Intro Note from Dana Raucher
As our grant making for the year 2011 comes to a close here at The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, I am pleased to take the opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments and lessons from this past year. In addition to celebrating the achievements of our grantees, this year has given the Foundation the opportunity to explore the broader values of change and adaptability. In an article written for eJewish Philanthropy called "Post-Start-Ups Need Support, Too." Executive Director of Bikkurim Nina Bruder says that "Post-start-up growth and sustainability are the next frontier for the Jewish innovation ecosystem. We have seen a tremendous burst of creative energy, entrepreneurial spirit, and success at building strong, generative Jewish communities. It is now incumbent on the Jewish community - in all its iterations - to think creatively about the structures and platforms that are needed to sustain this success."
This idea of sustaining growth had particular resonance for us at the Foundation, as we have experienced the opportunities of second-stage sustainability and the importance of adaptability in organizational growth first-hand. Over the past months, we have restructured two of our core grantees at key moments of their evolution. This has already yielded exciting results, and it is a lesson we are eager to share with our community this year.
The Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel (BYFI) is a diverse community of nearly 1000 Jews from both North America and Israel between the ages of 17-42, who contribute their talents and vision to the Jewish community and the world at large. This year, BYFI demonstrated great flexibility and creativity as it embarked on an organizational shift from an executive director model to one of a co-directorship that would support its growing alumni community and its impact in the world, while maintaining the quality of education and centrality of Jewish learning for both the alumni network and the summer Fellowship. BYFI is now entrusted to dynamic and visionary co-directors, Becky Voorwinde and Mishael Zion, who will continue to grow, enrich and deepen BYFI. This process offers a new model of adaptability and leadership that we have already seen inspire new energy and thinking for BYFI.
For 15 years, The Curriculum Initiative (TCI) was the premiere organization providing Jewish resources, student leadership opportunities and cultural programming on independent high school campuses. TCI spent years creating a market, establishing a successful national program and cultivating deep communal roots. Over time, it developed an innovative and effective strategy for working with some of the most unaffiliated teens in the country and formed deep connections in the communities in which it was active. At this stage in TCI's development, it became clear that transitioning TCI from one central, national organization into local institutions would allow it to more deeply penetrate the intended market while increasing its financial sustainability. In a culmination of a multi-year process of engaging stakeholders both on the ground and on an institutional level, TCI's national infrastructure was dismantled and the local regions spun-out into independent entities. TCI's work in the San Francisco Bay Area was welcomed as part of the Bureau of Jewish Education of San Francisco, Marin County and the Peninsula (BJE), while The Center for Jewish Education (CJE) took on TCI's program in Baltimore.
Both BYFI and TCI offer models of how to foster growth and development while being attuned to the changing needs and the life stage of an organization. Throughout these processes, each of these organizations was open to new directions that eventually led it to a state of greater strength and sustainability.
In 2011, seven of our grantees were included in the annual Slingshot Resource Guide for Jewish Innovation. MyJewishLearning's (MJL) was awarded first place for Outstanding Website from the American Jewish Press Association for the second year in a row. MJL also launched three new blogs, which I invite you to read more about below.
This year, the Foundation's Bronfman Vision Forum hosted our fifth annual Why Be Jewish Gathering in partnership with the Shalom Hartman Institute. This gathering brought together key leaders in the Jewish community to explore ideas of Peoplehood and Collective Identity. The BVF also hosted three lectures as part of our 375 Series , which continued to tackle contemporary issues facing the community.
I invite you to read more about our recent work and the noteworthy achievements of our grantees.
We wish you all a happy Chanukah and a wonderful New Year!
Israel's New Social Contract:
Public Protests and a Demand for Inclusive Growth
On September 21st, the Foundation hosted its Fall 375 Series. Gidi Grinstein, of the Re'ut Institute in Israel, spoke on the topic of "Israel's New Social Contract: Public Protests and a Demand for Inclusive Growth." Gidi spoke about the tensions caused by growing economic and societal gaps in Israel, and the frustration that eventually led hundreds of thousands of Israelis to take to the streets in protest. The conversation also touched on the United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood which took place that week in New York. Gidi offered key insights into the political challenges and opportunities the vote presented for Israel. After the Series, Gidi joined BYFI alumni for a more intimate discussion on the topic of Israel's economy and the potential for it to inspire social change. You can watch the video of Gidi's talk here.
JFNA'S 2011 GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The Foundation was happy to sponsor the participation of over 300 Hillel students from 75 universities as full delegates at this year's Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Denver, Colorado. Hillel partnered with JFNA to fully integrate students into the three-day conference, during which they participated in panel discussions, introduced speakers at plenary sessions and raised the session's overall level of engagement.
The conference's opening plenary featured Hillel student leaders Sarah Kraut, of the University of Maryland and Jessica Ost, of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, who shared stories of social justice and support for Israel.
The Hillel exhibit hall booth featured a Talk Israel tent to continue the dialogue that was launched this past September on more than 20 campuses nationwide.
My Jewish Learning Blogs
This year, MyJewishLearning launched a new series of blogs, on subjects that range from food, to books and public service. These three joined MJL's original blog, MixedMultitudes.
A food and recipe blog
Featuring 10 rabbis of various denominations from the CLAL sponsored program
Members of the Scribe
A literature blog co-produced by MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council
In addition to introducing its new blogs, My Jewish Learning continued to reach over 200,000 visitors each month. At the same time, it expanded Kveller, its new parenting website, which provides accessible Jewish-themed parenting information to parents from all backgrounds.
BYFI's new co-directors led the 25th summer fellowship to Israel. BYFI is now accepting applications for next year's fellowship.
Mechon Hadar hosted its fourth Independent Minyan Conference, from November 4-6 in Washington, DC, along with participants from nearly 50 minyans. The conference featured Shabbat programming, case studies and discussions on pluralism, prayer and the future of independent minyanim.
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