board member Mamie Kanfer Stewart's recent recognition as one of the 2016 Auburn Seminary's Lives of Commitment Honorees.

Repeated from last month, now that you've had a chance to READ the latest Sh'ma Now: On the topic of Lech Lecha...Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock wrote an open letter to the "Next Generation of Artists" that echoes so many Jewish Sensibilities - "Embrace and Conquer the Road Less Traveled," as they put it.  

We are not participating in this year's Blog B'Omer as authors, but we are reading and thinking and learning deeply from the collected thoughts.  Check it out!  If you want to read our previous work on Omer counting, it's here.

Starting May 16, if you've ever been tempted to dip your toe into the deep waters of Talmud but don't know where or how to begin, why don't you try this online course, taught by esteemed members of the Northwestern University faculty.

David Brooks contemplated a moral bucket list.  Much of it felt like good fodder for conversation on the many Jewish wisdoms that could be brought to bear on his perspective.  He should take a Mussar class, maybe?

ICYMI - Generation NOW, important research on Jewish Teens, with practical applications for understanding and engagement initiatives.  We're proud to have helped fund this practical work.

Shaboom!, the latest from BimBam (formerly G-dcast), has been around for a month - check out all the episodes AND the parent guides.  Great for kids 4-7.  We're delighted to have helped fund the parent guides.
What else should we be sharing?  
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Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah · One GOJO Plaza, Suite 350 · Akron, OH 44311 · USA

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