Two distinguished rabbis – Dr. Sabato Morais and Dr. H. Pereia Mendes – founded The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York City in 1886 as the vital intellectual and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism. They welcomed their first class of 10 students in 1887. Since then, the seminary has grown to become one of the world’s finest Jewish educational institutions, with 375 current students and an alumni network of 4,225.More about this grant »
Leadership and Innovation
The William Davidson Foundation supports the ongoing career development of Jewish professionals, educators and communal leaders and enables the creation of innovative resources for studying and experiencing Jewish tradition, ritual, and community. We recognize that outstanding educational and engagement experiences emanate directly from those leading the field, and that these leaders must be highly qualified, offered continuous training, support, and advancement, and derive deep satisfaction from their work. The world is also changing, and the opportunity for learning and engagement is evolving with it. We seed innovative approaches to legacy challenges and possibilities, and empower leaders to be changemakers and influencers for years to come.
In this area, we work in both Southeast Michigan and Israel, but also with institutions that work across the United States and through globally accessible platforms online. Our approach includes several elements and activities:
- Investing in leadership and career trajectories of Jewish professionals, educators and communal leaders in the United States and Israel through research, academic training, and other support so that they can have the skills and tools necessary to be innovative, excellent, life-long practitioners and influencers on Jewish life.
- Supporting innovative resources for studying and experiencing Jewish text, tradition, ritual and community — resources that recognize and embrace Judaism as a rich, pluralistic treasure trove, allowing for the mass personalization of Jewish practice and engagement, regardless of affiliation.
In this way, we are building on Mr. Davidson’s own legacy of generosity — one which helped to establish the William Davidson Graduate School of Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Wexner Foundation’s Davidson Scholars Program for Jewish educators. We believe that the Jewish community thrives on leadership — those individuals who empower others to live authentic Jewish lives, whether in the home, in the classroom, in the synagogue, or in other settings. Highly trained, deeply committed and personally rewarded Jewish professionals, educators and communal leaders can make the difference between mediocrity and excellence. Through our historic and trailblazing partners, we continue to invest in these inspiring change-agents and innovators who will continue to drive community learning, engagement and joy for individuals and agencies for years to come.
We pair this investment in leaders with support for innovations that expand access to texts, traditions, and community. New ways of approaching old challenges have always emerged in Jewish life — from the first printed Talmud, to the founding of the modern State of Israel, to an American Judaism that ordains women rabbis — innovation continues to move the community forward. The world moves at a remarkable pace, and Judaism continues to keep up with new innovations and opportunities to both recognize and celebrate the past, while embracing the present and advancing the future. This includes education technology, a recognition of the power of the cloud, and a renewed sense of optimism. The Jewish community must remain at the forefront of these changes, innovating and implementing the new while honoring the historic.
Sefaria is a nonprofit organization, established in 2013, to advance the future of Jewish learning by digitizing and offering Jewish texts, in Hebrew and English translations. Sefaria’s founders, the best-selling author Joshua Foer and Google project manager Brett Lockspeiser, envisioned a world in which any interested person could have unfettered access to the entire Jewish canon.More about this grant »