We’ve written a bit lately about new Jewish organizations – both the just released study and some of the more recent programs that have been established. One of the first organizations in the Jewish world to work exclusively with these emerging groups is Bikkurim, an incubator for early-stage, New York-based, Jewish, non-profit initiatives.
Coming to Bikkurim as a resident group in 2006 was Footsteps, founded a few years earlier by Malkie Schwartz. A unique organization that serves people who are transitioning from ultra-orthodox communities as they seek to enter mainstream society Footsteps is now celebrating five years of success.
Since its formation in December 2003, Footsteps has positively impacted the lives of more than 500 people who have made the difficult decision to explore the world outside the ultra-orthodox communities in which they were raised. Footsteps seeks to assist these people not only to adjust to life in the secular world, but also to thrive and prosper. Footsteps offers a variety of services and programs that provide social, psychological and emotional support, educational tutoring, career and college counseling, scholarships for advanced education, temporary housing and personal counseling. These services are provided both on site at the Footsteps’ “Space”, a welcoming location with meeting facilities, an up-to-date computer lab, library, counseling offices and a lounge, and through a network of off-site providers.
In its first five years, Footsteps’ accomplishments have included:
- Serving over 500 participants who learned about Footsteps through word of mouth and sought our support
- Helping more than 70 participants prepare for, and pass their high school equivalency exams (GED’s)
- Providing 30 college and graduate school scholarships totaling more than $135,000
- Holding more than 20 social events per year, providing the opportunity for clients to socialize and provide mutual support
- Providing computer instruction and computer availability to more than 100 participants in its own on-site lab
- Offering workshops in basic skills such as cooking, social relationships, personal finance, job hunting, and how to find a home
- Providing over 7,000 hours of private and group counseling services
“Before joining the Board of Footsteps, I never realized that right here, in New York City, there is a group of intelligent, capable individuals who were born here, lived here their entire lives and yet for whom the challenge to function in our society is more profound than those of our most recent immigrants” said Jonathan Green, a member of the Footsteps Board of Trustees. “Many lack a high school education, cannot read and write English fluently, have never watched TV or read a secular newspaper, have never used a computer. I can’t express enough how important it is for them to have an organization like Footsteps that they can turn to for help.”
about: Footsteps provides educational, vocational and social support to those seeking to enter or explore the world beyond the insular ultra-religious communities in which they were raised. People from different ultra-orthodox communities who choose to enter mainstream America currently do so as new immigrants in every sense. They face cultural disorientation and isolation coupled with a lack of practical and marketable skills. Founded in December 2003, Footsteps aims to assist individuals who choose to make this difficult transition.
about: Bikkurim an Incubator for New Jewish Ideas energizes and enriches the North American Jewish community by finding innovative Jewish ideas and nurturing them to organizational sustainability. Matching entrepreneurial drive with organizational know-how, Bikkurim transforms the dreams of visionaries into a tide of initiatives that contribute meaningfully to Jewish life and expand the nature of Jewish community. Bikkurim facilitates ongoing conversations between the committed promoters of new ideas and the established institutions of the organized Jewish community.