Joshua Venture Group Announces 2012-14 Fellows

New York, NY – September 10, 2012 – Joshua Venture Group (JVG), a nonprofit organization dedicated to reinvigorating and expanding the Jewish community through building the capacity of young ventures and their leadership, today announced the eight social entrepreneurs who will each receive more than $100,000 in grants and organizational development support as Fellows of its 2012-2014 Dual Investment Program.

Each Fellow will receive $80,000 in unrestricted funding and over $20,000 in personalized coaching, training and networking, which equip them to realize their visions to transform the Jewish landscape. JVG’s Dual Investment Program is designed to bolster the emergence of the Jewish innovation sector, which reflects the collective desire of Jews from all backgrounds to re-envision their own Jewish communities.

Fellows range in age from 30 to 48, and are working in communities across North America, from Toronto and Philadelphia to Portland and Los Angeles. This new cohort champions a variety of issues:

  • Promoting social justice and affordable housing as Jewish values
  • Increasing access to Jewish education in day schools, informal settings and online
  • Creating a self-sustaining, agriculture- and land-based Jewish social enterprise
  • Incorporating new media as a powerful educational tool
  • Advocating for individuals with disabilities by guiding Jewish institutions to become inclusion-certified
  • Building collaborative relationships between young Muslims and Jews.

For the first time, JVG is partnering with The AVI CHAI Foundation and The Ruderman Family Foundation to co-support several Fellows whose work focuses on day school education and inclusion for people with disabilities.

“By partnering with existing communal infrastructure to identify these breakthrough ideas, we will provide a more comprehensive and specialized network of resources, guidance and expertise for our Fellows, thereby weaving them more seamlessly into the fabric of the existing organizational landscape and creating more sustainable structures,” said Lisa Lepson, executive director of JVG.

“Looking at the greater Jewish landscape, it is clear that the market for new ideas is plentiful,” Lepson continued; “JVG excels at identifying the most promising of these emerging ideas, refining them and taking them to scale. We have succeeded in this endeavor, due to long-standing support from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.”

JVG alumni have been at the forefront of their respective fields since the organization’s first cohort launched in 2001. They have advocated for LGBT inclusion in Jewish communities, provided needed support to young Jewish women and their families battling breast cancer and worked to put the courageous efforts of Jewish partisans during WWII on the Jewish and broader education maps. The recently graduated Fellows of JVG’s 2010-2012 cohort are now working on re-imagining what it means to belong to and participate in spiritual communities, leveraging new media to breathe new life into biblical stories and texts and connecting the general causes of the economic, social and food justice movements to Jewish values, teachings and practice.

JVG’s 2012-2014 Dual Investment Program Fellows

Sarah Heitler Bamberger, Kevah – Berkeley, CA

Kevah is a grassroots Jewish learning movement that engages Jewish identity and builds community through the study of classical Jewish texts. Any group of individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area and Colorado can organize a small group for learning, and Kevah will dispatch an educator to the location of their choosing.

Matt Bar, Bible Raps – Philadelphia, PA

Bible Raps is an educational initiative that uses hip-hop music in the teaching of core Jewish texts. Since 2007, Bible Raps has worked with over 125,000 youth at camps, day schools and other Jewish institutions, performing tracks and guiding workshop participants in the composition of original hip-hop Torah.

Sarah Bassin, NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change – Los Angeles, CA

NewGround works to create a world in which trust and partnership replace the current atmosphere of mutual suspicion among Muslims and Jews. NewGround is housed in Los Angeles City Hall with the support of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission and is poised to build a comprehensive approach to strengthening Muslim-Jewish relations in the United States.

Sarah Blattner, Tamritz: Digital Badging – Portland, OR

Tamritz is a national learning network for Jewish day school students and teachers. Students participate in the “digital badge” method of learning in which students engage in online peer review to collaborate, co-create and co-learn. Teachers gain professional development experiences in new media, 21st Century literacy and badge learning. Tamritz provides a connected space for Jewish day school educators to collaborate and co-design, while exploring new media for enhanced student learning and instruction. Tamritz was selected for the Jewish Day School Fellowship.

Hyim Brandes, Online Jewish Academy – Los Angeles, CA

Online Jewish Academy (OJA) strives to broaden the scope of Jewish education through innovative online, personalized and collaborative educational programs. OJA meets diverse, ever evolving learning needs of Jewish students by connecting the promise of new educational technologies to values rooted in text, tradition and humanity. OJA was selected for the Jewish Day School Fellowship.

Risa Alyson Cooper, Bela Farm at Shoresh – Toronto, ON

Bela Farm is a 115-acre rural center for sustainable, land-based Judaism in Hillsburgh, Ontario. The farm will serve the Toronto Jewish community with education and retreat opportunities and will be sustained through the sale of farm products that highlight the rich tradition between Judaism and local foods, such as fermented foods, honey, meat and cheese.

Steve Eisenbach-Budner, Tivnu: Building Justice – Portland, OR

Tivnu empowers Jews to take an active role in addressing basic human needs, particularly shelter. The Portland-based project allows participants to learn construction skills, build affordable housing and other essential projects, explore Jewish texts and history, and study contemporary socio-economic issues in order to provide a solid foundation for Jewish social justice work.

Elana Naftalin-Kelman, Rosh Pina – Berkeley, CA

Rosh Pina will support Jewish institutions to become special needs certified by leading them through a year-long journey during which the institution engages in deep study on the board, clergy, lay leader and teacher level, and will include aspects of community building, program modification and development. Rosh Pina was selected for the Ruderman Fellowship.