The Covenant Grants

Divorce and Discovery Expansion

Organization: Divorce and Discovery: New Visions for Jewish Healing, Berkeley, CA

Grant Year: 2023

Project Director: Rabbi Deborah Newbrun and Wendy Kesser

Type of Grant: Signature

Grant Amount: $90,000 (2 years)


Adult Education

Divorce and Discovery: New Visions for Jewish Healing– To support a national expansion of retreats, trainings, and curricula that harness the rich traditions of Judaism to engage, educate, and invigorate those affected by divorce.

How can Jewish tradition support those affected by divorce?

First, we need to recognize there is no coherent response to Jewish divorce. But by innovating comprehensively, and borrowing from Judaism’s rich trove of texts and rituals, we can create divorced-focused Jewish teachings, rituals, and prayers about navigating challenge, conflict, forgiveness, and healing for those grieving, and then help them rebuild their lives and dreams.

Why does this initiative warrant expansion right now?

When Rabbi Deborah Newbrun, already a nationally respected Jewish Resident Camp Director, and Wendy Kesser, a Wexner Heritage alumna and creator of the Certified Divorce Coaching’s Faith-Based certification program, both got divorced, they each turned to their Jewish faith, but each found little spiritual support despite their deep connection to the Jewish community. Now, Newbrun and Kesser are dedicated to creating a sea change in the national Jewish community’s response to divorce.

What is something surprising that the community should know about Jews affected by divorce?

The community should know that our effort is not only supporting existing Jews at a crucial moment in their lives, but it’s also saving the next generation of Jews who are also affected by divorce. Of the Reform and Conservative Jews who have married since 2010, 72% were interfaith marriages. Of those unions, roughly 40% will end in divorce, leaving a single Jewish parent to maintain and model Jewish life in the home solo. How can a single parent—absent community and pastoral support—provide that connection alone? Our work is holy in its mission to hold close those going through divorce exactly at a time when they need companionship, support, and spiritual hope the most.