The Russell Berrie Foundation
berrie fellows
Jewish Renaissance

Berrie Fellows Leadership Program/ UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey

Inspiring a New Generation of Jewish Leaders

berrie fellows

UJA Berrie Fellows, Russell Berrie Trustees and Staff at the Commencement Institute- July 2008

In August 2004, the Russell Berrie Foundation, in partnership with the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, launched the Berrie Fellows Leadership Program, which is designed to develop the next generation of Jewish leaders in the community. Through building the leadership skills of participants and deepening their knowledge of Jewish history, text and values, the program is designed to highlight the relevance of Jewish thought to addressing needs in a contemporary context. 

“If we can light a spark in the Berrie Fellows, they, in turn, can ignite others in the community to lead by example,” said Angelica Berrie, President of the Russell Berrie Foundation.

Admission to the program is highly selective. The Fellows' class is composed of men and women from northern New Jersey with various Jewish backgrounds. They are physicians, accountants and lawyers, have PhDs and MBAs, run major companies and real estate firms, and are leaders in the educational and non-profit fields.  Fellows must have the potential to hold major leadership positions in the community. They must possess the vision, character, talent and motivation to lead and to act—all prerequisites for effective leadership.

The first cohort of Berrie Fellows graduated in 2006.  The program undoubtedly touched all participants in different ways.  Dana Adler, a 2004-2006 Berrie Fellow, spoke at the Commencement Institute in July 2006, “The Berrie fellowship has armed me with the knowledge and confidence to make a difference in my own community and the world.  It has helped me articulate my passion.  It has provided a network of important people to turn to in Bergen County and nation-wide in order to further the tasks ahead.  The process has helped make my mission clear.”

In the Spring of 2006, the second cohort of 20 Fellows were selected from a pool of over 90 nominees between the ages of 36-49.  Cohort Two has been hard at work in the NJ community and abroad.  Berrie Fellow Amy Cushmaro recently received the Tree of Life award from Solomon Schechter Day School where she serves as president, Board of Trustees and Fellow Phil Dauber joined the steering committee of the Kehillah Partnership project, which works to create a collaborative community approach to Jewish life in Northern NJ.    

There has also been a good deal of collaboration between Cohort One and Two.  Fellows Gale S. Bindelglass, Larry Weiss and Mark Hirschberg, from both Cohorts, joined the local committee that was formed to support Birthright Israel.  In addition, Gale S. Bindelglass (from Cohort Two) and Uri Sobel (Cohort One) represented the Northern New Jersey community at a conference conducted by the Makom Institute of Arts and Culture in Israel in December 2007.

Berrie Innovation Grant Award

The Berrie Fellows were recently charged with the task of allocating $100,000 to innovative Jewish organizations that have a presence in the Northern New Jersey area.  The Berrie Innovation Grant award (BIG) aims to assist organizations to make a significant transformational impact on the Jewish community through out of the box thinking.

After a very detailed and thorough review process, the Berrie Fellows, led by Co-Chairs David Rosenblatt and Laura Freeman, announced the recipients of the first BIG award.  Each  organization represents innovative programming in a different area of Jewish life in Northern New Jersey.    

Jewish Outreach Institute - JOI is an organization that promotes a more welcoming and inclusive North American Jewish community that embraces intermarried families and unengaged Jews, and encourages their increased participation in Jewish life. Their innovation proposal is designed to reach out to the "male" partner in an interfaith family. Most efforts have been focused on the woman of an interfaith family but JOI is proposing that we need to reach out to the male partner also. They are going to run two pilot streams with the intention of rolling out one on a broader scale.

Darim - The Learning Network - Darim Online is a non-profit organization providing Internet strategy and general technology consulting to Jewish organizations. The innovation weare supportingis tooffer up to 20 local organization the opportunity to learn how to strategically infuse technology into their programming, outreach and community building through a special "boot camp" program.Based on the fast paced technological changes that are occurring in society, it is imperative that Jewish organizations stay current and efficient in their ability to effectively keep their membership connected.

Mechon Hadar - Mechon Hadar is an Institute for Prayer, Personal Growth and Jewish Study. The founders of Mechon Hadar have spent years teaching and building Jewish community, andthe organization iscommitted to independent, egalitarianstudy of traditional prayer and social action. Mechon Hadar has proposed an intensive adult learning program that is intended to connect people with text and empower them to return to their own communities and teach and guide people through the study of text. The innovation lies in the emphasis to teach their students to become teachers/leaders of Jewish study - not just students of Jewish study.

TCI - The Curriculum Institute - TCI is a program that reaches out to young people who attend secular private schools. Their goal is to help strengthen the Jewish identity of Jewish students and nurture school-wide appreciation of the Jewish heritage in independent high schools. The innovation here is to develop a Jewish connection in private schools that lay under the radar screen in terms of traditional forms of outreach. They have successfully executed this programin other parts of the country and nowthis grantwill bring this program to the NNJarea.

The Jewish Standard recently published an article on the Berrie Fellowship Program. Please click the following link to de directed to this article:

For more information on the UJA Berrie Fellows Leadership Program, please click the following link to be directed to the UJA of Northern NJ website: