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Alumni Connectors Project

The virtual learning circles below are open to all Bronfman alumni! Facilitated by the Rabbinic interns, each learning circle will meet three to four times in the coming months. This is a great chance to connect with other alumni around a topic you care about, and to enjoy some Bronfman-style text study.

Bronfman alumni can register for as many learning circles as they would like. After you register, we will send you the zoom link:

We are forming other virtual learning circles focusing on social justice, creativity, organizational leadership, and more. Please be in touch with Elizabeth Ochs at elizabeth@bronfman.org if you have topics you would like to suggest or if you’d like to get involved as a facilitator.

In 2021, with the support of the Jim Joseph Foundation, we launched the Bronfman Alumni Connectors Project. A team of four Rabbinic interns – a pluralistic group of Rabbinical students from JTS, Hebrew College and Yeshiva Maharat – have been working with staff to further strengthen the Bronfman alumni network and help alumni flourish as community builders, deep thinkers, moral voices, and cultural creators.

In the fall of 2021, we sent out a survey to young alumni to better understand their personal, professional, leadership, and spiritual goals:

  • 65% of respondents said that they are interested in increasing connection to Jewish opportunities in their area, and that they would be interested in a Jewish learning circle. 
  • Half of all respondents said they would be interested in a creative practice or social justice learning circle. 

The Rabbinic interns have been conducting follow-up interviews to gain a deeper understanding of how we can meet our goal of preparing promising young people to make a significant impact on the world. Stay tuned for future developments!

Please email Elizabeth Ochs at elizabeth@bronfman.org with any questions.

2022 Learning Circle Descriptions

Secular/Religious: Poetry and Our Jewish Identities

Geared towards alumni who enjoy poetry and are navigating secular/religious identities.

Rabbinic Intern Facilitator: Rafi Ellenson (Bronfman ’11, Hebrew College)

A few years ago, I discovered a richness within Modern Hebrew poetry where my secular Jewish identity was enriched and sharpened by religious Jewish language. I went on to find even more poetry—in Hebrew and in English, by Jews and by non-Jews, by self-described secular and self-described religious people—that allowed me to think deeper about my own self as a Jew. I call this loose genre Secular/Religious Poetry—operating on the infinite continuum of secular and religious. 

This learning circle is for those interested in exploring different dimensions of their lived experiences as Jews by using poetry as a tool. We will read familiar Bronfman favorites like Yehuda Amichai as well as poets and liturgists that might be more unfamiliar to us. Together we will explore how the words “secular” and “religious” inform our identities and our relationship to Jewish community, text, and peoplehood. This learning circle seeks to be inclusive and assumes no particular relationship to Judaism or God. Each session will be relatively discrete from the others and, as such, feel free to attend one, two, three, or all sessions. Come ready for close reading and close listening.

Dates: February 17, March 3, April 7, May 3, from 7:00-8:30pm EST

Registration

Rafi Ellenson ’11 (he/his/him) is a literary translator, educator, and second year rabbinical student at Hebrew College in Newton, MA. In addition to working as a Rabbinic Intern at the Bronfman Fellowship, he works at the Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership and is translating a book of haiku by the poet E. Ethelbert Miller. 

 



A Home Made Firm: Figuring Out a Jewish Home through Partnership and Understanding

Geared towards alumni joined by their partners who are building Jewish and/or interfaith homes together.

Rabbinic Intern Facilitator: Caleb Bromberg (Jewish Theological Seminary)

בְּחׇכְמָה יִבָּנֶה בָּיִת וּבִתְבוּנָה יִתְכּוֹנָן׃

וּבְדַעַת חֲדָרִים יִמָּלְאוּ כׇּל־הוֹן יָקָר וְנָעִים׃

A home is built with wisdom, and made firm through understanding.

Its rooms are filled with knowledge, with all things precious, valuable, and sweet.

מִשְלֵי כ״ד//Proverbs 24

This learning circle is for people in relationships (partnered, engaged, married, or even roommates!) who want to figure out, together, how to build a combined (and an individual) Jewish practice. Maybe you come from different Jewish backgrounds and have questions about how to square your varying ideologies. Perhaps you’re in a multi-faith or interfaith partnership and want some ideas about building a Jewish practice that feels comfortable for all parties. Maybe you’re thinking about starting a family and want to start having conversations about traditions you will pass to your children. Or maybe you’re otherwise intrigued!

Through a process of group learning, partner-partner chevrutah (co-learning), self-reflection, and resource-sharing, we will begin the process of creating a shared Jewish space in a way that feels comfortable and meaningful for you, your partner, and your future together. This is a process of discovery—the ‘answers’ will come from sharing and mapping needs and expectations, learning some traditional (and non-traditional) texts, and fostering community with other folks who are charting these partnered waters as well. And the ‘answers’ will change, but that’s part of the magic. Through three sessions, we will move from figuring out what we need as individuals to creating a set of shared practices to make our homes together ‘filled with all things precious.’

Dates: February 10, March 10, April 14, May 12 from 7:30-9pm EST

Register

Caleb Bromberg is an educator and rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. He is committed to learning and sharing a living Torah. After finishing his undergraduate work in Education and English in 2016, Caleb moved into the world of Jewish education and has served many organizations in many capacities since. Pedagogically, Caleb’s eclectic and learner-centered teaching philosophy centers a rigorous, reflective, reverent, and revolutionary approach to Jewish material. When not studying or teaching Torah, he writes poems, plays music, and organizes towards a more just future, which is also Torah.

 



Learning Circle for Healthcare Providers: Our Challenges, Balms, and Dreams

Geared towards alumni working in health care (including doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, and more)

Rabbinic Intern Facilitator: Briah Cahana (Bronfman ‘08, Yeshivat Maharat)

In this learning circle for health care providers we will gather monthly to share our collective experiences and wisdom working with people on the cusp of life and death in our fields. 

Each session we will explore a different set of questions

  1. What practices or boundaries are we putting in place to sustain ourselves and manage stress during this difficult time in health care? 
  2. How has our understanding of healing and grief changed over the course of our work? 
  3. What prayers and rituals are available to us to honor our encounters with grief or healing?

We will be using Jewish texts and will have time for writing and chevrutah style learning to hold the space intentionally and respect our personal boundaries. 

Dates: March 13, April 3, and May 1 from 12:00-1:30pm EST

Register

Briah Cahana ‘08 is a 3rd year student at Yeshivat Maharat in New York. She comes to rabbinical school after receiving a Masters in Jewish Bible Interpretation at McGill University in Montreal, where she was raised and where she learned the art of dressing appropriately for winter. In addition to learning and teaching Torah, she is passionate about the interface of feminism theology, poetry and trying to articulate the ineffable. She has more recently worked as a doula, Hebrew scribe (soferet) and has been a bar-bat mitzvah tutor since becoming bat-mitzvah herself. In addition to being a Bronfman rabbinic intern, she is also interning at Congregation Beth Sholom, in Providence, Rhode Island. 

 



*FYI* More Learning Circles Coming!