AVODAH and Encounter to join Atid Hazak

Bikkurim selects two important organizations for $255,000 in grants to multiply impact.

June 4, 2015 – Bikkurim is proud to announce the selection of AVODAH and Encounter to receive $255,000 in funding and organizational assistance through Atid Hazak (‘Strong Future’), a program designed to enable the most promising Jewish organizations founded over the past two decades to increase their strength, stability, and impact. This brings Bikkurim’s total investment in second stage organizations to over $1 million dollars since the program was founded in 2013. AVODAH and Encounter will each 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.

AVODAH and Encounter represent a wave of organizations founded since the mid-90s to expand and enrich opportunities for Jewish engagement. AVODAH has catalyzed a generation of young Jews committed to social change and Jewish community. Through its year-long Jewish Service Corps Fellowship program for early-career professionals, along with its extensive alumni network, AVODAH provides meaningful engagement for young adults while making a substantive contribution to anti-poverty work and to Jewish communities in New York, Washington DC, New Orleans, and Chicago. Encounter was founded a decade later to enable Jewish leaders to travel to the West Bank and hear Palestinian narratives firsthand. This groundbreaking organization has successfully bridged political divides, shifted the American Jewish conversation about Israel, and has enabled people with divergent views to hear and understand one another.

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. Avodah and Encounter join Keshet, Footsteps, and Hazon, who are already enrolled in Atid Hazak. The inaugural cohort of Atid Hazak was launched in collaboration with the Natan Fund.

Cheryl Cook, the executive director of AVODAH, noted: “We are enormously excited and honored to participate in Atid Hazak along with our friends at Encounter. AVODAH has grown in scope and depth since our first nine corps members moved into a bayit (house) in Brooklyn in 1998. Today we’re developing and engaging a national network of Jewish leaders who are promoting social justice and fighting poverty. Atid Hazak will enable us to build upon our current success and strengthen our infrastructure so that we can continue to grow and thrive.”

Executive director of Encounter, Yona Shem-Tov, commented: “What an honor to be selected for Atid Hazak alongside our colleagues and friends at AVODAH. Ten short years ago, traveling to the West Bank to meet with Palestinians was nearly verboten, and there were few opportunities to engage in facilitated, constructive conversations on such a vital but often divisive topic. Today, rabbis of every denomination and representatives from every major American Jewish organization are counted in our alumni community, and are at the forefront of shifting our culture of engagement to be more inclusive, open and honest. The gift of Atid Hazak will enable us to focus on fortifying our infrastructure for even greater impact as we evolve and grow in the years to come.”

Aliza Mazor, executive director of Bikkurim, reported that “a vibrant community hinges supporting the growth of our best ideas. AVODAH and Encounter are two of the best innovations and in contemporary Jewish life. We want to set them up for continued success and exponential impact.”


Bikkurim: Advancing New Jewish Ideas 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. To learn more: www.bikkurim.org or contact Aliza Mazor, [email protected].

AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps is dedicated to developing and engaging a network of Jewish leaders working to end domestic poverty. Founded in New York City in 1998, we support these leaders through three approaches: The Jewish Service Corps places young Jewish adults, 21-26 years of age, in a year of full-time service at antipoverty organizations in Chicago, New York, New Orleans, and Washington, DC. During the year, corps members live together as a community and participate in weekly educational programs to deepen their understanding of domestic poverty and explore their work through the lens of Jewish tradition, regularly facilitated by local experts, educators, and community leaders. AVODAH Fellowship: Launched in New York City in January 2014, our newest program brings together cohorts of early-career antipoverty professionals for nine months of intensive learning, mentorship, and community-building. We plan to expand this program to other cities in the future. Alumni Network: With more than 700 members across the country, we support AVODAH alumni through ongoing programming, engagement, and advanced skill-building. For more information visit www.avodah.net or contact David Wolkin, [email protected].

Founded in 2005, Encounter enables Jewish communal leaders to connect firsthand with Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Encounter has seeded a new culture of Jewish communal engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: one that integrates Palestinian perspectives and privileges engaging across lines of political differences. Over 2000 rabbis, rabbinical students, communal professionals and lay leaders from across political and religious spectra have traveled with Encounter on their trips to West Bank, returning to their home communities elevating and enriching our community’s engagement with the conflict. For more information visit www.encounterprograms.org or contact Yona Shem-Tov [email protected].