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Dear Friends:

Pesach is a time for marking new beginnings – the new growing cycle, the emergence of Israel as a nation of free men and women, the unique satisfaction of a perfectly clean kitchen...This year, it’s also going to see the launch of a new -- actually re-newed -- publication:  Sh’ma Now.  Sh’ma magazine, familiar to many of you, was first published by Rabbi Eugene Borowitz, z”l, in 1970.  Several years ago, Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah became its primary philanthropic sponsor.  What Sh’ma stood for, examining diverse aspects of human experience through multiple Jewishly-informed lenses, resonated with the Foundation’s values.
But, like many print publications from last century, Sh’ma was no longer connecting well with its potential audience.  So, after a rigorous 18 month process of imagining, prototyping, and listening, a new Sh’ma emerged, leaner (4 pages instead of 16), more focused (each issue will explore one Jewish sensibility, one distinctive way in which Jews approach life’s challenges and opportunities), and, perhaps most important, connected to another venerable Jewish publication, The Forward, which has been undergoing its own reinvigoration.  Subscribers will now receive Sh’ma Now as a once-a-month insert in the printed edition of The Forward, and everyone can read it and download it from a new portal on The Forward’s website, soon to go live. 
Fittingly, the first issue of Sh’ma Now focuses on the sensibility we call Lech Lecha, “venture forth.”  Lech Lecha, God’s words to Avram calling him forth to begin the long journey that we as Jews continue on today, represents a call to leave behind the familiar and venture into unknown territory.  It asks us simultaneously to risk and to trust, to embrace the liminality of the journey in the confidence that it leads us to a better place.  Though addressed in Genesis to Avram, it could just as easily have been addressed to the slaves about to depart from Egypt – and to us.
I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading what the diverse voices that Sh’ma Now editor Susan Berrin has brought together have to say about the potential meaning of Lech Lecha for our lives.
For Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, Shma Now, with its focus on Jewish sensibilities, is an even more powerful expression of our belief that Jewish wisdom can help us lead better lives and shape a better world.  We identify strongly with Lech Lecha as a watchword for all our activity, being willing to take risks, to explore new territory, trusting in our partners and companions and in the larger vision that guides us and them.  We’re pleased to have the opportunity to bring something new to the Jewish community in Sh’ma Now, to launch it on its journey at the same time as we recall and relive the Jewish people’s journey from slavery to freedom.
We hope you’ll become a reader of Sh’ma Now, and we hope you’ll share your reactions to it with the editor and with us to help it along on its journey.  Most of all, we hope that you have a chag kasher v’sameach, a festive Pesach.

Jon Woocher,


Lots of big news coming out of G-dcast!  At the end of March they announced a new, fun name for their Kids & Family content – so welcome to BimBam!  And on April 6th they’ll launch the 10-part, animated preschool series Shaboom! on YouTube and their website.  Each 8 minute episode features a different Jewish value like gratitude and visiting the sick.  We're proud to be a small part of the adventure by supporting the accompanying 5 short videos for parents with additional content and ideas for how to use the values in real life. 

Reaching out to kids and families where they are, with content that is fun, inspiring, and useful is something we find very exciting.  We’re excited to learn along with BimBam as to what ideas are most meaningful for families and how their viewers decide to bring these ideas into their lives and homes.  BimBam has a stellar group of advisors – drawing on the top ideas coming out of secular media and entertainment, as well as working with a diverse group of Jewish early childhood and education professionals.  Kol Hakavod to BimBam for drawing on diverse stakeholders to create stories that enliven, engage, and help families apply Jewish wisdom in their lives.
Coming VERY soon your own favorite screens.
Shaboom! premieres April 6 - Click here to help spread the word!


How do you define ‘community’? What about ‘Jewish Spiritual community’?

As Sid Schwarz of CLAL reports in his 2013 book Jewish MegaTrends, more and more Jews are finding their most relevant Jewish connections not through synagogue communities, but rather through new forms of community which focus more exclusively on wisdom/chochmah, social justice/tzedek, and lives of sacred purpose/kedushah.  At its best, Jewish community should not be about ‘getting more Jews to do more Jewish,’ but rather understanding ‘what keeps us up at night’ and aligning around common purpose.  Communities are more than just a setting, they are/should be a container within which people and relationships are more important than programs.

With help from colleagues at Hazon, Bend the Arc, Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and Mechon Hadar, leaders from a wide spectrum of Jewish organizations met at Isabella Freedman in early March to consider -- how are Jews finding community today? Is there something significantly similar about the ways some Jews are finding it through eco-sustainability, while others are through intensive Jewish learning and others through their commitments to spiritual practice?

Schwarz has used his observations to put forth a new definition of what spiritual community looks like in the 21st century, and not only for millennials. He is experimenting with the language of ‘covenantal community’ – although that term didn’t seem to resonate with many of the participants present in March. Regardless of what it is called, the three factors he named were communities that:
  1. are rooted in the wisdom and practices of Judaism
  2. help people realize their full human potential
  3. inspire people to work for more justice and a peaceful world
A highlight of the session – the first in a new CLAL project called the New Paradigm Spiritual Community Initiative, or NPSCI -- was a presentation by two Harvard Divinity students Casper ter Kuile and Angie Thurston, who have been studying the phenomenon of newly-shaped communities throughout American life, as so many Americans are struggling to find meaning, purpose, a sense of accountability – essential needs that once were met through religious community. Check out their work in How We Gather  and Something More.  To read stories from NPSCI participants about their own adventures in forming community, click here.

A few days later and a hundred miles or so further east, our foundation sponsorship helped the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University bring together a group educational thinkers and practitioners to consider the meaning and methods of “transformative Jewish education.”  The conference used case studies from a group of Jewish educational organizations regarded as being frequently successful in achieving a “transformative” impact on their participants to explore the program characteristics (goals and methods) and corollary conditions that make such impact possible.
It quickly became evident that the concept of “transformative” education is itself a difficult one to define, and that the term may obscure as much as it illuminates the actual impact of programs.  “Transformation” can take multiple forms, from a rapid and dramatic change of perspective to slowly growing into a new identity, e.g., as a musician, through years of practice.  Nonetheless, a few key elements seem to be part of many “transformative” programs.  These iinclude experiences that are intensive, immersive, of significant duration, or some combination of these; an element of selectivity in forming the participant group;  empowerment of the learners; fostering strong relationships among participants; and a focus on meaning-making through built-in opportunities for reflection.
Although not all Jewish education can or needs to be transformative, the potential of Jewish learning to help people achieve a different sense of themselves and become open to new perspectives, sometimes in ways that are initially disruptive, offers a potent opportunity for Jewish wisdom in its manifold forms to positively affect how people think, feel, and live.

Click here to read more about the conference.
To add to your meditations on Lech Lecha - we love the music of Stereo Sinai.


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.  Worth reading, if it hasn't yet made the rounds of your social media feeds.

We love a good podcast, and Judaism Unbound, from the Institute for the Next Jewish Future, has caught our attention - and not just because they've featured one of our favorite contemporary thinkers, Vanessa Ochs.

If you're interested in teaching modern Jewish culture, the Yiddish Book Center has put together a growing collection of Teacher Resources here at Teach Great Jewish Books.

Author Dara Horn, a great figure of modern Jewish culture, shares some moving personal history with the Hebrew language - reminding us that acknowledging misplaced assumptions and other baggage is important for moving past them.

It's also time to start planning your Passover menus.  Maybe you're in the mood for a new brisket recipe?  Or just skip to dessert... These macaroons are amazing - and dipped in a little dark chocolate, they remind you (just enough) of those raspberry ring gels.  

You still have plenty of time to tailor (or supplement) your haggadah before the seders - has templates, mix-and-match content clips, and opportunities for you to upload your own materials.  (Actually, "plenty" of time is a bit of an exaggeration.  You should get started now!)
What else should we be sharing?  
Click here to send us your recommendations!
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Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah · One GOJO Plaza, Suite 350 · Akron, OH 44311 · USA

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