A Snapshot of Jewish Start-Ups

One of the great things about the new technology tools, is the ability to easily participate in events, workshops and the like from across the city or thousands of miles away. So last night, or in the wee hours of morning here in Jerusalem, I tuned into the Samuel Bronfman Foundation hosted program where the focus was on releasing data from the recently conducted 2008 Survey of New Jewish Organizations. The webstreaming quality was not up to the same level as their December program, but that hardly took away from the results presented.

The survey, commissioned by The Natan Fund and The Samuel Bronfman Foundation and conducted by Jumpstart, was the first-ever survey of the nonprofit Jewish start-up sector. It sought data on the hundreds of nonprofit start-ups that have been founded in the North American Jewish community in the last ten years in order to better understand the needs of these organizations and to help create effective responses to the current economic downturn.

The preliminary report on the data contains ten key findings, covering the organizations and their participants, with a focus on how they are run, staffed, funded and governed. We posted a few in Transforming our Communal Landscape on Monday. All of us will take different meanings from the survey, and rather than randomly extrapolate, the link below will take you to the complete report and allow you to evaluate the results from your own unique perspective. But the most significant take-away – something we’ve been saying since we launched – was summed up this way by Natan’s Felicia Herman,

the innovation sector is a serious force to be reckoned with.”

Here, with just a small hint of what is in store, is the Survey Overview:

header American Jewish life has undergone a noticeable transformation in the past decade as the institutions of 20th century Judaism have grappled with changes in Jewish demography, identity and community. The new environment has created both opportunities and challenges for Jewish organizations and communities. In response to the changing conditions, an entire landscape of new Jewish initiatives has emerged. Originally created as bootstrap efforts to address program and service gaps in existing institutions, they increasingly represent a new communal infrastructure for hundreds of thousands of Jews of all varieties and persuasions.

New technologies, as well as broader social and cultural changes, have empowered individuals and groups to build communities and organizations that speak to their needs and values. These organizations expand opportunities to engage Jewishly beyond those offered by established Jewish organizations. Since the mid 1990s, hundreds of independent Jewish initiatives have been launched, many dedicated to specific niches within the broader architecture of Jewish life. Because these organizations reflect the fluid and porous identities of their constituents, they blend religion, education, culture, and social advocacy. Their programs span every aspect of Jewish life and often combine these missions in unconventional ways that set them apart from relatively mono-focused 20th century Jewish institutions. This blending of mission focuses is yet another example of how the traditional taxonomy of Jewish organizations may no longer be operative. It is difficult to make clear distinctions based on movement affiliation or even to differentiate between local and global initiatives. In short, the old categories frequently don’t apply.

The 2008 Survey of New Jewish Organizations