New Case Study Details Characteristics of Successful Teen Education Funder Collaborative

Key Participants

A group comprised of 15 national and local funders committed to investing in community-based Jewish teen education initiatives has released a commissioned case study detailing insights and lessons learned from their first two years working together. The case study - Finding New Paths for Teen Engagement and Learning: A Funder Collaborative - prepared by Informing Change, is designed to inform other co-funding and shared learning efforts both within and outside of the Jewish philanthropic community. “Bringing together ten different communities bound by the overarching pursuit of Jewish teen education and engagement - but each with their own internal structures, strategies, and goals - presents a truly unique learning opportunity,” says Ellen Irie, President and CEO of Informing Change. “The … [Read more...]

Passover at Berkeley Hillel: A Strategy for Excellence, Risk Taking, and Creativity


By Leah Kahn Passover season is arguably the most hectic time in the Jewish calendar. For Hillels around the world, the details, logistics, and knowledge necessary to make it through the holiday amount to a full-scale theatrical production. To achieve excellence and prevent staff burnout before the end of the academic year is a challenge that requires thoughtful planning. Nevertheless, Passover should not be a time of year that Hillel staff dread; rather, it should be enjoyable and allow staff to shine and truly celebrate the holiday with students. This year, at UC Berkeley Hillel, we challenged ourselves to create a unique Passover experience for our students. To that end, we started planning, recruitment (including a social media campaign that involved many hidden affikomen around campus), … [Read more...]

A Personal Perspective: Celebrating a Jewish Milestone in Akron!

Temple Israel of Akron’s 150th anniversary celebration events drew former congregants from the country, including five religious school alumni who became rabbis. Pictured from left to right: Rabbi Robert Feinberg, Temple Israel’s current religious leader, Rabbi Allen Bennett, Rabbi Aaron Koplin, Rabbi Adrienne P. Scott, Rabbi David Komerofsky and Rabbi Evette Lutman. Photo by Morgan Levin.

By Robert Evans I just returned from celebrating a special American Jewish milestone: The 150th anniversary of the founding of Temple Israel of Akron, Ohio. That’s the Reform congregation where I became a Bar Mitzvah and a confirmand. This is the community that inculcated in me a strong sense of Jewish values and peoplehood. This is where I gained the Jewish background that helped set the trajectory of my adult life and a career of working with Jewish organizations. For sure, reunions of any type can be an adventure, a walk down memory lane, an emotional and even an unsettling experience. Admittedly, returning to Akron after an absence of more than a decade was a bit disarming. It has been a decade since I last visited the onetime “Rubber Capital of the World” for the unveiling of my father’s … [Read more...]

Hybrid Jewish Identities Take Center Stage at Seattle TED-style Event

By Hannah S Pressman At a January TED Talks-style event in Seattle, four young scholars advocated a more inclusive vision of Jewish community and Jewish Studies. In a short talk that most embodied the evening’s theme of hybridity, Hamza Zafer, a Pakistan-born assistant professor of Near East Studies, described his surprise when a 23andMe genetic test revealed a Jewish ancestor. Zafer and the evening’s other speakers all suggested that the boundaries of Jewish identity are much more porous than they used to be - and that that’s a good thing. In the wake of the Pew Center’s controversial “Portrait of Jewish Americans,” this event showed that the community’s toughest questions about how to define Jewishness are beginning to impact scholarship, too. Daniel Bessner, for example, a specialist in … [Read more...]

Growing Rabbis

[What goes into the making of a 21st Century rabbinical leader? In this latest series of essays to be published on eJP, we share thoughts from Rabbi David Teutsch, Ph.D., Rabbi Ellen Lewis, Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg and Rabbi Hayim Herring, Ph.D. The first three essays originally appeared in, "Keeping Faith in Rabbis: A Community Conversation on Rabbinical Educartion," Avenida Books, December 2014. The fourth is a new essay written for eJP that looks at how we may respond to the paradigm shift currently underway in the North American Jewish Community. eJP is grateful to the authors, publisher and editors (Rabbi Hayim Herring and Ellie Roscher) who have generously made these essays available to our eJP community.]   By Rabbi David A. Teutsch When I was a rabbinical student over forty … [Read more...]

The Wexner Foundation at 30 – Leading on Leadership

Wexner 30th

By Andrés Spokoiny John F. Kennedy once said that “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” JFK probably didn’t know, but his statement was profoundly Jewish for, in Judaism, leadership and learning are inextricably linked. This quote came serendipitously to my attention this week, as we prepare to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Wexner Foundation, which, by putting this principle to practice, has been transforming communities across North America since its inception. One important value in Judaism that is, regrettably, not practiced enough is the principle of “hakarat hatov,” recognizing and celebrating what is good. We excel at whining, and we win world championships of criticism. Yet, we barely celebrate our successes. In this case, celebrating the success of … [Read more...]

Jewish Life is Overrated


By Robert Lichtman David Eagleman wrote a terrific little book, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, which considers scenarios for what happens after this life. His very first conception is that we re-live every moment of our lives, the difference being that all the experiences are grouped together by likeness: 200 days in the shower; 5 months on the toilet; 6 weeks waiting for the light to change; 51 days making wardrobe decisions. So how much time might be spent re-living our “Jewish” lives? It seems that “Jewish” is just another one of those categories, a siloed, isolated slice of life. Not life itself. So often we use the catch-all expression “Jewish life” when we might mean “communal life,” or “synagogue life,” or “federation life.” Surely these are all aspects of Jewish life, but so … [Read more...]

Intermarried, Not Interfaith

There are not two options anymore, interfaith or Jewish, and the situation is not black and white. By Allison McMillan On our third date, I told my non-Jewish boyfriend that I never wanted a Christmas tree in my house. I explained that it was fine if he had special memories of Christmas or Easter, and I would understand if he wanted to pass those memories onto his children but if that was the case, then I wasn’t the girl for him and we should move on before going further. His response (beyond being slightly taken aback) was that he was okay with that idea as his cultural ties to those holidays were not strong and he was an atheist and did not have any religious connection to the holidays either. … [Read more...]