HUC-JIR/New York Celebrates Stephen S. Wise with the Second Annual Be Wise Entrepreneurial Grants Competition - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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HUC-JIR/New York Celebrates Stephen S. Wise with the Second Annual Be Wise Entrepreneurial Grants Competition

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

In celebration of the legacy of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, founder of the Jewish Institute of Religion (JIR), the New York campus announces the recipients of the second annual Be Wise Entrepreneurial Grants Competition.  The Competition provides an opportunity for students to explore our history and to further Wise's legacy, by conceptualizing and then carrying out bold and creative initiatives that they believe respond to the needs of contemporary Jewry.

Wise and JIR offered a new and compelling vision for twentieth century liberal Judaism. Today, we affirm aspects of that vision that continue to inspire many of us; at the same time, we recognize that the times in which we live call for new vision.  As a campus community, we cannot rest on the laurels of our past, and we have no interest in replicating what was. 

We look with hope to our students, who represent the future religious leadership of Reform and liberal Judaism.  We urge them every day to be Wise – thinking imaginatively in relation to the needs of our contemporary Jewish community, and daring to make real their own vision for liberal Judaism of the twenty-first century.

In the Be Wise Competition, students were challenged to design a project that would promote entrepreneurialism and bring a spirit of innovation and creativity to campus by exploring and experimenting with community-building and outreach techniques.  Students were asked to showcase the values upon which Rabbi Stephen S. Wise founded the Jewish Institute of Religion that are still part of the New York campus culture today.

Students were asked to submit a proposal to the Be Wise Competition outlining the need or problem they intend to address, and what they hope to achieve. They had to explain how the project carries on the work of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and his vision for JIR.  An important element in each proposal was the development of partnerships with other Jewish organizations, including the Union for Reform Judaism and Reform synagogues.

A panel of HUC-JIR representatives evaluated the proposals, and thanks to a generous gift from Elizabeth and Steven Gruber of the Eastern Region Board of Overseers, five were accepted to receive seed money to implement their ideas.  The panel of judges includes Steven Gruber, member, Eastern Region Board of Overseers; Rabbi Michael Friedman, Associate Rabbi at Central Synagogue (New York, NY) and Be Wise Coordinator; Jessica Ingram, Assistant Director of Recruitment and Admissions; and, Dean Shirley Idelson.

The 2013-2014 Be Wise Entrepreneurial Seed Grant Recipients are:


Amanda Kleinman: Reform Luach

Reform Luach is a calendar of Reform Jewish observance intended to assist Reform rabbis, cantors and prayer leaders in planning worship and synagogue observances.  Understanding that every synagogue's customs are different, Reform Luach offers suggestions for applying Reform siddurim, machzorim, and Torah commentaries to specific days in the Hebrew calendar.  Reform Luach was compiled in consultation with both Reform and traditional sources and gives reference to these sources to allow site visitors to explore a topic further. With our Be Wise Fellowship Grant, we plan to make technological improvements to our website and create a smartphone app, in addition to developing partnerships with Reform organizations and increasing the visibility of the project.

Amanda Kleinman is a fourth-year cantorial student at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.  A native of Dallas, Texas, she graduated from Middlebury College in 2009 with degrees in music and history.  Since beginning cantorial school, Amanda has served as Student Cantor at Moses Montefiore Temple in Bloomington, Illinois, and as Cantorial Intern at Scarsdale Synagogue-Temples Tremont and Emanu-El.  She currently serves as Cantorial Intern at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, New York, and as Student Cantor at Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, New York.  Amanda spent two summers at URJ Greene Family Camp, serving as both Assistant Education Director and the head of the camp’s counselor-in-training program.  In addition to her love of Jewish music, Amanda is passionate about learning and teaching Jewish text; she spent last year studying text full-time at the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education. 


Vladimir Lapin: Mafte’ach (מפתח) Competition

The goal of Mafte’ach is to create a conduit between new student composers based in the various music schools in the New York region (including, but not limited to, Juilliard, NYU, Manhattan School of Music, and Mannes College) and students and faculty of HUC-JIR. This interface will facilitate these two academic worlds to connect and collaborate, ultimately creating new Jewish music for the 21st century, and unlocking the potential that has been thus far untapped.

Vladimir Lapin is currently a third year cantorial student at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. He serves as the cantorial intern at B’nai Jeshurun – Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, NJ. He also teaches religious school at Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City.  He received his Bachelors Degree in Journalism, Public Relations and Advertising from Temple University in Philadelphia and a Graduate Degree in Vocal Performance from Mannes, the New School for Music in New York City. Passionate about world Jewry, especially those left in the former Soviet Union, Vladimir was one of the coordinators of the 2011 FSU Pesach Project, which sent first-year HUC-JIR students to Reform Jewish communities in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. In the past two years, he has made subsequent trips to Ukraine and Moldova, where he served as a liaison for HUC-JIR Israel Studies Professor Jeremy Leigh. In the summers, Vladimir works as the Director of the Nature Program (Teva) at URJ Camp Eisner in Great Barrington, MA, where he has helped develop a new nature curriculum for the camp.


Adam Lutz: Te'urat Torah

One of the greatest challenges of encouraging today’s Jews to make informed decisions about their own Jewish education and practice is accessibility.  Today, more and more people are turning to Google instead of their Rabbi to learn about how to make informed choices!  Te’urat Torah will be the first step in updating the age old process of collecting quality Jewish material and presenting it in accessible ways to the Jewish people.  HUC-JIR student material will be the launching point for the project with the hope to expand in the future.  This will help Jews around the world access and engage with Jewish text, music, video, and more, propelling Judaism into the future and making it accessible for future generations.  

Adam Lutz, a third-year rabbinical student, was born and raised in Los Angeles by mother Debbie and father Barry. Debbie works at an elementary school and Barry is the Senior Rabbi at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge. Adam also has a younger brother Jeremy and younger sister Emily, both still in college. In 2008, Adam graduated from the University of California in San Diego with a Bachelors of Science in Aerospace Engineering. Following graduation, he worked for the United States Navy for three years as an Aerospace Engineer while at the same time attaining a Masters in Engineering from the University of California in Los Angeles. During his work for the Navy, Adam realized he wanted to dedicate his life to his true passion, Judaism. He realized that the most formative moments in his life were all Jewish moments: Bar- Mitzvah, NFTY, Camp Alonim, Confirmation, AEPi, and a trip to Israel.  Adam wanted to help others experience their own special Jewish moments to help them become as excited as he is about Judaism. As a result he decided to change directions on his life path. Adam has recently experienced a dramatic need to combine his expertise in technology and Judaism.  Similar to his work as an engineer where he developed technology to be used as an aid, he has seen an opportunity to use technology to enhance the Jewish experience and solve some of contemporary Judaism’s most pressing issues. Most recently Adam was an educational-technology consultant for Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, Texas. Currently, Adam is one of the Rabbinic Interns at Shaaray Teflia in New York City.  Additionally, he is the IT Coordinator of a new Jewish start-up called Project Zug (a previous recipient of a Be Wise grant and currently funded by UJA-Federation of New York) which aims to connect Jews around the world through chevrutah style learning.


Liz Piper-Goldberg (left) and Yael Rooks-Rapport (right): Small Congregations: A Day of Learning

In the landscape of contemporary American Judaism, we have observed an undeniable trend: centers for innovation and invention have become overwhelmingly bi-coastal, focusing on major metropolitan areas. Liberal Judaism in the United States, both historically and into the present day, is a mosaic of congregations and communities of varying sizes and geographic distribution. Our main objective is to actively change the conversation in the HUC-JIR NY community, as we aim to celebrate and provide much needed resources toward service in small, A-sized congregations across the country.To this end, we have proposed a Be Wise sponsored Day of Learning for the New York HUC-JIR community focusing on skill-building and exposure to the role of a Jewish leader in a small congregation. This Yom Iyyun will occur on the HUC-JIR campus, and be open to all students of HUC-JIR and other interested Jewish seminarians.

Liz Piper-Goldberg is a fourth-year rabbinical student at the New York campus of HUC-JIR. Originally from Dover, MA, Liz grew up at URJ Eisner Camp and as an active member of NFTY. She worked at Eisner as a counselor, songleader, Teva (nature) Director, and Tefilah (prayer) Director. Liz graduated from Brown University in 2009 with a degree in Environmental Studies, and also served as a leader of Brown-RISD Hillel. Liz studied abroad in Israel during high school on NFTY’s EIE program, and again in college as a student at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, a peace and coexistence program. She served as a Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center from 2009-2010. Liz is honored to have been selected as a Wexner Graduate Fellow and a Tisch Rabbinical Fellow during her studies at HUC-JIR. She has served Congregation Emanu-El of NYC and the North Fork Reform Synagogue as a rabbinical student, and looks forward to exploring small congregations through the Be Wise Fellowship.

Yael Rooks-Rapport is a fourth year rabbinical student and a Tisch Rabbinical Fellow at the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. Originally, she is from Louisville, Kentucky, the home of the Kentucky Derby, Louisville Slugger baseball bats, Mohammed Ali and Justice Louis D. Brandeis. Immediately after graduating high school, Yael spent a semester studying at the University of Haifa and Leo Baeck Progressive Yeshiva in Haifa, Israel with the URJ's Carmel Program. After returning to the States, she attended Brandeis University and graduated with a double major in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Art History. She deferred her acceptance to HUC for one year in order to spend that time giving a year of service with Americorps in Boston as part of MATCH Corps VI, a teaching fellowship at the MATCH Charter Public Middle School. Yael is the Rabbinic Intern at East End Temple in downtown Manhattan, and works primarily with their community organizing initiative, the Sh'ma Project. As a lifetime lover of Midwestern and Southern Judaism, Yael is grateful for the opportunity to explore the beauty of small congregations through the Be Wise Fellowship.


Samantha Shabman: Multi-Lingual Prayer Anthology for Chaplains

The goal of this project is to create a unique prayer anthology that will enhance the spiritual and religious well being of all patients in Israeli hospitals and can also be shared with chaplains and Clinical Pastoral Education programs across the U.S.  Language is often a barrier during pastoral care visits, and I hope that creating this prayer anthology with prayers in Hebrew, English, French, Arabic, Amharic and Russian will aid us in breaking down the language barrier in Israeli Hospitals. Our “siddur” will be formated as a decorative box containing large print cards of Jewish, Christian and Muslim prayers with artistic renderings related to each prayer. The prayers will be both traditional and contemporary for various occasions such as before a surgery, starting treatment, chemotherapy, healing of body/ spirit, saying goodbye and life review. This project will be done in conjunction with, Kashouvot, an Israeli Pastoral Care Organization.

Samantha Shabman is in her 3rd year of Rabbinical School at the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion. She graduated from Scarsdale High school in 2007 and the George Washington University in 2011, with a degree in International Affairs and a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies. While in college, Samantha spent a semester at the Hebrew University. Last year she served as the Youth Advisor at Westchester Reform Temple. During the summer of 2013, she completed her first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at the Maine Medical Center in Portland Maine and  leda URJ KESHER Birthright Israel Trip. This school year (2013-2014), Samantha serves as the Student Rabbi at North Fork Reform Synagogue in Southold, NY with bi-weekly pulpit responsibilities. In addition, she is one of the teachers in the HUC-JIR Miller High School Honors Program.


Michael S. Friedman, Coordinator of the Be Wise Entrepreneurial Grants Competition

Michael S. Friedman grew up in Great Neck, New York, where his family was proud to be dedicated members of Temple Beth-El.  Michael holds a B.A. in history from Yale University and was ordained by HUC-JIR in 2004.  He has served as Associate Rabbi at Central Synagogue in New York City since July, 2008.  Prior to this position, Michael was Director of High School Programs at the Union for Reform Judaism from 2004 to 2006 and as Assistant Rabbi at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, New Jersey from 2006 to 2008. 

During his years in rabbinical school, Michael spent two years as Rabbinic Intern at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, New York and a year as Rabbinic Intern at the New York Kollel.  Michael has volunteered as Program Coordinator for Project Understanding, an interfaith experience for Jewish and Catholic youth on Long Island, and served as a coordinator of the HUC-JIR/New York Soup Kitchen. 

In his free time, Michael likes to play golf, hike, run marathons, and cook.


Grantees will present their projects to the student body at a spring community program at HUC-JIR/New York, and the winner will be announced in June 2014.  The winning submission will receive a cash prize.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.