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How a Group of Young Jewish Funders are Combating Antisemitism

April 1, 2024

What does it look like for young Jewish philanthropists to shape Jewish life in the post-October 7th landscape? This is the question we have continued to ask ourselves in the weeks and months following October 7th. We remain deeply alarmed by the escalation of antisemitism on college campuses and across our communities. As funders, we want Jewish life to be rooted in safety and joy. And as Jews, we continue to feel the vulnerability of moving through the world without hiding our identities. At the same time, we know how important it is to stay in relationship with people outside of the Jewish community, and not retreat to our own silos out of fear of “the other.”

In the weeks following October 7th, we knew we wanted to advance our learning and mobilize resources. We heard from others in our community that they were seeking a space in which they could learn, have an impact and demonstrate the value of their philanthropy by moving money in the field. The issue they most wanted to learn about and impact was the rising antisemitism they saw as alumni on their college campuses, felt in the organizations they lead, and heard about in their Jewish communal institutions.

In partnership with 12 other funders in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s, we quickly established a Giving Circle to invest $76,500 in initiatives that are combating antisemitism through bridge-building, allyship, coalition-building, or intergroup relational work across North America. The members of our Giving Circle had a range of experiences in philanthropy. For some, this was their first time participating in a Giving Circle. For others, participating in a Giving Circle has become a frequent practice. In our first meeting, we established community norms for our time together, including openness to new ideas, and being comfortable with anyone’s individual favorite ideas not being funded if they didn’t meet the collective’s goals.

Our motivations as a group were twofold: 1) To deepen our learning and communal relationships at the intersections of philanthropy and Jewish life; and 2) To make a meaningful difference in the American Jewish landscape at a time of tremendous loss, despair, vulnerability, and fear.

In response to our request for proposals, we received 56 applications in which organizations collectively requested more than $1 million to address urgent needs — far more than we were able to invest in at this time. And as the applications rolled in, our priorities and funding criteria evolved. We ultimately decided that our dollars could have the biggest impact on rapid-response efforts in the following spaces:

  • Communities that are under-resourced or under-served in dollars, staff, or geography.
  • Smaller organizations or projects of larger organizations that have a focus on under-resourced areas.
  • Projects or organizations that were squarely focused on combating antisemitism.
  • Projects or organizations that clearly articulate a vision for success and the metrics they will use in evaluating that success.

To that end, we awarded four grants between $15,000 and $25,000 each to fund the following projects:

  • ReKindle, an organization that brings together leaders from the African-American and Jewish individuals in Cleveland, Ohio for friendly and challenging dialogue and face-to-face interactions to break-down barriers and build new relationships.
  • Carolina Jews for Justice, which combines advocacy and education to organize a non-partisan Jewish voice for justice in North Carolina and influence policy at the local and state levels.
  • JOIN for Justice, the premier Jewish organizing training institute in the United States, with over 20 years of experience training rabbis, Jewish leaders, and everyday people to be effective changemakers, creating a more just world and thriving communities. JOIN is bringing to the Greater Atlanta area its SEA Change Initiative (Study, Engage, Act), an intervention to transform synagogues and help them forge deep bonds of allyship with organizations led by People of Color where they support each other, work together for a better world, and stand with each other against racism and antisemitism.
  • Abrahamic House, a multifaith incubator for social change located in Washington D.C. that gives an opportunity for four fellows, ages 21 to 35, from four faiths to live together for a year to build interfaith programming and events.

We did not arrive at these decisions alone. Instead, we gleaned wisdom from experts in the field who are deeply immersed in the work of fighting antisemitism, racism, and building bridges across lines of difference. We want to distill our learnings in the hope that we can inspire other funders to respond to the abundant needs that continue to grow:

Giving Circles offer a framework for passion, action, and community.

At a time of so much pain, grief, and loss, we know that Jews are hungry for community. Jewish funders are no different. Giving Circles offer a flexible, time-bound model to learn, grow, and give together. Across the U.S., organizations are seeing a rise in participation in Giving Circles — whether on campuses, at community gatherings, or federation events — as an antidote to isolation and loneliness.

Combating antisemitism is an investment in a better collective future.

The pervasiveness of antisemitism right now is truly sobering, as it affects nearly every industry, geographic region, and segment of the Jewish community — from college students feeling unsafe on their campuses, to synagogues needing more resources for safety and security. The needs are so great and we couldn’t meet every single one of them. There is no wrong investment in addressing antisemitism. To that end, here is a list of organizations that responded to our RFP and are still seeking funding. Their work is urgent and critical, and we hope others will follow our lead.

Allyship and bridge-building work is vital.

We know that strengthening relationships across differences is a prerequisite for combating antisemitism and uprooting bigotry of all kinds. The Jewish experience — especially in a time of ongoing violence and fear — can feel lonely and isolating. It can be easy to retreat to our own circles. But we know that it is only through meaningful relationships with others that people can unlearn the biases, assumptions, and stigma that animates Jew-hatred today.

Our work with the Giving Circle was an opportunity to come together in service of a common goal, and to translate our learning into action. During the two months we spent together, we built trust, got to know one another, learned together, and understood that we could make a difference — even if we weren’t “solving” a whole problem.

If we want to live in a world where we’re not afraid to wear a kippah or a Magen David on college campuses or in supermarkets, we’re going to have to keep working together in new ways. That may be joining a Giving Circle and advocating for what we think is best while also being able to let it go if that’s not where the group is at. Or it may mean donating to or joining one of the organizations we funded, or one of the ones we didn’t fund — or something else entirely. At the end of the day, the only way forward is to lean into community, learn together, and act. Because as young Jewish philanthropists, we do not have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines.

Lily Goodman is the Co-Chair of the Slingshot Giving Circle on Anti-Semitism and Dena Verhoff is the Co-Chair of the Slingshot Board of Directors.