Funding Genius

Back in September, we wrote about a new initiative being planned for the 2009 Jewish Funders’s Network International Conference, The Jewish Innovation Forum.

With the overall theme of the 2009 conference being “Funding Genius: A Philanthropist’s Guide to Innovation” the JFN and the conference participants will explore a wide range of innovations in depth. The Forum event makes the innovation come alive – providing a setting for an exciting group of nonprofit organizations who will be able to showcase their programs to those in attendance.

For the grant-makers this is an opportunity to explore and learn about some of the most innovative programs in our Jewish communal world. And for the grantees, the Forum will be a rare opportunity to highlight and provide an international audience with in-depth materials on their unique programs.

The application process was competitive with the JFN interested in showcasing programs that are making innovative changes in the Jewish world. Participating nonprofits were selected by a jury who reviewed a two-round application process. According to conference director David Ezer, “The jury was pretty excited. They were tasked with choosing a slate that would reflect breadth — of sector served, geography, and populations served, and they had a hard task in whittling down an enormous pool of applicants (140 in the first round).”

Here are the participating organizations for 2009:

Abraham’s Vision
Abraham’s Vision (AV) is a conflict transformation organization that explores group and individual identities through experiential and political education. Examining social relations within and between the Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, and Palestinian communities, AV empowers participants to practice just alternatives to the status quo.

The AVODAH/AJWS Alumni Partnership
The AVODAH/AJWS Alumni Partnership offers young Jewish adults a platform for ongoing leadership development, skills training, education, and social and professional networking. The partnership creates a new model of collaboration that leverages the reputations and relationships of our organizations to provide Jews in their 20s and 30s with opportunities to connect to compelling expressions of their Jewish identity. The program also actively seeks out partnerships with other Jewish organizations to create larger networks of young Jewish social activists to develop and strengthen a critical step in the emergence of Jewish service as a defining force in American Jewish life: helping service-program alumni and others integrate their passion and energy for tikkun olam into long-term commitments to both civic engagement and Jewish life.

The Ayalim Association was founded in 2002 by a group of young former IDF soldiers, with the purpose of strengthening Jewish settling and social involvement in the Negev and Galilee regions. The goal of the Association is to revive an Israeli model of settlement driven by young people through the creation of an ideological climate and renewing the idea of Zionism – as a model matching the 21st century. This effort is accompanied by emphasis on education to Zionist values, young entrepreneurship in preferred areas and fostering of values such as the bond between man and land and between individual and society. The implementation of the settlement network is achieved through the foundation of student and entrepreneur villages serving as pillars of social involvement and permanent settlement.

Bridge to the Future
Bridge to the Future applies a model for creating comprehensive, lateral community transformation in outlying communities in Israel. The model’s basic premise is that creating comprehensive change occurs only if the following human, social, political, economic, and infrastructure capital are promoted simultaneously. This is achieved by motivation, reinforcement and coordination between agencies operating in the community, while helping residents to assume responsibility for their lives, their community and their future. BTF becomes involved for about 5 years in a community. At the end of this period, the residents and the Municipal Authority have both the capability and the tools to continue the process without outside help while making best use of Government and third sector resources.

College for All
Pursuing its goal to provide equal opportunities through education, College for All identifies and locates children and youth at risk with high learning potential, and provides them with the much-needed support and tools to enable them to realize their inherent potential and advance their mobility by encouraging them to acquire higher education and become leaders in their communities. The uniqueness of the College for All program is in its comprehensive and systematic approach to the child’s world, its commitment to support the children for a period of 10 to 11 years, (some 7,000 hours for each child) and the intensity of its activities (4 times a week – all year long).

Gateways: Access to Jewish Education
Gateways’ mission is to enable students with a range of learning styles and disabilities to participate in Jewish learning by providing state-of-the-art programs, supports, resources, and professional development in day schools, preschools and supplemental Jewish education settings. Gateways provides Jewish education programs for children with moderate to severe disabilities, and on-site support in Jewish day schools for children with mild to moderate special needs.

Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life
The Institute promotes Jewish life in the South through partnerships with Southern Jewish communities. Founded in 2000, the ISJL supports religious school education, rabbinic services, Jewish culture, history and the arts in underserved communities as well as larger population centers. Through this unique model, the ISJL encourages communities large and small to assume the shared responsibility of promoting Jewish life throughout the region.

Hebrew SeniorLife
Hebrew Rehabilitation Center (HRC) is a 750-bed chronic care hospital for the elderly and accepts responsibility for the frailest and neediest members of our Jewish community. In September of 2006, HRC launched a Jewish Clinical Pastoral Education training program to offer Jewish chaplaincy training in the greater Boston area and to increase the capacity and improve the quality of spiritual care for residents, patients and their families. This program helps HRC deliver a more patient-centered model of care, supports the staff who are caring for our seniors, and responds directly to the unique spiritual needs of our Jewish clients and their families during this often difficult chapter of life. This program is the only accredited Jewish chaplaincy training program focused on seniors in the country.

Hekhsher Tzedek
Hekhsher Tzedek is a joint project of the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the rabbinic and congregational arms respectively of the Conservative Movement in North America. However, Hekhsher Tzedek transcends the Conservative Movement and promises to become an important bridge, uniting Jews across the ideological, philosophical and denominational spectra. A supplement to existing kosher certifications, the Hekhsher Tzedek reflects production benchmarks consistent with Jewish standards of social justice, including worker wages and benefits, safety and training, product development and animal welfare, corporate transparency and accountability, and environmental concerns. The creation of the Hekhsher Tzedek will ensure that not only are kosher products rooted in the proper Jewish methods of inspecting and slaughtering animals, but that the food is produced in a way that demonstrates concern for those human beings who are involved in its production.

IsraCorps believes that true and lasting social change in Israel will only take place if the characteristics of upward mobility such as acquiring education, developing leadership skills, and engaging in volunteering in and for the community are readily accessible to all members of society. To this end, IsraCorps recruits, trains, places and guides young volunteers in the periphery of Israel with the intent of instilling volunteerism as a tool for empowerment and as a greenhouse for nurturing social leaders. IsraCorps runs three age-relevant programs for 15 to 35 year olds to create a community-based volunteerism and leadership continuum.

ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center
ITIM provides information and direction at critical moments in Jewish life such as birth, bar/bat mitzvah, marriage, divorce, death and burial, and conversion. ITIM believes that knowledge is power and that information can allow individuals to be confident as they experience critical moments of Jewish life. Founded in 2002 and based in Jerusalem, ITIM assists Israeli Jews navigate their personal encounters with the religious (and often ultra-Orthodox) establishment in Israel. In addition, ITIM coordinates a support center whose mission is to deepen the knowledge and appreciation for the richness of Jewish lifecycle rituals, allow for a positive encounter between rank and file Jews and Jewish tradition and develop possibilities for individual expression within Jewish life.

Jewish Family Center Adain Lo
Adain Lo supports a network of Jewish nursery schools and kindergartens in Russia, as an effective means of attracting young families to the Jewish community. Adain Lo is currently working with schools and kindergartens in seven districts of St.Petersburg. Over 18 years, Adain Lo’s experience shows that families whose children attended Jewish nursery schools and kindergartens usually stay in the community, becoming its active members and donors. The educational curriculum is specially designed for high quality education and to develop the children`s personality through creative work. All the children have eight hours a week of Jewish education – classes in Hebrew, Jewish music, Jewish visual art, and tradition. The curriculums for Jewish education, developed by teachers of Adain Lo, are successfully applied in all Jewish nursery schools and kindergartens of the CIS. Each nursery school and kindergarten functions as a mini JCC, holding family educational programs and celebrating Jewish holidays. The nursery schools and kindergartens have Jewish family retreats and also run a unique program of integrating children with special needs, the only program of its kind in Russia.

Jewish Genetics Laboratory Fund
The Jewish Genetics Laboratory Fund was established with the goal of protecting the health of the Jewish community and its future generations. The Fund hopes to serve as a vital link between the Jewish community and specific laboratory programs, to ensure access to genetic testing services now, and support the development of requisite tests and technologies for the future. For its launch project, the Fund is supporting the expansion of the Jewish Genetic Disease Carrier Testing Program at the Jacobi Medical Center Human Genetics Laboratory. The majority of monies raised for this new lab program will go towards purchasing the additional equipment and technology and hiring the additional staff needed to meet the demands of community screening programs that send the samples for testing.

Jewish Heart for Africa
Jewish Heart for Africa seeks to improve the quality of life of Africans by arranging for the financing and installation of sustainable Israeli technologies in Africa. Its first initiative, Project Sol, installs Israeli solar panels to provide power for schools, clinics, and water pumping systems. Project Sol is currently operating in Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Uganda, providing electricity for basic needs such as refrigeration of essential medicines and vaccines, powering computers and radios in schools and pumping up to 20,000 liters of water a day in regions where drought persists.

Keshet works to cultivate the spirit and practice of inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) Jews in all parts of the Jewish community – synagogues, advocacy and service organizations, summer camps, youth movements, Hebrew schools, day schools, and other educational institutions. In Boston, where Keshet is based, our Community Building programs create spaces where GLBT Jews can celebrate and grow in their Jewish identities, engage in Jewish learning, and gain concrete skills as activists for change. Nationally, Keshet offers training, resources, and technical assistance for GLBT inclusion.

Limmud NY
Now in its fifth year, Limmud NY brings together Jews of all stripes through Jewish life and learning programs. Limmud is driven by the belief that diversity of perspective, dedication to learning in its broadest sense, and a strong sense of volunteerism are keys to mobilizing and inspiring Jewish individuals and community. Through the annual Limmud NY conference as well as the year-round Taste of Limmud NY series, Limmud is building a diverse and inclusive Jewish community of individuals who customize and personalize their own Jewish experience. Limmud NY’s programs are the creation and Jewish expression of more than 100 volunteers—mostly in their twenties and thirties—from across the Jewish spectrum. Over the past two years, Limmud NY has played an instrumental role in transmitting the organization’s values and volunteer ethos to the LA, Atlanta, and Colorado communities.

Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education Center
Mayyim Hayyim is not your grandmother’s mikveh (ritual bath). An expression of the vitality and creativity of American Jewish life, it is rooted in our most ancient traditions but reinvented with the innovation and creativity that is unique to real-world 21st-century Judaism. The facility opened in a renovated Victorian home that now houses two beautiful immersion pools, four preparation suites, a welcoming and comfortable reception area, and a gracious art gallery / education center / celebration space. Since 2004, Jews from the whole spectrum of observance and affiliation have made themselves at home at Mayyim Hayyim. It is also the first mikveh in history to inspire new ceremonies, new music, original works of art, and world-wide curiosity about the modern uses of ritual immersion. The Mayyim Hayyim model teaches the benefits of and strategies for a pluralistic, welcoming, and accessible organization geared to the needs of the individual, regardless of prior knowledge, physical ability, gender, race, or age.

Mechon Hadar
Mechon Hadar’s mission is to revitalize communal life – animated by prayer, study and social action – among young Jews in America. Mechon Hadar offers Jews the opportunity to deepen their learning, broaden their skills, and intensify their experiences on the road to enhancing their Jewish lives and building stronger Jewish communities. In order to accomplish its mission, Mechon Hadar has launched the Yeshivat Hadar initiative: the first full-time egalitarian yeshiva in North America Yeshivat Hadar recognizes the power of an immersive environment of Jewish skill-building and empowerment, a model previously only available in America in single-sex, Orthodox environments. Yeshivat Hadar offers the opportunity for young lay people to become empowered in their tradition: an intensive, 8-week, 14-hour/day community of learning, prayer and social action. Using the knowledge and skills of their experience, Yeshivat Hadar alumni commit to completing a project in their Jewish community that engages peers otherwise disaffected from establishment institutions. These programs, ranging from a Beit Midrash at a camp to a conference for children of intermarried parents, reach 2,000 young Jews otherwise unconnected to the Jewish mainstream.

Nishmat Ethiopian Women Program
Eight years ago, Nishmat (a world center for Jewish education for women in Jerusalem) accepted a group of Ethiopian Israeli army/National Service veterans for a program combining Jewish studies with academic and economic empowerment. N.E.W. (Nishmat Ethiopian Women) equips these marginalized young women with the skills to gain acceptance to university and professional schools, and break out of the cycle of poverty and hopelessness in which their families are trapped. The program includes high school matriculation, specialized preparation for the college entrance psychometric exam, extensive mentoring, a course in managing the family budget, workshops dealing with domestic violence, an integrated environment that offsets their sense of social isolation, and special programs to develop pride in their Ethiopian Jewish heritage. Each N.E.W. student receives free tuition and free housing and meals, as well as a monthly living stipend, so that each girl can devote herself totally to her studies.

Paideia—the European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden—was created in 2000 through a foundational grant from the Swedish government and the Wallenberg Foundation. Its mission is to enable individuals and communities to create an authentic Jewish voice, long silenced by Communism and post-Holocaust trauma—a voice that can contribute to a strong sense of Jewish peoplehood as well as a culturally rich and pluralistic civil society throughout the countries of the Paideia program participants. The One Year Jewish Studies Program allows the participants to undergo an intensive educational process whereby they try to understand how Jewish studies can be relevant to their particular field, be it art, academia, journalism or communal life. Paideia has over 150 graduates in 32 different countries.

PresenTense Group
PresenTense is a grassroots venture empowering and engaging individuals and communities to solve Jewish and universal problems in the Digital Age. It seeks to equip the next generation of socially-minded innovators with the tools they need to launch and develop initiatives, and upgrading organizations’ capacity to thrive in the digital age. PresenTense’s FutureTense program connects professionals to explore peer led innovations, and the Rishon L’Rishonim program exposes young entrepreneurs to leading business, hitech, educational and artistic professionals in Israel., PresenTense is developing an interrelated global network of Jewish thinkers and doers, sharing resources and ideas, with representation from multiple religious groups and organizations. PresenTense’s flagship initiative is the PresenTense Institute in Jerusalem, which serves both as a seed stage accelerator for social entrepreneurs and a central hub for encouraging innovation in the broader Jewish Community. PresenTense Magazine, a transdenominational and international market place of ideas, provides an environment where Jewish youth can explore and enrich their Jewish identity.

Project Chessed (Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit)
Project Chessed, a program of The Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit, is an established formalized referral network connecting medically uninsured adults of the Jewish community to donated health care providers and services. The pro-bono providers consist of individual and institutional partners in care. It is committed to improving health outcomes for medically uninsured Jewish adults and decreasing inappropriate use of the ER, by providing access to donated health care. Project Chessed is a paradigm shift in the care of the uninsured addressing this major national crisis as a community reaching out to comprehensively care for those lacking access to care. Chessed provides health services with dignity by assigning every enrolled individual to a medical home in the practice of a primary care provider. All services are offered not in a clinic setting; but rather, in the private offices of the individual Chessed network volunteer physicians. There are over 600 providers (physicians, optometrists, dentists, psychologists) who donate their time to serve the Chessed population through our coordinated care system for managing client access and needs.

Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists
Creative expression is essential to Jewish community, identity, and our understanding of the world, and the Six Points Fellowship supports the artists who are the foundation for this process. During the two-year fellowship, 12 artists based in New York City create and present their diverse projects to audiences, through programs such as live performances, audio recordings, and gallery events, providing opportunities for critical and significant engagement with new Jewish culture and ideas. The Fellowship creates a supportive, nurturing environment that encourages creative interactions between artists, artworks, and young audiences, creating a space for personal and professional development and growth. Created in 2006 in response to a realization within the Jewish community that culture, especially popular culture (film, music, television, books and magazines), is becoming a powerful connector in the lives of young unaffiliated Jewish adults and the primary mechanism for creating a common language and furthering identity, Six Points understands artists to be critical peer guides along this journey. The three partner organizations came together to create a program that would support emerging artists in creating high quality culture that engaged with Jewish ideas, concepts and questions. The Fellowship facilitates the artists’ exploration of Jewish identity through their projects, and creates authentic opportunities to have new conversations about Jewish concepts, community and tradition.