Jewish Ledger, Wednesday, January 30, 2008
by Dahlia Greer
WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA -- Imagine working passionately and tirelessly in the uphill trek towards fulfilling your life's mission, only to have someone say to you, "I am going to fast-forward your career 20 years."
That is what Harold Grinspoon, known as one of the most innovative Jewish social entrepreneurs in America, said to 32-year-old Rabbi Ethan Tucker of New York City, as he granted him $100,000 per year for two years, with his inaugural Grinspoon Jewish Social Entrepreneur Fellowship. Tucker is the son of Hadassah Lieberman and Rabbi Gordon Tucker. He is the step-son of Connecticut’s Sen. Joseph Lieberman.
"We modeled the Grinspoon Fellowship on the MacArthur Fellows Program, nicknamed "the genius grant", to provide an unrestricted stipend to a talented individual who has shown extraordinary originality and dedication in his creative pursuits, and a marked capacity for self-direction," explained Harold Grinspoon Foundation trustee Jeremy Pava.
"We selected Ethan because he has a rare gift for bringing together Jews of different streams, engaging them and inspiring them to integrate Judaism into their lives according to how it makes sense for them," remarked Harold Grinspoon. "Ethan's projects are key to stimulating the next generation to build their own vibrant Jewish communities."
Tucker explained, "Many people say, 'The Jewish world needs revolutionary change to survive.' I say, 'Not true.' We have a great product here, it's called Judaism, and the important question is: How do we give people access to it, to let them take advantage of it? We need the right people to promote it and bring it to the widest audience possible."
Tucker is one of the co-founders and leaders of the national independent minyanim (prayer community) phenomenon, brought to light in a recent New York Times article. "Independent minyanim empower every congregant to be Jewishly literate and make his or her own decisions," explains Tucker.
Through the Grinspoon Fellowship, Tucker is developing curricula for and expanding Hadar, which he co-founded. Based in New York City, Hadar is a unique, non-denominational institute whose mission is to revitalize communal life - through prayer, study and social action - among young Jews in America. Through educational outreach and consulting, Hadar has nurtured the creation of new independent minyanim in 50 communities, including Denver, Atlanta, Seattle and San Francisco. Slingshot, a highly respected resource for new and innovative Jewish programming, named Hadar as one of North America's 50 most creative and effective Jewish organizations, noting "Everything they are doing is ground breaking."
A central project of Hadar is Yeshivat Hadar, the only full-time, co-ed, non-denominational yeshiva in North America, which Tucker also co-created.
The Grinspoon Fellowship is also enabling Tucker to produce the ultimate online Jewish Law Think-Tank, drawing in everyone from top The Think Tank will consist of web logs, wikis and the latest online tools for stimulating worldwide involvement in Jewish Law.
"I am extremely grateful to the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, not only for the funding, but also for the tremendous insights I'm gaining in observing the operation of such a highly effective Jewish organization. Harold Grinspoon is an inspiring mentor," remarked Rabbi Tucker.
Ordained by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, Tucker is a graduate of Harvard College and earned a PhD in Talmud and Rabbinics from Jewish Theological Seminary.