Liron Lipinsky, who spent the last six years at the helm of J-JEP, a supplemental religious school and collaborative effort between Congregation Beth Shalom and Rodef Shalom Congregation, has been tapped by BBYO to implement a national educational initiative. The new initiative will be funded by a three-year $3.9 million grant from the Maimonides Fund, a foundation dedicated to education and Jewish identity in North America and Israel.
On Aug. 5, Lipinksy will begin her tenure as the associate vice president of Jewish enrichment at BBYO, the pluralistic youth group with more than 21,000 members throughout the world.
Lipinsky will be charged with “heading up a major grant we received to further place Jewish educators, Jewish song leaders and Jewish speakers throughout our platforms and experiences,” said Matthew Grossman, CEO of BBYO, in a phone interview.
The speakers and educators will be used at the more than 100 annual BBYO retreats, as well as at BBYO’s summer camps and at its International Convention, which attracts about 3,000 Jewish teens from around the world, Grossman said.
It is Lipinsky’s “strong educational background, inside and outside the Jewish space,” as well as her talents as a “manager, able to mobilize people,” that make her a good fit for her new position, Grossman said. “These were two of the qualities we were looking for.”
Prior to directing J-JEP, Lipinsky served as the head of schools at Beth Shalom and as a teacher in a public elementary school, as well as a corps member for Teach for America.
In her new position at BBYO, Lipinsky will be working to “assemble a corps of the best and brightest Jewish talent” to infuse BBYO programming with rich Jewish content, Grossman said. She will also be supervising at least four full-time professionals and managing a relationship with the funder.
“The whole idea is to create a network of Jewish talent, Jewish educators who will be working with BBYO,” Lipinsky said. “So, taking all the really incredible programs that they are already known for and elevating the Jewish content within it. I’ll be leading the onboarding and training and supervision of the Jewish faculty of BBYO — “anyone who is working with all the different conventions, and their camps and their international conventions, and their regional conventions.”
The whole idea is to create a network of Jewish talent, Jewish educators who will be working with BBYO.
BBYO is “an important leader in engaging Jewish teens through dynamic Jewish learning experiences,” Mark Charendoff, president of the Maimonides Fund, said in a statement. “We believe that the Jewish educators who will be brought on to create new content, programs and experiences for BBYO members will play a vital role in creating environments where teens feel more Jewishly capable and connected.”
Although BBYO’s headquarters are in Washington, D.C., Lipinsky primarily will be working remotely from Pittsburgh and will remain in the Pittsburgh Jewish community.
“Naturally, we are very happy for Liron’s new professional opportunities,” said a July 28 letter sent to J-JEP families and members of Beth Shalom and Rodef Shalom, and signed by the executive directors of those congregations, Rob Menes and Barry Weisband, respectively. “We are fortunate to have had Liron’s leadership to establish and grow J-JEP into a nationally recognized multi-denominational Jewish religious education program that stands out as a model for other communities around the country. Liron has been a valued leader, teacher, and member of our community and we thank her for her strong commitment to both synagogues and J-JEP.”
Under Lipinsky’s leadership, J-JEP’s K-7 enrollment swelled from 110 students to almost 200. Students attend Judaics courses offered at Rodef Shalom on Sundays and are offered Hebrew programs at both synagogues during the week.
The increase in J-JEP enrollment runs counter to national and local trends, which are generally in decline in non-Orthodox part-time Judaic schools.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished at J-JEP,” Lipinsky said. “It’s been absolutely incredible working with all the rabbis and working with the entire community and creating the most innovative and creative program for our children, and really thinking deeply about what kind of Jews we want them to be — what they need to have in order to continue living the best Jewish lives they can.
“If it wasn’t what I learned from J-JEP, I don’t think I would be able to step into this gigantic role [at BBYO],” she continued. “And it’s very bittersweet, because I created this with them, and to walk away from it is a bit challenging. And yet, I’m ready because I know that the next iteration of J-JEP will be just as magnificent as the first iteration. I can’t wait for my daughter to be old enough to attend J-JEP as well. And I’m looking forward to continuing to be a part of the Jewish community.”
Lipinsky will conclude her work as director of J-JEP on Aug. 19.
The congregations’ executive, rabbinical and lay leaders “are meeting to develop a transition plan,” regarding J-JEP, according to the July 28 letter. PJC