Bikkurim Invests in Strengthening High-Impact Organizations

Bikkurim has selected Keshet and Footsteps to receive $255,000 in funding and organizational assistance through Atid Hazak (Strong Future), a new program designed to enable the most promising Jewish organizations founded over the past two decades to increase their strength, stability, and impact.

Keshet is a national grassroots organization that works for the full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Jews in Jewish life. When Keshet began almost two decades ago, LGBT issues weren’t on the radar screens of most Jewish organizations. But thanks to a successful strategy of training Jewish leaders to create inclusive institutions, strategic advocacy, community organizing, and creation of inclusive Jewish resources, Keshet has helped put the issue of LGBT inclusion front and center in the Jewish community.

Footsteps is the only organization in North America that assists Jews who wish to explore life beyond the insular religious communities in which they were raised. Footsteps has provided services to 850 individuals as they develop new identities, build new communities, and lead self-determined lives.

Each organization will receive $100,000 in grants and guidance valued at $155,000 over two years. The funds and guidance will enable these game-changing organizations to strengthen their operations and build capacity for future growth.

Andrea Fram Plotkin, co-chair of the Bikkurim Admissions Committee, acknowledged: “Some might question why we are making such a significant investment in two organizations that are already so successful. But that is exactly our point. Keshet and Footsteps have proven that there is overwhelming demand for what they have to offer, but their infrastructure has not kept pace with their rapid organizational growth. That is where Atid Hazak comes in. We are making investments to build the internal scaffolding, so that these organizations will endure and multiply their impact over time.”

“Over the last few years, demand for our services has increased exponentially, stretching us beyond our capacity” said Lani Santo, executive director of Footsteps. “With the generous support of Atid Hazak we will be able to shore up our infrastructure to serve the burgeoning number of formerly ultra-Orthodox Jews who are learning of us and seeking our services, so that they can make the complex transition to modern society.”

Idit Klein, executive director of Keshet, noted: “We are enormously grateful and honored to participate in Atid Hazak along with our friends at Footsteps. Over the years, we’ve grown significantly in the scope of our work and impact, but our infrastructure hasn’t kept pace with our program growth. Support from Atid Hazak will help strengthen our foundation for building a Jewish community where all of us – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight – have a place in shaping our collective future.”

“These organizations couldn’t be more different – Keshet is 18 years old, has a budget of nearly $2 million and offices in three cities; Footsteps is only 10 years old, has a budget of under $1 million, and is primarily local to the New York metropolitan area,” observed Bikkurim executive director, Aliza Mazor. “But in terms of what they need to increase organizational strength and stability, they are very similar. At Bikkurim, we do not believe that every organization needs to grow for the sake of growing; rather, we want to see organizational strength at every age and stage. Keshet and Footsteps are both ‘best of brand’ in the Jewish community – meeting unmet needs and challenging us to uphold our highest ideals. We are delighted to help these organizations go from strength to strength.”

Atid Hazak is a direct outgrowth of the recommendations set forth in “From First Fruits to Abundant Harvest: Maximizing the Potential of Innovative Start-Ups,” a 2012 study that was published by Bikkurim, Wellspring Consulting, and six partner organizations. The report found that the Jewish community lacked a coordinated funding and capacity-building mechanism attuned to the unique needs of post-startups. Keshet and Footsteps join Hazon, which was the inaugural recipient of this investment in collaboration with the Natan Fund.