The Foundation was launched by Rabbi Joshua O. Haberman in 1983 with an anonymous gift of one million dollars. Part of that early money was spent commissioning a survey of the community’s need for Jewish learning programs and developing programs to meet those demands.
In 1985, the Foundation debuted its first program, the Lunch and Learn series. The Lunch and Learn series provides an opportunity for condensed study over the lunch hour. The Foundation has also offered classes for Jewish interns on Capitol Hill. The Lunch and Learn Series became so successful classes were expanded to make such study opportunities available throughout the DC, Virginia, and Maryland communities.
Two years after Rabbi Haberman formed the Foundation, the Foundation began a Scholar-in-Residence program, with its first Scholar-in-Residence, Professor Pinchas Peli. Over the years, the Scholar-in-Residence program brought respected and well-known Jewish educators to the DC area for a series of lectures and programs at local universities, synagogues, and other centers of Jewish learning. The Foundation has hosted 29 Scholars-in-Residence, including Israel prize winner Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz; Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder of Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York City; Dr. Stefan Reif from the University of Cambridge; and Dr. Nahum Sarna, a well-known scholar of the books of Genesis and Exodus.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, the Foundation developed a variety of different educational programs to meet the needs and demands of the Washington Jewish community, including Weekend Study Retreats and the Community Lecture Series. Among the most notable of these programs are the Travel/Study Seminars. These tours present unique opportunities to learn from recognized scholars while exploring international sights of Jewish history and interest. Destinations have included England, Egypt, Spain, and the Caribbean.
The Foundation’s newest program is the Distinguished Scholar Series. Launched in 2007, this series brings international scholars from different backgrounds and experiences to speak in the Greater Washington metropolitan area. The Foundation is proud to have hosted such well regarded scholars as: Susannah Heschel, who spoke of her father’s philosophy and of his being a father to her; Arthur Green, a scholar of mysticism; Michael Morgan, one of the leading authorities on the work and philosophy of Emil Fackenheim; and Ira F. Stone, the founder and director of the Mussar Academy in Philadelphia.