Alison Kur - 2014 Award Recipient
Alison Kur, Executive Director of Jewish Living at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, MA, is an attorney-turned-Jewish educator, who in just a dozen years in the field has altered the educational landscape in myriad settings and for a cross section of students and colleagues.
“My career has been grounded in a few basic ideas: learning is like water, we need it to survive; we are better in community than we are alone; evaluation and change help us reach our highest potential; and collaboration is the best tool we have to achieve excellence. My role is to promote relationships built on experiences that facilitate both individual and communal discovery of and engagement in Jewish life. My work is about finding the presence of G-d when we join together to share words of Torah and engage in the actions they teach.”
Since 2011, Alison Kur has been the Executive Director of Jewish Living at Temple Beth Elohim (TBE) in Wellesley, Massachusetts. During her tenure, Alison has re-imagined and re-oriented all levels of community education, doubled student enrollment and dramatically increased adult education participation. In 2006, TBE began the process of building a new synagogue. This became an educational experience, as an architect joined staff members and congregants to study Torah and Jewish conceptions of holiness, nature, and more. “We wanted a building that could be read like a text—we wanted it to facilitate learning. There are stories to be told and interpretations to uncover in the structure of our ark, the tiles on our lobby floor, the design of our hallways and Beit Midrash. This was one of the most meaningful projects of my life.
Alison began her career as an attorney in the public sector. In the midst of her career, she participated in the Wexner Heritage Program. “I entered this program as a young lawyer looking for ways to connect in the Jewish community. I gained a foundation for understanding Jewish history and thought, and was inspired to expand my volunteer efforts and, ultimately to make a career change and become a Jewish educator.”
Alison has worked in the Jewish world since 2002. First, as Program Director of the Leadership Development Institute at Combined Jewish Philanthropies where she launched a leadership development program combining case studies and Jewish texts for synagogue professionals and lay leaders, and then as Director of Congregation Learning at TBE.
Alison earned a B.A. from Brandeis University in 1983, a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law in 1988, and an M.A. in Jewish Communal Service and Jewish Education from Brandeis University in 2002. She has served in leadership capacities in Jewish organizations across the country such as the Union for Reform Judaism, the Progressive Association of Reform Day Schools (PARDES), and The Rashi School.
From Her Letters of Nomination and Support
“Alison is a visionary leader and teacher, and a tireless force for transforming cultures into communities of learning, caring and action. Her vision is moored in a profound understanding of the power of deep relationships that connect us to one another and to meaningful Jewish life. When Alison asks, the response is always ‘hineni,’ for we know that whatever the endeavor, it will be a model of engagement and excellence. At her heart she is a Jew in love with Judaism and the Jewish people; a teacher who lives all that she loves.”
Temple Beth Elohim
“In ten years, Alison has transformed the Jewish learning landscape of the entire congregation, deftly guiding staff and lay leaders to dream, imagine new models and work collaboratively to create a community that serves as a national model for inspiring active participation and learning from ages 1-to-101. Every member has been touched by her work.”
Rabbi Joel Sisenwine
Temple Beth Elohim
“Alison Kur is an inspiring presence. She advocates for and enacts in her work respect for the diversity of students and their families, and at the same time intentionally works hard to create a strong sense of community, characterized by meaningful personal relationships. Alison works in an intensive collaborative mode with her team of educators based on the conviction that time spent on deliberating and reflecting are critical to creating a culture for Jewish education that leads to openness to new ideas, willingness to take risks and critical reflection. At the heart of her commitments is building a strong and palpable Jewish community with high quality Jewish learning at its core.”
Sara S. Lee
Adjunct Professor Emeritus of Jewish Education
Hebrew Union College