Dear Friends and Colleagues,
We are very excited to share with you the announcement of our new president. Please continue reading for messages from Board Chair Mamie Kanfer Stewart and incoming President Dan Libenson. You can also read our press release here.
It is my distinct pleasure on behalf of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah’s board and staff to welcome Dan Libenson to the organization as its new President. Dan’s work with Judaism Unbound has long been deeply aligned with the Foundation’s work, and we’re so excited to be entering this new phase of partnership with him. In this moment of dynamic and exciting innovation not only for our Foundation, but in the Jewish world writ large, Dan’s experience in both thinking expansively about the evolution of Jewish life, and in building engaging and pioneering programming, make him uniquely qualified to serve in this role.
Dan’s reputation as a deep thinker and creative leader is evident in his incredible work and career thus far. An honors graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School, he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, clerked for Judge Michael Boudin on the US Court of Appeals, and taught law for five years. Dan served as Director of New Initiatives at Harvard Hillel and was Executive Director of University of Chicago’s Hillel. He has been a Hartman Campus Fellow, an Avi Chai Fellow, and in 2010 was named a ‘Jewish Chicagoan of the Year’ by the Chicago Jewish News.
In 2015, Dan founded Judaism Unbound as a digitally driven, radically open center for Jewish education, experimentation, and connection. In the eight years since its founding, Judaism Unbound has had multiple programmatic outgrowths beyond its signature podcast, including jewishLIVE, a hub for livestreaming and recorded educational videos that was built from scratch and deployed within weeks of the start of COVID lockdown, and The UnYeshiva, an online center for Jewish learning and unlearning, in which he has taught courses on Biblical and Talmudic texts, leadership, and the Jewish holidays. Dan’s teaching is rooted in Jewish text and aimed at empowering a new creative class of Jewish lay people. Dan also translated Israeli novelist Yochi Brandes’s novel “The Orchard,” which tells the story of the Jewish people’s transition from Biblical to Rabbinic Judaism, and he served as the translation editor for Brandes’s previous book “The Secret Book of Kings.”
For those attending the JFN Conference in Phoenix, please join us in welcoming Dan at a reception we’ll be hosting Monday evening.
Mamie Kanfer Stewart
I am humbled and excited to take on the role of President of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah. For many years, the Foundation has been an important supporter of Judaism Unbound’s work, and in recent years that partnership has deepened – when the pandemic hit, the Foundation made it possible for Judaism Unbound to launch jewishLIVE, connecting people to Jewish ideas and experiences from lockdown, and over the last two years the Foundation has helped us evolve that project into The UnYeshiva, which has offered dozens of classes and enrolled nearly 700 students in its first year-and-a-half. The board’s vision of cultivating and perpetuating living Torah in ongoing dialogue with the contemporary world has long inspired me, and our shared vision for Jewish life makes this a dream opportunity to build on the work I have been doing over the last two decades.
I am also gratified to be stepping into a role filled previously by leaders who have done trailblazing work for the Jewish world; Jon Woocher, the founding president of the Foundation, was an important mentor of mine whose ideas played a major role in shaping my thought, and I so admire Aaron Dorfman’s commitment to making Jewish wisdom applicable to the most critical real world challenges like the fight for democracy.
I believe we are in a time of great transformation for Judaism and the Jewish people. The work I’ve done, from my time as a Hillel director to founding Judaism Unbound to translating Yochi Brandes’s novels to teaching in the UnYeshiva, I’ve undertaken with the goal of empowering and preparing Jews and fellow travelers to enter this process of transformation with open minds and hearts that channel our deepest creative energies. In this new role, I am eager to bring this goal into the philanthropic space. I will also continue as a public leader directly engaged in bringing living Torah to ‘regular Jews’ as the co-host of the Judaism Unbound podcast, which recently reached the milestone of its two-millionth listen, and I will stay on as an active advisor to Judaism Unbound as the organization evolves with support from the Foundation.
Everything successful I’ve ever worked on in American Jewish life has been done through partnerships. Judaism Unbound and the UnYeshiva would not exist without deep engagement and buy-in from multiple organizations and individuals that came together to have an impact greater than the sum of their parts. I intend to bring that same spirit of partnership and collective purpose to this new role, as I believe it is at the core of what’s possible when we put applying Jewish wisdom in the driver’s seat of Jewish life.
I know with this dedicated board and talented staff, we can expand and broaden into many new, creative avenues the work of applying Jewish wisdom to help Jews and fellow travelers thrive and shape a better world. I’m so excited to get started learning together.