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Building the Jewish Future: Startups and Jewish Innovation

Social entrepreneurship is helping meet a dire need for new meaningful channels for Jewish engagement

Beyond the rise of Israel’s “start-up nation,” we are witnessing a global movement of Jewish innovation and social entrepreneurship from young Jewish leaders. Thousands of Jews are working together to build new programs. A recent report found that with less than 2% of funding from the ~$10B spent annually on the Jewish nonprofit sector, Jewish start-ups engage over 9% of the North America’s Jews.

core18 lord sacks
Emeritus Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

This boom in the Jewish start-ups is critical to the vitality and longevity of Jewish communal life. The PEW Report demonstrated that our generation needs new and deeply meaningful channels for Jewish engagement, especially for our youth. Emeritus Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explains the need to support our next generation’s leaders. In discussing the value of programs like Core18 Leaders Lab he states, “We need Jewish leaders infused with the Jewish spirit and Jewish passion to bring the incredible energies of the Jewish people together and forge a Jewish future.”

It’s largely the younger generation taking the helm in starting creative Jewish initiatives. Jewish Innovation Economy reports, “more than two-thirds of the population engaged by Jewish startups are under 45 [and] organizations focusing on leadership, environment, and Israel report that more than 50% of [. . .] participants are Generation Y/Millennials.” Young Jewish leaders are spearheading programs that speak to the changing needs of a budding generation.

Funding Jewish Start-ups: The Link to the Next Generation

Despite these successes, most Jewish start-ups are struggling financially. 62% of surveyed Jewish organizations report inadequate start up funding for Jewish innovation.

Since these programs often create fresh channels of Jewish engagement for the younger generation, their success is paramount for both communal vitality and economic sustainability. There has been a tremendous decline in Jewish-focused philanthropic giving. Of the $5.3 billion given by Jewish donors, only $318 million (~6%) went to Jewish causes. Inspiring the next generation will becoming increasingly urgent in the coming two decades “an estimated $3 trillion to $10 trillion [will] pass from the older generation of American Jews to their heirs.

Noting this critical shift in generational wealth transfer, Vice President of the Schusterman Foundation, Lisa Eisen, writes, “As a new generation of decision makers takes the helm. . . . Our community. . . must engage the next generation of donors now to help shape their priorities.”

Revitalizing the future by incubating Jewish start-ups:

Recognizing the necessity of innovation and start-ups, the Jewish community has launched numerous leadership and venture incubation/accelerator programs. Initiatives like Core18 Leaders Lab, ROI Community, UpStart and PresenTense are all working to support and foster Jewish innovation.

Core18 Fellows get 1-on-1 consulting from Jewish activists, VCs, and Wharton Business School professors. Rivka Zell (left) with Jackie Rotman (right)

These programs offer consulting, seed capital, networks, and mentoring. Several programs also use crowdfunding to help their start-ups gain financial sustainability and a strong support base. This follows a global trend of venture incubation/accelerator programs beginning to use crowdfunding to support their start-ups. This approach allows both the start-up founder and the venture incubator to each mobilize their social networks and resources to support the venture. It adds credibility to the entrepreneur’s fundraising efforts and creates a grassroots mechanism to foster support.

Noting the trend toward increasing democratization of philanthropy, Eisen explains, “Gone are the days when philanthropy was solely the province of billionaire benefactors.” She explains that online tools empower anybody to be a donor, creating a space for supporters of all sizes to access direct paths to specific initiatives they are passionate about.

To explore Jewish incubators launching crowdfunding initiatives for Jewish innovation, please see:

Live Campaigns:

Already completed:

Through exploring and supporting venture incubation programs, leadership programs, and the world of Jewish start-ups, we can be part of a global movement to revitalize our community. There is not a singular solution to addressing the spiritual and physical challenges of the Jewish people. But by supporting a diverse ecosystem of causes, and our next generation’s leaders, we can help ensure a vibrant Jewish future.

About the Author
Joseph has over 11 years of experience in fundraising and crowdfunding. Functioning as a founder, CEO and CFO, Joseph has launched and managed hundreds of fundraisers for diverse causes. Based-off hands-on experience and academic study, he understands the art of marketing social causes and the challenge of building an inspired donor-based. Joseph also knows how to build empowering teams that are passionate and effective. As a nonprofit founder, he has recruited and built teams from scratch. And as a manager he learned to collaborate with and unite people inside the framework of a large organization.
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