UpStart Invests in Multiple Cohorts of Jewish Ventures Leading the Way Through Uncertain Times

Photo credit: Brooke Anderson

In this time of unprecedented uncertainty, UpStart is doubling down on its venture support programs, welcoming the twelfth cohort of its flagship Venture Accelerator, a National Entrepreneur Sprint cohort for early-stage startups, and a New York Entrepreneur Sprint cohort in collaboration with UJA-Federation of New York.

Amidst the news of grave health concerns, heartbreaking financial decisions, and deep anxiety about the future, UpStart is cognizant of the double-edged sword that comes with sharing good news. On the one hand, the fact that important work is moving ahead can be inspiring and give us faith in a brighter future. On the other, we make this announcement with humility, as there is still so much work to be done to address the emerging realities before us.

UpStart is moving forward with these cohorts because of our belief in entrepreneurial Jewish ventures to build a stronger Jewish community. These ventures have been a driving force in adapting Jewish communal life over the last twenty years, often serving as the only connection point to Jewish community for those seeking alternatives to more traditional offerings. These ventures have a demonstrated track record of bringing agility, creativity, and vision to tackling our community’s most pressing problems, and they will play a critical role in shaping Jewish communal life after the COVID-19 crisis. Entrepreneurial ventures also have the potential to serve as important partners to major communal institutions as they reconfigure their services and reimagine offerings.

Selected from a pool of more than 80 highly-qualified applicants, the 24 early- and growth-stage ventures – including a hub for LGBTQ teens in the Orthodox and Sephardic communities and a Jewish climate change movement – were chosen because they provide critical infrastructure and momentum for burgeoning communities, underserved populations, and urgent advocacy issues. UpStart celebrates these ventures’ commitment to uphold organizational cultures that further a just, vibrant, and inclusive future for all.

UpStart is committed to serving as a strong advocate for ventures at all stages, providing training, strategic investment, and connections to ensure sustained success. “The Venture Accelerator, as well as UpStart’s resources and coaching, helped us make programmatic changes and bolster our growth to truly meet the needs of the Jewish educators and young adults we serve,” says Jory Hanselman, Director of BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy, Venture Accelerator Cohort 11 participant.

For the first time ever, UpStart is running a National Entrepreneur Sprint and a dedicated New York Entrepreneur Sprint in collaboration with UJA-Federation of New York – both focused on early-stage startups. UJA-Federation of New York has partnered with UpStart to support seven of the most promising early-stage ventures in the New York area as they build a vibrant local community.

The 24 ventures will also benefit from the COVID-19 crisis resiliency training offered to UpStart’s broader Venture Network. This training is part of a larger effort that also includes the Jewish Innovator Payroll Relief Fund, which goes towards ensuring short-term employment and medical benefits for eligible ventures in the UpStart network.

“On the other side of the public health and financial crises, we know that people will be craving connection and community. The entrepreneurial sector has been the engine of innovation in the Jewish community, and we need these ventures now,” says Aaron Katler, UpStart’s CEO. “We are actively working to support collaboration between our venture network and established institutions, as this will be a critical component towards emerging from this crisis together.”

Below is the full list of organizations in Cohort 12 of the Venture Accelerator, National Entrepreneur Sprint, and New York Entrepreneur Sprint, joining UpStart’s network of trailblazing ventures. More information can be found at https://upstartlab.org/cohort-12/

Venture Accelerator

Detroit Jews for Justice (Detroit, MI) – organizes Metro Detroit Jewish community to participate in movements for racial and economic justice.

Eden Village (San Francisco Bay Area, CA) – provides campers with incredible summer experiences while empowering them to promote a vibrant future for themselves, their communities, and our planet.

GrowTorah, Inc (Teaneck, NJ) – develops garden-based experiential and environmental Torah education programs for Jewish schools and communal organizations.

JQY (New York, NY) – supports and empowers LGBTQ youth in the Jewish community, with a special focus on teens and young adults from Orthodox, Chasidic, and Sephardic communities.

Mayyim Hayyim (Newton, MA) – reclaims and reinvents immersion in the mikvah; the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network supports communities that embrace an inclusive approach to ritual immersion as a way to mark life transitions.

The Advot Project (Los Angeles, CA) – prepares youth for success by teaching them communication and relationship skills through the arts.

The In[HEIR]itance Project (New York, NY) – practices an open artistic process to create theater from authentic community dialogue about shared inheritances.

theatre dybbuk (Los Angeles, CA) – creates provocative performances and innovative educational encounters that explore Jewish thought to illuminate universal human experience.

National Entrepreneur Sprint

Blue Dove Foundation (Atlanta, GA) – educates, equips, and ignites our Jewish community with tools to understand, support, and overcome the challenges presented by mental illness and substance abuse.

Chaya Community (Los Angeles, CA) – creates an empowered Jewish Iranian community by deepening one’s sense of self and cultivating meaningful connection.

ChiTribe (Chicago, IL) – makes Chicago Jewish life more transparent and accessible to a modern Jewish community.

Colorado Jewish ECE Initiative (Denver, CO) – provides a foundation for families with young children to connect to Jewish life through strengthening the field of Jewish early childhood education.

In It Together (San Francisco Bay Area, CA) – facilitates intimate chavurot in which Jewish couples of all kinds use self-facilitated workshops to learn the skills and tools for healthier and happier partnerships.

Pittsburgh Interfaith Evolution (Potomac, MD) – empowers Jewish individuals to take direct action to fight back against anti-Semitism through interfaith seders.

SVIVAH Inc (Washington, DC) – explores, designs, and discovers a more nourishing, inspiring, and connected Jewish communal experience for women.

TischPDX: Unaffiliated Jewish Leadership Incubator – (Portland, OR) – empowers young and marginalized Jews in Portland to create the new face of Judaism.

Torahverse Inc. (Los Angeles, CA) – transforms religious Jewish education into a collaborative, personal, and consequential learning journey to build authentic Jewish identity for children, families, and community.

Entrepreneur Sprint in partnership with UJA-Federation of New York

Dayenu – builds a movement of Jews, Jewish communities, and Jewish institutions confronting the climate crisis with spiritual audacity and bold political action.

FED Social, LLC – enables collaboration that helps people be reflective, connected, and motivated through shared food and hospitality in an open tent environment.

I Was Supposed To Have A Baby provides a supportive space on social media for all Jewish individuals and families struggling to have a child.

Nitzotzot – creates a revitalized egalitarian community for those who have transitioned from their ultra-Orthodox background into the modern world.

Rooted – gathers a community of young Jews coming together to transform modern Jewish life.

The Gender Equity in Hiring in the Jewish Community Project – works to remove gender bias from hiring processes in Jewish organizational life in order to help women rise to positions of leadership.

ZA’AKAH – advocates for survivors of child sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community through awarness raising, education, and legislative reforms.

Since its inception, the UpStart family of programs has fueled the impact of over 2,5000 ventures and institutions and trained 5,000 entrepreneurs and institutional change agents in the Jewish community.

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