A Kick in the Pants for Jewish Projects

Kickstarter.com Offers New Fundraising Framework

Golden Years: ‘Oma and Bella’ documents the lives of the filmmaker’s grandmother, Oma (right), and her best friend.
Courtesy alexa karolinski
Golden Years: ‘Oma and Bella’ documents the lives of the filmmaker’s grandmother, Oma (right), and her best friend.

By Margaret Eby

Published November 19, 2012, issue of November 16, 2012.
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If you happen to know anyone who’s trying to release an album, produce a play, start a bakery, publish an upstart web magazine or invent a new iPhone app, odds are that you’ve stumbled upon Kickstarter. The website, which launched in April 2009, harnesses the power of social media to funnel money to up-and-coming projects in need. In its first three years, Kickstarter has grown into the go-to grassroots crowdfunding source for a host of artists, inventors and dreamers. Hopefuls post their projects and a funding goal, along with enticements for contributors if the donation point is met: a CD signed by the musicians, say, or tickets to opening night of a play. Along the way, Kickstarter has become an incubator for a new kind of Jewish project that operates without the backing of major Jewish philanthropies, fostering everything from a (failed, alas) cholent card game to a “Jewish version of ‘The Da Vinci Code.’” It’s even inspired a similar all-Jewish site, Jewcer. From an upcoming New York City knishery to an all-trans klezmer band, the range of Jewish innovation displayed on Kickstarter is as rich as the diaspora itself.

—Margaret Eby


Reporting on the Times: The New York Times and the Holocaust

$6,000 goal met March 2, 2012. $6,473 total, 56 backers.

As a film student at NYU, Emily Harrold stumbled upon an account of The New York Times’s lack of coverage of Nazi atrocities and knew she wanted to do a film about it. It took a successful Kickstarter campaign — and a combined donation of $6,473 — to fund her investigation into the paper during World War II. “The aim is to explore and understand why The New York Times buried reports of The Holocaust, rather than to judge the paper,” Harrold explained. “It’s trying to put ourselves in the shoes of publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger as he struggled to decide where to place reports of Jewish extermination in a newspaper already filled with news of American deaths.”

Oma & Bella

$18,000 goal met October 23, 2011. $44,905 total, 519 Backers.

A documentary about two Holocaust survivors living in Berlin, “Oma & Bella” is a heartfelt and deeply funny film that tells the story of best friends navigating their golden years. Director Alexa Karolinski, who began the project when she attempted to compile a Jewish cookbook with lessons from her grandmother Regina (“Oma” in German is “Nana”), funded her work on Kickstarter after trying and failing to obtain a documentary grant. “I turned to Kickstarter out of frustration,” Karolinski said, “but I was overwhelmed by the support I got — more than double what I asked for.” “Oma & Bella” premiered in Toronto and Berlin already, and is making its way to New York screens in November.


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