By Rabbi George Wielechowski and David Cygielman
Larry Fink may have been a rabbi in a former life.
Larry Fink, as many of you probably know, is the CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest investment manager, with $5.7 trillion under management. Mr. Fink writes a yearly letter to company CEOs around the world, and in this year’s letter, he was most definitely preaching Torah and channeling the voice of the prophets. Even if he didn’t know it.
Through the letter, Mr. Fink exerts his considerable influence by challenging the most powerful corporate leaders and organizations in the world to embrace society’s changing expectations of them – to realize their social and moral responsibilities as part of a larger, human community – or risk losing the value they have worked to build.
The big question, of course, is: Will entrenched leaders and organizations heed the call? Will they, as Mr. Fink puts it in his letter, embrace their responsibility to drive change?
At the Open Dor Project, we wonder a lot these days about what it takes to drive change in response to an ever evolving and shifting world. Even more so, in Judaism, how do we do it while holding true to our most ancient teachings and practices? Through these efforts and questions, we were blessed this year again to accept applications from over 30 Jewish spiritual leaders from around the country, and to invite four new, change-making rabbis into our second Open Dor Project Cohort:
- Rabbi Rachel Goldenberg, Malkhut, Queens, NY
- Rabbi Sara Luria, Beloved, Brooklyn, NY
- Rabbi Rami Schwartzer, Washington, D.C.
- Rabbi Lori Shapiro, Open Temple, Venice, CA
We invite you to learn more about our 2018 Cohort.
We are also pleased to announce the additional awarding of a special planning grant this year to Rabbi Lauren Henderson, for her future work in launching Shoresh in Atlanta, GA. This grant represents a new and exciting experiment towards the expansion of our work and vision.
These five brave spiritual leaders, and so many other entrepreneurial Jewish clergy across the country, are working incredibly hard to serve the evolving spiritual and communal needs of our people. They are on the ground, working from the ground up, taking on the need for connection, spirituality, and belonging one person at a time. They are co-creating with and empowering a next generation of Jews and fellow seekers, all because they are brave enough to embrace the responsibility to serve in their historical moment.
But being in the Jewish spiritual startup space is not easy. These Jewish spiritual startup leaders are yearning for some of the most important things they need to succeed: Multi-year funding, partnership and expertise in developing business models that will last. While it is the individual talent, fortitude and vision that has already made these spiritual entrepreneurs successful, the Open Dor Project will work with each of these dynamic leaders to further support and accelerate their emerging spiritual communities with $225,000 over three years, along with consulting expertise and professional development. We know how hard this work is and that what we provide is not enough, but it is a start and one that we hope local communities will embrace and join in supporting.
But as with Mr. Fink’s letter to America’s CEOs, the biggest question for American Judaism’s leaders now becomes: Will they embrace their responsibility to drive change?
There’s a movement out there; happening right now. Extraordinary Jewish spiritual leaders are serving people’s spiritual and community needs, in some cases with approaches that look different to us or that, perhaps, we haven’t seen before. But these approaches are also deeply rooted in our tradition, and the people served by them recognize them right away as authentically Jewish ones – wisdom, values, music and prayer, worship, mindfulness, and the building of deep and meaningful human connection. The Open Dor Project is grateful to be able to support and learn from these brave leaders.
The communities that emerging models of Jewish spirituality serve are an important and rapidly growing part of the American Jewish landscape, but they are still just only a part of it. Judaism has such a rich tradition. We believe it is only through the combined efforts of historic institutions and synagogues, along with the important work of emerging models, that this richness will be fully honored and the needs of our diverse community fully met.
Our country’s established Jewish organizations have a history of brave leadership when it matters most. The Open Dor Project hopes we will all work together to embrace the responsibility to drive change and continue to connect and reconnect people to the power of our traditions and our community.
Rabbi George Wielechowski is Founding Director, The Open Dor Project.
David Cygielman is Founder & CEO, Moishe House.
The Open Dor Project is powered by Moishe House in an effort to support more entrepreneurial spiritual leaders develop the most engaging spiritual communities possible.