#MakeItHappen: Ideas That Make The World Go Round

Submissions thus far reflect the diversity of Jewish identities, experiences and interests taking root in communities around the world. Examples include: a play in China that illuminates the historic ties between the Chinese and Jewish peoples; a faith-based poetry slam in Israel; a mitzvah team in Munich that will help engage Jewish children with disabilities; an Unreasonable Shabbat dinner in Boulder for technology entrepreneurs; a kugel cookoff in New York; a Jewish running club in Warsaw; and a pop-up clothing store in Florida for Jewish children in need.


One month ago, the Schusterman Philanthropic Network (SPN) launched #MakeItHappen, an online campaign inviting individuals to submit ideas for creating Jewish experiences in their communities for a chance to earn a micro grant.

#MakeItHappen has already received more than 600 submissions from five continents and 25 countries, including Argentina, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Kenya, Moldova, Tanzania, Ukraine and the United States. Submissions represent a wide variety of categories and interest areas ranging from sports, arts and culture, service and tikkun olam, technology and more.

SPN is selecting up to 50 projects on a rolling basis to receive micro grants of up to $1,000 and five to get up to $5,000. It has already made 14 selections since the start of the campaign on October 21st. Now 12 local and national organizations, including the Ruderman Family Foundation, Rose Community Foundation, Emanuel J Friedman Philanthropies and Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, among others, have come on board as community partners to provide more than 75 additional micro grant opportunities. (Read more about the community partnerships here).

Micro grants and other small-dollar investment models have taken root in recent years as a way to empower people to explore new experiences, gain valuable skills and even launch small businesses. SPN has piloted micro grants through its ROI Community and REALITY programs, as well as in select communities like Cape Town, South Africa, and St. Petersburg, Russia, as an additional way to invest directly in building the leadership capacities of young Jews.

IdeasGeneric_01Here we share a few highlights from among the selected projects. Visit #MakeItHappen to check out other ideas and to submit your own. Remember: only individuals, not organizations, are eligible to receive these micro grants. The deadline to submit ideas is January 15, 2014.

Germany: Munich Mitzwe Team
Roman Grinblat

“In Germany, the integration of Jewish disabled children is still a difficult topic,” writes Roman Grinblat, one of the #MakeItHappen micro grant recipients. Roman, however, is prepared to change that. He plans to build a core group of Jewish youngsters and students to reach out and help engage disabled children and, together, create new and innovative ways for bringing these children into the fold of Jewish life.

Ohio: Cleveland’s Pluralistic Yenta
Rachel Heiser

Even in our highly networked world, community can still play a pivotal role in helping single Jews begin a relationship. That is why Rachel, the “Pluralistic Yenta,” wants to join forces with community organizations to identify possible matches and organize intimate 12-16 person mixers, speed dating sessions and one-on-one match ups for a more enjoyable (and effective) Jewish dating experience.

China: Helping China Recognize Judaism and the Haven of Hanukkah
Xiaoming Jiao and Lindsay Hirsch

These two projects are dedicated to fostering awareness of Jewish history, culture and community in China. Though Judaism is not recognized as one of China’s five official religions, Xiaoming Jiao plans to cultivate and share her Jewish identity with her community in Hong Kong by producing an educational play about the cultural benefits of the Jewish-Chinese experience. Lindsay plans to welcome her Chinese and ex-pat Jewish community in Dongguan, China, to a Chanukah dinner and celebration.

Israel: Young Magicians for Israel
Ophir Samson

Something magical is happening in Tel Aviv. Recipient Ophir Samson plans to launch the Smadar School for Young Magicians, which will help to instill confidence and leadership in children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Each week, the children will receive magic lessons, equipment, a new magic trick and, at the end of the course, perform a show for their friends and family showcasing their new talent!

Florida: R.A.K. PAK (Random Acts of Kindness) for the Kinder
Ivy Feinstein

In Plantation, Florida, Ivy plans to lead a group of 11 young adult women to create R.A.K. PAK (Random Acts of Kindness). Together, these women will form a “pop-up” clothing store for needy Jewish children where their parents can shop for them with the assistance of community volunteers (stylists) at NO cost. Ivy believes these pop-up shops will build self-esteem and confidence in the children they help.

Colorado: Unreasonably Good Shabbat
Daniel Epstein

Boulder, CO, is known to be an incredibly entrepreneurial community, and a good portion of these entrepreneurs are Jewish. There has not been any gathering geared toward the Jewish start-up community – until now! Daniel will host an intimate Shabbat dinner for about 20 highly innovative/entrepreneurial Jewish individuals. It’s the chance to kick start a Jewish oriented startup community in the Boulder area.

Israel: Ethiopian-Israelis Run for a Better Community
Melaku Wondemagen

Many Ethiopian-Jews live in a city called Gedera in Israel. Numerous members of Melaku’s community have struggled to feel like a member of the Israeli community. Melaku would like to change that and plans to use the Tel Aviv Marathon as a chance for young Ethiopian-Jews to feel like leaders and role models for their community. A “runners fund” will be started, and Melaku will gather his community together by asking for small pledges for every mile his group runs. The funds will then be donated to youth centers, gardens and team-building activities.

Pennsylvania: A Poetry Slam, but for Sermons
David Zvi Kalman

David plans to host a night of creative prose and poetry around the parsha of the week for around 40 people in both Philadelphia and New York City. The “sermons” will be recorded and can be traditional or non-traditional. The best performances and relevant parsha will be broadcast online, just in time for Shabbat.

Jerusalem: Chanukah Candle Lighting Celebration
Chisinau: Chanuckah Marathon
Buenos Aires: JanukaJóven
New York: Thanksgivvukah Mash-up
Avishay Whol, Freidkin Alexandr, Jonathan Berneman, Alana Newhouse

Chanukah is set to be extra bright this year in Argentina, Israel, Moldova and New York! In Jerusalem, Avishay is planning an interactive first-night celebration. Eight different candle lighting events will happen simultaneously around the city in different key locations, which will be followed by cool local activities. In Chisinau, Moldova, Friedkin is creating an Eight Nights of Chanukah “Marathon,” featuring eight nights of unique events including a candle lighting at the local Jewish center, sharing stories at the senior center and more! In Buenos Aires, Chanukah will be just the beginning of a season of giving. Jonathan wants to gather 400 young Jews from many different Jewish institutions at a Chanukah celebration where the invitees can brainstorm exciting Jewish youth projects to tackle together. And in New York Alana is developing an easy-to-act-out script of a mash-up of the Thanksgiving and Chanukah holidays’ traditional storylines – one of war, one of peace. Thanksgivvukah won’t come around again for another 70,000 years, so we might as well make the most of it!