Who We Are

Bikkurim enables innovative, NYC-based, Jewish nonprofit organizations to grow and thrive. Through its incubator, Bikkurim has helped launch 31 startups that contribute to the diversification and reinvigoration of Jewish life. Through Atid Hazak (Strong Future), Bikkurim supports post-startups as they prepare to grow and scale for impact. Bikkurim is a joint project of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Kaminer Family.

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Bikkurim Invests in Strengthening High-Impact Organizations

Footsteps and Keshet to receive funding and assistance valued at $255,000

(May 7, 2014) Bikkurim is proud to announce the selection of Keshet and Footsteps to receive $255,000 in funding and organizational assistance through Atid Hazak (Strong Future), a new program designed to enable the most promising Jewish organizations founded over the past two decades to increase their strength, stability, and impact.

Keshet is a national grassroots organization that works for the full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Jews in Jewish life. When Keshet began almost two decades ago, LGBT issues weren’t on the radar screens of most Jewish organizations. But thanks to a successful strategy of training Jewish leaders to create inclusive institutions, strategic advocacy, community organizing, and creation of inclusive Jewish resources, Keshet has helped put the issue of LGBT inclusion front and center in the Jewish community.

Footsteps is the only organization in North America that assists Jews who wish to explore life beyond the insular religious communities in which they were raised. Footsteps has provided services to 850 individuals as they develop new identities, build new communities, and lead self-determined lives.

Each organization will receive $100,000 in grants and guidance valued at $155,000 over two years. The funds and guidance will enable these game-changing organizations to strengthen their operations and build capacity for future growth.

Andrea Fram Plotkin, co-chair of the Bikkurim Admissions Committee, acknowledged: “Some might question why we are making such a significant investment in two organizations that are already so successful. But that is exactly our point. Keshet and Footsteps have proven that there is overwhelming demand for what they have to offer, but their infrastructure has not kept pace with their rapid organizational growth. That is where Atid Hazak comes in. We are making investments to build the internal scaffolding, so that these organizations will endure and multiply their impact over time.”

“Over the last few years, demand for our services has increased exponentially, stretching us beyond our capacity” said Lani Santo, executive director of Footsteps. “With the generous support of Atid Hazak we will be able to shore up our infrastructure to serve the burgeoning number of formerly ultra-Orthodox

Jews who are learning of us and seeking our services, so that they can make the complex transition to modern society.”
Idit Klein, executive director of Keshet, noted: “We are enormously grateful and honored to participate in Atid Hazak along with our friends at Footsteps. Over the years, we’ve grown significantly in the scope of our work and impact, but our infrastructure hasn’t kept pace with our program growth. Support from Atid Hazak will help strengthen our foundation for building a Jewish community where all of us— lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight—have a place in shaping our collective future.”

“These organizations couldn’t be more different—Keshet is 18 years old, has a budget of nearly $2 million and offices in three cities; Footsteps is only 10 years old, has a budget of under $1 million, and is primarily local to the New York metropolitan area,” observed Bikkurim executive director, Aliza Mazor. “But in terms of what they need to increase organizational strength and stability, they are very similar. At Bikkurim, we do not believe that every organization needs to grow for the sake of growing; rather, we want to see organizational strength at every age and stage. Keshet and Footsteps are both ‘best of brand’ in the Jewish community—meeting unmet needs and challenging us to uphold our highest ideals. We are delighted to help these organizations go from strength to strength.”

Atid Hazak is a direct outgrowth of the recommendations set forth in “From First Fruits to Abundant Harvest: Maximizing the Potential of Innovative Start-Ups,” a 2012 study that was published by Bikkurim, Wellspring Consulting, and six partner organizations. The report found that the Jewish community lacked a coordinated funding and capacity-building mechanism attuned to the unique needs of post-startups. Keshet and Footsteps join Hazon, which was the inaugural recipient of this investment in collaboration with the Natan Fund.

ABOUT THE ORGANIZATIONS:
Bikkurim: Advancing New Jewish Ideas – Bikkurim helps visionaries transform their dreams into viable organizations by providing free office space, peer community, stipends, customized organizational consulting, training, and networking opportunities to innovative Jewish startups headquartered in the New York metropolitan area. It is a joint initiative of JFNA (Jewish Federations of North America) and the Kaminer Family. To learn more: www.bikkurim.org

Footsteps is the only organization in North America dedicated to assisting ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and women who wish to explore the world beyond their insular communities. Based in New York, Footsteps provides a range of services, including social and emotional support, educational and vocational guidance, workshops and social activities, and access to resources. Thanks to Footsteps, former ultra-Orthodox Jews have a safe, supportive, and flourishing community to turn to as they work to define their own identities, build new connections, and lead productive lives on their own terms. To learn more: www.footstepsorg.org

Keshet is a national grassroots organization that works for the full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Jews in Jewish life. Led and supported by LGBT Jews and straight allies, Keshet strives to cultivate the spirit and practice of inclusion in all parts of the Jewish community. We began as a small, grassroots group working for change in the Greater Boston area, and we are now a national organization with offices in the Bay Area and Denver, in addition to our national office in Boston. Our work is guided by a vision of a world where all Jewish organizations and communities are strengthened by LGBTQ-inclusive programming, policy, culture, and leadership and where Jews of all sexual orientations and gender identities can live fully integrated Jewish lives. www.keshetonline.org

Bikkurim admits two new startups to its incubator

Bikkurim Admits Two New Startups to Incubator ImmerseNYC and the Shefa School will receive combined package of funding, in-kind resources, and capacity building over two years, valued at $120,000 per organization
(June 27, 2013) Bikkurim has accepted two new organizations into its incubator program:

The Shefa School (www.shefaschool.org) is the first pluralistic Jewish day school in New York providing a K-8 education for children with special needs. Shefa seeks to make the Jewish education of children with learning differences a communal commitment and responsibility.
ImmserseNYC (www.immersenyc.org) is the first pluralistic community mikveh project in NYC. ImmerseNYC introduces New York Jews to the myriad ways that powerful and transformational mikveh rituals can add meaning to their Jewish lives.

ImmerseNYC and the Shefa School were accepted through a competitive application process to which 19 organizations applied. 22 communal leaders including members of the Bikkurim Board, alumni, and colleagues helped to review and vet the proposals.

“Bikkurim is thrilled to welcome the Shefa School and ImmerseNYC into our community of innovative startups and post-startups”, said Andrea Fram Plotkin, chair of the Selection Committee. “These projects represent exciting additions to the Jewish landscape. We know from our incubation of Matan back in 2000, that many parents struggle to find a Jewish education for children who are different learners. This is not just the problem for parents and schools, it is a communal problem and it requires a communal response. ImmerseNYC is building off the innovative work of Mayyim Hayyim in reviving the ritual of mikveh for today’s Jewish community and broadening the opportunities for Jews to engage in this unique spiritual and embodied Jewish experience. Both the Shefa School and Immerse NYC are advancing new Jewish ideas by expanding pluralism and creating more opportunities to engage in meaningful Jewish life.”

“We are so excited to be a part of Bikkurim,” said Shefa School founder, Ilana Ruskay-Kidd. “We have learned in our initial stages of planning that infrastructure and support are essential ingredients in launching big dreams. The staff and board of the Shefa School believe that Bikkurim is going to be a huge resource for helping us grow and prepare to open our school and welcome students in September 2014. It is moving to see that Bikkurim is once again at the forefront of our community and understands

that it is our entire community needs to come together and say, families shouldn’t have to choose between a quality Jewish education and a quality special needs education.”
“We’re honored to be selected as an incubated project at Bikkurim,” stated ImmerseNYC founder and executive director, Rabbi Sara Luria. “In the last year, we’ve seen the incredible potential that immersion rituals can have in transforming individual lives. With Bikkurim’s help, our work is poised to have a much more significant impact across the denominations and affiliations of our New York Jewish community.”

The Shefa School and ImmerseNYC join Bikkurim’s current residents, Yeshivat Maharat and the Jewish Diaster Repsonse Corps (JDRC).

Bikkurim: Advancing New Jewish Ideas energizes and enriches the North American Jewish community through two initiatives:
The Incubator helps visionaries to transform their dreams into viable organizations by providing free office space, peer community, stipends, customized organizational consulting, training, and networking opportunities to innovative Jewish startups headquartered in the New York metropolitan area.

Atid Hazak (Strong Future) ensures compelling new Jewish ideas thrive and endure by supporting post- startups as they prepare to grow and scale for impact. The pilot phase of Atid Hazak is being launched in collaboration with the Natan Fund to support Hazon, an organization dedicated to creating healthier and more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond.

Since 2000, Bikkurim has provided over $3.5 million dollars of direct and in-kind support to 29 new ideas. Bikkurim is a joint project of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Kaminer Family. Visit our website to learn more: www.bikkurim.org


Bikkurim announces Atid Hazak, a new initiative for the post-startup phase

In spring 2012, Bikkurim identified significant gaps in the support of post-start-up organizations. Today, Bikkurim announces a new initiative to address this need.

Through Atid Hazak (Strong Future) Bikkurim will provide a bridge to enable second-stage Jewish organizations to strengthen their foundations as they mature.

“Over the past decade, we have seen a surge in Jewish start-up organizations. Now, these organizations are reaching the next level of maturity, but there are fewer available resources,” Aliza Mazor, executive director of Bikkurim, told eJP. “We want to ensure that no high-impact organization fails because of our failure to address their needs.”

In the pilot phase, Bikkurim and the Natan Fund will contribute approximately $255,000 in funds and assistance over two years to Hazon, a Jewish environmental group founded in 2000. Together, the funds and guidance will enable Hazon to strengthen its operations and build its capacity for future growth.

Atid Hazak is a direct out-growth of the recommendations set forth in, “From First Fruits to Abundant Harvest: Maximizing the Potential of Innovative Start-Ups,” a 2012 study that was published by Bikkurim, Wellspring Consulting, and six partner organizations. The report found that the Jewish community lacked a coordinated funding and capacity-building mechanism attuned to the unique needs of post-start-ups.