The 2009 Avi Chai Fellowship Recipients

The AVI CHAI Foundation has announced the recipients of the 2009 AVI CHAI Fellowship:

  • Dr. Erica Brown
  • David Cygielman
  • Aliza Kline
  • Daniel Libenson
  • Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum

The recipients of the AVI CHAI Fellowship were selected from an initial pool of more than 43 nominations that were submitted by 18 nominators. The seven members of the selection committee met privately over the course of four months; the nominators and selections committee remain anonymous so that the integrity of the nomination and selection process not be compromised. The first cohort of AVI CHAI Fellows was announced in 2008.

Meet this years’ Fellows:

Dr. Erica Brown is the Director for Adult Education at The Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning and the Scholar-in-Residence for The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Erica plans to use her Fellowship in part for her own professional development and towards her plans to develop a Jewish values curriculum for journalists and media opinion shapers.

David Cygielman is the founder and Executive Director of Moishe House. David plans to use the Fellowship to enhance the existing Moishe Houses and ultimately double their number. He intends to visit every Moishe House, build relationships with the residents and their communities, and provide tailored training and support. David also intends to enroll in several Jewish learning programs to deepen his own Judaic knowledge.

Aliza Kline is the founding executive director of Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh and the Paula Brody & Family Education Center in Newton, Massachusetts. Aliza plans to use her Fellowship to strengthen the organizational capacity of Mayyim Hayyim, thereby enabling her to devote greater resources to reaching out to communities across North America interested in this unique approach to ritual immersion and education. Aliza is also working to develop engaging and creative ways to share the Mayyim Hayyim experience with a broad audience of viewers.

Daniel Libenson has been executive director of the Newberger Hillel Center at the University of Chicago since 2006. Daniel intends to use the AVI CHAI Fellowship to launch the creation of a center for Jewish ideas and innovation, which would leverage the power of the university for the benefit of the Jewish people. With a “faculty” of practitioner-scholars spending half their time on research, design, assessment, and dissemination and half their time implementing and experimenting on the ground, the center marries an academic think tank to a living laboratory, creating a rapid innovation cycle. The center, which will also seek to partner with and create non-student Jewish laboratory communities, will become an ideas engine for the Jewish people, playing the role in Jewish society that the university plays in general society.

Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum is the founder and Executive Director of the Kavana Cooperative in Seattle. Rachel’s project will help Kavana grow its Hebrew immersion program, which aims to teach Hebrew virtually from birth and ultimately to create a community which can engage meaningfully with Jewish texts and other Jewish communities around the world. Additionally, Kavana plans to expand its successful cooperative model, and will explore replicating its model of neighborhood “pods” in Seattle and other communities across North America.

Bios of the fellows are available in the attached pdf, avi-chai-fellowship-brochure-2009.

ac_logoThe AVI CHAI Foundation occupies a singular spot in North American Jewish life, defining its goals as fostering high levels of Jewish Literacy; deepening religious purposefulness and promoting Jewish Peoplehood and deeper connections to the State of Israel. Each of the AVI CHAI Fellows has demonstrated a track record of commitment towards these ends and although the award – $75K per fellow per year – will go towards their proposed activities, the purpose of The AVI CHAI Fellowship is to advance and promote the individual winners as important forces in building a vital American Jewish future built upon these values.

AVI CHAI works toward achieving its goals via (1) supporting programs in the Jewish day school and camping fields, (2) strengthening key institutions in these fields, and (3) engaging partners and successors. “By “engaging partners and successors,” explains Yossi Prager, AVI CHAI’s Exective Director in North America, “we mean identifying and cultivating philanthropists, thought leaders and practitioners who advance our core goals, within and beyond the fields of our programmatic activities. The AVI CHAI Fellowship is an investment in those people.”