8 Brilliant Jewish Organizations Reimagine Jewish Life
Jewish life is evolving.
As the world rapidly changes, so do the diverse needs, interests, and values of modern Jews. Consequently, groundbreaking social entrepreneurs have taken on the mantle of widening the tent of Jewish life, offering new and unique approaches to meeting the spiritual and social needs of today’s community. They draw on our tradition’s intrinsic ability to shape contemporary expressions of Judaism’s enduring values.
In this new paradigm, LGBTQ Jews find belonging, Spanish-speaking Central and South Americans can engage in programming tailored for them, and the intellectually curious can steep themselves in Jewish text and tradition that nurtures their modern worldviews.
To make their greatest impact, these organizations partner with UpStart, a lab, launchpad, and support system for our community’s bravest leaders and boldest ideas. UpStart’s Accelerator program fuels promising entrepreneurial organizations with the tools, wisdom, and support they need to thrive and endure. As the latest cohort of graduates completes the Accelerator this June, we celebrate their work and impact in Jewish communities all around the world.
Fuente Latina (FL) breaks down stereotypes and increases positive perceptions of Israel by educating and empowering Spanish-speaking journalists to cover the Jewish world accurately. They support Spanish-speaking media with facts, information, and access to newsmakers and events in order to reach over 600 million people globally.
Most recently, Fuente Latina assembled and educated several cohorts of key influential Latino journalists through their Media Fellowship Program, prior to their coverage of the Guatemalan embassy move to Jerusalem.
This year, FL plans to establish a presence in Los Angeles, the most concentrated Hispanic market in the United States, in an effort to engage hundreds of Southern California journalists and influencers in reaching Spanish speakers on Jewish issues.
Want to support their work? “You don’t have speak Spanish to get involved with Fuente Latina,” says Leah Soibel, FL’s Founder and CEO. “Individuals that are interested in building bridges with the Latino world can host events at their synagogues or host parlors in their homes.” They are also currently recruiting new Advisory Council members in Los Angeles and Miami.
Jewish Enrichment Center
Based in Chicago, the Jewish Enrichment Center is reimagining Jewish learning for children. Rooted in empathy, text study, and creative expression, their curricula and programs aim to serve the whole child, while nurturing their abilities to create social change in a dynamic Judaism and in the world.
At the Jewish Enrichment Center, children develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence to relate to a Judaism that grows as they grow. Children ask questions that matter to them. They dive into Jewish texts with peers and do creative, intensive projects that are changing beliefs about what Judaism is and what children are capable of.
This August, the center will host a 3-day workshop to teach the foundations of their approach to educational professionals. Having developed a wealth of educational tools and strategies that allow children to drive their own learning, they are now expanding to share their work with the broader community.
Want to support their work? Anyone interested in Jewish education is welcome to attend or sponsor the August workshop. Learn more about the Jewish Enrichment Center here.
Jewish Kids Groups
Jewish Kids Groups (JKG) is a reimagined, reinvented, and ridiculously cool Hebrew School. With an educational model that aims to make Hebrew School fun again, Jewish Kids Groups has grown into an independent network of five Jewish supplementary schools that educate and inspire children, engendering joyful Jewish identity, learning, and friendships.
The JKG Afterschool Community is their landmark program and educational model, combining the services of a premium after school care program with a hands-on, experiential Jewish and Hebrew curriculum. It’s just like summer camp, every day after school.
Within the next year, they are taking what they’ve learned in building their once a week Sunday program, JKG Sunday, and extending it to the JKG Afterschool Community expansion project. Over the next five years, they intend to follow in the footsteps of Moishe House and One Table in partnering with communities and philanthropists to extend their winning formula for Jewish engagement to families in cities across America.
Want to support their work? JKG is looking for philanthropists who care about Jewish education and want to invest in a new model that serves busy families’ after school childcare needs. Learn more here.
Jewish Studio Project
The Jewish Studio Project (JSP) was created to provide a new entryway into Judaism – one in which creativity is a pathway for connecting to tradition, cultivating community, and ultimately, bringing more good into the world.
One of JSP’s newest and growing offerings is the Studio Immersive, a deep dive into Jewish inquiry and creative process. It is the fullest expression of JSP’s methodology, bringing together a cohort of 14 individuals from across the country to learn, explore, and create for five days at their Berkeley studio .
JSP plans to expand their training capacity and begin training creative facilitators in their unique methodology, The Jewish Studio Process, within the next year. This intensive, hands-on training will empower educators, lay leaders, and others, with the skills and tools to design creative learning programs in their workplaces and home communities.
Want to support their work? Those looking to explore creative pathways into Judaism, who desire a deep Jewish learning experience and opportunity to immerse in creative process, are encouraged to apply for the upcoming Studio Immersive in October. It is open to activists, educators, seekers, lay leaders, artists, students, and everyone in between. No experience required.
KAHAL: Your Jewish Home Abroad
KAHAL: Your Jewish Home Abroad gives the tens of thousands of Jewish students studying abroad each year the resources and tools they need to meaningfully engage with the Jewish community. Their programs allow students to make connections and deepen their Jewish identity during one of the most important, meaningful, and enduring experiences of their lives.
Recently, KAHAL placed 617 students at more than 1,000 Passover Seders in 53 countries and 111 cities around the world this year.
Next year, KAHAL will look to scale its impact, nearly doubling the number of students reached. Together with the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, they will launch a robust Global Ambassador program which will deliver meaningful Jewish wisdom and experiences to more than 1800 students next year alone.
Want to support their work? In order to launch this ambitious Global Ambassador program, KAHAL will raise $50,000 in new funding before August. Financial support is highly appreciated at this pivotal time in KAHAL’s growth. Learn more about supporting their work across the globe here.
Mishkan Chicago is a spiritual community reclaiming Judaism’s inspiring and transformative essence. Not bound by a particular location, they meet for soulful musical prayer, learning, and holidays in homes, event venues, and religiously unconventional spaces all around the city, bringing spirit, song, and celebration to places without a Jewish institutional presence.
Recently, they have designed the Community of Mutuality, a composition of small groups led by lay leaders that enables each community member to belong and feel spiritually nourished in an intimate setting. “Forming relationships through shared interest, neighborhood, or demographic is what Jewish communities have been doing for thousands of years,” says Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann, Mishkan Chicago’s founder.
Mishkan Chicago has grown from a living room minyan of mostly young-adults to a multigenerational community of spiritual seekers of every age, identity, and background. Their High Holiday services are some of the biggest draws for the local Jewish community. This year they will launch a pre-High Holidays prep series that will enable people all over the world to take the inner journey of the holidays.
Want to support their work? Attend their High Holiday services or sign up for the pre-High Holiday series online. To support inspired, down-to-earth Judaism locally and more broadly, please support Mishkan Chicago by clicking here.
Orot: Center for New Jewish Learning empowers Jews of all backgrounds to discover new entry points into the richness of Jewish wisdom. Working in the local community of Chicago, Orot partners with individuals and institutions to design customized Jewish learning experiences that help people connect Jewish wisdom with their own lives, questions, and challenges in impactful and transformative ways.
The local community is their immersive lab where they create bold programs that interweave the ancient and the modern, the expected with the unexpected.
Orot will launch an initiative to build micro-communities of diverse individuals, where they explore the ways that Jewish wisdom, shared conversation, and reflective living can enrich our lives. This summer, they are at work on the curricula for two such programs, one for parents, and one for female leaders and leaders-to-be, which will be offered in the 2018-2019 year.
Want to support their work? Join Orot in Chicago for one of their innovative learning experiences, sign up to receive weekly online kavannot, follow their teachings and events on social media, or enroll in one of their online classes.
SVARA is a traditionally radical yeshiva dedicated to the serious study of Talmud through the lens of queer experiences. SVARA’s unique pedagogy makes Talmud study in the original accessible – for the first time in Jewish history – to all who want to learn. At SVARA, everyone – queer, straight, trans, alef-bet beginners, experienced talmudists, secular, religious, Jews, non-Jews – learns together in a mixed-level bet midrash that recognizes as crucial the insights of all those on the margins.
SVARA’s Queer Talmud Camp – a cross between a retreat, sleepaway camp, and residential yeshiva – has grown exponentially since 2015 from 50 participants to nearly 200 people, becoming an international community of queers, radicals, activists, and artists reclaiming and reshaping their tradition.
Thanks to the support of the Jim Joseph Foundation, the first cohort of SVARA’s nine-month Transformative Talmud Teaching Fellowship will begin this year. They will begin to train Talmud teachers and bet midrash leaders in every city and in every country in the SVARA method.