Funding Challenges

by Alan Cohen and Lisa Lepson

Helen Chernikoff’s article, “Meditating on the Margins” (June 20), raises the question about what it takes to nurture and sustain the entrepreneurial projects and visionary leaders holding great promise for the Jewish community. Our experience shows that it certainly takes time and resources to build the capacity that the Jewish Meditation Center and other startups need to thrive.

Our colleagues, who were also mentioned in the article, including the Slingshot FundNatan and the Covenant Foundation, have demonstrated their vision and commitment to a strong Jewish future by investing in many early-stage organizations. But while we are experiencing a resurgence of interest in creating new Jewish ventures, resources for these early-stage ideas are limited. Joshua Venture Group (JVG) operates in a very small club that provides significant early-stage funding – more than $100,000 over two years to aspiring social entrepreneurs.

And while there has been much recent communal conversation about the “innovation” sector, second-stage funding can be even more challenging to secure.

Beyond our existing fellowship, JVG will begin working in the year ahead to address needs of alumni like Alison Laichter of the Jewish Meditation Center whose ventures have graduated from the startup phase. As we have seen with past cohorts, “success” after the startup phase can take many forms. Some leaders will move on to other Jewish ventures; others will continue to spearhead their organizations. Still others may pursue strategic partnerships with related national organizations, as staff writer Helen Chernikoff noted.

Where an idea is born may not be where it blooms. In the for-profit world, innovative ideas often come from small startups that are then acquired by established companies like Google once they are proven. The seeds of success may be in the seed itself — the Jewish leader, nourished and prepared to take on new challenges for the good of the community.

Alan Cohen,
Board Chair

Lisa Lepson,
Executive Director Joshua Venture Group