We are reaching out today to invite you to stand together with us and many others in the Jewish community against anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry, and to speak out for love, tolerance, equality and justice.

In a place where there are no leaders, strive to be a leader  
Pirkei Avot 2:5 

Jewish Wisdom guides us in this moment, strengthens our resolve.  This is our moment to come together as Jews and as Americans to say: we are here.
We are here, standing together with all communities facing intimidation and discrimination. Standing together to ensure the safety of Jewish institutions and all faith communities. Standing together to confront intolerance, divisiveness and hatred. Standing together for justice in our classrooms, on our campuses, in our workplaces, communities and across our country.


Please join us in standing together. Click here to view our statement. Pledge to #StandTogether by posting sharing the video with your networks.

Artist’s Statement

ariel Guest post by Ariel Burger

The following Artist’s Statement was composed by Ariel Burger to illuminate his work and process in creating the piece of art commissioned by Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah to be presented as tangible commemoration of the 2016 Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom.

Many choices go into any work of art, especially when it is commissioned for a specific purpose. This is even more true when those who commission the work are themselves creative thinkers. One of the pleasures of this project was the opportunity to learn and discuss concepts and content choices with the Lippman Kanfer professional team.

Because of the Foundation’s focus on “Living Torah”, and the subject of this Prize, I wanted to portray that concept, while exploring new territory and a new visual lexicon.

After developing several concept sketches, we narrowed them down to three, and then the artistic process guided me to the final image. Continue reading

Initial Reflections on the Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom



By Jon Woocher, Senior Fellow


When we initiated the Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom, we did not know what to expect. Would organizations be interested in a competition that asked them to describe how they were “applying Jewish wisdom” in their activities? Would they even understand what we meant by that phrase? Would we find a handful of examples or more than a few? Would the organizations who understood themselves to be applying Jewish wisdom in their work be able to demonstrate that their programs reached a significant number of participants or had any impact on them?

Now that the inaugural Prize competition is reaching its final stages, with the winners due to be chosen this month by a panel of external judges, the answers to some of these questions seem clear. Well over two hundred organizations submitted programs that sought to apply Jewish wisdom in a wide variety of ways to a broad range of life concerns, reaching diverse populations. But even more impressive than the number of programs was the quality of reflection revealed in the submissions. We asked applicants for the Prize (among other questions): 1) What Jewish wisdom they use in their work; 2) How their program makes this wisdom accessible and applicable to their audiences’ lives; and 3) What they have learned about applying Jewish wisdom. Their answers to these questions provide a wide window into a phenomenon in American Jewish life that we now have reason to believe is both more widespread and more impactful than has previously been recognized. Amidst the hand-wringing about assimilation and disaffiliation that often dominates discussion of the state of Jewish life, we see enormous grass-roots energy and creativity in developing new forms of Jewish self-expression and community-building that surveys simply cannot capture.

Fully mining the treasure trove of information contained in the 200 plus Semifinalists for the Prize (all of the program profiles are available at www.lippmankanferprize.org) will take many months. We plan to share our own ongoing analysis of the applications with you on a regular basis, and we invite others to use the database (including supplementary materials on many of the programs that we will be happy to make available) for their own inquiries and research.

Based on an initial reading of the submissions, we can offer a few findings of note that bear further investigation and elaboration:

  1. Program developers and sponsors are not shying away from incorporating serious Jewish content in their programs, but are acutely aware of the need to make this content relevant to their audiences.

Far from offering a “Judaism lite” approach, many of the programs submitted incorporate original Jewish texts, traditional Jewish practices (even including some that might be labeled “esoteric”), and serious encounter with these as important components. At the same time, programs strive to connect these to real life interests and concerns of participants and to empower participants to engage actively and creatively, not just passively, with these wisdom elements. Many programs are explicit in articulating the Jewish values and concepts that they seek to embody and to transmit, and they present these as directly relevant to the lives of their audiences.

  1. There is virtually no area of contemporary life that is not addressable and being addressed by Jewish wisdom.

The breadth and diversity of areas where Jewish wisdom is being actively applied today is impressive. The programs submitted for the Prize cover every age and life-stage and bring Jewish teachings and practices to bear on everything from physical well-being to spiritual development to social change to planetary sustainability. Programs are applying Jewish concepts and values to investing, parenting, food production and distribution, addiction recovery, negotiating adolescence and ageing, building caring communities, making art, developing leaders, and a myriad of other areas that reflect both timeless human concerns and timely issues. Although it is certainly true that not every Jew has access to the full range of these programs – many are local and relatively small, it is also true that these programs demonstrate the nearly unlimited potential of Jewish wisdom to help people live better lives and shape a better world.

  1. “Jewish wisdom” is a compound of teachings, practices, and relationships.

Perhaps the most far-reaching finding from an initial review of the submissions for the Lippman Kanfer Prize is that “Jewish wisdom” as embodied in these programs is more than an intellectual construct. Yes, teachings – ideas, concepts, values – are central to what nearly all of these programs seek to convey. And, indeed, many of the programs include study and discussion of Jewish texts, classical and contemporary, as an important component. But, the majority of the programs also involve two other dimensions that make “Jewish wisdom” something more powerful than merely a set of ideas. Many of the programs embed their teaching in a set of practices that bring these teachings to life. These are not only how wisdom gets “applied,” but how it gets conveyed, in ritual (traditional and new), in artistic production, in work to make change in the world. There is a second key element as well in these programs: the fostering of relationships. Many of the programs submitted not only transmit ideas, they create communities. How teachings, practices, and relationship-building work together to create impact – to change lives – is one of the aspects of transmitting and applying Jewish wisdom in the contemporary world that bears further examination.

These three initial “findings” from the set of submissions for the Lippman Kanfer Prize in Applied Jewish Wisdom only begin to scratch the surface of what we hope to learn from this rich data source. The individual programs themselves represent potential models for replication and adaptation – and we hope that people will find both inspiration and practical ideas in them. Taken as a whole, they present a portrait of Jewish activism and creativity that is exciting and energizing. Although only a few of the programs will in the end be the Prize winners, the real winners are all of us who are benefitting from these programs, whose lives are being bettered and who are finding in Jewish wisdom a profound source of inspiration and guidance.

Grant Announcements – Final Quarter 2016

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Dara Steinberg, Executive Director


As we enter the final months of 2016, Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah is pleased to share several grants that will commence this year:


Amplifier – $51,000 (split between 2016/17) to deploy Jewish educators more extensively across all of Amplifier’s programmatic areas including their new Giving Circle Institute in 2017.  This builds on previously granted funding that developed tools for the giving circle leaders and integrated Jewish wisdom into their Incubator.


Foundation for Jewish Camp – $100,000 over 2 years to create and disseminate experiential Jewish education resources and content to their camps.  FJC has ideas for several new, innovative programs that will make Jewish wisdom relevant and accessible to campers and is excited to pilot these resources and develop additional new ideas that can be utilized across their extensive network. Continue reading

Finalists announced for Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applying Jewish Wisdom

A way to recognize and reward the variety of excellent programs already using the applied Jewish wisdom framework.  Applications open June 1 - August 15, 2016.

Top 12 Programs named from over 200 Semifinalists

Akron, OH: Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah is pleased to announce its Finalists for the Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applying Jewish Wisdom.

The Prize launched in June with open applications and a goal of identifying and recognizing programs that help individuals and communities access and apply Jewish wisdom in ways that enable them to live better lives and shape a better world. The foundation was overwhelmed by the positive response to the competition and recognized more than 200 Semifinalists, highlighting the incredible diversity of programs and projects that are successfully applying Jewish wisdom. Continue reading

Bible Raps: A Case Study of Virtual Learning – Scaling learning, Scaling Impact

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By Dara Steinberg, Executive Director


The world of virtual education is still very new for the Jewish community, but it has proven its potential elsewhere in the broader education world to create impactful, creative learning environments. Virtual tools can enable an excellent educator to get into more classrooms with great efficiency – which has some tremendous implications for the many Jewish communities in the US and around the world. By expanding access to great teachers, to unique teachers, organizations can add needed variety to their classes’ curricula, it opens non-traditional methods of Torah learning to audiences that might not otherwise have access, and allows a talented small organization to scale its impact. Continue reading

Sector Grants: An Experiment

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by Dara Steinberg, Executive Director



If we were taking the Nonprofit SATs the analogy might be: “Leverage is to Funders, as Sustainability is to Nonprofits.”  To be flip, it’s the buzzword each constituency wants most.  In seriousness, it’s a prompt to take a thoughtful look at “How can we be better and more effective using our resources?”

As a small-to-mid-sized foundation, we are constantly thinking about how we can make all of our work – grants, programming, thought leadership, and communications – more effective and have stronger and wider impact. A recent planning grant to the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable is exciting, not only because of the grant’s own merits, but because it is our first experiment in what we’ve been referring to as “sector grants.” Continue reading

Aaron Dorfman Named President of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah



Dorfman To Take Reins of Foundation Sept. 1, Founding President To Become Foundation’s First Senior Fellow

Akron, OH –Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah announced today that Aaron Dorfman will become its second President, effective September 1, 2016. Part of Lippman Kanfer Family Philanthropies, the Foundation launched in 2013 with the purpose “to repair and enrich the world through thriving Jewish life.” Dorfman will take over the role from Jonathan Woocher, PhD, who will remain on the Foundation’s professional staff as its inaugural Senior Fellow.

“I’m honored,” Dorfman shared, “to have been chosen to work alongside the board, staff, and grantees of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah to build upon and grow the Foundation’s impact. In this era of complexity and uncertainty, I believe that Judaism’s ever-growing reservoir of wisdom can offer valuable guidance for our personal lives, our communities, and the broader world. I’m grateful for the strong foundation laid by Jon Woocher and am excited by the opportunity to continue to catalyze meaningful and lasting change.”

A Brooklyn resident with more than 20 years of experience in the Jewish community, Aaron Dorfman spent a decade at American Jewish World Service, rising from Director of Education to Vice President for National Programs, building the division and managing both program strategy and grantmaking with great success, overseeing strategic planning and an organizational restructure. An alumnus of Harvard Kennedy School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Dorfman was a Wexner Graduate Fellow and has also trained with the AK Rice Institute and the Rockwood Leadership Program. He began his career as the Director of Informal Education at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, CA. Known as an effective and inclusive agent for social change as well as a respected leader, Dorfman will be returning to the Jewish professional world from his most recent role as Vice President and Campaign Director at Encore.org, an organization that mobilizes older adults to support the social good.

“Aaron brings passion, vision, and expertise to our Foundation’s work,” says Board Chair Marcella Kanfer Rolnick. “His experience building and leading teams and strategic change will help advance our impact in the Jewish community. We look forward to what he will be able to bring to our partner and grantee relationships, as a thought leader and an experienced educator in his own right.” Kanfer Rolnick cited Dorfman’s wide interests, dedication to family, strong Jewish values, and “menschlichkeit” as key reasons the board selected him as President. She added, “Aaron has big shoes to fill, following our first President, Dr. Jonathan Woocher. We’re confident he will do so, in collaboration with our other Foundation colleagues, and we’re also delighted that Jon will continue to be a unique intellectual resource for the Foundation in his new role as Senior Fellow.”

“It’s been a privilege,” said Woocher, “to shape the Foundation as it emerged into the Jewish world with its mission to help Jews and fellow travelers apply Jewish wisdom and sensibilities to live better lives and shape a better world. Aaron is uniquely qualified to take the Foundation forward on the next steps in its journey. I look forward to remaining actively involved and working under Aaron’s leadership to further the work of Living Torah.”

Since its founding in 2013, Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah has distributed more than $4.4 million in grants to over 40 grantees, hosted a number of gatherings convening Jewish professionals, funders and other thought leaders, released a Jewish Sensibilities card deck as a tool for the field with over 2,300 distributed to date, and launched the Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom, which will award its first prizes this December.