Congratulations to Ariel Beery, our own Bronfman finalist, for making the top five list in Charles Bronfman’s big idea contest for Jewish communal innovation at Brandeis University.
UPDATE: Ariel’s proposal will soon be joined by the proposals of Yehuda Kurtzer and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who have kindly agreed to share them on this blog!
Among his illustrious competitors are:
- Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of Kosher Sex and television’s “Shalom in the Home,” and founder of the Jewish Values Network— project: “Bringing Judaism to the Mainstream”
- You can read more about Rabbi Shmuley’s idea here where he says: “Why have we failed? I believe the principal reason is the false choice that the American Jewish community has imposed upon its constituents. In essence, one is always forced to choose between the Jewish and the mainstream community… We can make Judaism and Jewish values so central to American life that wherever anyone turns to TV, radio, the Internet or print, they will bump into something Jewish.”
- Anita Diamant, author of The Red Tent and founder of the Mayyim Hayyim mikvah– project: “Minhag America”
- Note Diamant’s use of the term “minhag America” in this Jewish Standard article. She says, “We are creating a new Judaism, minhag America, a strong, healthy, creative American Judaism”
- Minhag America is the 1847 prayerbook created by Max Lilienthal as a national American prayerbook
- Yehuda Kurtzer, instructor at Hebrew College’s Rabbinical School and Harvard PhD candidate– project: “The Sacred Task of Rebuilding Jewish Memory”
- Saul Singer, columnist and editor for the Jerusalem Post– project: “From Survival to Purpose”
- You can read more about Singer’s idea in his own words here, where he says: ” We have forgotten that our purpose is not to survive; our survival is to advance our purpose”
Keep reading to learn what the finalists have in common.
Choosing a Winner: What You Can Expect
The finalists were selected from 231 candidates, 49 of whom were rabbis, 19 were lawyers, and 50 were international from Australia, India, Italy, Sweden, and Israel.
We look forward to learning more on February 24th, when finalists will present their ideas in a symposium. Each session will be 15 minutes with a 15 minute question and answer session.
What Can We Learn From These Nominees?
What conclusions can we draw from this list of five finalists? A preliminary assessment tells us the following:
- Wordsmiths— All are authors or known in some way for their writing
- Media Savvy— All five are already well known in the Jewish world for their thinking and voices. They have established personae and have proven to be media savvy
- Movers and Shakers— Ariel Beery, Rabbi Boteach, and Anita Diamant have founded Jewish institutions (the PresenTense Institute for Creative Zionism, the Jewish Values Network, and Mayyim Hayyim, respectively– among others)
- Geography— Diamant and Kurtzer are Boston based. Beery is from New York but has deep connections with Israel having lived there and served in the Israel Defense Forces. Rabbi Boteach is from California. Presumably Singer is in Jerusalem, although I haven’t been able to find much personal information about him
- Forward Thinking— It seems from their titles that four of the five proposals (excluding Kurtzer) are focused on future strategic thinking and making Judaism more accessible– but we can’t say for sure until we read them
What else have you noticed about the finalists? What do they have in common? Were they whom you expected? The types of proposals you expected? What does it tell us that 181 proposals came from the United States?
Voicing Your Thoughts: Inviting Proposals
A reminder that I am still welcoming your proposals and ideas for Jewish communal innovation, whether they were officially submitted to the Brandeis contest or not.
The series is still in publication and your voice is welcome. Please e-mail me for more information at: mnorton [at] TheNewJew.org.
A Personal Note
As you may already know, I am still sick and am not up to post writing right now (believe me, this is for the good of my readers). Please stay tuned for more high priority issues in the world of Jewish philanthropy when I return next week.
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