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Institute's Report of Activities

Friday, December 14 2007



December 14, 2007

To: Members and Friends of the Institute

From: Rabbi Marc D. Angel, Director

I thank you for your support, friendship and encouragement. You
have been instrumental in launching the Institute and putting it on a solid
footing. The Institute formally began operations on October 8. In these past
two months, we have made important progress, and I am pleased to present you
with this Report of Activities.


The Institute convened a conference of Orthodox rabbis,
October 29-30, in West Palm Beach.
Thirty-three rabbis from throughout North America-and
one from Israel--attended
(we had initially hoped for 20-25, so we exceeded our expectations). We engaged
in candid discussion of issues facing the Orthodox community in particular, and
the Jewish community in general. This was the most powerful and meaningful
rabbinic gathering I have ever attended. The conference was co-chaired by Rabbi
Avi Weiss (President of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah) and me. The group concluded
that we need to develop into a larger, national Orthodox rabbinic fellowship,
where we can work together to foster an intellectually vibrant, compassionate,
inclusive and open Orthodox Judaism. We have already begun planning for a
larger conference to be held in April, and have been communicating with rabbis
in North America and Israel
about our plans. This is an important initiative that can have dramatic impact
on the future of Orthodoxy.

The Institute is serving as a catalyst for the formation and
development of this national rabbinic fellowship, and will continue to invest
in this project until the rabbinic fellowship becomes self-sustaining.


Our website (www.jewishideas.org)
became operational as of November 1. We
have already had several thousand visitors, with the average visitor spending
nearly 10 minutes on the site. Many have stayed longer, and have obviously been
reading the items on the site. The website provides general information about
the Institute and its goals; articles; opinion pieces; responsa; selections of
my writings (Min haMuvhar); an online store; and we hope to open a members'
forum in the near future. We want the
website to reflect our commitment to legitimate diversity within the Orthodox
tradition. We have invited an excellent group of people to write pieces for the
website, and plan on adding new material on a regular basis.

The website is the Institute's means of reaching a wide
audience. We are pleased that a growing number of people from throughout the
country (and beyond) have become supporting members through the website. Please
let your friends and associates know about the website so that they, too, can
become part of our expanding constituency.


I have served as scholar in residence at a number of
congregations during the past few months: Young Israel of Hillcrest; Shaarei
Torah (Toronto); Hebrew Institute
of Riverdale; and will be at the Sephardic Institute Synagogue in Brooklyn
later this month. I have also participated in the Torah in Motion conference in
Toronto, and have spoken at the
Netivot Shalom congregation in Baltimore.
In these contexts, I have discussed themes relating to the ideas and ideals of
the Institute.

I have been on radio programs in Cleveland and Baltimore,
and have also been taped for the Leon Charney television program. Each of these
events allows me to reach a new audience for the Institute. My article in the
Forward (you can find it also on our Institute's website) generated much
discussion in a number of websites and blogs.

We have engaged a rabbinic intern, Alexander Kaye, to help
in arranging several educational programs in the New York
City area. We hope to have these public events in the
spring of 2008. Our hope is to be able to offer educational programs in
communities throughout the country.


We are in the planning stages of arranging for the
publication of books, educational materials and a semi-annual journal. All of these projects require a lot of time
and money, but I am confident we will be able to achieve our goals. The
publication program will become one of the centerpieces of the Institute's work.


The Institute has gotten off to an excellent start, thanks
to your support. During our first
several months, we have raised almost a half million dollars in gifts and pledges.
I thank each of you for helping make this happen.

Our immediate goal is to raise one million dollars. This
will ensure the Institute's operation for the first two years, and allow us to
do our publications and programs in a proper manner. It will also give us the
confidence to undertake new projects as opportunities arise.

Our longer term goal is to establish a substantial endowment
fund so that the Institute can be on a solid financial footing for the coming
years. Gifts may be made online through our website (www.jewishideas.org) or by mailing
contributions to the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, 8
West 70th Street, New York, NY 10023.

On the first night of Hanukkah, Isaac and Harriet Ainetchi
hosted a beautiful reception in their home in support of the Institute. We all
had a lovely time-and raised significant funds for the Institute as well! Stephen and Natalie Neuwirth are planning to
host a parlor meeting in New Rochelle,
and several others have indicated their interest in doing similar events in
their communities. We would like to have such events outside the New
York area as well. If you are interested, please let
me know.


Thank you to all who have contributed to the Institute and
who have shared your ideas and talents to move us ahead. Norman Benzaquen has
been effective in reaching out to potential contributors and has generated
significant support for the Institute. Andre Guenoun has been doing a wonderful
job in keeping our finances in order. Benjamin Motola designed the logo for our
stationery and the website. David Notik is our website designer and manager. Efrat
Greenstein has done our legal work. Dr. Alan Singer and the Shearith Israel
office staff have been exceedingly helpful in so many ways. Rabbi
Hayyim Angel has shared his wisdom and insights relating to
the projects and plans of the Institute. Major grants have been received from
individuals and foundations, and we have a growing list of supporting members
of the Institute.

I am especially grateful to the Board of Trustees and
members of Congregation Shearith Israel
for their friendship and understanding. After 38 years of service in the
rabbinate of Shearith Israel,
the Congregation has allowed me to become Rabbi Emeritus so that I can devote
myself full time to the work, ideas and ideals of the Institute.

I thank the Almighty for having brought us to this point,
and pray that our efforts on behalf of our community will be blessed.