by Mordechai Shushan
February 24, 2013 – Jewish innovation funders have suspended organizational grantmaking and announced direct payments to individuals in exchange for signing a Jewish loyalty oath. In a stunning turn of events, major supporters of the so-called “Jewish innovation ecosystem” have announced they will end support to the myriad Jewish startups they’ve seeded over the past decade and opt for a direct to consumer strategy. “It was the obvious next step in our increasingly desperate attempts to ensure the Jewish future.” said one foundation professional. “I mean, how many organic cooperative eco-dance farm spiritual collectives can you stand? We’ve just decided to bottom-line the value proposition.”
Participating funders will issue rechargeable Jewish debit cards to registered individuals who will earn credits for acting, eating, and thinking Jewish. In parts of Brooklyn and Silverlake, talks are underway to issue points for brunch. One Park Slope resident said he would likely sign up for the program. “Look around you dude, I’m surrounded. If I can get compensated for living in a hipster shtetl I could use the shekels.” He added: “Baruch hashem, cha-ching.”
With affiliation rates dropping into the low double-digits, funders feel they have little to lose by redirecting the more than $200 million per year they spend in grants to Jewish innovators and millions more on grant applications and evaluations. “It turns out that ensuring the Jewish future is all about insuring Jews, actuarially speaking,” said the executive director of a large Jewish institution.
Lump sum bonus payments will be awarded for marriage to a Jew, conversion of a non-Jewish fiancé/e to Judaism, or the birth or adoption of a Jewish child (doubled for all three in a three year period). Recipients will be required to demonstrate evidence of Jewish activities, such as posting photos of the Shabbat dinners they attend to Twitter and Pinterest. Groupons will be given to “foodie” Jews who post exciting new recipes for Jewish classics such as brie and caramelized onion Hamantaschen. Ultimately the consortium hopes to provide long-term Judaifying incentives such as free diapers, college savings plans, and a lifetime supply of lox.
The funder consortium also announced a new iPhone app, ChaiSquare, which will use GPS to track user location and award bonuses for checking in at established Jewish locations such as synagogues, JCCs, Federations, and Leonard Cohen concerts. A strategic partnership between funders and JDate will offer discounts for courting costs such as dinner, theatre tickets, and cupcakes (contraception NOT covered). One JDate veteran weighed in: “How many times have I said to my roommates ‘You couldn’t pay me to date that guy again!’ Well, I take it back, I mean, everyone has a price.”
A new cadre of shomrim (guards) will be recruited to patrol ashrams, megachurches, and Saturday morning spinning classes to monitor non-compliance. Said one enforcer, “That whole focus on immodest dress and lack of head coverings is just a waste of time. It’s yoga pants that are the real threat.”
One of the most important changes will be a revamp of Taglit/Birthright, to have a greater focus on follow up. The trips will continue to be free but will now conclude with a required six-hour Israel-Diaspora timeshare presentation to get participants to make a real commitment to the land in terms of real estate investments. “Nothing says ‘I’m in it for the long haul’ like owning property” said one Birthright tripleader/condo broker.
Some leaders of Jewish startups reacted with shock, disbelief, and then glee as they realized that the first year’s payments alone would exceed their cumulative fundraising efforts. “Welcome to the fifth ‘i’ – Income!” declared one well-known innovator who requested anonymity, fearing that his eligibility for the bonus payment trifecta might be at risk if funders realize how old he really is.
Reached for comment, one co-founder of a now-defunded “Jewish innovation think tank” said no one should be surprised. “Look, we’ve been disintermediated. Maybe gathering all that data wasn’t such a good idea after all. It turns out you can’t actually buy anything with social capital.”
With an eye to current issues facing the Jewish world, Mordechai Shushan and friends spin Purim Spiels for the web.