Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Answer to Our Prayers

Are you ever (gasp) bored at High Holidays services? This month's online edition of Sh'ma contains a number of thought provoking reflections on the prayers of the High Holidays liturgy. It's the answer to your prayers (and mine! I don't want you to be bored - that's why we hand out a thick source book filled with reflections and meditations).

Here's some more exciting news from Sh'ma:

Sh'ma, the journal of Jewish responsibility, has partnered with Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation in a deal that will allow the journal to expand its reach, strengthen its role as thought leader, and maintain its independence.

Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation, long a supporter of Sh'ma, has committed increased financial resources so that the journal can expand online and print readership and continue to thrive as a source of balanced critical thinking in the Jewish community. Sh'

ma, founded in 1970, is published ten times a year in print, online and, recently, in Kindle editions, bringing together an array of voices from across the broad spectrum of the Jewish community. It is the only theme-based pluralistic publication within the Jewish world.

Boston-based JFL Media had published Sh'ma since 1998 and began actively seeking a new backer for the journal this spring as part of its efforts to spin off various media properties and publications. "Editing Sh'ma since its move to JFL has been one of the great blessings of my life," said Editor-in-Chief Susan Berrin. "The Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation's vision and support for Sh'ma allow us to do what Sh'ma does best: to shed light - unsparing, but loving light - on what we, as Jews, care most about; and to spark and enrich dialogues about the beliefs, community, politics, and culture that we live in with subtlety, honesty, and wisdom."

Sh'ma's incoming publisher is Josh Rolnick, a member of the Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation board of directors, and former editor of the Stanford Social Innovation Review and Moment magazine. "For nearly 40 years, Sh'ma has been an indispensible asset to the Jewish community and beyond, providing readers with a safe public space where they share ideas across religious, cultural, communal, and political divides," said Rolnick, who assumes leadership responsibility with the October issue. "This new partnership will give the journal the resources to expand its influence, renewing the journal as a thought leader and incubator of ideas in the Jewish community."

"In collaboration with Sh'ma' s full array of current financial sponsors," Rolnick added, "we will be in a position to produce the best intellectual offering for the broadest possible base of readers." Carol Brennglass Spinner, a member of Sh'ma's editorial advisory board, said the new partnership addresses recent challenges the journal has faced, adding that it "makes sense" for the journal and its community. "

As someone who has collaborated with Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation on several projects, I know Sh'ma will remain a vigorously independent journal and be afforded the opportunity to think creatively about its future," Spinner said. "This new stewardship will marry our editorial process to the communications and educational techniques of the 21st Century." Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation, which supports Jewish learning and engagement with an emphasis on innovation and nonprofit organizational effectiveness, sees Sh'ma as a perfect fit with its strategy of supporting thought leadership on issues of significance to the Jewish community. "Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation is truly excited and honored to partner with Sh'ma, a journal that engages the most brilliant minds on the most important topics in Jewish life," said Joseph Kanfer, Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation founding director and outgoing chairman of the United Jewish Communities. "Foundation support for an independent journal like Sh'ma is an innovative, collaborative model for the publishing industry as a whole, particularly in stressed economic times."

Future plans for the journal include enhancing Sh'ma's online community, in part through a new blog, and increasing the visibility and viability of the journal's web site,, Rolnick said, adding: "This is critical in an era where digital communication becomes the norm."

The Rolnick-Berrin team also plans to re-launch Sh'ma salons, gatherings in cities across the country where specific issues of the journal serve as springboards for deeper, theme-based discussions. The first Sh'ma-sponsored salon will be on the widely relevant topic of health care, and take place at the General Assembly in Washington, DC in November, 2009.

Sh'ma, founded by Rabbi Eugene Borowitz, invites journalists, academics, rabbis, artists, essayists and others to write about a single theme in each issue. Past issues have covered everything from carbon neutral Judaism to Darfur; from settlements in Israel to Jewish bodies to themes like "vulnerability" and "the Jewish home." The journal also features a regular ethics column, which this year is focused on ethical questions surrounding kashrut, Jewish dietary laws.

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