Avi Chai encourages emerging leaders

Hoping to inspire creative and groundbreaking Jewish leadership, the foundation is set to announce the first recipients of a new fellowship program on Monday.

huc students 88 (photo credit:)
huc students 88
(photo credit: )
Hoping to inspire creative and groundbreaking Jewish leadership, the Avi Chai Foundation is set to announce the first recipients of a new fellowship program on Monday. The fellowships, which will allocate $1.5 million over the next three years to four individuals and one team of two, is the largest cash award to emerging communal and educational leaders in the North American Jewish community, according to the foundation. It has been approved for three award cycles with a commitment of approximately $3. Like other Jewish fellowships that have emerged over the last decade, directors of the Avi Chai Foundation believe that funding creative Jewish leaders will help in facing some of the challenges that face the Jewish people. Avi Chai officials said the fellowship was intended to serve as an extension of the organization's mission to promote Jewish literacy, religious purposefulness and Jewish peoplehood. Up till now the North American arm of the organization has funneled most of its money to Jewish day schools and overnight summer camps. "We're looking for partners and successors to the organization," an official said. "By identifying people who are entrepreneurial, talented and innovative, who express those ideas, and embody them, we have an opportunity to advance our own mission." Continuing its mission is especially important, considering that the foundation, endowed by the late Zalman Bernstein, is scheduled to close its doors in 2020. "Although the foundation will cease making grants in 2020," said Avi CHAI's chairman, Arthur Fried, "its work will be far from completed, for the challenges that confront the Jewish communities where we work are perpetual. It is our desire that the work not end - rather that it be continued by others, who perhaps will be animated by what we have started, and by the standards we have tried to set." Like the MacArthur Foundation "genius" awards, recipients did not apply for the fellowships. More than 40 nominations were submitted by 20 nominators (18 in the United States and 2 in Israel), and the seven members of the selection committee met privately over four months. The fellowships were kept under wraps "so that the integrity of the nomination and selection process not be compromised," according to a press release. Recipients, who were chosen in late April, and their projects will be announced at a press conference Monday afternoon in New York.