The Latest From The Foundation

Dispatches from the network and updates from the Foundation.

View Category

Wexner Graduate Fellowship/Davidson Scholars Program


America, it seems, is rediscovering the Bible’s approach to idolatry – but it is the Rabbinic approach that is most desperately needed in our time. We simply cannot afford to see our diverse society with its very significant political and ideological differences in biblical terms.

The inverse of my daughter’s question about the stars (“Why are they there?”) is “Why are we here?” Why are we mortals here on Earth, if not to steward and safeguard this planet so that future generations can live here safely? We are here now, imbued with ru’ah, that miraculous word connoting breath, spirit, and wind, to ensure that our children and our children’s children will also, simply, be here.

Jews are remarkably resilient because we cling to hope and make difficult decisions for the sake of our descendants. We plant fruit trees for the next generation. We build endowments. We take action. And we pull back from it all for Shabbat and holidays. We have seeded ideas that billions of people worldwide have adopted, and the Jewish community and Israel can lead on climate issues as well.

As I was integrating the reality of living in this moment of climate emergency, I was having conversations with friends and colleagues about how the American Jewish community was not fully mobilizing our people and power to confront this crisis at the scale that is needed. This is the existential crisis of our time and the Jewish community, for a variety of reasons, has not been fully showing up.

After reviewing findings with the Rosov team, we have determined, in conversation with our partners at the William Davidson Foundation, to take some time to reflect on the data, reimagining and possibly redesigning the fellowship program to meet the needs and demands of a new generation of emerging Jewish leaders. To focus on this deep work, we will not accept a new WGF/DS class for the 2022/2023 academic year.

It is expensive to be Jewish. It is today and it always has been. The cost of being Jewish poses one of the most significant threats to the vibrancy and vitality of our community. As a forward-looking community interested in our future strength, we have an obligation to address the issue of the cost of Jewish life – and particularly the cost of education.

So, when we talk about the prohibitive expense of living a Jewish life, the question is do we not have enough funds to support a community that makes it affordable for everyone to participate, or is it that we have not moved enough hearts to inspire abundant giving?

I don’t have any easy solutions and yet I hope that the lessons we have learned from this pandemic will push us all to think in new ways about old problems. Let’s commit to radical accessibility, radical welcoming, and making it as easy and compelling to opt into Jewish life as it is to visit a museum in Denmark in pajamas.

Caught off guard, and not sure that as a 24-year-old graduate student I was in a position to opine authoritatively about the Jewish future, I tossed out the first coherent thought I could generate: “I think the Jewish community of the future will be smaller and also more intensely Jewish.”

It can be comforting to hear that what we feel is timeless, a universal and inevitable aspect of the human experience. Sometimes, a quiet moment with a line of ancient poetry or prayer can be just the salve.