The Jewish funding organization Slingshot released today its tenth annual national guide to America’s 50 most innovative Jewish organizations. For the first time, Slingshot also published two regional guides that feature about 20 Jewish organizations from the Washington D.C. and Midwest regions.
“We wanted to create narrower and deeper guides to reach the reader in a way that would be more impactful to their lives,” said Will Schneider, Slingshot executive director.
For funders, the Slingshot guide serves as a makeshift bible. According to Ed Case, CEO of InterfaithFamily, an online resource for interfaith families that has appeared in the guide several times, the listing provides new organizations with a “heksher,” or a stamp of approval. A panel of 83 professionals with expertise in grant-making and Jewish life determines the contents of each guide—both national and regional—using creativity, impact, leadership and effectiveness as criteria. Philanthropists, especially those interested in the Jewish "start-up sector" of new organizations, use the guides to make funding decisions.
Several unconventional start-ups made it into the new regional guides. For example, the Midwest edition features SVARA, self-described as "A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva," a decade-old institution that offers self-described queer Jews a way to seriously and communally engage in Talmud study. SVARA offers classes for both beginners and advance students.
Leading in the D.C. edition is Washington Hebrew Congregation’s social group, 2239. The group provides young Jews ages 22-39 with social events and the opportunity to gather for religious services, such as a weekly “Metro Minyan.”
According to Schneider, the regional guides have already notified local funders of organizations in their communities that the funders didn’t even know existed.
“People care about what’s happening nationally, but people care more about what’s happening in their own communities. We wanted to give funders a way to support organizations in their backyard,” he said.
Schneider said Slingshot may offers similar regional guides in Boston and San Francisco in coming years. He said both areas have high levels of young Jewish engagement and deserving local organizations.
The guide is distributed to 7,500 funders, foundation professionals, federation executives, and not-for-profit leaders annually. Individuals can also order a copy or download a PDF version free of charge.