In a ceremony that took place at the Jewish Funders Network Conference in San Francisco today, Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah and Democracy Fund announced the winners of the 2018-19 Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom. The Prize elevates innovative applications of particular Jewish wisdom to universal human questions. This year, the Prize focused on the timely issue of democracy and civic engagement and was awarded to seven organizations – both established programs and new ideas – whose work was deemed exceptional by the Prize’s external reviewers and judges.
“Jewish wisdom contains deep insights for life’s big and small questions,” said Marcella Kanfer Rolnick, Chair of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah. “This year’s Prize winners highlight how our ever-accumulating wisdom tradition provides meaningful guidance for an area of life on the top of people’s minds today – how we engage in protecting and advancing our democracy and civic life.”
Prizes were awarded in two categories: “Established Programs” which each received $30,000 and “New Ideas” which garnered $15,000 each. The seven Winning Programs are:
Facing History and Ourselves Inc. – Facing History and Ourselves’ Professional Development for Educators in Jewish settings (Brookline, MA):
Facing History’s Jewish Education Program provides educators with professional development and classroom resources that connect humanities content to Jewish wisdom, texts, and history, and to the ethical choices students face in their own lives; thereby inspiring students to combat prejudice with compassion, and indifference with civic participation.
Ikar – Minyan Tzedek: Organizing for Social Change (Los Angeles, CA):
Minyan Tzedek: Organizing for Social Change works to actively engage and cultivate a culture of social justice from a distinctly Jewish perspective rooted in Torah and the principles of community organizing and has succeeded in achieving 100% voter registration in its community.
Tivnu: Building Justice – Tivnu Gap Year (Portland, OR):
The Tivnu Gap Year, the first and only Jewish gap year in the U.S., brings high school graduates to Portland for a 9-month experience that includes individually tailored internships with a wide range of local, grassroots direct-service, and advocacy organizations; skilled construction of tiny homes with and for houseless individuals; study of today’s most important social justice issues through Jewish and other sources; and collective living within their own pluralistic Jewish households.
Brandeis Precollege Programs – Being the Change: Public Policy, Justice, and Advocacy (Waltham, MA):
Being the Change: Public Policy, Justice, and Advocacy is a timely, intensive, expert-led summer course for teens that unites applied Talmudic wisdom about engaging across difference; the ritual power of a siyyum, which defines success as engagement as being in a reciprocal relationship with learning and democracy over time; and strategies for advocacy that empower, mobilize, and sustain.
Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles – CIVruta (Los Angeles, CA):
CIVruta will convene community leaders, from different backgrounds in Los Angeles, for a day-long civic beit midrash aimed at encouraging and equipping them to bring the Jewishly informed democratic values of diversity (elu v’elu), inclusion (brit), and dignity (b’tzelem Elohim) to service on public boards and commissions.
Matovu – Three Occasions: Shalosh Regalim for Civic Engagement (Saint Louis, MO):
Three Occasions harnesses the power of ritual and spiritual teachings implicit in Judaism’s three pilgrimage holidays to help increase civic engagement and advance regional progress in the St. Louis metro region and beyond.
Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation – The Rebuilding Democracy Project (Reston, VA):
Rebuilding Democracy empowers participants to use Jewish concepts and wisdom like hesed, brit, mitzvot, eilu v’eilu, and parshanut to teach healthy political norms: seeing fellow citizens as human before partisan, elevating a shared national purpose, respecting dissent, safely interrogating conflicting narratives, and upholding the primacy of institutions over agendas.
The winners were chosen from over 100 applications from across the U.S. through a multi-round process. In the initial round, applicants were reviewed by past Prize winners and experts in relevant fields of study. Board members of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah and representatives of its funding partners then selected Finalists from the highest scored Semi-Finalist applicants.
Finally, a distinguished and diverse panel of seven judges (Andrés Spokoiny; Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson; Rabbi Dr. David Ellenson; Jane Eisner; Dr. Jonathan Sarna; Lisa Eisen; and Yascha Mounk) selected the seven winners.