Jewish New Media Innovation Fund Announces Grantees

Jewish New Media Innovation Fund Awards $500,000 to Digital Media Projects
Jim Joseph, Righteous Persons and Schusterman Family foundations invest in new media innovation designed to shape American Jewish life and learning for 21st century;
9 projects selected from diverse pool of 300+ applicants

The Jewish New Media Innovation Fund, a pilot program of the Jim Joseph, Righteous Persons and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family foundations, announced today that over $500,000 in grants and technical support will be awarded to nine digital media projects designed to engage 18 – 40 year olds in Jewish life, learning, culture and community.

The selected projects are diverse in the tools and technologies they will use to empower Jews to interact with, share, build and explore Jewish life. They include virtual communities, mobile applications, websites, video series, a data management system, a digital music platform and interactive holiday and liturgy translators.

In its pilot year, the portfolio offers a mix of project types, including:

  • a digital platform for exploring historical dimensions of Jewish music and culture (Idelsohn Society Digital Archive);
  • an interactive, customizable Haggadah creator (Haggadot.com);
  • a parenting website targeting the vast spectrum of Jewish families, with local online communities and an interactive Jewish baby name bank (MyJewishLearning.com);
  • online cartoon videos teaching people how to lead Jewish rituals and holidays in their homes (Moishe House and G-dcast);
  • a digital TED-style dialogue about G-d (Punk Torah);
  • a mobile application that places Jewish campus life directly in the palm of your hands (Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life);
  • an online community that translates traditional Jewish liturgy into modern vernacular (Morgan Friedman);
  • a mobile application that empowers individuals to learn weekly Torah and Haftorah portions (Media Midrash); and
  • an intelligent data management system that uses predictive analytics to connect young Jews to programs and opportunities based on expressed personal interests (Measuring Success).

Each project will receive one-time funding for a period of 12 months. In order to enhance the impact of these grants, the Fund will offer to provide mentoring and coaching, as well as resources for benchmarking and evaluating success.

“Our goal is to support innovative initiatives using new media to engage and deepen Jewish identity,” said Phyllis Cook, a member of the Jim Joseph Foundation Board of Directors. “It is my hope that some of these projects will surprise us with their effectiveness and that we will learn how to employ this media effectively in touching the next generation.”

The nine finalists were chosen from a pool of over 300 applications spanning eight countries and requesting an estimated $18 million. Nearly 65 percent of the applications came from not-for-profit organizations, with the remaining 35 percent submitted by for-profits and individuals.

A team of 75 readers scored each application according to a criteria rubric that placed a premium on innovative ideas that serve the Jewish community and can be successfully implemented with the grant funds. A pool of the strongest 30 proposals advanced to the six-member committee of advisors consisting of experts in the fields of digital media, social innovation, Jewish life and youth engagement. These advisors closely reviewed and discussed the top proposals and then recommended the nine projects that will receive funding.

The process was expertly stewarded and facilitated by Blueprint Research + Design, a strategy consulting firm specializing in program research and design for philanthropic foundations.

The Jewish New Media Innovation Fund was established by the Jim Joseph, Righteous Persons and Schusterman Family foundations in an effort to better understand how digital media can help preserve Jewish history, renew Jewish traditions, and revitalize Jewish institutions while promoting more vibrant and meaningful Jewish life in the 21st century.

The funders plan to study the full applicant pool and share aggregate learnings about the need for new media support in the Jewish world with the Jewish philanthropic community and all those working to foster Jewish life, learning, culture and community.

Additional project description information can be found on the JewishNewMedia.org website.

 

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  1. [...] is the third in a nine-part series describing the projects of the 2011-2012 Jewish New Media Innovation Fund Award Recipients.] “There is only one thing that 85% of Jews in this country do. There’s no 85% that keep Shabbat. [...]

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