Senior Fellows

Daniel Libenson is the founder and president of the Institute for the Next Jewish Future, as well as the director of  jU Chicago, which is an INJF lab. His extensive background in Jewish communal innovation includes six years as Executive Director of the University of Chicago Hillel and three years as Director of New Initiatives at Harvard Hillel. Dan is a 2009 AVI CHAI Fellow and has also received the Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence award, Hillel International's highest professional honor. In 2010, he was named a Jewish Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Jewish News. Dan attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude, was an articles editor of the Harvard Law Review, and assisted Professor Alan Dershowitz in criminal defense work and on book projects, including The Vanishing American Jew. Dan has published articles in Ha'aretz, The New York Jewish Week, Zeek, eJewishPhilanthropy, and elsewhere. Before devoting his life to working in the Jewish community, Dan spent five years as a law professor after clerking for Judge Michael Boudin on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. He lives in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago with his wife and two children. You can contact Dan at


Benay Lappe is a Senior Fellow of the Institute for the Next Jewish Future. She is an award-winning educator specializing in the radical methods of legal change recorded in the Talmud. Benay serves as the Executive Director and Rosh Yeshiva of SVARA, a traditionally radical yeshiva based in Chicago; is Professor of Talmud at the Hebrew Seminary, in Skokie, Illinois; and is an educator and consultant for Keshet, in Boston. She holds a BA in Italian Literature and an MA in Teaching from the University of Illinois, an MA in Hebrew Letters from the University of Judaism, and an MA in Rabbinic Literature and rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Benay was chosen by Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation to be its first Spielberg Fellow at CLAL—The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, where she remains on the faculty as an Associate. She has taught at institutions and programs throughout the Jewish world.



Rebecca Milder is a Jewish educator whose work centers on innovative educational initiatives. Her work has included rebuilding synagogue schools, creating and leading family education initiatives, and running around the woods with kids as a Jewish environmental and experiential educator. Rebecca's most recent work was at the Community Foundation for Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago, fostering collaboration among Jewish day schools. As a volunteer, Rebecca is starting the Jewish Enrichment Center, an innovative Jewish after school that is bringing together congregational, unaffiliated, and day school families from across Hyde Park, Chicago.



Lex Rofes is a Jewish Educator and Organizer who serves as Strategic Initiatives Coordinator of the Institute for the Next Jewish Future. He graduated with a BA in Judaic Studies from Brown University. While a student there, he served as Student President of Brown RISD Hillel and as a Student Representative on the board of Hillel International. He also helped start the Open Hillel campaign, serving on its first steering committee as Jewish Outreach Coordinator. He comes to us from the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, based in Jackson, Mississippi, where he served as an Education Fellow. He has had articles published by JTA, MyJewishLearning.Com, JewSchool: Progressive Jews & Views, NewVoices, and others. A short essay of his was included in Greenhaven Press's educational resource entitled Anti-Semitism: Opposing Viewpoints. He grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island and is studying towards rabbinic ordination through ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal. Contact Lex at