New Internet-Based Initiative to Showcase Programming from Jewish Institutions

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (The Foundation) today announced a $1 million grant to JTN Productions (JTN) for development of Virtual JLA, an Internet site that will showcase programming from Southern California’s leading Jewish institutions. The grant will be made in increments over a multi-year period.

According to JTN, Virtual JLA aims to fuel the democratization of Jewish knowledge, prayer, celebration, and community, as well as to let all Jews access the best local resources to discover a connection with Judaism that is both individual and communal. JTN plans to partner with educational institutions and synagogues in Southern California and around the world to produce content, for outreach and community-building.

The Foundation’s President and CEO Marvin I. Schotland said, “Our organization’s partnership with JTN dates back nearly 20 years and, over that time, we have provided both financial and strategic support for diverse programming that has reached viewing audiences in the millions – from young children to their parents and grandparents alike. A recurring theme in The Foundation’s grantmaking is reaching out to unaffiliated Jews and Virtual JLA is conceived with that very premise in mind, seeking to engage viewers in new and distinctive ways.”

Schotland noted that among these grants was initial funding from The Foundation for The Jewish Americans, a successful 2008 PBS television mini-series that was viewed by an estimated 20 million households. “As a result of our critical core funding, JTN was able to attract numerous other institutions and foundations that brought The Jewish Americans to fruition,” he said. An earlier grant by The Foundation to JTN made possible Alef…Bet…Blast-Off!, a multi-episode children’s program which continues to air on PBS stations.

“We greatly value the support and vote of confidence The Foundation has given us over the years,” said JTN CEO Jay Sanderson. “We’re hoping that this major grant and The Foundation’s sustained best efforts and support will help us leverage this gift into future funding for Virtual JLA so that we can reach out to Jews and non-Jews of all ages and backgrounds throughout Southern California, across the country and around the world. We intend to be the center for Jewish life on the Web.”

Virtual JLA is intended to serve as a local model that will be replicated in other markets with Jewish programming specific and distinctive to audiences in those regions, according to Schotland. “With the Web’s viral reach, we expect that this program will have substantial ‘legs’ that enable its duplication in multiple geographic locations,” he added.

Sanderson said Virtual JLA will include a robust set of social networking tools in order to provide a personalized experience and encourage discussion, user-generated content, and blogs to fully engage visitors to build online “mini-communities” based on interests and backgrounds.

In addition, he noted that the site will be video-driven, fully interactive and searchable. There will be six types of content: original programming; content co-produced with institutional partners; user-generated material; online classes and text study; live community events; plus religious services and celebrations.