This article first appeared on Jewish Futures.
My father grew up in the “real Bronx” – a world very different from the “pseudo-Bronx” of Riverdale where he raised his children. He played stickball on the streets with the Italian kids, who called him Luigi The Jew, and came home regularly with torn pants, skinned knees, and the fear of facing his mother, who would inevitably say to him: “If you’d been the first child, you would’ve been the last!” Then he’d have to suffer shopping for new pants at Barney’s, where he was an “irregular husky,” a size that weighed on his identity. His family was a member at the Young Israel of Parkchester, an Orthodox community composed of the lower-middle class workers of the East Bronx, many of whom were immigrants and did not have any Jewish education or background. (Professor Jeffrey Gurock, who also grew up in that community, writes about this synagogue, and my grandfather, in the introduction to his book “Orthodox Jews in America”). The youth were the hope and the pulse of the congregation. And when children became Bar or Bat Mitzvah age, they became responsible for ensuring the continuity, relevance, and vibrancy of the community.
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Originally published on eJewish Philanthropy
In his eJewish Philanthropy post last month, Toward Creativity: A Theological Goal for Jewish Education, Rabbi Daniel Lehmann raises the question of the overarching purpose of Jewish life. He argues, “Judaism calls on the human being, and the Jew in particular, to emulate God’s creative nature and to become a creative being.” He then explains that “if we take this theological proposition as a fundamental goal of Jewish living,” it becomes a “necessary focus of Jewish education.” Meaning, our institutions of Jewish education need to foster and train individuals to achieve the ultimate purpose of Jewish life, in this case, they must help train people to “tap into and unleash individual and communal creativity.”
While we are not convinced that creativity is the ultimate goal of Jewish living, we do agree with Rabbi Lehmann that it is a necessary tool toward achieving the array of potential answers to the questions that face us as a community: What does it mean to live a Jewish life in the 21st century? What does it gift us? What does it demand of us? And we agree that it is critical that we think very deliberately about the concrete links between the relationship the next generation will have with Jewish life, and the environments of growth we foster for them. This is no small challenge, and we could benefit, as Rabbi Lehmann suggests, from increased creativity as we tackle it.
I am an "affiliated" Jew. What does that mean exactly? As a kid, I attended religious school, went to Jewish camps, and was involved in youth groups. And now that I have a family of my own, we send our kids to Jewish day school, belong to the local JCC and synagogue, and have leadership roles with several Jewish agencies. I have also worked for Federation and other Jewish organizations.... You get the picture.
So how is it, then, that I also find myself on the board of UpStart, a cutting-edge organization at the forefront of innovation in the Jewish community?
The short answer is that innovation is good for Judaism, whether you participate in mainstream institutions or are seeking new, alternative paths to Jewish life; bringing these two streams together is an important part of UpStart's work. Some people hear the wordinnovation and assume it's about replacing older institutions with trendy new organizations. Wrong! UpStart's mission is to inspire and advance innovative IDEAS that contribute to the continued growth and vitality of every part of Jewish life.These ideas can come in a variety of forms, from new organizations, to new programs at seasoned organizations, or even new ways of working to ensure continued success.
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UpStart's goal is to keep Judaism relevant and in-touch for Jews in the 21st century.
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Hi! I'm Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann. I launched Mishkan Chicago to create regular opportunities for young adults to experience sacred Jewish rituals in unintimidating, intellectually, and spiritually accessible environments. Early experience demonstrated our potential to truly transform the Jewish community of Chicago, especially for disconnected young adults. However, the deeper I got into the process of starting my organization, the more I realized that I lacked the concrete business skills to successfully execute this idea in a way that would create a sustainable and successful venture.
"Where do you see Mishkan Chicago in three years? Can you articulate your vision of the future? What is your value proposition? What is your revenue model going to be? Who are your key stakeholders? Have you tested and iterated your program ideas based on the needs of your customers? Have you thought about who you need on your advisory board that would propel Mishkan Chicago forward?"
The following article appeared on November 12, 2012 on The Covenant Foundation website.
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Baltimore – Nov. 12, 2012 –
Five promising Jewish educators are the 2012 recipients of The Covenant Foundation’s Pomegranate Prize for their exceptionalism as emerging professionals in Jewish educational settings across the country.
Recipients, representing a range of educational venues, activities and approaches, are: Maya Bernstein, Strategic Design Officer at UpStart Bay Area in San Francisco; Rabbi Eliav Bock, Founding Director of Ramah Outdoor Adventure at Ramah in the Rockies in Denver; Rabbi Nicole Greninger, Director of Education at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, CA; Rabbi Barry Kislowicz, Head of School at Fuchs Mizrachi School in Beachwood, OH; and Sarah Lefton, Founding Executive Director of G-dcast in San Francisco.
The Foundation named the newest recipients of the Pomegranate Prize at its annual award ceremony here today during the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.
“We know that encouragement early on in a person’s career can make all the difference in their success,” said Keating Crown, a member of the Foundation’s founding family, as he introduced the Pomegranate Award recipients to hundreds of Jewish lay, communal and educational leaders gathered at the event.
“Our goal with this Prize is to provide the means for these already remarkable educators to further develop their skills and interests, and have the chance to get to know others who, like themselves, are bringing fresh new ideas and abundant energy to the field of Jewish education,” he said.