Building a Dream out of Empowering Reality

By Yechiel Hoffman

As we bridge the gap between secular and religious, formal and non-formal, socialization and empowerment, we must remember that change happens over time and only with the right support. By providing philanthropic and institutional support to change agents, we empower the leaders in Jewish education to build a Jewish education for the 21st Century that will empower others to make change for themselves.

My Jewish and personal journey passes across bridges linking the various worlds I have belonged to personally, spiritually, professionally, and educationally. I journeyed from a Chabad Yeshiva upbringing to become a modern orthodox activist. I migrated from film school to orthodox smicha (Rabbinic ordination). I passed through an education fellowship at a Reform college to a doctorate program in Jewish Educational Leadership at a joint program at a pluralistic Jewish college and a secular university. Each of these bridges enhances my pluralistic approach to Jewish learning and living, as well as my embrace of media and technology as tools to encounter life and social relationships and as a means to challenge and accept my traditional observance. Through my journeys of reflection, I discovered that the engine that drives me down the windy road is my will and desire to empower myself to empower others, whether it be young filmmakers, Jewish teens, or disenfranchised Jews. As an educator, I seek ways to empower not only my students directly, but also their families and communities.

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