The UJC: Jewish Federations of North American wants to know who are your living Jewish heroes, and the organization might give one of them $25,000.
The umbrella organization of the federation system is asking the Jewish community and those associated with the federation network to nominate Jews who are involved in charitable work to be considered for its first Jewish Community Hero Award.
Nominees will have their bios posted online as well as a description of the projects they support, and the community will be able to vote on who should receive $25,000 to go toward the winner’s cause.
Anyone can make a nomination online and any North American resident older than 13 is eligible to be nominated.
The project is part of the UJC’s million dollar plus marketing initiative that has included a significant research study into who exactly is the federation system’s base, how to reach out more effectively to it and beyond it.
It has also included a foray into online social networking platforms such as facebook that started with an online color war called SuperJews that asked young Jews to join virtual online teams and then to perform online acts of social conscience.
There has been some debate about whether that first attempt was successful. Some in the Jewish communal world dismissed it as cheesy, but the UJC says it was a success and fulfilled the organization’s goal.
“We wanted to reach well over 1,000 people for the campaign,” a spokesman for the organization Andy Nuesner, told The Fundermentalist. “Final numbers were 1,450.”
The Jewish Communal Hero project is much more ambitious.
The UJC has enlisted Blue State Digital, the online strategy firm that helped the Obama campaign raise more than $500 million online, to develop and produce the project.
And while initially the UJC looked at Jewish Community Heroes as phase two of the SuperJews project, the organization decided in house to expand it to include Jews of all ages as potential nominees.
“The could be the single largest Jewish social networking project ever,” Neusner said. “When you look at all of our partner agencies, like Hillel, the JDC, the Jewish Agency, ORT. These are some really large mailing lists. Also the New York federation, the Los Angeles federation, the Chicago federation, they have humungous lists. We have a good running start.”
The UJC will also enlist a couple of bloggers from outside of the federation system to track the contest’s progress.
Neusner said that the organization has learned some lessons for SuperJews — which may see a revival later in the year. But Jewish Community Heroes is meant to be larger.
What did Blue State think about SuperJews? “They liked it but thought it was small scale. They said, ‘Ok, that is great but how do you reach 25,000 people or 50,000 people,” Neusner said.
Nominating closes Oct. 8, and five finalists for the award will ultimately be chosen by a panel of judges. They will be invited for a ceremony at the UJC’s annual General Assembly, which will be held in Washington D.C. Nov. 8-10, when the winner will be selected.
++ Clarification. JTA, which receives fuding from the UJC, is a partner in this project.