Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, co-founder and executive director of Mechon Hadar: An Institute for Prayer, Personal Growth and Jewish Study in New York City and a graduate of The Rabbinical School of The Jewish Theological Seminary, has been selected as one of the first recipients of an AVI CHAI Fellowship, the largest cash award to emerging communal and educational leaders within the North American Jewish community.
Awarded by the AVI CHAI Foundation, the fellowship, totaling $225,000 over three years, will help support the expansion of Yeshivat Hadar, currently an intensive summer program under the auspices of Mechon Hadar, into a full year program scheduled to begin in fall 2009.
The AVI CHAI Fellowship identifies and supports outstanding individuals who are engaged in activities that promote the Foundation’s goals in North America, which include encouraging Jews towards greater commitment to Jewish observance and lifestyle by increasing their understanding, appreciation and practice of Jewish traditions, customs and laws; and encouraging mutual understanding and sensitivity among Jews of different religious backgrounds and commitments to observance.
In addition to rabbinic ordination, Rabbi Kaunfer, who grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, completed an MA in liturgy at JTS, where he is currently a doctoral student. A Wexner Graduate Fellow, Rabbi Kaunfer is a co-founder of Kehilat Hadar, an egalitarian community committed to spirited traditional prayer, study and social action. A member of the advisory board of STAR: Synagogue Transformation and Renewal and Synagogue 3000's working group on emergent sacred communities, he has taught for the Wexner Heritage Foundation and was a co-founder of LimmudNY. A graduate of Harvard, he is a former corporate fraud investigator and analyst at Morgan Stanley. The Forward recently named him one of the country’s top fifty Jewish leaders and the Jewish Week named him one of its “36 Under 36” in its May 23, 2008, issue.
Yeshivat Hadar is dedicated to offering a passionate vision of traditional Jewish life as a spiritual path and fostering a community of students who engage in intensive Torah study, prayer and action. Currently an eight-week, full-time summer experience, it combines traditional text study, egalitarian prayer and social action with a special focus on personal religious growth. The learning experience include seminars, havruta (paired learning), and individualized projects. Students become equipped with greater textual competence and broader knowledge of the Jewish tradition as a whole. This year, sixty-five applications were received for thirty-six spaces. Information is available at www.mechonhadar.org/YeshivatHadar.