Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture
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Memorial Foundation Board Briefings - Recent News December 2009

December 12, 2006

AUSTRALIAN NAHUM GOLDMANN FELLOWSHIP

The eighteenth Nahum Goldmann Fellowship, the third organized in Australia by the Foundation, took place in Melbourne in late November. The program generally adhered to the concept that the Foundation has established earlier for the Fellowship. However it also differed in very significant ways from past programs, which were responsible both for its uniqueness and success.

Firstly and most critically, the fellowship, which preceded the annual meeting of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the roof organization of the Australian Jewish community, was organized in cooperation with that body. Mr. Graham Leonard, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, a member of the Memorial Foundation’s Board, and the Australian fellows worked together with the Foundation in developing the program.

The objective in holding both meetings together was that the fellows, after their seminar, not only participate in the leading conference of the central body of Australian Jewry, but also become fully integrated into its program. Our goal and hope was that they subsequently become active both in their local communities and in national Jewish life as well. The idea, strongly endorsed by Graham Leonard, was also warmly embraced by the other leaders of Australian Jewry.

Secondly, and equally significant, the fellowship, was wholly planned and operated by the fellows, led by Yair Miller, an alumnus of the second Australian Nahum Goldmann Fellowship in 2003 and the Southeast Asian program in 2005 and currently Vice President of the Sydney Jewish community, and Lynda Dave, who has served as coordinator of our international Nahum Goldmann programs over the last several years. They provided excellent leadership for this undertaking from the very inception of its planning.

The growing role of the fellows in the planning and execution of the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship alumni is part of an ongoing process the Foundation has strongly encouraged and supported. The Foundation worked in close cooperation with Graham Leonard, Yair and Lynda to insure that the ECAJ meeting included a serious and meaningful encounter between the fellows, who came from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Canberra, Gold Coast, and Auckland, New Zealand, and the leaders of Australian Jewry.

We received very positive feedback from all who participated - the fellows, leaders of the Australian Jewish community and the faculty. Graham Leonard reported that he and the ECAJ’s leadership believed that the eighteenth Nahum Goldmann Fellowship in Australia was an important precedent for Australian Jewry and can serve as a model as well for Jewish communities all around the world.

Dr. Steven Bayme, Director of the Department of Contemporary Jewish Life at the American Jewish Committee, one of the scholars who served on the faculty, wrote to me that “the Australian Nahum Goldmann Fellowship filled a need that clearly was not being met by local Jewish communities.

The case of Australia provides very specific gratification because having been organized there twice at the initiative of the Memorial Foundation, the Fellowship was embraced by the local Jewish community. This ought to raise expectations at the Foundation about its role within the Jewish people internationally, and should also raise the expectations of other Jewish communities to see the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship as a critical asset for their own communal development.”

 

From Individual Redefinition To Collective Action: THE EVOLUTION OF THE NAHUM GOLDMANN CONCEPT

When the Foundation conceived the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship, the major emphasis was placed on exposing the Fellows to impeccable Jewish learning of the highest quality. The Foundation believed that serious Jewish learning would be the most effective catalyst for motivating the Fellows towards cultural, communal and professional leadership in the Jewish community. The judgment of the Foundation leadership, as well as the faculty and fellows of the Fellowship, is that we have had spectacular success in raising the cultural and intellectual level of the Fellows, spurring them thereby towards deeper involvement in their community.

The second level of success, which we never fully anticipated, but which has emerged in increasing prominence and strength, has been the bonding of the individual Fellows. These bonds have become more than personal. As we have expanded the scope of the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship – from our initial efforts in Europe to the rest of the globe in Australia, South America and Asia - these bonds have led to a harmonious integration, not only of individual Fellows within the same geographic region, but between fellows from different regional groups as well.

Indeed, at the end of each seminar, the entire Fellowship, including faculty and staff, takes on the character of an extended family. This is most remarkable, because the vast majority of the participants had never met or known each other prior to the Fellowship.

The most extraordinary accomplishment is that those extended quasi-families have become transmuted into a mini-Klal Yisrael. At the Nahum Goldmann Fellowships we have demonstrated that the concept of K’lal Yisrael can be made operative, still has both validity and vitality, and has profound meaning and significance for young Jews. Fellows from the most diverse educational, religious and communal backgrounds, with very sharply divergent and deeply-held beliefs, have been able to discuss and debate those views respectfully.

Simultaneously, they are able to acknowledge the deep bonds that emerged between them during the Fellowship, and recognize too that these bonds have no less transcendental meaning and value than the issues about which they differed. The Nahum Goldmann Fellowship for most of the Fellows has been an authentic expression and microcosm of the concept of K’lal Yisroel. This dimension of their experience at the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship has added a very critical ingredient crucial for our future leaders in Jewish life.

Another phenomenon emerged from the deliberations of the Fellows at our most recent Nahum Goldmann Fellowships, surprising in the manner and force with which it emerged. It is the “new voice” emanating from the next generation of Jewish leadership, offering their goals for Jewish life in their communities, viewed through the prism of their personal and communal aspirations.

Most impressive is that the Fellowship has moved into an entirely new direction - from individual redefinition to collective action. Participating in the last two Fellowships were not only individuals but contingents of Fellows from specific communities. The potential impact of these cohorts of Fellows upon their return to their community changes substantially if there are three or more members in their delegation, especially if we also take into account that we already have many other alumni active or on the threshold of involvement in these communities, with whom they can possibly cooperate in joint endeavors.

The eighteenth Nahum Goldman Fellowship in Australia was the first expression of this new, critical, incipient phase of the program. In future fellowships we will need to explore the enlargement of the programmatic means for the fellows and their communities to work jointly towards the incorporation of the fellows into their councils and to enable the fellows to more effectively articulate their personal and communal visions in anticipation of their assumption of leadership in their communities in the future. It is our hope that the Foundation will in the future emphasize and intensify this new component in Fellowship programs in Jewish communities around the world.

 

ANOTHER TRACK OF LEADERSHIP

As I reported to you earlier, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Ephraim Urbach Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the biennial meeting of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees in Jerusalem this summer. The program was established to assist the most promising young Jewish men and women from around the world, recent recipients of PhDs in the field of Jewish culture, to enable them to launch their scholarly careers by publishing their first book, and/or continuing their research in their area of specialization, which would hopefully help them obtain teaching positions at major universities. Only young scholars who have completed their dissertations with distinction during the last three years and show promise of distinguished academic careers are eligible to apply.

At the closing session, we heard reports from four Urbach recipients, based on the research for which they were awarded grants – Prof. Elisheva Baumgarten of Bar Ilan on Gender and Jewish History; Prof. Avinoam Rosenak of Hebrew University on Halacha and Jewish Thought; Prof. Ron Margolin of Tel Aviv University on Jewish Religious Secularism in Israel; and Prof. Manuela Consonni of Hebrew University on After Auschwitz: The Snares of Memory. The panel, chaired by Prof. Anita Shapira, in the presence of more than one hundred of the “Yakirei Yerushalaim”, provided those assembled with an awesome intellectual feast. Enclosed are copies of three of the papers presented at our meeting.

These outstanding young scholars dramatically confirm our success in the development of anshe ruach, masters of the Jewish spirit, who will be the major purveyors of ideas in Jewish life in the coming decades. We hope that together with the Nahum Goldmann Fellows, initiators of communal actions, both groups can help in transforming the character of Jewish institutions and communities around the world.

 

NACHAS DEPARTMENT

Mrs. Wendy Kahn, a fellow at the sixteenth Nahum Goldmann Fellowship in South Africa, was recently appointed national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. All the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship family wishes her success in her new responsibilities. We at the Foundation look forward to working with her in enlarging the work of the South African alumni of the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship within the South African Board of Deputies.

Best wishes for a joyous Chanuka.

Warm regards.
Sincerely yours,

Dr. Jerry Hochbaum
Executive Vice President