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Jewish Journal

50 Nifty Jewish Groups

by Rachel Pomerance

September 15, 2005 | 8:00 pm

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 www.2164.net/slingshot.html.

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