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Quarterly Update:
Summer 2019 / 5779
Helping people apply particular Jewish wisdom to universal human questions in the here and now and cultivate Judaism’s evolving wisdom tradition as an enduring source of value for human civilization over the long term.

 

I. Letter From The President

II. Meet Our Grantee Partners
III. What Our Partners Are Up To
IV. What We're Up To

Letter From The President
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
 
In “Darmok,” one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Enterprise encounters the Tamarians, an alien race with which humans have not yet been able to establish meaningful communications. The ship’s universal translator renders the Tamarian’s speech into English, but what it renders eludes meaning: “Shaka, when the walls fell,” “Temba, his arms wide,” and “Mirab, with sails unfurled.” After much bewildering back-and-forth, the crew deduces that the Tamarians’ speech consists entirely of allegorical references to their folklore: “Shaka” alludes to a story about failure; “Temba” conveys generosity or gift-giving; and “Mirab” suggests departure or escape. As Captain Picard comes to understand the Tamarians’ unique form of discourse, he teaches them, in broad strokes, The Epic of Gilgamesh. “Gilgamesh and Enkidu, at Uruk,” a story of friendship between former enemies. In so doing, he honors their vernacular and creates a shared medium of communication between them.
 
What’s particularly remarkable about the Tamarian’s allegorical language is its seeming capacity to convey—with crisp economy—vast and nuanced information and argument. The crew of the Tamarian vessel appears to debate various complex courses of action with a handful of brief references to a shared literature, each freighted with rhetorical power and meaning.
 
For a long time, many Jews, wherever we were from, could communicate across difference with such a shared vernacular: Ha-shomer achi anochi? / “Am I my brother’s keeper?”, Hineni / “Here I am,” the burning bush, Sinai, Lo ba-shamayim hi / “It [the truth / the answer to our question] is not in heaven,” p’tach lanu sha’ar be’eit neilat sha’ar / “Open a gate for us in the time of the gate’s locking.” Even if the melodies were different, the prayers and references felt like home. Each served as a communal Proustian madeleine or cultural touchstone, evoking an intricate and interconnected web of meanings and providing a kind of connective tissue among people with shared access to this canon of wisdom.
 
And beyond simply conveying meaning, shared language actually shapes it. In his book Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff argues that metaphors like these are “not just a matter of language, that is, of mere words… on the contrary, human thought processes are largely metaphorical” to the extent that “the way we think, what we experience, and what we do every day is very much a matter of metaphor.”
 
I’m not one for nostalgia, and I wouldn’t return to a prior form of Judaism, denuded of the vibrancy, diversity, and openness that animates today’s Judaism, for any shared vernacular. But there is something profound about this kind of shared linguistic shorthand for conveying complex meaning, because with shared shorthand also comes connection and community that cut across space and time. This past weekend, as the world relived “one giant leap,” we got a universal glimmer of what shared language and experience can feel like.
 
At Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, we focus most of our time on the application of Jewish wisdom. But applying wisdom well relies on an intimacy and fluency with the wisdom tradition itself, particularly in community. Otherwise, the application is inevitably shallow. The question we therefore face is, in a world in which fluency in Jewish symbols, ideas, narratives, and language is decreasing, how might we help more people apply wisdom deeply rooted in that very linguistic-conceptual framework?
 
We do not claim to have a definitive answer to this question. But one trend we have noticed is that our most successful partners do not sacrifice the thickness of their Jewish language in an effort to increase accessibility to their applied approaches. Instead, they lean into the depths of particularistic Jewish metaphors, stories, and concepts and scaffold and support people to enable them to find deeper and broader meaning over time.
 
This approach enables us to respond to universal human questions from a place of rootedness in our own stories and conceptual frameworks. Equally importantly, it better equips us to engage with the stories and conceptual frameworks of others. At the very end of “Darmok,” a puzzled First Officer encounters Picard re-reading “The Homeric Hymns.” Picard explains, “More familiarity with our own mythology might help us relate to theirs.”
 
Best,
Aaron
 
Meet Our Grantee Partners
Grants for Applied Jewish Wisdom
The following, recently funded projects apply particular Jewish wisdom to universal human questions.

Universal Human Question

How do we translate deeply-held personal values into the public sphere and apply them to the task of creating the society in which we want to live?

Jewish Wisdom Applied

The Jeremiah Fellowship contains both structured and unstructured opportunities for Fellows to explore “what is Jewish about justice,” as well as for Fellows to reflect on how their own Jewish and spiritual journeys have informed their commitment to social justice. The Fellowship curriculum uses a mix of traditional and contemporary Jewish texts, representing a diversity of identities, perspectives, and media—from songs to poetry to prayer.

Project

Bend the Arc expanded its Jeremiah Fellowship to eight sites nationally in 2019 and will expand up to 13 additional cities in 2020. The Jeremiah Fellowship develops young leaders who can anchor and guide the development of the organization’s grassroots base, and centering the voices and work of young people in building Jewish power toward an inclusive, multiracial democracy.

Universal Human Question

In this era of increased identity politics, tribalization, and polarization, how might we support people to live fully integrated lives across their various identities and communities? 

Jewish Wisdom Applied

Dimensions' approach to Torah and broader areas of spirituality presents several Torah sources as tools to care for the soul/energy source, emotions, beliefs, mindset, and connection to the infinite that Jewish Women of Color (JWOC) are invited to integrate within their social justice activism. 

Project

Dimensions will build on its pilot JWOC Resilience Circle, which develops rooted social justice activism and emergent movement leadership across an intersectional community of women. JWOC retreats connect Jewish women leaders of color, leaders of color within the contemporary social justice movement, and non-people-of-color Jewish social justice leaders to prioritize their collective need for wellness, spirituality, and the capacity to engage in loving, restorative activism as an integrated practice for movement building.

Universal Human Question

How might we live more balanced, stress-free, integrated lives of well-being?

Jewish Wisdom Applied

Embodied Jewish Learning (EJL) draws on the Four Worlds Model in Jewish mysticism to help people discover ways that Jewish wisdom can support them to cultivate calm and resourcefulness in their everyday lives and in their wellness journeys. EJL uses a unique methodology for communicating and contextualizing ideas from Torah and prayer via the kinesthetic experience and teaches its students to ask themselves where in their bodies and daily movements they might locate qualities (middot) or other Jewish wisdom teachings.

Project

Embodied Jewish Learning will create a network among the participants of its 2019 teachers’ convening that will help them strengthen their skills and connection with one another via advanced learning, online networking, and other formats to be selected and determined by the practitioners. The network will support teachers in strengthening, advancing, and elevating offerings within the field of Embodied Jewish Wisdom.

Universal Human Question

How might we design pedagogy that makes wisdom more accessible and actionable for learners?

Jewish Wisdom Applied

M2 will explore distinctively Jewish forms of pedagogy, including rituals that employ a particular pedagogy, such as the Seder, or theological commitments that find expression in pedagogic practice, such as tzimtzum.

Project

M2 is embarking on a new program, The Jewish Pedagogies Project, which posits that there are, or may be, a set of distinct Jewish pedagogies or pedagogical concepts, although not necessarily particular to Jewish educational practice; and that naming, lifting, and articulating these pedagogies would be a service to educational practice. M2 will distill these pedagogies to interrogate how they have contributed to the success of Jewish education and explore how they can be employed in contemporary culture to better Jewish life and humanity at large.

Universal Human Question

How might we counter the trends of disconnection and loneliness that many young adults face?

Jewish Wisdom Applied

OneTable uses the ritual of Shabbat dinner to gather people together. It also practices hachnasat orchim to nurture both the individual and the broader community.

Project

OneTable will engage its hosts and guests in qualitative research to understand the issues of wellness and loneliness on a deeper level, and to uncover the impact of OneTable and Shabbat dinner on connection, community, and a sense of belonging among young adults. Based on the research findings, OneTable will develop and disseminate Jewish content specifically designed to increase a sense of belonging and combat isolation, as well as resources that enrich and enhance peer-led Shabbat dinners hosted on the onetable.org platform, to bring participants into a welcoming and inclusive Jewish community.

Universal Human Question

How might we foster a healthier relationship with the technology we use?

Jewish Wisdom Applied

Let It Ripple is bringing the ritual and teachings of Shabbat—the importance of rest and renewal, joy (simcha), returning and reflecting (teshuvah), and realigning with our life’s purpose (kavanah)—into as many lives and homes as possible.

Project

Building on its five years of experience producing global Character Day (which has scaled from 1,500 groups to over 200,000 groups), Let It Ripple has launched the Global Technology Shabbat Movement, a multi-dimensional campaign to encourage people to disengage from all screens from Friday evening to Saturday evening every week.

Universal Human Question

How might we address the human need for life to be meaningful, and for each person to actualize their potential and use it to better the world?

Jewish Wisdom Applied

The Idea Institute applies Jewish wisdom to help students find deep meaning in Jewish tradition, both for themselves and for the world. The Institute starts with meaningful questions from students about the world and uses project-based learning to show them their tradition’s rich answers to those questions.

Project

The Idea Institute will convene The Summer Sandbox as part of the Maker and Creator Conference. The Sandbox will train elementary and high school Jewish educators from day and supplementary schools in all aspects of project-based learning, a pedagogy that enables teachers to tap into Jewish wisdom and bring it to students in a way that draws on their passions and interests and empowers them to better the world.

Universal Human Question

How can activists find and sustain wellbeing, spiritual connection, and energy for their work in these challenging times?

Jewish Wisdom Applied

Reconstructing Judaism has developed wellness and resilience resources and practices rooted in the breadth of Jewish wisdom and tradition, including the daily liturgy and Tanakh; the mussar tradition; and key Jewish themes of creation, revelation, redemption, and benefit of the doubt.

Project

In Reset II: Jewish Resilience Practices for Social Justice Organizations, Reconstructiong Judaism will work with three to four organizations to help make regular Jewish spiritual practice sustainable. Organizational leaders and influencers will commit to and engage in Jewish spiritual practices that promote resilience; learn about organizational practices that support resilience; and pilot some of these practices in their organizational systems.

Universal Human Question

How might we make sophisticated ancient wisdom available and accessible to people and organizations seeking to address universal human questions?

Jewish Wisdom Applied

This project will engage other grantee-partners in a partnership with Sefaria to explore and articulate the text-based Jewish wisdom that animates their various missions.

Project

Expanding on a pilot partnership between Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah and Sefaria over the past year, Sefaria will work with 8-10 of the Foundation's grantees to co-create Sefaria Sheets that highlight the Jewish wisdom being applied by each grantee, identify new textual connections between the grantees’ work and primary sources, and empower the grantees to become even better facilitators of Jewish learning and education using digital technology.

What Our Partners Are Up To

Tech Shabbat + Character Day 2019

We’re proud to be partners of the sixth annual Character Day September 27-28, 2019!

Character Day is an annual global event that brings together millions of people in schools, companies, homes—anywhere people already gather—to engage in character/Middot development, which, science shows, leads not only to stronger school and career performance, but also to stronger, more engaged individuals and a more just world.

This year’s Character Day will focus on the big questions percolating around our tech-driven, always-online world, by asking: What is the relationship between character and technology use? How and when does technology enhance our character? How and when does turning off technology enhance our character? What are the ways Shabbat (in its different forms) can help foster a healthy balance?

Character Day this year will be two days. The resources are available year-round. Sign up (your school, company, organization, etc) today!

New Partnerships for Pardes' Mahloket Matters

Our partner Mahloket Matters has partnered with the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the Rabbinical Assembly to offer trainings in using Jewish text study to enhance skills for constructive disagreement.

What We're Up To
Recommended Reading/ Listening
  • Our board and staff members are currently reading The Wisest One in the Room: How You Can Benefit from Social Psychology's Most Powerful Insights by Thomas Gilovich and Lee Ross. The book outlines several key insights from the field of behavioral psychology, along with their practical applications to our everyday lives and our work. 
     
  • Two recent articles explored the use of ritual to transmit wisdom. Building on research that we are proud to have co-funded, Arielle Levites explained how the the Seder is an "extraordinarily powerful moment to cultivate Jewish values and sensibilities"; and David Brooks argued for the importance of ritual, which is at the core of a number of our partners' work, in modern society. 
     
  • A number of recent articles have focused on the role that Jewish wisdom can play in the workplace. Mordy Labaton wrote about how Hadar's Jewish Professionals' Institute, a partner of ours, can help people realize that "Jewish texts are a necessary resource for today’s Jewish professionals, and should be part of their varied toolkit"; and Moishe House's CEO, David Cygielman, described how Jewish wisdom is being incorporated throughout his organization. 
     
  • Our President, Aaron Dorfman, and Director of Learning and Strategic Communications, Rabbi Ayalon Eliach, wrote about educating for applied Jewish wisdom in the June ejournal of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of The Jewish Theological Seminary. 
     
  • Rabbi Ayalon Eliach discussed the role of purposeful Jewish praxis on a recent episode of the Judaism Unbound podcast.


Remembering Dr. Jonathan Woocher z"l

 
On July 16th, the 13th of Tammuz, we commemorated Dr. Jonathan Woocher's second yortzeit (day of passing). Dr. Woocher z"l, the Founding President of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, was a distinguished scholar and beloved colleague who devoted his lifeand made singular contributionsto the cause of Jewish education. While his impact is beyond measure, we have tried to honor his life's work in a few ways over the past few months.

On June 13th, in honor of Dr. Woocher's tremendous contribution to our work and to the shaping of the future of Jewish life, we announced the creation of the Dr. Jonathan Woocher Research Fellowship (the “Woocher Research Fellowship”). Starting this summer, Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah will sponsor Woocher Research Fellows to explore topics that help answer the question of how Jewish wisdom can be applied to universal human questions that people navigate in their everyday lives. We are thrilled to have Rabbi Dr. Vanessa Ochs as the inaugural research fellow. Rabbi Dr. Ochs introduced Jewish sensibilities as a framework for thinking about Jewish life; and that framework was deeply influential on both Dr. Woocher and our Foundation.

In May, we were honored to coordinate the donation of Dr. Woocher's collection of books to the Brooklyn Public Library. Altogether, 596 titles, each pressed with a commemorative bookplate, were donated to the library.

Building Our Team

We are looking for an outstanding Director of Strategic Grantmaking to join our team. Learn more here and please spread the word.

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