Jewish Identity and a New Vocabulary



By Rabbi Lee Moore


This article was originally published in eJewishPhilanthropy on May 30, 2016, contributing to ongoing discussions in that publication.  

“Jewish identity” is too vague and ambiguous to be a useful construct as the end-goal of Jewish education and Jewish life. In his eJPpiece “Speaking of Jewish Identity” Andres Spokoiny presents this idea and then asks exactly the right question: given that the language of “Jewish identity” is increasingly “limiting us and conditioning us in ways that are detrimental to the objectives we claim” … what words are more specific and effective that can lead us into a constructive discussion about outcomes in Jewish life?

Speaking of words, we have a vocabulary list to offer. It’s not complete, but it starts to approximate a way we might speak about how “Jewish ideas, values, languages, history, rituals, emotions, and behaviors inform particularly Jewish lenses and tools to interpret reality and flourish as human beings” – to address Spokoiny’s challenge.

Over the last two years, Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah has been experimenting with a framework that we call Jewish Sensibilities. Continue reading

Jewish Continuity at 25

“Jewish Continuity” at 25: What Did We Achieve? What Have We Learned?



Reflections by Jon Woocher, President of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah


It isn’t really the 25th anniversary of what came to be called the “Jewish continuity” endeavor in North America. The first Continuity Commission was established in Cleveland before the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey was mounted; and the first results of the 1990 NJPS – including the alarm-ringing, hand-wringing statistic of a 52% intermarriage rate – didn’t appear until the calendar had turned. But, 1990 is a convenient enough date to mark the beginning of a significant effort that has unfolded over the past two and a half decades aimed at strengthening Jewish identity and engagement among American Jews, many of whom, it was argued then and since (viz. the reactions to the 2013 Pew study) are in danger of or are already being lost to Jewish life as active participants.

I’ve been part of and a witness to these efforts. Continue reading

Teaching Torah through Brokenness



Guest post by Rabbi Paul Steinberg

The following was originally published June 9, 2015 by eJewishPhilanthropy.  Many thanks to Dan Brown and Rabbi Paul Steinberg for allowing us to repost on this blog.  In his reflections on the work of Beit T’shuvah, Rabbi Steinberg offers depth and personal insight to two Jewish Sensibilities – Shevirah and Teshuvah.

In 1972, during the television program Eternal Light, Abraham Joshua Heschel vigorously exhorted: “Here stands a man and I’ll tell you, this is a man who has no problems. Do you know why? He’s an idiot!” So it is: to be a mindful human is to have problems. Certainly, these problems include those of the world: injustice, corruption, poverty, warfare, hunger, and on and on. As Jewish mystics identified long ago, the world is broken and is in need of healing, and we should be doing what can to mend such brokenness.

Yet, not only the world has problems or is broken. The Talmud declares that each human being is a world unto him or herself and, therefore each one of us experiences brokenness. Continue reading

The Constant Pull of Past and Future

dara 330 2014

The following was originally published December 1, 2014 by eJewishPhilanthropy.  Many thanks to Dan Brown and Maya Bernstein for allowing us to repost on this blog.

One of the great challenges of infusing your professional life with Jewish Sensibilities (indeed, the same applies to all aspects of life) is balancing the tension between one’s obligations to those who have come before and those who will succeed us…Maya describes eloquently our need to acknowledge the fears that come from seeing ourselves as a link in a chain of generations, l’dor va dor, and the great importance of freeing ourselves to innovate. Continue reading

Do We Need National Organizations?

Originally published on, February 24, 2014

by Joe Kanfer and Marcella Kanfer Rolnick

2014 will see the closing of two organizations that have been part of the landscape of American Jewish life for more than a generation. The announcement towards the end of last year by the Foundation for Jewish Culture (FJC) that it decided to wind down its operations, following soon after a similar announcement from JESNA (Jewish Education Service of North America), was greeted with relative equanimity in the Jewish media. In part, this may be due to the fact that, to their credit, the leaders of both organizations have thus far managed the close down process with dignity and deliberation, and without recriminations or desperate appeals for support. But, it likely also reflects a sentiment apparently shared by many observers that changing times not only made national organizations like FJC and JESNA financially unsustainable, but rendered the very model of national umbrella organizations serving a broad field and acting primarily as intermediary agents and support systems outmoded.

But, is this premise true? Continue reading