It is a bittersweet week.
On Monday night we celebrated the creation of 70 Faces Media, the new organization bringing together JTA, MyJewishLearning and Kveller. Later this week marks the first yahrtzeit of one of our honorary founders, Edgar M. Brofman, of blessed memory, the legendary businessman and philanthropist who created MyJewishLearning in 2002 and gave his blessing to the merger before his death in December 2013.
Edgar was a prince of his people, whose contributions to 70 Faces Media and, for that matter, the entire Jewish world, cannot be measured or sufficiently acknowledged. As just one act of our deep appreciation, and out of love and respect for Edgar’s passion for Jewish learning, we join The Samuel Bronfman Foundation in asking people to study and teach about Sh’mot, this week’s Torah portion, in Edgar’s memory.
In that spirit, let me share a few thoughts on this week’s parsha that connect to Edgar, as well as to his legacy that we at 70 Faces Media are working to uphold.
Parshat Sh’mot starts with the enslavement of the Israelites, the birth of Moses and the story of how he ends up being raised as a prince of Egypt. As the Book of Exodus and the rest of the Torah unfolds, Moses will earn his reputation as the greatest of all the prophets, when as God’s emissary he leads the Israelites out of bondage, delivers them the Torah and brings them to the edge of the Promised Land. But Moses’ first step back into the Jewish fold — his killing of the Egyptian taskmaster — is sparked not by a divine directive, but an inner sense of justice and concern for his people. Only years later would Moses realize his religious destiny.
Edgar did not start out life as an Egyptian, he never killed anyone, and he was never a believer in the traditional sense. But, still, he walked a similar path: Born the heir to a beverage empire, Edgar was in many ways a prince who was cut off from the everyday experiences of his people. Yet, like the princely Moses, he found it in himself to speak up and to speak out on behalf of his fellow Jews.
Edgar’s heightened sense of Jewish solidarity evolved to produce an equally passionate commitment to Jewish learning. He was not a man of faith, but he had great faith in the power of wrestling with sacred Jewish texts. Doing so, he believed, would help us both understand our traditions and past, and serve as a compelling way to bring diverse Jews together to think collectively about our present and our future.
We at 70 Faces Media are similarly dedicated to connecting as many people as possible to the unfolding Jewish story. And we share Edgar’s deep belief that — just like the Jews themselves — the Jewish story is an ever-changing one, made up of a multitude of perspectives and beliefs, reflecting the experiences of people and communities around the world.
By creating 70 Faces Media, we are working to ensure that everyone has a chance to connect to the Jewish story, whatever their level of Jewish knowledge or sense of Jewish identity — whether they are interested in ancient traditions or breaking news, pop culture or parenting, recipes or rituals.
Let the wrestling begin.
Pronounced: PAR-sha or par-SHAH, Origin: Hebrew, portion, usually referring to the weekly Torah portion.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.