Investing in Innovation

Written by Rachel Kohn on . Posted in Community News

Federation allocates over $1 million to 28 initiatives addressing today's unique communal needs.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington recently announced the allocation of more than $1 million in funds toward 28 proposals to test new ideas and expand impactful initiatives within the Jewish community of Greater Washington.

Some initiatives will seek to create new organizations that can build community in distinct locations and in new ways. Others will help scale up successful programs or replicate them in new regions. Still more will reimagine the way institutions currently connect with the Jewish community, challenging historical boundaries between members and non-members.

Across all of the funded programs, the idea is to learn and expand over time.

“Not only are we eager to see new initiatives take root, we are also excited to cultivate new partnerships and increase collaboration between our communal organizations,” said Federation CEO Gil Preuss. “Before Pitch Night, many of our local leaders had never met one another.”

Federation’s first-ever Pitch Night took place back in late February of this year. To determine how best to invest funds raised through Federation’s 2018 Annual Campaign, specifically in support of Federation’s strategic priority areas of focus — Engaging the Next Generation, Strengthening Jewish Life in Northern Virginia, and Adult Learning — Federation formed two Task Forces of community leaders and then put out a request for proposals. Then, at Pitch Night, leaders from 47 organizations brought their proposals to life before an engaged and eager audience of their peers.

“We could have approached this with the status quo, reading words on a grant application, but we decided to meet with the people behind these incredible projects, and engage with their energy and hopes for the future,” said Jamie Poslosky, co-chair of Federation’s Next Gen Task Force.

The process was “so inspiring,” she said.

“When we get people together, collaborate, listen, experiment, and stay the course, something great is going to happen. We are activists in a future that will be of our collective making,” said David Selden, chair of Federation’s Northern Virginia Task Force.

“Boiling down our organization’s mission and vision for the future into a two-minute presentation [for Pitch Night] was a challenge, but the process made us that much stronger,” said Andrea Deck of Honeymoon Israel, one of the grant recipients.

“This process helped spark collaboration and conversations among organizations that haven’t really happened or been encouraged this way before,” said Rachel Gildeiner of Gather DC, which secured grant funding for multiple initiatives.

Recipient programs are receiving any­where from $2,500 to $100,000 in grant funds, with an average of approximately $40,000 per grant. On June 6, the funded agencies came together for the first time as a cohort at a reception for funders, committee members, and recipients.

“Looking ahead, we are committed to closing the loop and supporting leaders in exchanging ideas and working together to meet crucial communal needs,” said Preuss. “In our changing times, we want to do everything we can to leverage impact and innovation across the whole community to the benefit of Jewish Greater Washington.”

“Now is the time to give new ideas a chance, take risks, and scale what is working. That is why we solicited proposals from across the community including traditional agencies, synagogues, and startups who have effectively brought great ideas to life.”

See below for the full list of grant recipients.

 By Rachel Kohn



Empowering Parents and Young People to Confront Anti-Semitism

ADL will expand the Words to Action training program to synagogues, youth groups, and Jewish campus organizations in Northern Virginia. The ADL’s Words to Action program is designed to help participants strengthen their Jewish identity; learn skills to confront hate and bias; challenge anti-Semitic myths with facts; and explore the history of anti-Semitism.


Avodah DC Alumni Leading our Communities in Jewish Social Justice Learning

Avodah will expand their Alumni Justice Ambassador (AJA) program in Northern Virginia communities. The AJA program pairs Avodah fellowship alumni with opportunities to become teachers for communities seeking to engage in meaningful social justice learning.


J on Wheels

The Bender JCC will create a mobile space for building Jewish connections and a community environment beyond the Bender JCC campus. Through a branded vehicle, the JCC will expand service to areas with a lower density of PJ Library subscribers, including Prince George’s and Upper Montgomery Counties.


The Hand-Off to Jewish Education

This grant will support an eight-week program taught by CESJDS teachers for moms and their new babies that provides information about how to teach Jewish social and ethical values to children.


Olam Tikvah Young Families

This funding will enable Olam Tikvah to expand its Young Families program to provide area Jewish families with opportunities to meet and socialize through playdates at Olam Tikvah and Fairfax county and city parks. The expansion will allow additional programming for holiday celebrations and workshops for parents.


Rabbi Aderet Drucker and Rabbi Rami Schwartzer

The Den is a collective of people creating a Judaism that is relevant, accessible, and deeply rooted in tradition throughout the greater DC area. Through this project, Rabbi Aderet Drucker and Rabbi Rami Schwartzer seek to build spaces of meaning that invite people to deepen their connection to Judaism, feel part of a community, and enrich their lives.


Jewish Cooking Mastered, EntryPointDC, and NOVA Tribe Series

Edlavitch DCJCC will pilot Jewish Cooking Mastered, a joint project of EntryPointDC and NOVA Tribe Series, including a cooking class series and a peer-to-peer holiday meals program in Northern VA and DC.


30s Engagement

GatherDC will expand their 30s Engagement Impact program to connect individuals in their 30s with their peers and Jewish communal partner organizations. The project also funds dedicated learning and leadership experiences for this population, including comprehensive follow-up and evaluation.

NOVA Engagement Impact

GatherDC will hire a NoVA engagement staff person to help form relationships among hundreds of Jewish young adults in Northern Virginia, and develop a grassroots network of thousands of young adults as a pipeline to existing programmatic offerings.

Trainings Innovation

This grant will support a training series for local lay leaders and Jewish institution staff about how to engage peripherally involved Jewish young adults.


Transportation Expansion in Northern Virginia

Gesher will expand their bus service from four to five routes in order to cut ride time and improve service.


Hadar in Washington, D.C. – Engaging Young Adults

Hadar will create two pre-holiday class series and a peer engagement cohort. The class series will be taught by Hadar faculty members and the peer engagement cohort will connect 6-10 young adults for monthly Torah study sessions and coaching in community organizing.


Hill Havurah New Parents’ Gathering

This grant will fund a monthly gathering of Jewish and interfaith individuals and couples with their new babies. Through the program, participants will receive education around Jewish ritual at home, provide mutual support, and build connections with one another.


Honeymoon Israel, Greater Washington, DC

This grant will fund follow-up programming in the local community after young married couples participate in Honeymoon Israel’s 10-day Israel experience. The programming is designed to keep couples connected to one another and help each family find meaningful connections to the broader Washington Jewish community.


Gvanim Limmud

IACDC will create a Limmud group in Northern Virginia, providing a platform for Israeli and American Jews to connect and strengthen the community. Gvanim Limmud is modeled after the traditional Beit Midrash, a dynamic place of engaging with traditional Jewish text to debate the most significant questions.

JCC OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA ambassadors —NOVA Expansion

The JCC or Northern Virginia will continue the j. family ambassadors program in Northern Virginia to support new parents to connect with other young families raising Jewish children by providing access to communal experiences and institutions.


Israel Leadership Mission

Federation’s Young Leadership program will revive the Israel Leadership Mission (ILM), formerly the Alumni Leadership Mission (ALM). The Mission will bring together local leaders, encouraging development of relationships with each other and with Israel, and will develop a cohort of connected Jewish leaders who care about the larger Jewish community.

PJ Library in Greater Washington

This grant will ensure that the PJ Library program has the necessary funds to serve the entire Greater Washington community. The program provides families raising Jewish children from 6 months to 8 years old with free Jewish books and music and coproduces events for families across the region.


Cafe Nite Extra

Mesorah’s Café Nite program will expand the organization’s breadth and depth among millennials in our community. Café Nite programs provide Jewish enrichment experiences including classes, workshops, “getaways,” and service projects.


Sustaining Jewish Life in Fairfax Through Moishe House

This funding will allow for the development of a second Moishe House in Northern Virginia. The residents (3 to 5 Jewish 20-somethings) will receive extensive training and resources to turn their rented home into a communal focal point through dynamic and relevant programming such as Shabbat dinners, Jewish holiday celebrations, and more.


NOVA Field Fellow

This grant will support a new NoVA Field Fellow who will work to engage the approximately 36,000 Northern Virginia-based Jewish young adults. OneTable’s program encourages singles in their 20s and 30s to engage in Shabbat practice.


OneTable/Sixth & I Field Fellow

This grant will fund a field fellow to work within both organizations to foster Jewish community in the broader DMV. OneTable’s program promotes Shabbat practice among those in their 20s and 30s, and this position will allow Sixth & I to nurture and grow their reach among this group, including through co-branded Noshpitality events.


Meeting Young Jewish Families Where They Are At

This program will serve young families in areas without Jewish life infrastructure, including Clarskburg and Damascus. The project will allow the synagogue to grow partnerships with JPlay and PJ Library of Greater Washington to help fill a void in service and provide families in those areas with relationships, community, and programming.


TBS Educational Outreach Program: Torah Tykes & LIFE on the Road

TBS will expand Torah Tykes, a pre-K family program that provides parent-child learning and socialization, and Learning is for Everyone (LIFE), an adult education program. Both programs serve unaffiliated Jews in Northern Virginia and will be offered outside the temple walls to under-served parts of southern Fairfax County and adjacent areas.


Mothers Circle: New and Improved

Temple Rodef Shalom will expand its interfaith Mothers Circle to include four additional circles in communities of Northern Virginia, as well as to refresh the Mothers Circle curriculum. Mothers Circle programs include a licensed clinical social worker to facilitate conversations among non-Jewish participants who are dealing with complex issues and concerns around raising Jewish children.


NOVA Coworking Space

This grant will see funding for a programmatic space in Northern Virginia empowering Next Gen Jews to curate experiences, build community, and define their Jewish sense of self. The space will bring together the best of traditional and non-traditional entities to empower Next Gen Jews to embody living Judaism through the seamless integration of work and social life.


The Micah Storefront Project

The Micah Storefront Project provides communal Jewish experiences in spaces of the everyday, including in coffee shops, on rooftops, and around open tables. The project incorporates prayer, study, conversation, and action, bringing people together for relevant, highly accessible Jewish learning.