Why do Jews today connect with Jewish practices and ideas? For some it may be a desire to pass on hallowed traditions. For others, an innate sense of pride. For still others: guilt. Or, all of the above (at some point or another).

There is another kind of motivation to ‘do Jewish’ that I’m interested in understanding, because I feel it myself and I wonder where it fits. I feel it when at a Shabbat meal I hear and sing a melody that resonates and reverberates around me – sometimes because it is the tune of that time of year, other times because of the beauty of the melody itself. It comes when I emerge from a pre-holiday mikvah, ready to be new again. It arises when I look around a kumtzitz campfire, take in the faces of people I am connected to and sense the way in which together we make a community.

If pressed to choose a word for this feeling, I would call it ‘joy.’ Perhaps I could call it ‘pleasure,’ but pleasure can sound so hedonistic. Better yet, Simcha is a Hebrew word that comes closer, but maybe that’s because I read more layers of meaning into a Hebrew term than into a stark English word. Regardless of what we call it, it is a very positive feeling. A Gen-Xer who grew up in a mostly ritually unobservant home, as an adult I participate in Jewish practices … because I enjoy them. Continue reading

When, how, why to ask – our theory of questions

dara 330 2014



This post was inspired by reflections on Mamie Kanfer Stewart’s ELI Talk.

As children we were taught “there’s no such thing as a stupid question.” Today, thanks to the story of Nobel Laureate Isidor I. Rabi, many parents are now inspired by his mother’s example and, in an effort to foster children who are creative and critical thinkers ask “Did you ask a good question today?” instead of “What did you do today?”

did you ask a good question

But we can also go too far, making a fetish out of asking questions, even and especially the good ones. Continue reading

Learning Objectives – An Introduction to Ours


At Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah we’re focused on how to help Jews (and non-Jews) engage with Jewish Wisdom and Sensibilities in ways that enable them to live better lives and shape a better world.

A hallmark of our work at the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah is that we approach grantmaking as an opportunity to learn – for us, and for our grantee partners. In addition to being a learning organization in the ways we conduct our internal processes, we also want to keep learning so that we can, from our corner of the Jewish community, continue to help the field learn and grow as well.

To this end, we have formulated an explicit set of questions about the process of transmitting, cultivating, and applying Jewish Wisdom and Sensibilities that we call our Learning Objectives. Continue reading