Paideia Launches 5th Project-Incubator

Twenty-seven innovators and social entrepreneurs from twelve European countries and Israel are being welcomed today by Paideia for its 5th annual Project-Incubator, a two-week intensive boot camp for projects dedicated to advancing European Jewish culture in action.

Since 2006, the Project-Incubator has empowered and educated leaders of more than 80 projects in 26 European countries and Israel, from cultural centers to kindergartens, from theatrical productions to environmental campaigns.

2010 resident initiatives include “Traces of Messiah,” a traveling musical and dramatic production at Poland’s Midrash Theatre led by Agata Nowak and Rabbi Tanya Segal; Jeneration, which facilitates experimentation and personal growth for UK Jews in their 20s and 30s, led by Jude Williams; a Moderne Judishe Kochbuch (Modern Jewish Cookbook) compiled by Sabrina Small, a California transplant to Berlin; and The Venice Center for International Jewish Studies, directed by Shaul Bassi. Additional projects come from Belarus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Slovak Republic and Ukraine.

“The Project-Incubator is a tremendous opportunity to move things from theory to practice, by people who are both knowledgeable and devoted,” said Lena Posner-Korosi, a board member of the European Jewish Fund, which supports the incubator through its EJF Leadership Program at Paideia. “One of the challenges of European Jewry today is to get young Jews involved in Jewish life and education by various means. The incubator is a very effective way to encourage this, channel great ideas, and convey our broader institutional commitment to this work.”

Participants look forward to strengthening their projects through training in business planning and studying Jewish culture. “Our project is having its first full production at the end of August,” said Giles Howe, co-writer of SOVIET ZION, a musical set in the Soviet Jewish homeland of Birobidzhan. “We hope to use the Project-Incubator to enrich the Jewish content of the script whilst keeping it accessible to broader audiences.”

“We want to make it commercially viable as a piece of theatre but also educate Jewish people about their history,” added co-writer Katy Lipson. “We’d like to learn from other Incubator participants’ experience of launching independent projects that reach new audiences.”

The Project-Incubator’s 2010 organizational partners include The ROI Community for Young Jewish Innovators, Jumpstart, JHub: The Jewish Social Action Hub and the Pears Foundation. Additional curriculum development support has come from the Pratt Foundation’s Pradler Program. In addition to expert staff from Paideia under the direction of Brachi Lipshitz (ELUL, Israel), core faculty include Joshua Avedon and Shawn Landres (Jumpstart, Los Angeles), Dina Gidron (Tzur Hadassah, Israel), Rani Jaeger (Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem), Beto Maya (ROI Community, Jerusalem), Ofra Palmer Granot (Israel), Amy Philip (Pears Foundation, London), and Rabbi Ute Steyer (Yeshiva University, New York).

“Without much fanfare or attention, Europe has become a center for 21st-century Jewish creativity, just as much as Israel and North America,” said Shawn Landres, co-founder of Jumpstart, which later this year, in partnership with the Pears Foundation and the ROI Community, will release the results of the 2010 Survey of New Jewish Initiatives in Europe. “Our research demonstrates the substantial contribution that Paideia is making to the renewal and revitalization of Jewish creativity, so we’re thrilled to deepen our partnership with Paideia in this vital effort.”

Paideia was created in 2000 through grants from the Swedish government and the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation as an academic and applied institute of excellence. Its mission is to actively promote the renewal and flourishing of European Jewish cultural and intellectual life, while simultaneously cultural diversity and humanistic values. Funding for the 2010 Project-Incubator comes from the European Jewish Fund, the UJA-Federation of Greater New York, and the Pincus Fund for Jewish Education in the Diaspora.

image courtesy Beto Maya