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Federation innovation fund promotes ‘cool Jewish ideas’
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Federation innovation fund promotes ‘cool Jewish ideas’

The Jewish Federation of Monmouth County has embarked on an adventure — make that “adVenture” — in creative Jewish funding.

The vehicle is the Jewish adVenture Fund, an initiative fueled by $25,000 in federation funds originally allocated for some of the programs at the Ruth Hyman Jewish Community Center in Deal — funds that were freed up in the wake of the JCC’s closing during the current fiscal year.

“With the challenges facing the JCC, we were able to apply some of those funds to continue programs we funded at the JCC (like kosher meals-on-wheels), as well as to address other needs and opportunities in the community,” said federation executive director Keith Krivitzky.

“One result is that we were able to apply more funds to the adVenture Fund for new and innovative programs, though this is something we were keen to invest in regardless — and we are thrilled with the interest this has generated in our community.”

Conceived as an incubator for “cool Jewish ideas,” the grant program is designed to spur individuals and groups to launch innovative programs that will enrich Jewish life in Monmouth County, according to Ariella Lis Raviv, the federation’s manager of community impact.

“We’re giving seed money for new Jewish ideas,” Raviv said in a phone interview. “It’s our way of telling Monmouth County that we want to fund the next Jewish ideas. It’s a little cash on the ground to get new ideas off the ground.”

On July 5, the Jewish adVenture Fund Committee gave that cash on the ground — grants ranging from $500 to $3,000 — to nurture 14 such ideas. Among the proposed projects tapped to receive “Cool Jewish Idea Grants” are a Jewish music festival at the Jersey shore, a program to support Jewish students with learning disabilities, a winter day camp leadership-training program for Jewish youth, Jewish learning initiatives, a county-wide Shofaron, and an intergenerational Hanukka celebration for Holocaust survivors in Monmouth County (see box).

“We made a really important statement to the community that we support innovative programs for all types of Jews,” Raviv said. “This is unique for a federation, and we hope it’s a signal of us thinking outside the box.”

‘More good stuff’

To Sheri Tarrab of Holmdel, president-elect of the federation board, the effort to spur creative Jewish programming in the county is a wonderful way to bring the community together.

“What we tried to do is to be an angel investor and to find some new, innovative, and, hopefully, collaborative efforts from different agencies and people,” Tarrab said. “We got this wonderful response from the community with lots and lots of very good ideas.

“The grants we gave — we had new programs, we had new people, and the whole thing was the most exciting thing,” she said. “It’s nice, it’s fun, and it’s got a buzz about it.”

That buzz is resonating with Richard Sachs of Middletown, a French horn player with the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra. Sachs, who has been sounding the shofar at Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls for the past 20 years, will use his Jewish adVenture Fund grant to expand the pilot shofar-blowing workshop he launched at the temple last year.

“I’m very excited and happy, and I look forward to setting up a program for teaching shofar,” Sachs said.

The grant will cover the cost of a shofar scholar and a venue for an expanded Shofaron this year, Sachs said, and it will allow him to attract Jewish shofar-blowers of all denominations from throughout the county.

“Most important, we’ll be able to share stories among shofar-blowers — master-blasters — from all over the county,” he said. “It’ll be a good program.”

From the point of view of the federation, the entire grant process was very encouraging, Krivitzky said.

“I think that the new grant process reflects our broader approach — how we can have a smart and targeted impact on the community, and how we seek to engage new and different segments in the work that we do,” the federation executive said.

“We’re going to see some good stuff,” he said, “and it’s a sign that there’s a lot more good stuff to come.”

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