Got God? Thoughts on God from a Sometimes-theist (as inspired by ELI on Air)

By Esther D. Kustanowitz The High Holidays are over, and for many, so is our most immersive “God language” experience of the Jewish calendar year. Over the course of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we read of God’s many roles: God is the supreme sovereign. God commanded us to bring sacrifices. God commanded Abraham to bring his son as sacrifice and then issued a reprieve at the last minute. God granted Hannah a child. God is the shepherd who looks at us individually as we pass under God’s staff. God searches out our innermost kishkes and discerns our heart’s intentions. God has a “naughty-and-nice” list (in the High Holidays context, it’s called the Book of Life). I’m a graduate of yeshiva day schools; I grew up with liturgy. I know that, according to Jewish texts, God has different names, going … [Read more...]

Announcing the ELI Talks Speakers, Fall 2014

ELI talks is proud to announce the next cohort of speakers presenting their “inspired Jewish ideas” this fall. ELI talks is dedicated to capturing, sharing, and nurturing conversation around new and compelling ideas of Jewish religious engagement, Jewish literacy, and Jewish identity with Israel and peoplehood at the core. “ELI talks has established a reputation as the starting point for inspiring dialogue and ideas that encourage investment in Jewish life,” says Andrés Spokoiny, President and CEO of The Jewish Funders Network. “This evening will be no exception.” This round was the program’s most competitive yet, with over 100 submissions coming in from around the globe, all evaluated by a committee of content experts, video specialists, and representatives from partnering organizations. The … [Read more...]

Responding to the New Anti-Semitism: Educate and Activate

By Rabbi Elizabeth Wood, Esther Kustanowitz and Miriam Brosseau [The following article is the result of a “blind” collaboration among several Jewish professionals. ELI talks program director, Miriam Brosseau, shared Dara Horn’s ELI talk on anti-Semitism with a small group - none could see who else was in the request - asking them to respond to the talk with their own thoughts on the Jewish understanding of the origin of anti-Semitism, and how Jews should address it. Below are the fruits of their labor.] Anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head once again. In tweets and in the streets, we’re seeing images that seem eerily familiar to many Holocaust survivors, and (thankfully) alien to many others. The recent spate of anti-Semitism has been attributed to the conflict in Israel - the more that … [Read more...]

Call for Speakers: Judaism and Philanthropy

ELI Talks, in partnership with Jewish Funders Network and Jewish Teen Funders Network, is seeking inspired Jewish ideas for the next production of talks, scheduled to be filmed in New York at the end of October. ELI will be accepting submissions and nominations for the six available slots throughout the month of August. “We are looking for great new ideas and approaches to E, L and I - Engagement, Literacy and Identity - on the subjects of Jewish philanthropy, or Judaism and philanthropy,” says ELI talks program director Miriam Brosseau. “It’s really an amazing opportunity for newcomers to the field to test out their ideas on a powerful community platform, and for seasoned voices to present a new angle on important work.” For this round of talks, ELI is especially excited to feature a teen … [Read more...]

Keep Asking Why

by Aliza Kline This is the season for asking questions - often in groups of four (though my father, and my seven year-old daughter will both argue that at the Seder we ask one question and then offer four responses). Let’s not stop just because the holiday has past. What if we keep asking why? What would that look like as a daily practice? What do we have to acknowledge before we can make space for learning something new? Moses got his starring role in our exodus because he gained empathy for the Hebrew slaves, he bared witness and was ultimately overcome with emotion, understanding the struggle and desire for freedom. But the real test was his encounter with the burning bush. Rabbi Noa Kushner reminded me of the Exodus verse when Moses passes by the bush, and rather than writing it off as a … [Read more...]

Adopting a Collaborative Leadership Paradigm

The problem is that the Jewish Community hasn’t yet fully internalized the need for a new leadership paradigm that places networking and collaboration at its center. by Andrés Spokoiny When I watched Rabbi Brander’s passionate argument for embracing “prosumer” culture in our communal organizations, I was inspired. As the head of an organization focused on networking and collaboration among funders, the model he advocates is precisely where I believe we need to focus if we are to build the best-possible Jewish future. I’d like to expand on what that means, from a funder’s perspective. … [Read more...]

Revisiting a Joshua-esque Model of Leadership: Response to Rabbi Kenneth Brander


by Dr. Hal M. Lewis In his ELI talk, Rabbi Kenneth Brander argues in favor of what he calls a “Joshua-esque model of leadership,” a view that understands leadership as collaborative, rather than unilateral. While I agree that collaboration, or what I have referred to in my own research as “power sharing not power hoarding,” can be an effective approach to decision-making and problem solving, I take exception to Rabbi Brander’s facile analyses of the leadership styles of Moses and Joshua. Moses, according to Brander, was a “top-down” leader, in contradistinction to Joshua who sought to “empower others to lead with” him. Cognizant of the well-known barb that in academe arguments are so passionate because the stakes are so small, I must nonetheless assert that if there are lessons to be … [Read more...]

Collaborative Leadership in a Prosumer Generation

In partnership with ELI Talks, eJewish Philanthropy will be running a number of submissions in response to an ELI Talk given by Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Dean of the Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future. Rabbi Brander discusses how a challenging chapter in his family's life and the example of Joshua showed him the benefits of real collaboration between lay and organizational leaders for the modern Jewish community. Watch Rabbi Brander’s talk here and join the discussion. The first response, by Dr. Hal Lewis, can be found here. In the coming weeks, additional responses will be posted; all (including previous Eli Talk conversations) will be available here. … [Read more...]