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Hillel Receives Pioneering Jewish New Media Innovation Fund Award

by Hillel News |Mar 14, 2011|Comments
Hillel will put Jewish campus life in the palm of the hand.

(Washington D.C. — March 14, 2011) Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life is one of the first nine recipients of grants from the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund, a pilot program of the Jim Joseph, Righteous Persons, and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family foundations. The fund will provide a total of $500,000 in grants and technical support to the digital media projects which are designed to engage 18-40 year olds in Jewish life, learning, culture and community.

"There is an exciting transformation underway in how people are using digital media to communicate, educate, and build community," said Rachel Levin, associate director of the Righteous Persons Foundation. "These projects share an ability to harness new digital media tools and technologies that are a large part of young people's lives today and use them to enhance efforts to engage young people in Jewish life."

Hillel will create a mobiile application that will recommend particular Jewish life opportunities to college students based on their indicated interests; a calendar of Jewish activities and events on campuses; dynamic university profiles; and user-generated content.

"We are thrilled and gratified to be part of this new media project," says Hillel President and CEO Wayne L. Firestone. "This grant will enable Hillel to more easily engage Jewish college students -- even before they come to campus."

Each project will receive one-time funding for a period of 12 months. In order to enhance the impact of these grants, the Fund will offer to provide mentoring and coaching, as well as resources for benchmarking and evaluating success.

"Our goal is to support innovative initiatives using new media to engage and deepen Jewish identity," said Phyllis Cook, a member of the Jim Joseph Foundation Board of Directors. "It is my hope that some of these projects will surprise us with their effectiveness and that we will learn how to employ this media effectively in touching the next generation."

The nine finalists were chosen from a pool of over 300 applications spanning eight countries and requesting an estimated $18 million. Nearly 65 percent of the applications came from not-for-profit organizations, with the remaining 35 percent submitted by for-profits and individuals.

A team of 75 readers scored each application according to a criteria rubric that placed a premium on innovative ideas that serve the Jewish community and can be successfully implemented with the grant funds. A pool of the strongest 30 proposals advanced to the six-member committee of advisors consisting of experts in the fields of digital media, social innovation, Jewish life, and youth engagement. These advisors closely reviewed and discussed the top proposals and then recommended the nine projects that will receive funding. (Learn about the members of the advisory council at http://www.jewishnewmedia.org/.)

The process was expertly stewarded and facilitated by Blueprint Research + Design, a strategy consulting firm specializing in program research and design for philanthropic foundations.

"The Jewish New Media Innovation Fund is itself an innovation—a collaborative effort by three foundations to involve many members of the Jewish and social media worlds in helping to improve the Jewish community," said Lucy Bernholz, president of Blueprint. "The selected projects represent just the beginning of the diversity of ideas and opportunities that this kind of open, inclusive process can uncover."

The Jewish New Media Innovation Fund was established by the Jim Joseph, Righteous Persons and Schusterman Family foundations in an effort to better understand how digital media can help preserve Jewish history, renew Jewish traditions, and revitalize Jewish institutions while promoting more vibrant and meaningful Jewish life in the 21st century.

The funders plan to study the full applicant pool and share aggregate learnings about the need for new media support in the Jewish world with the Jewish philanthropic community and all those working to foster Jewish life, learning, culture and community.

"We are encouraged by the clear insight this process has revealed—namely, that countless organizations, institutions and individuals are asking hard questions about how we can shape our community for the 21st century," said Sanford Cardin, President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. "We look forward to sharing our discoveries about how funding in this space can effectively spur creativity and foster meaningful engagement through emerging technologies."

For more information on the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund, visit www.jewishnewmedia.org.


About the Jim Joseph Foundation

The Jim Joseph Foundation, established in 2006, is committed to a sustained program of grant making in pursuit of a vision that leads to ever-increasing numbers of young Jews engaged in ongoing Jewish learning and choosing to live vibrant Jewish lives. The Foundation manages close to 700 million dollars of assets, using all of its resources to foster compelling, effective Jewish learning for young Jews in the United States. www.jimjosephfoundation.org

About the Righteous Persons Foundation

The Righteous Persons Foundation is dedicated to supporting efforts that build a vibrant, just, and inclusive Jewish community in the United States. Steven Spielberg established the Foundation in the fall of 1994, initially with his profits from the film Schindler's List. Since then, the Foundation has invested in organizations and efforts working to: revitalize Jewish arts, culture, and identity; engage the next generation; strengthen a commitment to social justice; and promote understanding between Jews and those of other faiths and backgrounds. www.righteouspersons.org

About the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is dedicated to ensuring vibrant Jewish life by empowering young Jews to embrace the joy of Judaism, build inclusive Jewish communities, support the State of Israel and repair the world. Established in 1987 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Foundation also provides assistance to non-sectarian charitable organizations dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in our hometown, especially in the areas of education, child advocacy and youth development. www.schusterman.org

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