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The Heschel Exchange, Part 1: Rabbi Shai Held in conversation with Shmuel Rosner

Rabbi Shai Held's first exchange with Shmuel Rosner was featured in the Jewish Journal on October 1st, 2014, on the topic of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Good News for the Jews: Mechon Hadar and Project Zug in eJewish Philanthropy

It's Time to Embed. Article on Project Zug moving in-house to Mechon Hadar, on eJewish Philanthropy, by executive director of Bikkurim Aliza Mazor. Posted on October 6th, 2014.

Hearing a Mother's Pain on Rosh Hashanah: Shai Held in the Forward

Biblical Sound a Fitting End to Year of Anguish. Rabbi Shai Held's article on Rosh HaShanah in the Daily Forward, on Wednesday, September 24th, 2014. Read it here.

Rabbi Jason Rubenstein in Tablet list

We are very proud to have our own Rabbi Jason Rubenstein appear in Tablet magazine's 15 American Rabbis You Haven’t Heard Of, But Should. September 15, 2014.

Important News from Mechon Hadar and Project Zug

Mechon Hadar to House Project Zug, An Internet Start-up Connecting Jews Around The Globe. September 10, 2014.

Knowing Too Much and Not Enough: The Prayer Quandary

Our very own R. Elie Kaunfer, director of Mechon Hadar and faculty at the Jewish Theological Seminary, has written an article for the JTS Davidson School of Jewish Education. It is reproduced here.

“Lincoln’s Nigun—Yamin U’smol”

The Perfect Song to Usher in the Sabbath Queen. This review of one of Joey Weisenberg's songs is reprinted from www.jewcy.com, and written by Elissa Goldstein.

What Should Day School Students Know, And When They Should Know It?

Recently, we announced a new joint position with Mechon Hadar and Beit Rabban taken by Lisa Exler, working on a high level, egalitarian day school curiculum. This week, Lisa Exler was interviewed by the Jewish Week about the new project. Read about it here. 20th August 2014.

Nigunim Vol. IV, Brooklyn Sprituals

Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble have their fourth album of niggunim coming soon. Watch this space for details on purchasing the CD or downloads.

Creating an Organizational Ecosystem

Rabbi Ethan Tucker and Rabbi Andrew Davids discuss the recent partnership between Mechon Hadar and Beit Rabban.

Mechon Hadar and Beit Rabban Day School Announce New Partnership

Mechon Hadar and Beit Rabban Day School are excited to launch a new joint initiative that aims to sharpen goals for Jewish education in classical texts nationwide. The Curriculum Project at Mechon Hadar will bring fresh and bold thinking to the question of standards in Jewish learning while working closely with Beit Rabban to continue to advance the school’s strong program of Jewish Studies.

Interpreting Jewish Liturgy: The Literary-Intertext Method by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer is pleased to share his dissertation on Interpreting Jewish Liturgy: The Literary-Intertext Method

The Arts: In Shul, a Different Drum

Our very own Joey Weisenberg was featured in Hadassah magazine's May 2014 issue.

Joey Weisenberg "helps minyan ‘step it up a notch’"

Joey Weisenberg appeared in the New Jersey Jewish News this week about his work with the Highland Park Minyan. April 8th, 2014.

Pesach with Mechon Hadar

The Center for Jewish Leadership and Ideas at Mechon Hadar is proud to share some thoughts and...

Music as Spiritual Practice: A Conversation

Joey Weisenberg and Aryeh Bernstein in conversation in an article published in Sh'ma: A Journal of Jewish Ideas on April 1st, 2014.

Teaching Women How to Tie Tzitzit

On Sunday, March 23rd, 2014, a project funded by Mechon Hadar Alumni Microgrants ran a tzitzit tying event! Read all about its coverage in the Forward here.

Shir Hadash: A New Saturday Morning Service in Denver

Featured in eJewish Philanthropy is the story of R. Bruce Dollin setting up a new minyan in Denver, Colorado based on our very own Joey Weisenberg's work with Building Singing Communities. March 17th, 2014.

From Nachla'ot to New York: Rav Raz Hartman at Mechon Hadar

An article on Rabbi Raz Hartman's concert at Mechon Hadar appeared in the Jewish Week this week, March 12th, 2014. You can read the full article here.

The New Prayer: Article featuring R. Elie Kaunfer and Joey Weisenberg

This article by Ellen Michaud appeared on LiveHappy.com on March 4th, 2014, and published in the April edition of Live Happy magazine. It is all about praying together, and it has wise words from R. Elie Kaunfer and his book Empowered Judaism as well as Joey Weisenberg about his nigunnim. Read the full article here.

Mechon Hadar with two articles in Maariv

On January 31st 2014, two articles about Mechon Hadar were published in the Israeli newspaper Maariv in a special on the American Jewish community.

Wrestling With Heschel

The Jewish Week this week published a book review and interview by Sandee Brawarsky of Rabbi Shai Held's new book, Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence. The article was published on February 4th 2014.

Yoav Schaefer Turns Tragedy into Empowerment at Avi Schaefer Fund Symposium

This year (February 9th 2014), teachers from Mechon Hadar and elsewhere taught at the inaugural Avi Schaefer Memorial Fund Symposium. This article about the event and Avi Schaefer, by editor-in-chief Derek Kwait, appeared in New Voices on February 13th, 2014.

Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Insights Elucidated for a New Generation

Praise from Rabbi Jack Riemer about Rav Shai's new book, Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcenence. December 31st 2013.

Building a Singing Community

Read what the Jewish Week had to say about the release of Joey Weisenberg's new CD, "Nigunim Volume III: Live in the Choir Loft".

Hadar's Joey Weisenberg teaching about prayer at Bnai Jeshurun

Mechon Hadar Creative Director Joey Weisenberg will be at Congregation Bnai Jeshurun, NYC, on November 20th, 2013, for a Yom Iyyun on "Engaging in prayer as 'practice'".

Joey Weisenberg seeks to ‘reinvigorate the Jewish world through song’

Joey Weisenberg was interviewed by the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle this week in honor of his upcoming visit to Beth Israel Center in Madison, Wisconsin, November 8th-9th.

Torah that Nourishes: An artice by Rabbi Aviva Richman

Rabbi Aviva Richman has an article in JewSchool this week about making our food part of the Torah with which we live.

The Challenge and Potential of Shabbat in Communities

 Rabbi Elie Kaunfer considers what Shabbat means in the modern world, and how emerging...

An Interview with Rabbi Elie Kaunfer

R' Elie Kaunfer recenty spoke with Western Massachusetts Jewish Ledger. Here's an excerpt from the...

High Holiday Services Are Boring. Here’s How We Can Fix Them.

High Holiday services are a slog. All right, not at every synagogue, not all the time, not for everybody. But it’s true widely and often enough that most of you are nodding to yourselves. Granted, services aren’t meant to entertain us every minute. But which of the 613 commandments prescribe boredom?

As we approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which bring more Jews to services than any other time of year, let’s have a little candor about monotony in synagogue. Maybe if we acknowledge what we all know deep down to be true, we can figure out how to make services less listless for everybody. Wouldn’t that be a meaningful way to mark the New Year?

We need to engage Jews like Zuckerberg

American Jewish leader says US Jews have failed to educate youth in a way that can ensure communal continuity.

Rabbi Shai Held speaks at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem

Rabbi Shai Held speaks as part of the Avi Shaefer Fund's Symposium at the Van Leer Institute on the Jewish significance of the Jewish State, in a panel with AB Yehoshua, Rahel Elior, and others. 11-minute video.

Rabbi Jason Rubenstein Creating a Diverse Beit Midrash in Baltimore

The hubbub of the Chizuk Amuno beit midrash on Tuesday nights has demonstrated that the Torah is alive — today and right here in Baltimore. But peek through the door, and what you’ll find is not two men bent over a Talmud, but eight unlikely pairs: eight high school students and eight people their parents’ age.

A Day of Learning in DC on Jews and Power: Ambivalence or Embrace

By 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago, some 100 Washingtonians, most dressed in Sunday jeans, with some leftover yawns of the night before, pulled up to the Washington DC Jewish Community Center to start their day. While the fitness center is the usual destination at that hour on that day, that weekend the crowd was there to work their minds and spirituality. The event was the first ever "yom iyun" (day of study), "Jews and Power: Ambivalence or Embrace," hosted by Mechon Hadar, an egalitarian educational institution based in New York City that focuses on Jewish practice, Torah study and prayer...

Mechon Hadar featured on Jim Joseph's website

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.

Towards a Pluralism of Substance

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.”

From Founder’s Dilemma to Founders’ Advantage

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.

The Settler's Spiritual Fathers

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.

If I Forget Thee?

“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.

Hitting Refresh on Jewish Spiritual Communities

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.

Israel Discourse that’s True to Reality and True to Tradition

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.

Cantors Changing Tune To Stay Relevant

In Conservative and Reform movements, more song-leading and a blurring line between chazzan and rabbi.

Jewish Education “in a Café, Under a Tree, or in a Dorm”

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.

New S.F. minyan embraces idea of ‘empowered Judaism’

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.

Getting the Jews Up and Singing

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.

The Female Talmudists

Rosh Yeshiva Avital Hochstein is quoted in an article from the Jerusalem Post. A small but growing number of women’s schools in Israel are providing talmudic education to their students.

High Praise for Summer Institute

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.

Book Review of Joey Weisenberg's Building Singing Communities

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.

Make a Bolder Investment

In an essay to the Jewish Federation of North America's Global Planning Table, Rabbi Elie Kaunfer urges people to "bet the house" on Hebrew literacy.

Y.U. students pursue unorthodox studies - New Voices

If Yeshiva University is “the flagship institution of Modern Orthodoxy,” as it is often called, then Mechon Hadar is the flagship institution of the traditional egalitarian set, a not-quite-movement made up mostly of independent minyanim concentrated in a few major cities. To most students at Y.U., Hadar—which runs America’s only full-time egalitarian yeshiva—would appear to be obviously out of bounds, but a few supplement their Y.U. education with the more liberal, mixed-gender learning available at Hadar.

Authenically Egalitarian - Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, The Forward

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?

Learning to Speak the Captor's Language- Rabbi Elie Kaunfer - May 23, 2012,Jewish Exponent

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?

The Torah of Chesed: Why I Became A Kidney Donor - By Dr. Devora Steinmetz, Mechon Hadar Faculty

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...

Speakingin the Language of the Captors - Rabbi Elie Kaunfer (Sh'ma, May 2012)

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.

Joey Weisenberg's Table Top Rythmn's for Jewish Singing-The Huffington Post, May 3, 2012

Check out an article and videos about Joey Weisenberg's project, Table Top Rythmns for Jewish Singing, featured in The Huffington Post.

Community Shabbaton will cross denominational lines - (Pittsburgh) Jewish Chronicle, April 25, 2012

A dozen local congregations and Jewish institutions will join together May 4 to 6 for a weekend of learning and ritual at the Pittsburgh Community Shabbaton at Congregation Beth Shalom.
Rabbi Ethan Tucker and Dena Weiss, faculty members of Mechon Hadar, an egalitarian yeshiva in New York City, will lead the weekend’s study sessions.

Interview about Yeshivat Hadar on Galey Zahal Israeli Radio

'מחשבות בע"מ' עם איתן ליפשיץ (זה שדיבר) ומשה שלונסקי. ימי שישי, שמונה בבוקר,  גלי...

Davening Outside the Box - New Jersey Jewish Standard, March 2, 2012

  Davening outside the box Alternate prayer groups take root in northern New Jersey ...

R' Ethan Tucker: Jack Lew and the Power of Shabbat

Jack Lew and the Power of Shabbat Obama's Chief of Staff Will Find Ways To Serve and Observe
Jack Lew is the new White House chief of staff. How will he as an Orthodox Jew deal with issues like shabbat?

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer Asserts: Torah speaks to all Jews

We are all here together, searching for the new model, the new method, the new way to engage the next generation and inspire the current one. And all we know for certain is that the old models, the old ways of doing business, simply don’t hold.

Today I want to push us forward by challenging an old assumption: Jewish continuity is the end goal, and everything is in service of that goal.

Twenty years ago the 1990 National Jewish Population Study found an unprecedented rate of intermarriage. It launched 1,000 ships of Jewish identity efforts in the service of ensuring Jewish continuity. In our current language everything is in service of Jewish identity. Birthright strengthens Jewish identity. Day schools strengthen Jewish identity. Summer camps strengthen Jewish identity.

Our theory is: Strengthen Jewish identity, and Judaism will continue.  But here’s the problem: In our zeal to ensure the Jewish future, we forgot to articulate why it matters for Judaism to continue.

Twitter offers 'radical connectivity' at GA

More than any of the content at this year’s General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, what fascinated me was the effect of social media – particularly Twitter – on the conference itself, and more broadly, on the Jewish community. Although this was my seventh GA as a reporter, I’m a relative newbie to Twitter, having opened my account in June. Before the Nov. 6-8 meeting in Denver, Colo., I’d never tweeted from an event I was covering. I discovered that not only was it not considered rude to use my Blackberry while presenters were speaking, it was encouraged. One moderator instructed us, “Please feel free to tweet throughout the session. It will enliven our discussion. It will spread the word.”

Op-Ed: Return Torah to its place of glory

I want to challenge one of the mainstay assumptions of organized Jewish life: Jewish continuity is the end goal, and everything is in service of that goal.

It’s been 20 years since the release of the 1990 National Jewish Population Study, which found an unprecedented rate of intermarriage. It launched 1,000 ships of Jewish identity efforts in the service of ensuring Jewish continuity. Indeed, in our current language, everything is in service of Jewish identity. Birthright strengthens Jewish identity. Day schools strengthen Jewish identity. Summer camps strengthen Jewish identity.

Our theory: Strengthen Jewish identity and Judaism will continue.

Federations called 'the original social network'

The Jewish community must abandon the paradigm of Jewish continuity as an end in itself, Rabbi Elie Kaunfer told an audience of almost 3,000 delegates at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) last Sunday afternoon in Denver. The 80th annual GA, a three-day event, had representatives from 115 federations and six networked communities, said Judy Silverman, a co-chair of the gathering.

The Book Bench: Loose Leafs from the New Yorker Books Department

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, the co-founder and executive director of Mechon Hadar, a traditional Jewish educational institute on the Upper West Side, said that arguments commonly arise in orthodox communities when congregants who are otherwise observant use their devices on the Sabbath. (There’s a term for this style of observance: “Keeping half-Shabbos.”) At Mechon Hadar’s yeshiva, where Kaunfer runs prayers three times a day during the week, he sees people use their devices to pray on: “It’s a little jarring,” he told me, “because you don’t know if they’re communing with God or checking e-mail.”

Making Room for Established Startups

Slingshot adds ‘standard bearer’ to its list of innovative Jewish nonprofits, addressing challenges of second-stage funding.

Slingshot names top 50 Jewish innovators, plus 10

Slingshot added a Top 10 list to its newly released annual guide to innovative Jewish programming in North America. A list of 10 top “standard bearers” was added to the annual list of the 50 “most inspiring and innovative organizations, projects, and programs in the North American Jewish community today” by Slingshot, a project of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies.

One Take on Slingshot: Why Rabbis are Still Important

Rabbis lead eleven of the sixty organizations named yesterday to the annual Slingshot Guide of the most innovative Jewish organizations. Four of these organizations are new additions to the list this year. An additional two organizations were led by rabbis at the time of the application.

Denver's Minyan Na'aleh is lay-led, informal Jewish prayer community

The scene that will play out just after sundown this evening in a room at BMH-BJ Synagogue in south Denver will seem typical.

A group of more than 50 men and women will recite Kol Nidre​ as a prelude to Yom Kippur, the most holy day on the Jewish calendar.

But this opening to Day of Atonement services is anything but ordinary. It will be one of the few times during the year that Minyan Na'aleh assembles anywhere other than the east Denver homes of its members.

The Jewish Happiness Project

Much of ‘positive psychology’ has its roots in Judaism.

Religion's Most Urgent Problem

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These words of a now sadly forgotten religious Zionist figure have everything to do with the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

US: 3 Jewish educators win Covenant Awards

Three Jewish educators have been named the recipients of the prestigious 2011 Covenant Awards for excellence in Jewish education and innovation. The Covenant Awards are given by the Covenant Foundation, a program of the Crown Family Foundation and the Jewish Education Service of North America. The program honors outstanding Jewish educators and supports creative approaches to Jewish education.

Q&A: Joey Weisenberg and the Hazan of the Future

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Joey Weisenberg, 29, is the musical director at the Kane Street Synagogue in Brooklyn and is in charge of musical education at Yeshivat Hadar in Manhattan. He plays guitar, mandolin and percussion and sings in 10 different bands, is an artist-fellow at the 14th Street Y’s LABA program and a faculty member at KlezKanada. He also teaches music privately. He does all this, and still spends half or more of his time teaching congregations around the country how to build singing communities and conduct spontaneous choirs.

Visiting rabbi to keynote 'Empowered Judaism'

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Rabbi Elie Kaunfer is being called an “it” rabbi. He’s been named by Newsweek magazine as one of the top 50 rabbis in America. As co-founder of Mechon Hadar, an education institution seeking to empower Jews to create and sustain vibrant, practicing, egalitarian communities of Torah learning, prayer and service, he is gaining quite a following. “You’ve got to read his book,” said Jill Maidhof, the associate executive director of the Jewish Community Center who is also serving as interim head of its adult Jewish learning department.

Rabbi Shai Held Wins Prestigious Covenant Award

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The Covenant Foundation announced today that Rabbi Shai Held, co-founder, dean and chair in Jewish Thought at Mechon Hadar, has won the prestigious Covenant Award. Selected from hundreds of nominees, Shai was chosen "for committing to excellence in Jewish education and pursuing innovative approaches that inspire and empower students, colleagues and community."

Jewish Singing: A Practical Guide to Fostering Communal Music

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Music changes when other people enter the scene, often miraculously and for the better. The same note I was playing on the guitar by myself an hour ago sounds drastically different when it combines with a drummer's beats. The note I'm singing might sound like a different note altogether when somebody sings an unexpected harmony. Or, that note I played might gain a brand new energy when I know somebody else is listening or whispering "bravo"! Theoreticians describe the interactions of musical overtones, but mostly what I feel is the interactions of energies. Often these energies add up to much more than the sum of their parts. What's more, they create a combined, unpredictable magic that can only be experienced once, for next time it will change. Shared music, in short, is ephemeral, a product of the here and now.

Emergent Judaism

Alternative "prayer" communities that have broken free of denominational bonds are sparking the involvement of Generation Y.

CCAR Journal Review of Empowered Judaism

One of the advantages of getting older is that one can personally experience social changes. I remember as a child in the fifties having friends who belonged to the local Conservative synagogue who went to Hebrew school four afternoons a week. When I visited them at their services, I was struck by the absence of women on the bimah. On the other hand, I also had an Orthodox friend. When we had to work on a messy task together, we both wore pants. Her mother didn’t cover her head, except for the fancy hats she wore to shul. Today, of course, none of these observations hold true. The center of the Conservative Movement has shifted to the left, while mainstream Orthodoxy has moved to the right. As the gap has widened, different groups and organizations are trying to fill the vacuum. Perhaps the most intriguing and dynamic is the confederation of independent minyanim, which strive to be both halachic and also egalitarian, and attract mainly Jews in their twenties and thirties. The granddaddy of these minyanim is Kehilat Hadar in Manhattan. Now, one of the founders of that minyan, Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, has written a book about his minyan. Empowered Judaism is both a philosophical justification of these minyanim and a how-to for creating one’s own Hadar-style minyan.

המהפכה היהודית – גרסת ארצות הברית

בישיבת "הדר" באפר-ווסט במנהטן לומדים מהמקורות. ישיבה לכל דבר, בהבדל אחד. הלימוד משותף לבנות ולבנים. לימוד בחברותא. לימוד לשם לימוד משום שמי שמגיע לשם מחפש זהות יהודית. גם יש קהילת "הדר", שגם בה התפילה יוצרת עונג שבת לא מוכר. הנוסח אורתודוקסי לחלוטין.

A 'Knead' To Bake

“It blew me away on a spiritual plane,” says Rabbi Ethan Tucker of matzah-making. Rabbi Tucker, who co-heads Yeshivat Hadar, the egalitarian learning institution on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, will host the organization’s first matzah workshop on April 13 from 6-9 p.m. at Shaare Zedek on West 93rd Street. Rabbi Tucker baked matzah for the first time in 2003, while studying in northern Israel as a rabbinical student. “In the past I had either bought matzah off the shelf in a store, or went to a factory that was not in my community — which was like an anthropological experience,” says Rabbi Tucker. But after that first experience, “I haven’t been able to go back,” he says.

Philanthropy Watch: Jewish Start-Ups Continue To Grow

New study finds number of innovative projects up dramatically in last two years. Wednesday, April...

Cong. Torat El - Monday Morning Message

by Rabbi Aaron Schonbrun Posted on March 21, 2011, Rabbi's Corner This week I wanted to call...

Marking a Centennial And Worrying About the Future

If I were hard-pressed to describe the state of American Jewish life today in 10 words or less, I surely couldn’t top Steven M. Cohen’s assessment: “We are demographically distressed and culturally creative.” And that’s with three words to spare.

Solomon Schechter studies Torah with Mechon Hadar

The seventh-graders sat around the tables in the bet midrash — study hall and synagogue — of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford. They were studying from hand-outs of rabbinic texts. At each table was a guest, a fellow at New York City’s Mechon Hadar. Together, the students discussed the texts in front of them in light of questions posed by Rabbi Ethan Tucker, co-founder and rosh yeshiva of Mechon Hadar.

Ethan Tucker: Torah belongs to Jews, not denominations

Rabbi Ethan Tucker has created an institution, Mechon Hadar, that combines the free-form Torah study of the Orthodox yeshiva with the co-ed, egalitarian ethos of liberal Conservative Judaism. Mechon Hadar identifies with neither denomination although its faculty, students, and lay leaders overlap with both.

USCJ Wants To Bring ‘Indie Minyans’ Into the Fold. But Will They Join?

In a bid to revitalize its aging and shrinking congregations, Conservative Judaism is embarking on an effort to draw prayer groups from the burgeoning independent minyan scene into the Conservative fold. But it’s far from clear if the prayer groups are interested in what the Conservative movement is selling. The draft strategic plan issued by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in February set outreach to the independent minyanim as a goal of the movement. Though their numbers are small — a 2009 survey cited about 60 new lay-led independent minyanim in the United States and Canada — the Conservative leadership says that it sees in their membership a highly committed young cohort whose background and worship style are closer to the Conservative movement than to any other denomination.

Interdependent Minyanim

A saving grace of Jewish prayer is the way it is decentralized. It is not required to take place in a certain space or structure, nor is it dependent on a specific, sanctioned leader. Just 10 people (10 men, for the Orthodox) are really all that’s needed — a minyan, along with prayer books, a Torah, whatever personal ritual items one uses, and wine for Kiddush. The expansive, multi-purpose building we have come to associate especially with the suburban synagogue, the “shul with a pool,” is a relatively modern invention. “Judaism has always been a religion of grassroots community organizing, and the rabbinic model of the 20th-century synagogue is perhaps the most foreign to the traditional Jewish heritage,” writes Rabbi Elie Kaunfer in his book “Empowered Judaism.”

Generation F

Her grandparents — “cultural” Jews on one side of the family, more traditional on the other — came to the United States from the Old Country a century ago and didn’t change their level of religious observance (or non-observance) during their lives. Their spiritual lives were a straight line. Her parents, newly married, moved to Westchester County in the early 1970s, joined a Reform temple and never left it. Their spiritual lives were also a straight line. Abby Sher’s spiritual life is a curve.

Empowerment and Authority

“What can changes in the American philanthropic/nonprofit sector tell us about Judaism and American life?” When that question was discussed this week at the Association for Jewish Studies conference in Boston, many of the answers revolved around the twin issues of authority and “empowerment.” One panelist invoked Elie Kaunfer’s important book Empowered Judaism, which speaks of “a Judaism in which people begin to take responsibility for creating Jewish community, without waiting on the sidelines.” As this trend advances, goes the argument, there will be a corresponding decline in traditional authority. In some eyes this amounts to nothing less than Haskalah 2.0, a transformative new “enlightenment” much like the initial encounter between Judaism and modernity.

Lighting the darkness in our soul

We are all of us afraid of the dark. At night, anxieties suppressed or repressed come swimming to the surface: Am I safe? Am I loved? Am I needed? Is there meaning in the world, or ultimately is it all just a swirl of chaos? For some of us much of the time, and for all of us some of the time, darkness suggests peril and instability, the sense that life is fleeting, tenuous, random and senseless. Physical darkness threatens, at least at moments, to conjure existential darkness: It is dark, and I am alone and afraid.

diaTribe Review: "Empowered Judaism"

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Is it just me, or are congregations around the country all of a sudden (or maybe not all of a sudden) waking up and realizing they’re missing a whole age group? As a twenty-something, I’ve been asked multiple times in the past couple of years to share my thoughts with Jewish institutions – and not because they necessarily want a broad cross-section of Jewish backgrounds, but because I’m a JYA: Jewish Young Adult, and they’re looking for guidance on how best to reach us.

On Providing both Physical and Spiritual Sustenance

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Now, as for Torah... I'm delighted to report that, on Wednesday, we launched an innovative educational partnership with New York's fatuckermed Mechon Hadar. Rabbi Ethan Tucker, their Rosh Yeshivah, led a dynamic Beit Midrash-style study session that engaged our Middle School in a model of inquiry-based learning (photo, right). Using various Jewish texts, Rabbi Tucker guided our students in a lively exchange and debate on ancient and current issues regarding Kashrut and Halakhah. Through this spirited intellectual give-and-take, our students discovered new and deeper meanings for our daily practices.

Beyond Maimonides' 8 Levels of Giving

How much charity should I give and whom should I give it to? These are two questions I spent some time thinking about at this year’s General Assembly in New Orleans. They seem basic enough, but they are incredibly complex.

Generational Divide in Jewish Life Is Overstated

Professor Jack Wertheimer’s recent report on Jewish leaders in their 20s and 30s (see “Exploring the Generation Gap Among Jewish Leaders”) is a critical step forward to understanding the fundamental shifts in perspective of a new generation. Yet, as one of those interviewed for the study, I believe two of his conclusions are misplaced, and unnecessarily pit the “older establishment” against the “younger non-establishment.” The reality is much more complex.

Mechon Hadar Named to Slingshot '10-'11

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We are proud to announce that Mechon Hadar has been named as one of the 50 most inspirational Jewish organizations in North America in Slingshot '10-'11.

Rethinking Egalitarianism

Recently I met up with a Jewish academic from New York who had relocated to a midsize Jewish community in the South. In New York, he and his family had attended B’nai Jeshurun, the huge, well-known liberal congregation on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. But in his new home, the options were less attractive: He described them as a “lame” Conservative synagogue, a “dead” Reform synagogue and a Modern Orthodox congregation in the suburbs.

Women's Whispers: Ten Righteous Souls

Washington was the city of storms last winter. Drifting white avalanches flattened the accumulated cynicisms of the capital, a wordless prophetic damnation. One Shabbat morning, we looked out and saw the snow had fallen higher than a woman’s thigh. I would have wrapped myself one fold tighter into my eiderdown and dreamed a day of rest. But my daughter Meira and I had made a promise in full knowledge of the blizzard, to rise and make ready for our minyan, Segulah.

Chilean Miner Rescue, Celebration Gives New Meaning to Old Prayers

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In traditional Jewish prayer, you say the same phrases with exacting precision over and over again each day. As someone who prays daily, it is rare for me to experience the fixed words of prayer in a new light. But then I saw these ancient prayers through the eyes of the rescued Chilean miners. Their jubilant exclamations after emerging above ground gave new meaning to the concept of "resurrecting the dead" and "crossing the Red Sea," both cornerstones of Jewish prayer.

The Gift of Rest - Senator Joseph Lieberman and R' Ethan Tucker -- Audio and Video Now Available!

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Sunday January 8, 7:30-9pm
An evening of conversation and learning around the topic of Shabbat. Senator Lieberman's recent book, The Gift of Rest, will serve as the centerpiece of our conversation, which will weave together political anecdotes and thoughtful consideration of rabbinic halakhah and aggadah about Shabbat. What is the role of Shabbat in the contemporary world? How can rigorous Jewish observance integrate into public life? When conflicts arise surrounding Shabbat observance, how can we deal with them?

 
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