New Fund Gives Young Jews a Place at the Table

By Rebecca Spence

Published November 06, 2007, issue of November 09, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

When a group of 20-somethings formed a fund to give money to innovative Jewish not-for-profit groups, their project itself was, in an ironic twist, an innovation in Jewish philanthropy.

GOLDSEKER:\'This affords Jews in their 20s and 30s w way to give
GOLDSEKER:\'This affords Jews in their 20s and 30s w way to give

It’s no secret that Jewish donor circles are, for the most part, dominated by wealthy individuals — predominantly men — who are well beyond the half-century mark. So when a group of young Jews involved in their families’ charitable foundations’ banded together this year to create the Slingshot Fund, they were actually changing the landscape before they allocated a penny.

Created by a group of some 10 givers, all between the ages of 18 and 28, the fund is an outgrowth of the Slingshot guide, a catalog of the 50 most forward-thinking and dynamic Jewish endeavors. Now in its third year, the Slingshot guide has been lauded as an invaluable resource for funders looking for organizations working outside of the confines of the staid Jewish charitable world. The new fund, which this year made its first disbursements, was created by the guide’s founders as a logical next step. According to some of the fund’s staffers and members — now around 25 people in all — the Slingshot Fund is putting forth a new model for Jewish philanthropy that incorporates those who have traditionally watched from the sidelines.

“Young people are looking for a way to have a seat at the table, and this affords Jews in theirs 20s and 30s a way to give,” said Sharna Goldseker, a vice president at The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies who oversees the 21/64 division, focused on next generation and multigenerational philanthropy.

The Slingshot guide and its subsequent fund are both the products of Grand Street, a network of young Jewish funders whom Goldseker, 32, advises. After spending 2006 in the planning stages, the Slingshot Fund requested grant proposals from all the organizations included in the guide. The fund received 47 applications from the Slingshot groups, which had been selected by a committee of Jewish professionals.

After winnowing down the field to 22 semifinalists, Slingshot Fund members — who are spread out across the country— conducted site visits and interviews. Fund members, who often meet by teleconference, also solicited the advice of top Jewish philanthropy executives Rachel Levin of Steven Spielberg’s LosAngeles-based Righteous Persons Foundation and Lisa Eisen of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

“The experience wasn’t just about allocating the money,” Goldseker said, “but also about a philanthropic educational experience for the funders.”

In the end, grants in the area of $45,000 were awarded to eight groups. The money, unlike most available funding, was given for general operating costs as opposed to specific projects. That, said Jessica Warren, a co-founder of the fund who also works as its coordinator, was a key component of its strategy. Warren, 27, grew up in Houston and moved to New York four years ago to earn her master’s degree in not-for-profit management from New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service. She explained that the majority of grants available to not-for-profit organizations are earmarked for specific projects. That formula, Warren said, was not one that the Slingshot Fund wanted to emulate.

“There’s a huge drive for deliverables from the grants organizations, and because of that, projects have become more popular,” Warren said. “We made a decision to invest in capacity building.”

Among the diverse groups selected for the first round of Slingshot Fund grants were Jewish Funds for Justice, a New York-based national foundation that promotes social justice issues, and the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, which helps small Jewish communities across the South flourish.

For next year’s grant cycle, Warren said that the focus will be on bringing in young funders who don’t necessarily come from families that operate their own foundations. That includes people who might give only $100, she said.

“Last year was our Beta version, where we really reached out to our personal networks,” Warren said. “This year, we’ll be reaching out to funders small and large, to people who wouldn’t necessarily be considered philanthropists.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.