LGBT Inclusion, Ex-Orthodox Support Organizations Win Bikkurim’s First Grants

May 7, 2014

By Steve Lipman

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Bikkurim, a New York-based organization that has helped launch 29 Jewish start-ups since 2000, this week announced the awarding of its first pair of grants — $100,000 each to Keshet and Footsteps.

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.” Footsteps calls itself “the only organization in North America that assists Jews who wish to explore life beyond the insular religious communities in which they were raised.”

Bikkurim previously provided direct and in-kind support to recipients. Its grants to Keshet and Footsteps, though the newly created Atid Hazak (Strong Future) program, are designed “to enable the most promising Jewish organizations founded over thepast two decades to increase their strength, stability, and impact,” the organization announced.

The total of $255,000 in assistance that the two organizations will receive over the next two years includes guidance and organizational advice. Bikkurim in the past providedfree office space, free and subsidized capacity-building consulting, small stipends, access to local and national networks, and “a strong peer community with other Jewish start-up initiatives.”

Andrea Fram Plotkin, co-chair of the Bikkurim admissions committee, said, “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. We are making investmentsto build the internal scaffolding, so that these organizations will endure and multiply their impact overtime.”

“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,” said Bikkurim Executive Director Aliza Mazor. “But in terms of what they need to increase organizational strength and stability, they are very similar. Keshet and Footsteps areboth ‘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 an outgrowth of the recommendations in “From First Fruits to Abundant Harvest: Maximizing the Potential of Innovative Start-Ups,” a 2012 study 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, the inaugural recipient of this investment in collaboration with the Natan Fund. [email protected]