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Eight local ideas for Jewish education and engagement projects chosen for funding from 73 submissions 

Jewish Federation of St. Louis announces it has named eight recipients as the first cohort for the 2013 Innovation Grants. Their eight projects, which address Jewish education and engagement, will receive a total of $30,000 for funding and were chosen from 73 submissions. Federation will work closely with the grant recipients to support their entrepreneurial efforts.

“We are excited to announce our first cohort of Innovation Grant winners,” said Mindee Fredman, director of special projects for Federation.  “These winners’ programs serve a broad spectrum of the community—from teens to senior citizens.  We at the Jewish Federation know that we will learn from the experiences of working with these innovators.”

Winners of the grants are:

  • Alan Spector, Baby Boomer Retirement Connection—Many Baby Boomers retire each day and will do so for nearly two decades. Regrettably, most Boomers are ill-prepared for retirement, and those who have made plans have focused mostly on only the financial aspects. Although financial security is important, it is only one of the 10 key elements of a fulfilling retirement. The connection will make a difference in the retirement lives of Jewish community Boomers while also empowering them to make a difference in the community. Amount awarded: $7,000.
  • Phyllis Shapiro, Kosher Cuisine Cooking Class—A series of four cooking classes during a one-year period, one in each season, given by an area chef in a private Kosher home with a kitchen big enough to accommodate 15 people. Amount awarded: $750.
  • Andy Brown, Blues for Challah—Modeled on the successful retreat run by the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut, this shabbaton is designed to celebrate Jewish values through the use of Grateful Dead music. An unusually large portion of the band’s followers are Jewish, and this program will use Rabbis and Jewish educators to celebrate and explore the connection. Amount awarded: $5,000.
  • Simone Bernstein, Teen Community Service Project—This project will immerse Jewish teenagers and connect them with social action opportunities in the St. Louis community. When a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is approaching, many Jewish teenagers search for a way to make this a meaningful experience by completing a service project in the community. With the help of the VolunTEEN Nation team, teenagers will learn how to plan a service project and engage hundreds of young people in the community. Amount awarded: $4,500.
  • Maxine Mirowitz, Adventure Torah Study—The idea is to promote unity in the St. Louis Jewish community by offering a class to cultivate an awareness of nature and a sense of Jewish identity. These lessons would include a hike to a scenic viewpoint where the students would gather to discuss Jewish values, followed by a breathing and yoga session. Amount awarded: $1,500.
  • David Weiss, Justice Desserts—The objective is to expose Next Gen Jewish leaders to social justice issues that affect our country and local community and introduce agents of change that combat these issues. The program will improve participants’ knowledge of broad social justice issues and how they are viewed by Jewish tradition and affect the Jewish community. A five-part series of speakers will meet at different dessert venues in St. Louis. Amount awarded:  $750.
  • Keren Douek, Meetup Website—A St. Louis Jewish website to facilitate connections of local Jewish individuals or families with others with similar interests. The website will feature a large variety of meetups, such as playdates, book clubs, couples/parents night out, learning chavurahs, etc., but would also have the option for a user to create a new category so that users can use their creativity to gauge interest and find participants. For instance, if someone wants to organize a potluck Friday night dinner in the park, they can create and post it, and find families interested in participating. Amount awarded:  $9,000.
  • Joseph Auteberry, Q Jews—Q Jews is a grassroots organization that was started in 2011 to create a space of optimism and empowerment for LGBTQ Jews. Q Jews is a community for anyone who identifies as Jewish and LGBTQ.  It has existed informally as a social and religious group largely dependent on a few integral volunteers. To encourage grow and have the organization become more established, a series of four to five well-publicized opportunities will be created for social interaction and Jewish conversation throughout the year. Amount awarded:  $1,500.

The next Innovation Grant cohort will be launched in 2014. It will offer funding for a new cohort and possible second-year funding for the first group. Federation is also exploring crowdfunding options for second-year funding. All 2013 grant applicants who were not chosen for this year’s cohort were advised of other funding opportunities in the community, including the Staenberg Family Foundation Anything Grants for congregations, agencies and organizations and the Millstone Institute’s LENS On program for young adults.