An Open Letter On Climate Change

We are proud to have joined with colleagues and partners throughout the American Jewish Community as signators of the following letter in support of the Paris Accords.  Read more about this advocacy here, and we invite you to join us.

To leaders within the American Jewish Community:

Dear Friends,

We are Jews, organizational leaders and rabbis, teachers and students who work passionately towards a bright American Jewish future.

We are also human beings who care deeply about all life.

And from this integrated Jewish and universal perspective, we are shocked by the US government’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Continue reading

Passover Roundup 2017

Passover is nearly upon us – a holiday that lends itself well to experiments in applied Jewish wisdom, even more than usual, and we hope some of the resources below will help you deepen and expand your experiences this year.

Haggadot and Seder Supplements

Sh’ma Now offers an entire issue on Dayenu, with multiple articles examining the impact, limitations, and nuances of this Jewish Sensibility…plus their printable conversation guide can help you explore further, at a seder or elsewhere.

Bible Raps has a Hip Hop Haggadah to add a new beat to your seder.

AJWS offers a full Haggadah on global justice: Next Year in a Just World

Tru’ah, the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights offers a selection of seder resources to bring in a variety of issues or infuse a overall perspective in your Passover practices.

If you’re looking for extra questions, go beyond the traditional four with 20 Table Topics from

Mechon Hadar, as always, has a rich collection of thinking on Passover’s themes and texts

And as always: take pieces from the above, find a wealth of other core and supplementary material, and assemble a haggadah that fits your unique personality and needs at

Alternately, you can put together the perfect supplement/sourcesheet at (now with accompanying app!)


Videos and Mobile Apps



The Order of the Seder from Nina Paley on Vimeo.


We don’t even know where to start with all the wonderful passover resources at BimBam!  There’s the Let’s Get Ready for Passover game for kids, all their videos, and more…go explore!




AJWS offers a version of Dayenu this year designed to get you to talk about the Sensibility (pairs great with our Sh’ma Now link above)  And if you need to learn the song, there’s no time like the present.


CHAD GADYA from Nina Paley on Vimeo.

And a reminder of the breadth of Jewish wisdom – we never get tired of the Rube Goldberg Seder, from the students at Technion!




And…a bit of a stretch we hope you’ll nonetheless appreciate.  At the end of the seder, where does our narrative land?  Not just freedom but the hope and promise of home.  This video from the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus isn’t traditional, but is worth a listen, whether or not it fits into your Passover this year.


Request for Research Proposals

In 2016 Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah sponsored a prize competition for programs that apply Jewish wisdom to help people live better lives and shape a better world. More than 200 programs entered the competition, creating a rich database of information about how Jewish wisdom – Jewish values, texts, practices, and historical experience – is being transmitted and used today in a wide range of settings.

To take advantage of this trove of information, the Foundation is seeking proposals from researchers who are interested in exploring aspects of the process of applying Jewish wisdom using the Prize database. The Foundation is interested in learning more about such questions as: What Jewish wisdom do programs embody and teach? What methods do they use to make it accessible and applicable to participants’ lives? What factors help to determine the effectiveness of these programs? And, what impacts do these programs have on participants and on the broader landscape of Jewish and social life?

Full details can be found in the request for proposals, here.

Foundation news in the JTA

The JTA featured Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah and board chair Marcella Kanfer Rolnick in their March 21, 2017 article on the impact so far of the Trump presidency on Jewish philanthropy:

For decades, the Lippman Kanfer family has focused its philanthropy on local Jewish communities and national initiatives to teach Torah — funding causes from the Anshe Sfard Congregation in Akron, Ohio, to a Jewish day school network.

But since Nov. 8, Election Day, the family has been talking about another set of issues — refugees, voting rights and civic engagement. Like so many other things, its giving has been shaken by the Donald Trump administration.

“When it’s time to step up, we have to step up,” said Marcella Kanfer Rolnick, the founding director of the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah. “We’re grappling with how much we step up fast, where the urgency requires us to act quickly.”


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 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