The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles this week announced the 10 finalists for the Next Big Jewish Idea contest, which offers a $100,000 prize to the winner. The finalists include a Jewish superheroes game, Jewish care packages for those in the military, social service resources and a plan to make day school free.
Nearly 112,000 votes were cast for more than 300 submissions during the first round of voting, Jan. 11 to March 31. The finalists include the top five vote-getters along with the five chosen by a panel of judges. The final round of voting opened on May 2 and will end on June 3.
In June, the judges will reconvene, armed with new information from the finalists along with the public’s votes for the finalists and all online comments for each idea. The winner will receive up to $100,000 in funding and services as well as access to Federation’s expertise and wide-reaching community connections.
Although the judges will choose the winner, Scott Minkow, Federation’s vice president of partnerships and innovation, said the community is “encouraged to make their voice heard” by voting online. Minkow hopes the public dialogue might help the non-winning ideas bring in other means of funding and support.
Some of the ideas that didn’t make the final cut nevertheless showed a flair for the creative. “Spiritual fitness” called for a Jewish gym with treadmills posting psalms on their screens for every mile walked. “Life Advice From Old People” is a blog sharing stories and videos of any elderly person that the author has come across. “Dance Wherever You Are” would implement a national celebration on Rosh Hashanah using art exhibitions, music and dance. “Love Thy Neighbor” proposed a program of adopting one non-Jewish urban family per synagogue to build interfaith community connections.
The 10 finalists:
Art Space Match would use bartering to connect Jewish artists with institutions such as synagogues, Jewish day schools, JCCs or Jewish retreat centers. In exchange for an organization’s donating space, the artists would offer workshops, create new projects and host open studios for the community.
Hebrewheroes.com is an online game for children targeting the population of Jewish youth unaffiliated with a formal Jewish educational program or synagogue. Each child enrolls in “superhero training” taught by Jewish historical figures, designing their own avatar while facing challenges centered on Jewish values.
Jackie’s List is a Web site that provides those in need with a directory of social service agencies, both publicly and privately funded, as well as individual caregivers. Due to recent funding cuts for social services, the site would serve as a resource specialist.
JEWWW (Jewish Education on the World Wide Web) in a Box would send monthly boxes with ingredients for experiencing a mitzvah or monthly theme. Aimed at unaffiliated families, JEWWW would provide online multimedia experiences working in tandem with the box’s activity to facilitate a Jewish education from home.
Ke$ef is a financial education program for teens designed to fill in the lack of personal finance courses in traditional schools. Ke$ef would teach, among other things, how to manage a budget, understand saving accounts and be able to analyze benefits of loans.
Project MOT sends care packages for all major Jewish holidays to deployed American Jewish troops. Along with food and other holiday items, the box would contain cards made by Hebrew-school children, and youth and synagogue groups.
Raising the Bar: Professional Training for B’nai Mitzvah Tutors is a program from Storahtelling that would train Los Angeles b’nai mitzvah tutors to provide a more meaningful experience for their students. Raising the Bar will partner with tutors of all denominations to provide preteens with a positive Jewish experience.
Return on Investment Los Angeles (ROILA) plans on providing a free education for all students of Los Angeles Jewish schools. The plan involves financial commitments from parents, schools, synagogue members and mega-donors to create a community planned-giving endowment project.
Tiyul Tzedek — A Journey of Justice proposes a year-long program for b’nai mitzvah students and their families, teaching Jewish values by matching them with people in the developing world currently experiencing mass atrocities and genocide. Using video-conferencing, students would explore their shared values and jointly design local actions aimed at producing global results.
Torah Letzion (TLZ) is run by Yeshiva University and Stern College students. TLZ currently provides scholarships for 15 to 20 Jewish students to study in Israel for the year following high school. This national program would allocate one yearly scholarship to a Los Angeles applicant if they are awarded the grant, and would be able to multiply the 15-20 scholarships they currently are able to offer.
The final decision will be made based on which idea best meets the community’s needs. Federation is committed to finding an idea that is “viable, sustainable, and impactful,” Minkow said.
For more information, go to www.thenextbigjewishidea.com.