New Slingshot-style book highlights Jewish innovation in Europe

A low-profile group of international foundations and philanthropists has published a Slingshot-type book to highlight innovative Jewish projects in Europe.

The book, called Compass (available for download here), features profiles of 36 organizations in the former Soviet Union and Europe divided into three different focus areas: innovation, infrastructure, and culture & identity.

The organizations were selected by a group of 40 philanthropy professionals and philanthropists with knowledge of the Jewish landscape in Europe.

A sampling of the organizations includes:

  • Akadem-Multimedia: a French organization that builds Web sites that disseminate Jewish religion and culture.
  • Beit Warsawa, A Jewish Cultural Association: a Warsaw-based independent minyan that is the city’s only non-Orthodox congregation.
  • Interlink: a British program is run by an all-female staff to help improve the lives of women in Britain’s male-dominated ultra-Orthodox community.
  • Marom Budapest: an alternative Jewish cultural center bent at reinterpreting Jewish culture and tradition for Hungary’s young adults.

The book was put together by the Westbury Group, a group of 25 or so private foundations and individuals who have been meeting once a year since 2000 to discuss philanthropy and the Jewish landscape in Europe. The group is made up of American, European, Israeli and Russian members, including the Rashi Foundation, the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, Genesis Philanthropic Group,  Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, the Fondation pour la Mיmoire de la Shoah and the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, which created the original Slingshot directory.

The book is aimed both at generating philanthropic interest in the organizations featured and at raising awareness among Jews worldwide that there is burgeoning Jewish life in Europe, according to the chairman of the Westbury Group, Sandy Cardin, who is the president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

The Jewish organizational landscape in Europe is different than that in the United States, Cardin said.

“You still have the cultural aims, the museums, the preservation of the Jewish history and Jewish legacy in that region, and not simply of the Holocaust, but the glory of Jewish life taken place in the region,” Cardin told The Fundermentalist. “The second piece is Jewish community building. What do you do with communities in Europe to provide opportunities for emerging Jewish communities in Eastern Europe? And what do you do in Western Europe, given drastic demographic changes there? The last piece is the younger generation and innovation. What does it mean to be Jewish in Europe?”

The goal of the book is to help spur more foundations with Jewish money to invest in Jewish projects in Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Cardin said he does not anticipate that the Westbury Group, which last met in Paris in May, will become a powerhouse on its own in terms of giving money. But he does think that five or six of the foundations at a time involved will start to become more active and vocal and to collaborate on some issues in an attempt to get other donors involved.

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