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People Of The Book — And E-Book

People Of The Book — And E-Book

Slingshot recognizes 50 startups, while foundations encourage new-media projects and Israeli kids get ‘PJ.’

Slingshot Announces New Grantees

The sixth annual “Slingshot: A Resource Guide for Jewish Innovation” was distributed Monday at the organization’s annual Slingshot Day festivities. Among the 50 groups honored for innovating Jewish life in North America, 18, including Bible Raps and Challah For Hunger, were Slingshot first-timers. In addition, the Slingshot Fund distributed $370,000 in grants, divided among 10 organizations. The Institute for Curriculum Services, Moishe House and Six Points Fellowship. Encounter, Gateways, and Project Chessed received a grant last year as well. The others —, JDub, Jewish Funds for Justice and Reboot — have received grants in the past.

“While Slingshot ’09-’10 featured a community rocked by economic instability, the Slingshot ’10-’11 community is cautiously optimistic, with many organizations turning their attention to questions of long-term stability,” said Will Schneider, director of Slingshot.

The average organization in Slingshot ’10-‘11 was founded before 2002, more than eight years ago. However, in many cases their infrastructure has not developed to match their impact, says Schneider.

“As the not-for-profit community embraces the idea that they need to develop greater organizational infrastructure, the question raised in Slingshot ’10-’11 is, ‘Can the Jewish funding community create a pipeline that will embrace these thriving yet nascent projects and help them grow to long-term stability?’”

Apply For $500,000 In Grants
For Jewish New Media

The Jewish funding world is embracing technology in a big way. Last week, the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation announced the launch of The Jewish New Media Innovation Fund, which will provide up to $500,000 in grants to fund projects that feature video, digital communications, social networks and other new media tools to strengthen Jewish identity and build Jewish community.

“The goal is to uncover some of the experimentation that’s already happening,” says Rachel Levin, associate director of the Righteous Persons Foundation and spokesperson for The Jewish New Media Innovation Fund.

While anyone 18 and older can apply (download the application at, the fund will focus on efforts that will engage young people ages 18 to 40, Levin says. Funds are available for projects that consist only of an idea as well as established projects that will use the grant to expand their reach.

The collaboration among the three foundations came about organically, says Levin. “All three foundations were already funding in the areas of new media to build a vibrant Jewish community.” The Righteous Persons Foundation, for example, has funded the YIVO Online Encyclopedia. Other new-media projects funded by the foundations include 10Q, a project of Reboot that inspires people to reflect on life’s big questions during the 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, and G-dcast, animated online videos about the weekly Torah portion and holidays that mix pop culture and humor with Jewish literacy. Still, “so much more can be done since the field is changing so rapidly,” Levin says.

Applications for the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund are due on Nov. 22, and the foundations expect to announce grant recipients in February.

PJ Library Heads to Israel

The Israeli government is taking a page or two from philanthropist Harold Grinspoon. Last week, the Israeli Ministry of Education announced that it would invest half a million dollars to model a Jewish literacy program on Grinspoon’s The PJ Library program, which provides a monthly book or CD of Jewish content to Jewish children in the United States and Canada, free of charge.

The Israeli version, which is receiving an additional half a million dollars from a group of American donors that includes Grinspoon, will be called “Sifriyat Pijama” (Pajama Library in Hebrew). It will provide 44,000 underserved Israeli children, ages 3 to 5, with free Hebrew books every month during the school year. With each book, families receive a guide that explains Judaism’s take on the values discussed in the book, as well as suggested activities and discussion topics.

Unlike the PJ Library in the United States, which is available to all families regardless of financial need, Sifriyat Pijama will distribute the books primarily to children whose families have reduced or restricted financial means.

Hadassah Receives $300,000
For Stem Cell Research

Detroit philanthropist A. Alfred Taubman has donated $300,000 to Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, to support the use of stem cell research to treat Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The funds will go toward the Taubman Institute-Israel Initiative, which brings together medical researchers at the University of Michigan and in Israel. The international team plans to develop human tissue containing the genetic defects for ALS in test tubes, in order to test new treatments. Earlier this month the Genetics Policy Institute honored Taubman, founder of real estate development company Taubman Centers, with the Stem Cell Action Award.

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