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Press Release: Natan/NEXT Grant $25,000

Natan and NEXT Grant nearly $25,000 to Young Adults

New York City, New York (May 16, 2012) —NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation and Natan announced today nearly $25,000 in grants to four social entrepreneurs who are creating cultural change in their own communities.   NEXT inspires Birthright Israel trip alumni to find or form community where Jewish celebration, learning, responsibility and connections to the land and people of Israel, thrive.

“These grants embody the ‘Do It Yourself’ philosophy central to NEXT’s new focus, which empowers alumni to explore, create and share meaningful opportunities with their friends,” said Morlie Levin, CEO of NEXT.  “We strongly believe that young Jews are the best architects of their own Jewish experiences, and we are delighted to help support these leaders who are organizing on behalf of the Birthright generation.  NEXT looks forward to connecting these creative and committed individuals with other young Jews - and the Jewish community - to help their programs grow.”

“Natan and NEXT share the mission of engaging young adults in Jewish life.  These grants demonstrate that support of diverse, peer-led efforts can create new access points to Jewish experiences and deepen Jewish engagement,” said Felicia Herman, Executive Director of Natan.  “We are thrilled to partner with NEXT to support young Jewish adults who are creating ongoing programs that foster lively and welcoming Jewish communities.”

The four grantees are:

1) Russell Gottschalk, a former NEXT Fellow in Atlanta and creator of the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival.  Russell also received a grant in 2011, which allowed him increase attendance and expand the festival.  The 2012 Festival, May 9th-13th, celebrates Jewish life through music, bringing fresh, cutting-edge performers to the Southeast United States, and highlighting a night of sacred music with a special Shabbat service.  Russell is also a former NEXT Community Engagement Fellow; the Fellowship empowered dozens of alumni to create vibrant local communities by hosting events and identifying trends and alumni areas of interest.

2) Jeremy Gillick is the co-founder of Green Chaverim, an upstart project in Berkeley, California that will ignite gardening and farming interest groups in partnership with select area synagogues.  The project will offer agricultural workshops to young Jewish adults for whom getting back to the land is a meaningful way to connect with Judaism.  Jeremy is a Ph.D. Candidate in Jewish History.

3) Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann, the Founder of Mishkan Chicago, an independent minyan offering “inspired, authentic, down-to-earth Judaism.”  Mishkan, which bills itself as an unconventional kind of Jewish community, convenes in and outside of synagogue spaces and partners with other community organizations to “create a new way in.” 

4) Stacy Miller is the creator of NOVA Tribe Series in northern Virginia, a project set to “rock the suburbs” by developing an active young Jewish adult community in Virginia’s Washington, D.C. suburbs.  The series is created for Jews in their 20’s and 30’s and will offer seven signature programs featuring up and coming speakers, gender-specific events, culinary and sports recreation, and local Shabbat happenings.

NEXT also offers valuable benefits to grantees to expand their programs’ reach, including access to NEXT’s mentoring resources.  Grantees’ event listings will be included in all of NEXT’s relevant publicity channels, vastly amplifying their reach.  Additionally, NEXT will coordinate networking amongst current and past grantees to share resources and learnings.  Grantees will also be invited to join NEXT’s monthly text study sessions with top educators and rabbis, to deepen the Jewish foundation of their work.

Launched in 2009, the NEXT and Natan partnership awards grants to Birthright Israel alumni to support the creative organizing power of the Birthright Generation.  These four recipients join the 14 others who have received a grant through this partnership, and whose bios can be seen here.

About NEXT

NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation connects Birthright trip alumni and their peers with meaningful Jewish living and learning opportunities nationally, locally and in Israel. We also work to create a Jewish community that is ready to receive alumni, who possess diverse needs, interests and inclinations. By investing in and convening those who work with young Jewish adults, as well as offering resources and thought-leadership, we catalyze growth and stimulate opportunities for engagement.  www.birthrightisraelnext.org

About Natan

Natan inspires young philanthropists to become actively engaged in Jewish giving by funding innovative projects that are shaping the Jewish future. www.natan.org