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

If you follow our blog - and we really hope you will - or read eJewishPhilanthropy, which we highly recommend, then you may already know that I spent some time over the past few weeks reflecting on twenty-five years of what was once called the “Jewish continuity” movement.  I won’t reiterate here what I wrote in that piece, except to focus in on one point:  the dramatically expanded role of private Jewish philanthropy, especially foundations, in setting and advancing the “public” agenda of the community in this arena.
When I first got involved in an intensive way in Jewish communal life in the 1970s, private Jewish foundations were barely a blip on the Jewish radar screen.  They do not figure in Daniel Elazar’s classic account of the Jewish organizational system of that day, Community and Polity.  How different that book would be if it were written today!  An entire section or more would have to be devoted to the mega-funders and the initiatives they’ve spearheaded, philanthropic partnerships like PEJE and the Foundation for Jewish Camp, the Jewish Funders Network, support for the growth of a Jewish innovation sector, and the sometimes complicated relationships between private funders and established philanthropic entities.
As a modest participant in the philanthropic revolution that has taken place over the past quarter century, we at Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah are mindful that (to paraphrase one of our modern Jewish sages) with new power comes new responsibility.  The issue of “accountability” recurs frequently in discussions of Jewish communal life, most recently with respect to federations. 
And what about us foundations?  Are we accountable to anyone but our own Boards for the decisions we make about who to support and who to turn away, who to partner with and what priorities to set, what procedures we use and what values we operate by? 
My experience both before coming formally to Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah and since is that we and the vast majority of our colleagues sincerely believe that we are accountable both to a larger community and to values that transcend our own preferences and perspectives.  Since we are not democratic organizations (even in form), the challenge is how to make this “public” dimension of accountability real.
We try to do this by being:

  1. Open and accessible – We want people to feel they can come to us with ideas and questions, that we’re always willing to listen and eager to be in conversation with them.
  2. Honest and transparent – We want people to know what we believe and do, and why we do it, even if it means that we sometimes disappoint them.
  3. Respectful – We want people to know that we value what they do and what they think; we won’t treat them cavalierly.
  4. Always in learning mode – We want people to know that we don’t have or claim to have all the answers.  We want to be better and do better, so we’re always looking to learn – including hearing from critics and skeptics.

Is this approach sufficient to ensure that we, as a private foundation, are also accountable to a larger public and purpose?  We don’t know for sure, but that’s our goal.  And, you can help - by being in contact with us, by sharing your thoughts, your insights, your recommendations, and – yes – when necessary, even your criticisms.  We promise you that we’ll listen.

Jon Woocher, President


Conversations we're having: Jewish Sensibilities.  
Can't stop talking about 'em.  

Shouldn't we be sharing YOUR thoughts?
Our Sensibilities series is a perfect way for experienced and first-time bloggers to find a new audience.  Submit an essay, poem, photo, cartoon, personal story, short video, text, song, memory or thought that explores one of our existing Jewish Sensibilities (any medium, really, as long as it can be hosted on a website) to be considered for publication or crossposting on our blog.  Click here to get details from Communications Manager Shana Ross.


We are pleased to announce two new grants:

$60,000 over 2 years to Let It Ripple to fund outreach and the dissemination of discussion materials for their new film The Making of a Mensch which examines character development through the lens of the Jewish teachings of Mussar.  The film, directed by Tiffany Shlain, is a follow-up to Let it Ripple’s widely viewed film, The Science of Character, and will premiere on September 18, which has been designated as “Character Day.”  

$75,000 over 2 years to Mayyim Hayyim to expand, enhance, and develop and distribute curricula for two classes that extend and enrich the experience “beyond the Mikveh” for individuals undergoing major life transitions. “Beyond the Huppah” is designed for engaged and newly married couples, and a post-conversion seminar for new Jews to help them deepen their understanding and appreciation of Jewish practices.  The classes focus on how participants can utilize Jewish wisdom and practice as a lens for their lives.

These grants continue the Foundation's focus on expanding the impact of life-relevant Jewish ideas, and better understanding how Jewish concepts and practices resonate with today’s Jews.
What's YOUR definition of a mensch?  Tiffany Shlain invites you to be part of a Cloud Film project.  Watch this video for details.


This summer we have started an exploration of Jewish Sensibilities on our blog.  Rabbi Lee Moore lays the groundwork for the series with an explanation of what we mean when we talk about Jewish Sensibilities.  

We sat down with Maggid Zelig Golden of Wilderness Torah for a conversation on Lech Lecha, where he taught us new ways of approaching the edges of the world, reflecting on this Sensibility that can be a tool for expanding the boundaries of what we think is possible.  We share his wisdom with you in our first (and still experimental) podcast.


What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul. -Yiddish Proverb

July 24th was Tell an Old Joke day - in case you missed it, we sent people to the groan-worthy collection (that's high praise) over at My Jewish Learning, where they call these treasures their Humor Bank.

Additions to the Summer Reading list: we were convinced by Andy Bachman's review of Ta-Nehisi Coates' recently released Between the World and Me -  he argues well that this is not just an important work, it's one that has relevance and resonance for American Jews.
Unorthodox.  We're not the only ones premiering a podcast this month.  Slate's Panoply network now features Mark Oppenheimer and Liel Leibovitz expounding weekly on Jewish news and culture.

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