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Full Fall for Fellows

January 25, 2012

In the last year and a half, our eight Fellows and their ventures have made great strides as part of the Dual Investment Program. As a new calendar year begins, our Fellows reflect on an amazing few months and look ahead to next steps for their ventures in 2012:

Sarah Lefton and G-dcast
G-dcast closed out 2011 with a huge bang. A newly redesigned website offers a slate of new features for parents and educators, a recently launched Holiday Teachers’ Guide and DVD are currently for sale, and staff are deep into production on the Book of Joshua, to launch this Spring. The G-dcast office will be adding two new staff members, and the organization recently received a Covenant Foundation grant for $100,000 for two years for a Media Beit Midrash program for college-age animators to learn about the Prophets and to create short films to be distributed by G-dcast. In an exciting effort to grow, G-dcast is developing its first community-based events in which groups of children, teens and adults work with staff to create their own G-dcast episodes, learning important media literacy skills in a Jewish context and key Jewish concepts in a fun media production.

Eli Winkelman and Challah for Hunger
Challah for Hunger is entering the new year after a successful Fall season, with 45 chapters spanning 25 states and 3 countries. Chapters reported baking a total of 7,823 loaves of challah in the Fall, raising nearly $30,000 for philanthropic causes. In the past two years, CfH has been approached by over 100 groups or individuals interested in starting chapters of their own, and this past year, CfH approved its first high school chapter at Phoenix Hebrew High. CfH was awarded a grant from the Slingshot Fund and Executive Director Eli Winkelman was honored in early January with the Henry Elkeslassy Award.

Nati Passow and Jewish Farm School
In its second season on the farm at Eden Village Camp, JFS hosted over 2,000 individuals in a wide range of innovative farm-based workshops, such as bee keeping, natural building, and herbal medicine. JFS grew over 3,000 pounds of organic produce and donated nearly 500 pounds to the Fishkill Food Pantry. JFS hosted educator trainings for the Jewish Theological Seminary and The Jewish Education Project, as well as gathered over 80 students for Jewish service learning trips. JFS continues to expand is programmatic offerings in the Jewish community through the launch of a new curriculum, a Rabbinic Internship Program with Hebrew College in Boston, and an Urban Agriculture and Food Justice trip in Philadelphia.

Ari Weiss and Uri L’Tzedek
At of the end of 2011, Uri L’Tzedek awarded the Tav HaYosher to over 100 restaurants in 13 locations in the United States and Canada and reached over 20,000 individuals in 200 programs it hosted or co-sponsored nationwide. To date, Uri L’Tzedek has produced over 100 op-eds in print media and created cutting edge social justice materials like the Social Justice Haggadah Supplement. The organization has added two full-time staff members and one part-time staff, which has allowed Uri L’Tzedek to continue to invest in emerging leaders as fellows, interns, committee heads, and Tav HaYosher compliance officers.  Additionally, Uri L’Tzedek organized and led a successful protest to put pressure on Israeli company Tnuva to drop its local distributor, which was accused of unethical working conditions. Following the August protest, Tnuva announced it would not renew its contract with Flaum Appetizing Corp. To conclude an incredible year of success, Uri L’Tzedek was listed in the Slingshot Guide for the third consecutive year.

Zelig Golden and Wilderness Torah
Fall 2011 saw the launch of B’naiture, the B’nai Mitzvah Nature Mentorship, with 20 participants, and Sukkot on the Farm sold out two months in advance with 250 participants–up almost 100 participants from last year. Additionally, Wilderness Torah held its first annual fundraiser Shine: A Celebration of Light and Giving. Guests saw the debut of WT’s new promotional video and helped raise half of the venture’s year-end fundraising goal. At the end of December, WT announced the launch of B’hootz (“Outside”), an expanded children’s year-round Jewish nature experience. Looking to 2012, Wilderness Torah is committed to serving over 1,500 individuals through programming, developing written curriculum for B’naiture and for Festivals, and re-branding the organization with new visuals to match its flourishing programming. Registration is now open for its upcoming festivals: Tu B’shvat in the Redwoods and Passover in the Desert.

Rachel Nussbaum and The Kavana Cooperative
The Kavana Cooperative continues to gain national attention, with Rachel being named to Newsweek’s “50 Most Influential Rabbis” in 2011 and Kavana appearing in Slingshot for the third time!  As the Kavana Cooperative celebrates its five-year anniversary, it continues to engage its members in an intensely local, intimate and flexible new Jewish community model with a variety of programs, including a Hebrew Immersion preschool, an innovative afterschool and b’nai mitzvah program, and adult programming in education, spirituality, and social justice. Kavana is also making waves, developing a “Kavana in a Box” tool-kit to enable groups across the country to replicate some of its best practices.

Alison Laichter and the Jewish Meditation Center
The Jewish Meditation Center of Brooklyn (JMC) continues to build its collaborative ventures with other amazing Jewish organizations to bring the NYC community a variety of introspective and engaging events. Participants rang in the New Year at a midnight meditation during a week-long silent JMC-cosponsored meditation retreat. Upcoming events include “A Taste of Jewish Meditation” at the East End Synagogue’s Simchat Shabbat, and the JMC’s 3rd annual Tu B’Shvat Seder, co-hosted this year with Brooklyn Jews and Pursue. Programming for 2012 will expand the grassroots-led practice community with its third Sit Leader training at the end of February, through which active JMC participants are engaged to go deeper with their practice and their Jewish learning. The JMC continues to offer weekly Jewish meditation sits in Brooklyn on Wednesdays, monthly Beginner Night Sits the first Wednesday of each month, and a growing archive of inspiring kavanot (intentions) based on the weekly parsha.

Zhenya Plechkina and Zshuk Art Initiative
It has been a busy season for Zshuk Art Initiative. The Fall semester’s programming line-up was filled with new and exciting activities that emphasized Jewish learning and art for both children and parents at locations in two different New York boroughs. Each of these locations was also host to an “Artist and Me” program, featuring musicians, dramatists, and visual artists. After participating in the Sea Monster March at the New York Aquarium in the Fall, Zshuk celebrated Chanukah with its first annual fundraiser.