Education Briefs

JNF to Send 2 to High School in IsraelJNF-Logo-2012

Applications are being accepted until Aug. 31 for Jewish National Fund’s Shirlye Kaufman Birnbrey Alexander Muss High School in Israel Impact Fellowship Program, which will send two Atlanta-area high school juniors to Alexander Muss for the spring semester free.

Applicants may attend public or non-Jewish private schools and must fill out applications at jnf.org/atlfellowship. The scholarship is based on merit.

The Shirlye Kaufman Birnbrey Impact Fund was established by her children — Jeff and Alison Kaufman, Richard (z”l) and Barbara Kaufman, Mark and Nancy Kaufman, and Karen and Craig Senft — for two years.

“Our mother promoted the importance of funding Jewish schools,” Karen Senft said in a JNF announcement, “so in her memory we now provide impact funds to the Alexander Muss High School in Israel to fund scholarships to meritorious Jewish-American students who wish to study in Israel. We established this fund to continue our mother’s legacy to future generations of Jews and the advancement of Jewish culture.”

The fellowship includes on-campus housing and field trips.

Established in 1972 and acquired by JNF in 2013, Alexander Muss combines traditional classroom study with experiential learning that uses Israel as a living classroom.

“By establishing this fund, Shirlye Kaufman Birnbrey’s children are enabling JNF to promote the Alexander Muss High School in Israel, a resource that will develop young leaders to influence teens regarding Israel,” said Beth Gluck, JNF’s Southeast regional director. “I can hardly imagine a greater legacy for Shirlye than this investment in the future of our Jewish community and Israel.”

For more information, visit jnf.org/atlfellowship, or contact Gluck at bgluck@jnf.org or 404-236-8990, ext. 851.

AJC Helps Educate Christians

A Baptist Old Testament scholar in Atlanta is among 16 American Christian leaders completing a 13-month educational program on Judaism through the Christian Leadership Initiative, a partnership of the American Jewish Committee and the Shalom Hartman Institute.

The Rev. David Garber, who teaches the Old Testament and Hebrew at Mercer’s McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, joins Belmont University religion professor Sally Holt as representatives of the Southeast in the group. Seven people from the Southeast are among the 60 alumni from the three previous sessions of the program.

“CLI provides an open space for Christian leadership to experience and study Judaism and Israel from a Jewish perspective, fostering a unique process to secure positive interreligious relations,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations. “Christian understanding of Judaism is advanced by CLI as fellows apply this experience to the education of Christian leaders.”

The final 10-day segment of the CLI program began July 14 in Jerusalem with a focus on Jewish models of community.

In addition to the final segment and an opening seminar in Israel, program participants join monthly online sessions in which they study classical and modern Jewish texts with Israeli and North American scholars.

“In the past year we have gone through a lot together,” said Marcie Lenk, Shalom Hartman Institute’s director of Christian leadership programs. “There is a trust between us that opens opportunities to discuss difficult issues, hear each other and learn from each other.”

The 60 CLI alumni meet for periodic symposia on contemporary Jewish thought.

Darshan Yeshiva Adds Rabbi

Atlanta-based online Jewish learning site Darshan Yeshiva now has a dozen rabbis offering conversion programs with the addition of Reform Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer of Portland, Ore.

Rabbi Mayer, who left denominational Judaism in 2000, is the founder of Religion-Outside-the-Box, a nonprofit organization founded in 2005 that aims to help people connect with G-d in a way they can understand.

His approach to conversion starts with the question “What is it that you feel you need to do so that you will feel authentic telling people you are Jewish?”

Darshan Yeshiva offers Conservative, Reform, Renewal and post-denominational conversion programs.

‘Mensch’ Premiere Seeks Partners

Jewish filmmaker Tiffany Shlain is inviting synagogues, schools and other community organizations to be her partners in the Sept. 18 release of the 10-minute film “The Making of a Mensch.”

The release date marks the second annual Character Day, a day to engage Jewish and secular communities around the world in teachings about character development, and intentionally falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The film is Shlain’s first explicitly Jewish-themed work since 2006’s “The Tribe,” which explored American Jewish identity through the history of the Barbie doll.

“The Making of a Mensch” applies the ancient Jewish wisdom of Mussar to explore the character development themes Shlain presented in launching Character Day last year with the short film “The Science of Character.”

“I think people are ready for this deep conversation, and it’s this great opportunity to show how these ancient Jewish ideas are in fact very relevant and can be a guide to leading a meaningful and purposeful life in today’s world. ‘The Making of a Mensch’ and Character Day 2015 will ignite this dialogue,” Shlain said. “The short film is the appetizer, and the discussion everyone has afterwards delving deeper into materials is the main course.”

Online materials for the discussion will include questions for different age groups and a website with resources related to specific character strengths. A physical package of materials will include a discussion book and conversation cards.

The film will include video submissions of people’s ideas about what makes a mensch.

Shlain’s studio, Let it Ripple, aims to sign up more than 3,000 organizations worldwide for film screenings and other activities Sept. 18. Sign up to participate at www.letitripple.org/making_of_a_mensch.

Harlene Appelman, the executive director of the Covenant Foundation, one of the project’s funders, said the film meets a need to spread Mussar and character education. “It’s the perfect message at the perfect time with the right messenger: the visual medium; the supplemental learning materials; the way it all comes together on one big day. It’s all very forward-thinking for the world of Jewish education.”