And the winner is

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So a few weeks back, philanthropist Charles Bronfman decides to start a contest to find the next “Big Idea” in Judaism. The winner needs to “produce a major work in the English language that aims to change the way Jews think about themselves and their community.” He or she will received a two-year professorship at Brandeis (with a competitive salary) to teach and develop the idea as well as a prize of $50,000 to promote the work.

“The contest is patterned on one held by Sears Roebuck chairman Julius Rosenwald in 1929, who offered $10,000 for a book answering the question “How can Judaism best adjust itself to and influence modern life?” The result was Mordechai Kaplan’s seminal work, Judaism as a Civilization, which became the foundation of the Reconstructionist movement.”(MORE)

But last week, Bronfman said the contest is not going how he expected it to:

For example, one person suggested a new Braveheart movie with a Jew as the central character.

The response came from one of many Jews busy wracking their brains to become the recipient of the six-figure sum to be granted to the winner of the competition.

Bronfman is not happy with the quality of these responses, and says they are a result of a distortion and misunderstanding.

“It got all screwed up,” Bronfman said, who spoke along with Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post. (MORE)

So how does a mega-philanthropist fix his own contest? How about winning it himself.

In that same interview, Bronfman described his vision for the Jewish community without a federation system:

In place of the bureaucratic body, Bronfman suggested a “very small body” of “very intelligent” executives who come together around two to three national objectives – and that’s it. The rest he would leave to the individual communities. (MORE)

Sounds like that’s a new, revolutionary way to think about the Jewish community. Having Bronfman win the contest himself would save the foundation some money and turn Jewish academia on its head.

Just a thought.

Posted on November 20, 2007

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