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Elie Kaunfer

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer is co-founder, rosh yeshiva and executive director of Mechon Hadar and on the Talmud faculty at Yeshivat Hadar. A graduate of Harvard College, he was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he also completed an MA and is pursuing a doctorate in liturgy. A Wexner Graduate Fellow, Elie is a co-founder of Kehilat Hadar and in 2009 Newsweek named him one of the top 50 rabbis in America. He was selected as an inaugural AVI CHAI Fellow, and is the author of Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us About Building Vibrant Jewish Communities (Jewish Lights, 2010).


מי שברך לשבויים | Mi sheBerakh for the Captives, after Kristallnacht (Hamburg, November 1938)

Contributed on: 26 Oct 2023 by Elie Kaunfer | Unknown Author(s) |

This is a prayer for captives, written in November 1938 in Hamburg, following Kristallnacht (my translation following the Hebrew). “May each and every one of them return to their family…who are worrying about them.” . . .

לְמַלְמֵל וּלְהַמהֵם | The non-cognitive experience of ambient mumbling in communal Jewish prayer by R’ Elie Kaunfer

Contributed on: 10 Mar 2016 by Elie Kaunfer |

The mode of silently reading prayers puts the worshiper in the realm of the cognitive—just as we might experience reading a book on the subway. But the act of mumbling moves from a purely cognitive experience to a more viscerally emotional act. The aesthetic effect of this mumbling serves a dual purpose: Besides its own value as a way of engaging in prayer, it provides a contrast to the truly silent parts of the prayer: the Amidah. . . .

שמחת בת | Simḥat Bat of Amalya Shaḥar Exler-Kaunfer, by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer and Lisa Exler

Contributed on: 02 Jun 2010 by Elie Kaunfer | Lisa Exler |

In place of the blood of the slaughtered bulls from the covenantal ceremony in Exodus, we looked for another substance to effect the covenant ceremony. Amalya was born right after Shavuot, on which we have a tradition to eat dairy. In fact, milk itself is associated with the acceptance of Torah, as described in the following Midrash which quotes a verse from Song of Songs (4:11): “Sweetness drops from your lips, O bride; honey and milk are under your tongue and the scent of your robes is like the scent of Lebanon.” . . .