Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Educators at 17 New York and New Jersey yeshiva high schools and day schools were named as recipients of the Tikvah Fund’s Abraham Lincoln Teachers Fellowship. The inaugural class of 36 fellows will join an advanced seminar on American history and civilization designed for Jewish day school and yeshiva educators. The program, which will run from January to May 2021, will cover a wide range of themes including religion, freedom, self-government, equality and commerce—across 400 years of history.

The fellowship “is designed to gather the best and most dedicated teachers of American civilization from Jewish day schools and yeshivas for the purpose of creating a community of teachers and learners who will explore deeply, at the level of a graduate seminar, the enduring themes of American civilization,” said Tikvah’s online academy dean, Harry Ballan. “We do this in a spirit of patriotism and gratitude, with special attention to the Hebraic spirit of our civilization and the role of Jews in our story, all in the fervent hope that the knowledge, the patriotism and the gratitude we share will find their way into every yeshiva and day school classroom,” he told The Jewish Link.


Ballan came to The Tikvah Fund after a stint as dean of Touro Law School. He holds a Ph.D. from Yale and a law degree from Columbia and was, for many years, a law partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, where he still serves as senior counsel. The Tikvah Fund’s online academy, which has grown in its offerings and capacity during the pandemic, offers application-only courses for those in middle school through high school, as well as gap-year course offerings, primarily focused on Jewish and Western thought, and a collegiate forum. The Tikvah Fund also presents general interest courses, podcasts and lectures, focusing on Jewish culture, literature, politics and intellectual ideas, open to all ages.

The Lincoln fellows include The Moriah School’s Rina Levinson; Yavneh Academy’s Brittany Ricklis; Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy’s Ariel Levenson; The Frisch School’s Eitan Kastner; Heichal HaTorah’s David Roher (also a beloved Jewish Link contributor); Bruriah High School for Girls’ Margueya Poupko; SAR Academy’s Hannah Kelsen and SAR High School’s Jennifer Pepper; Westchester Day School’s Stephanie Cohen and Tina Roode; Yeshiva University High School for Girls’ Elie Weissman and Audi Hecht; The Leffell School’s Rachel Weber; Tichon Meir Moshe High School’s Ruchie Sokoloff; Miriam Wielgus of Yeshiva of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School; and Bnos Bais Yaakov’s Devorah Wolf.

Ballan said he was impressed with the caliber of the first class of fellows. “We received close to 200 outstanding applications for our program and were only able to accept 36 participants, who will be divided into four parallel seminars of nine teachers each. The teachers who applied are so exceptional in their dedication, intellect, knowledge and temperament, that our only regret is that we weren’t able to accept more of them into this inaugural class,” Ballan said.

Instructors will include Dean Ballan, as well as Wilfred M. McClay of the University of Oklahoma, Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik of Yeshiva University’s Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought; Leon Kass of the University of Chicago; Diana Schaub of Loyola University of Maryland; and Jonathan Sarna of Brandeis University.

Ballan added that he will be leading 10 seminars for each of the four sections, “covering themes across 400 years of America, from the first settlements of British North America around the turn of the 17th century until the present.

“In addition, we will have lectures by such world-class scholars as Prof. Jonathan Sarna on George Washington and the Jews, Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik on Jews and the founding of the United States, Prof. Diana Schaub on Frederick Douglass, Prof. Leon Kass on Martin Luther King, and Prof. Wilfred McClay on the meaning of history and of America as a land of hope.”

Lincoln fellows will attend advanced seminars every other week on Zoom and participate in guided independent study on subjects of special interest to each individual teacher. Fellows will be eligible to apply for additional summer funding and programming, and will receive a stipend for this specific fellowship of $5,000.

By Elizabeth Kratz