JDub has done it right. They’ve delivered impact. Diversified their revenue base. Enacted their mission and driven toward their vision. Made a huge, positive change in Jewish cultural life.
From this perspective, we can look at JDub’s short life and say: "mission accomplished." Where the mission was not accomplished, though, was in JDub’s ability to create a strategic business plan and organizational structure to continue to do its inspiring work, and the community’s ability to guide and support the organization according to its emerging needs. And this is a tremendous lost opportunity. It must give us pause, and challenge us to rethink the way that we support emerging organizations, what we ask of them, how we guide them, and how we sustain them.
Not all organizations deserve or need second-stage support. But some do. JDub’s work is still relevant, exciting, and filling a need in the Jewish community. If our community does not step up, putting its financial support behind innovation, those of us in the innovation sector are set up to fail. And all of those thousands of constituents inspired by the programs and ideas being offered are going to head off in other directions.
Organizations shouldn’t be built to last forever. But some ideas should last for a long time. And some structures should have the opportunity to run their course, test their stamina, explore their paths. JDub’s closing is, simply put, sad. It is a loss for our community. My grandfather used to say – “don’t turn a simcha (a joyous occasion) into a tragedy.” And the reverse is true as well. As Heather Havrilesky in last week’s New York Times magazine article called The Divorce Delusion puts it: “We don’t need to turn every funeral into a celebration…We all have a right to our own bad choices — and a right to feel bad about them too. As Lord Byron wrote, “Sorrow is knowledge.” So for God’s sake, let’s stop rushing to get to the good part.”
It is our duty to focus on this moment of sorrow, and do all that we can to learn from it, to at least make this moment a failure forward. Let’s stay still in this long enough to learn something, to grow, to own our piece of responsibility in this, and to ensure a longer life for those ideas, and their structures, that are inspiring and securing a vibrant Jewish future.
Maya Bernstein is director of education and leadership initiatives for UpStart Bay Area in San Francisco.