Throughout the country, more than 300 graduates of Mechon Hadar are now building and leading communities of prayer and learning. They have been empowered to create and sustain vibrant, practicing, egalitarian communities of Torah learning, prayer, and service.
Many factors combined to create this cadre of dedicated and passionate peer educators. And while Mechon Hadar did not appear overnight, its growth and success demonstrate what can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time.
Does pluralism help or hurt the goal of fostering feelings of peoplehood? It depends on what we mean by “pluralism.”
Pluralism is a difficult concept to define. In the March 2006 edition of Sh’ma, Susan Shevitz helpfully distinguishes between “coexistence pluralism” and “generative pluralism.” In the former, “people and groups holding different positions can still work toward shared goals.” In the latter, “Jews need to encounter people and ideas that are different from their own…and generate new approaches that draw from a multiplicity of perspectives.”
When someone asks me for advice these days about launching a Jewish start-up, I always ask first: “Who is your partner?” In my mind, this is much more important than the brilliance of the new idea or even the potential sources of funding. Launching a start-up is daunting, but launching a start-up alone is extraordinarily difficult.
Shai Held, Ethan Tucker and I launched Mechon Hadar in 2006 as equal partners. We had already known each other for a decade, and had worked together at Kehilat Hadar (as volunteer leaders) since 2001. In 2009, Avital Campbell Hochstein joined us, and together we formed Mechon Hadar’s executive team. The partnership model of leadership certainly has its own challenges, but ultimately I am not sure how we could have expanded to the readiness for second stage any other way.
Tablet Magazine’s Liel Leibovitz speaks to Rabbi Shai Held, co-founder and dean of Mechon Hadar, an egalitarian yeshiva in New York, about the Kooks, the history of the religious Zionist movement, and why it is such a force in Israeli politics and culture today.
“Between Israel and the Diaspora: Where Do Jews Belong?” This was the theme of a “special day of learning” last Wednesday at Mechon Hadar, an innovative and dynamic institution on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that describes itself as “the first full-time egalitarian yeshiva in North America.” Most of the hundred or so participants in the program were college students from all across the country, for whom the special day was something of an interlude in the two-week seminar on “the people, land, and state of Israel,” in which they are still immersed. What made the day special was, in part, the presence of a few dozen other people, including much older people, who responded to the invitation to the general public to attend.
Rabbi Shai Held recently published the following article in the Jewish Review of Books.
"The book of Genesis never tells us why God fell in love with Abram. Jewish tradition has often tried to fill in the blanks, to tell us something about the patriarch that would explain God's embrace of him and his descendants. Surely, at least some of the rabbinic sages seem to have thought, Abram must have done something to earn God's affection? The most famous answer is that Abram fearlessly destroyed his father's idols, exposing the theological bankruptcy of idolatry. So celebrated and widespread is this story that many Jews are shocked to learn that it is not found in the Bible itself...."
This year marks the publication of the eighth edition of Slingshot, a resource guide for Jewish innovation. While not a scientific study of the field, the guide offers one of the longest lenses on innovation in the contemporary Jewish community, providing insight into where innovation has occurred and also where it is most needed.
An op-ed by Rabbi Jason Rubenstein American Jewish conversations about Israel are all too often repetitive, divisive, shrill, and superficial. There’s a better, truer mode of conversation: one that engenders moral and emotional honesty and nuance, that connects us to one another and to our shared sources of guidance and meaning. This model is nowhere better embodied than in the Talmud’s sustained engagement with Israel, as it consistently – and to many, surprisingly – speaks to the present in refreshing, evocative, and enlightening imagery and ideas.
In some ways, newly hired educators Jordan Magidson, Jessica Shimberg, and Zac Johnson each fit the expected profile for a Jewish educator. Magidson, who started work as a Nadiv Educator at URJ Camp Kalsman and Temple de Hirsch Sinai, completed a Master’s in Jewish Education from Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. Rabbi Shimberg, currently Associate Director for Jewish Life and Learning at University of Maryland Hillel, received rabbinic ordination at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Rabbi Johnson, currently a Director of Jewish Enrichment in BBYO’s Western regions, is an alumnus of the Shalom Hartman Institute and Yeshivat Hadar’s summer program.
Participants in the Kehillah San Francisco minyan during tashlich at Stern Grove in San Francisco photo/julie bannerman
The minyan was founded by a group made up of some members of San Francisco’s Congregation Emanu-El who were unhappy when 20-year veteran Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan’s contract was not renewed by the congregation in late 2010.
The minyan has seen interest in its model grow and its number of participants increase, including many who are older than is typical in an independent minyan, with children in high school, college and beyond. But expansion is not a primary goal of the budding venture.
It’s a most unlikely place for a musical revolution, a studio tucked into an apartment building in a quiet block in Carroll Gardens, at the intersection of a residential neighborhood and a string of mom-and-pop stores of the sort Brooklyn still has in its quieter corners.
Joey Weisenberg, whose studio (along with the dozens and dozens of musical instruments it contains) this is, is an unlikely revolutionary; he’s a sweet-faced young man who is celebrating is 31st birthday by speaking to a journalist about his vision of a more user-friendly 21st-century synagogue, one built around singing and spontaneity, combining two millennia of Jewish and liturgy with the modern energies of an actively participating congregation.
From July 9th through the 18th nine teachers of Rabbinic literature and other Judaic Studies subjects participated in the Executive Seminar, followed by four additional days of intensive learning. They hailed from nine different Schechter schools across the United States. This pilot program, initiated by the Schechter Day School Network, was a highly successful collaboration with Mechon Hadar that was funded in part by a grant from the Avi Chai Foundation.
This book, launched together with an accompanying CD (Joey’s Nigunim: Spontaneous Jewish Choir) which is sold separately, is timely and much needed. To use it, however, you have to be willing to take a plunge, for Weisenberg—Music Director at the Kane Street Synagogue in Brooklyn, NY and Music Faculty member at Yeshivat Hadar in Manhattan—describes a vision of synagogue-singing/praying that most of us have never witnessed.
I am a Jewish feminist because my mom decided to put on a tallit and tefillin when I was 10. I remember that she asked my younger brother and me if we were okay with this decision. After all, she was also our teacher at Jewish day school, and worried that the other kids might make fun of us. But we were supportive — and it seemed to make sense, given my mother’s deep connection to prayer and Jewish ritual. Why should she be denied the same opportunity as the males in the family?
Revelation is often considered the most intimate moment between God and the Jewish people. It is compared to a wedding, the culmination of a love affair, albeit a complicated one.
But what if revelation were not a model for exclusive attachment but a narrative of universal relevance? How might that change our understanding of law-giving on Mount Sinai?
Last Sunday afternoon, I was wheeled into an operating room in Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva, an anesthesiologist said laila tov, and a surgeon removed my left kidney, which was brought to an adjoining operating room and put into the abdomen of a twenty-three year old Israeli dental student from Georgia, FSU, whom I met for the first time three months ago...