Avi Chai: The First Recipients

As we wrote last week, The AVI CHAI Foundation has announced that it is allocating up to $1.15 million over the course of the next three years to four individuals and one team of two whom it has selected as the first recipients of The AVI CHAI Fellowship.

Chosen on the basis of their promising creative and entrepreneurial Jewish leadership in the North American Jewish community, the finalists were announced yesterday afternoon in New York; and I am delighted to know and be very aware of the work of three. I am certain this can be said about all the winners, but for those I am personally familiar, they are great and extremely worthwhile endeavors that can only benefit with this recognition. Kol Ha-Kavod to all!

First, the team of two? If you’ve followed many of our posts these past few months you could probably guess: Ariel Beery and Aharon Horwitz, co-founders of the PresenTense Group. They will be “expanding PresenTense Magazine and the PresenTense Institute for Creative Zionism to form a corps of forward-thinking social and communal pioneers, specially trained for the Information Age.”

Aharon and Ariel noted, “this award is a testimony to the tremendous efforts of the volunteers, staff, community members, advisers, investors, and participant creators of PresenTense. We expect that this generous investment by AVI CHAI, coupled with our growing community’s unstoppable energy, is going to create a powerful force for good in the Jewish People and Israel during the years to come.”

eJewish Philanthropy will have a great deal more to say about this choice as the 2nd summer of the Creative Zionism Institute opens in Jerusalem next month.

The individual Fellows include Chabad-Lubavitch representative, Rabbi Menachem Schmidt. Highly respected in the Philadelphia Jewish community, Rabbi Schmidt is involved in numerous innovative programs and projects that contribute to an enriched Jewish life experience of a wide reach of Jewish people. Rabbi Schmidt is Executive Director of Chabad at the University of Pennsylvania.

Initially, says Rabbi Schmidt, he was tapped for the award for the innovative and popular First Friday Shabbos program that he introduced to Center City. But in his meetings with Avi Chai officials, he introduced them to the mentoring program for college students which he launched and developed under the Steinhardt Neubauer Jewish Heritage Programs (JHP), a project of the Cayne Heritage Foundation. JHP was a pioneer in peer to peer campus outreach and mentoring of college students by community professionals, a program now expanded to ten campuses.

Other finalists include, Dr. Betsy Dolgin Katz, who is writing a book about the development of adult Jewish learning against the backdrop of contemporary America society;

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, working on the expansion of Yeshivat Hadar beyond its present parameters, allowing the institution to have a national and potentially global influence;

and Rabbi Dov Linzer, creating a rabbinical school curriculum for educators, allowing the Orthodox rabbinate to gain enhanced pedagogical training, so that they are better trained to be Day School educators.

For more details on the Fellowships, see our previous post here .

You might also find of interest an announcement of a previous fellowship awarded to Mechon Hadar along with several past posts about Creative Zionism, their projects, and co-founders.

updated May 19: check out this excellent article on fellowship recipient Rabbi Menachem Schmidt:

Rabbi’s Brand of Jewish Outreach Demands Constant Innovation

“The year 1983 was a turning point of sorts for Rabbi Menachem Schmidt. That was the year that the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary almost cancelled Passover Seders at Lubavitch House at the University of Pennsylvania.”