Slingshot names top 50 Jewish innovators, plus 10

Slingshot added a Top 10 list to its newly released annual guide to innovative Jewish programming in North America.

A list of 10 top “standard bearers” was added to the annual list of the 50 “most inspiring and innovative organizations, projects, and programs in the North American Jewish community today” by Slingshot, a project of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies.

The standard bearers are Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community; Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life; Hazon; Ikar;; Jewish Funds for Justice-Progressive Jewish Alliance; Mayyim Hayyim; Mechon Hadar; Reboot; and Sharsheret.

“These organizations are not just innovative, they’re pushing it every year,” Will Schneider, Slingshot’s director, told JTA in an interview. “They’re striving for relevancy every day.”

Both the standard bearers and the other 50 were judged according to four criteria: innovation, impact, strong leadership and organizational efficacy. The winners were chosen by a panel of foundation professionals after an application and nominations process.

This year’s Slingshot 50 are, in alphabetical order: Access-American Jewish Committee’s new generation program; BBYO PANIM Institute; Be’chol Lashon; Bible Raps, the Bronfman Youth Fellowships Alumni Venture Fund; Center Without Walls; Challah for Hunger; Diarna: Mapping Mizrahi Heritage; Eden Village Camp; Encounter; Gateways-Access to Jewish Education; G-dcast;; Hebrew SeniorLife Chaplaincy Institute; Hidden Sparks; Hillel’s Campus Entrepreneur & Senior Jewish Educator Initiative; Institute for Curriculum Services; the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues; Jewish Community Action-Foreclosure Prevention; The Jewish Education Project; Jewish Heart for Africa; Jewish Meditation Center of Brooklyn; Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation; Jewish Rock Radio; Jewish Teen Funders Network; and Judaism Your Way.

Also, the Kavana Cooperative; Kavanah Garden; Shoresh Jewish Environmental Programs; Kayam Farm at the Pearlstone Conference & Retreat Center; Keshet; Matan; Moishe House; Moving Traditions;; Nehirim: GLBT Jewish Culture and Spirituality;; the PresenTense Group; Project Chessed; Rabbis for Human Rights-North America; Repair the World; Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council; Rose Youth Foundation, an initiative of Rose Community Foundation; Seeds of Peace; Shalom Hartman Institute of North America; Shalom Sesame/Sesame Workshop; Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists; Teva Learning Alliance; Torch; Uri L’Tzedek; and Wilderness Torah.

“The capacity for 50 great organizations has grown over the years,” Schneider said. “It’s become extremely competitive to get in.”

50 Nifty Jewish Groups

Do the words “innovative” and “Jewish groups” seem like oxymorons? Not to the publishers of “Slingshot,” a new guidebook to the “50 most innovative Jewish groups in North America,” published by a division of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies.

“Slingshot,” which is expected to be published annually, aims to showcase meaningful but often cash-strapped programs to philanthropists who can help fund them, with the goal of revitalizing North American Jewry.

After assembling recommendations from Jewish philanthropists, 25 foundation professionals who fund Jewish programs chose the final 50 groups based on their performance in innovation, impact, leadership and efficiency.

Slingshot’s supporters say backing the 50 groups is smart because these groups are already remaking the Jewish community.

“This is the low-risk, high-reward investment,” Jeffrey Solomon, the president of the Bronfman Philanthropies, said at a recent launch party in a crowded lounge on New York’s Lower East Side.

The organization that collected the most recommendations among the “innovative 50” is the American Jewish World Service. The group, which focuses on long-term economic projects in the developing world, has been at the forefront of aiding victims of the December 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia.

According to the “Slingshot” preface, the challenges that American Jews face in 2005 stem from assimilation. Because Jews are not externally compelled to live Jewish lives, they must inspire each other internally to feel connected to the Jewish community.

Many of the guidebook’s picks are programs that blend Judaism with American culture and society, allowing participants to nurture each side of their American Jewish identities.

Some of the L.A.-based organizations that made it to the list include MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger; IKAR, a Jewish spiritual community that engages in the pursuit of social justice; and The Progressive Jewish Alliance, an organization dedicated to working for social and economic justice.

For a complete list, visit