Dr. Jonathan Woocher Research Fellowship

“At Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, we see this as a moment of incredible opportunity… to make Jewish teaching and practice a vibrant resource for answering life’s most important questions…. Jewish wisdom can make our lives and the world better. This is the moment to act on this proposition and make it the watchword of the next great movement in Jewish life.”

As the Founding President of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, Dr. Jonathan Woocher (z”l) articulated a vision for the future of Jewish life that continues to guide our work. Following his charge, our mission is to help people apply particular Jewish wisdom to universal human questions; and we strive to do so in all aspects of our grantmaking, communications, network building, and thought partnership.

“I learned from and treasured every conversation with Jon,” says Joe Kanfer, a close friend of Dr. Woocher and a Founding Director of LKFLT. “His clear-eyed understanding of the Jewish world combined with an unquenchable optimism helped shape the worldview of educators and lay leaders alike. In Jon’s work we can see the roots and the branches of the incredible renaissance of Jewish life which we are experiencing today. At Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah we are proud to be carrying on his work.”

But Dr. Woocher also taught us that this vision represents a paradigm shift from the “continuity-focused” orientation that pervaded (and continues to pervade) much of the Jewish community. This means that the new paradigm is not only a vision to strive for, but also a hypothesis to be tested. In that spirit of curiosity, it requires answering fundamental questions, including:

  • What are life’s most important questions today?
  • How can Jewish wisdom help people answer them?
  • What are the biggest challenges and opportunities of this approach?

We are heartbroken that we no longer have Dr. Woocher as part of our team answering these questions, and we constantly find ourselves asking, “What would Jon do?”

While the particular answers vary depending on the situation, one unifying theme remains constant: more research. Dr. Woocher pushed LKFLT to make research an essential part of our work. From sponsoring research exploring the impact of our inaugural Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom, to commissioning a study of Jewish sensibilities, to dreaming of a fellowship in educating for applied Jewish wisdom (which eventually became a reality through a partnership with JTS’s Davidson School of Education), he helped us develop a culture of rigorous reflection and curiosity.

To honor this tremendous contribution to our work and to the shaping of the future of Jewish life, in 2019 we launched the Dr. Jonathan Woocher Research Fellowship (the “Woocher Research Fellowship”). LKFLT sponsors Woocher Research Fellows to explore topics that helps answer the question of how Jewish wisdom can be applied to universal human questions that people navigate in their day-to-day lives.

You can meet our research fellows and find some of their work here.