Sustaining Jewish Ventures through the Crisis

By Categories: Announcements

Moments of crisis and uncertainty can feel paralyzing. Yet they are also the moments where the most is at stake, and where all of us are called upon to act quickly and intentionally.

As you know, ongoing social distancing measures to combat COVID-19 have resulted in a near cessation of revenue across the Jewish nonprofit sector. Not only are lives and businesses being threatened, but many of the most dynamic ventures in spirituality, culture, and social justice are at serious risk of being lost, threatening more than 20 years of progress toward a more vibrant, just, and inclusive Jewish future.

Recognizing the potentially dire implications of COVID-19 on this sector, we took swift action to fill in the gap and give them a collective voice. We convened and surveyed our network, learning what their most pressing concerns are, and developed a response to help alleviate the most critical demands of this time.

We immediately launched theJewish Innovator Payroll Relief Fund to provide up to $25,000 of payroll and benefits to the organizations in UpStart’s network of over 90 ventures. In total, we raised almost $800,000, distributing grants to 32 ventures. This has allowed leaders to weather the emergent moment and move strategically in order to best plan for the future.

Ventures that received grants from the fund include:

30 Years After, At The Well, Avodah, BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy, Nazun (formerly Challah for Hunger), Eshel, Footsteps, Fuente Latina, JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, Jewish Kids Groups, Jewish Studio Project, JQ International, Lab/Shul, Libenu, Makom Community, Matan, Mishkan Chicago, Mitsui Collective, Museum of Jewish Montreal, Olive Tree Arts Network, Open Temple, Pico Union Project, Sacred Spaces, Shoresh, Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, Studio 70/Edah, The Idea School, The Kitchen, Tkiya, Urban Adamah, Wilderness Torah, ZABS Place

 “The grant saved our organization. Without the quick help from UpStart, we would be in a very dire situation. Thank you for anticipating what we’d need so quickly.” 

      – Ilene Siemer, Olive Tree Arts Network

We are also offering resiliency training and coaching through webinars and expanded access to experts, peer and tech support, and strategy sessions. For thousands of Jews in North America, these ventures are their only connection to Jewish life. The funds and resources provided are giving these organizations a fighting chance to survive the initial stages of this crisis.

We are immensely grateful to Jim Joseph Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Rodan Family Foundation, John Pritzker Family Fund, Frederick J. Isaac Philanthropic Fund, Natan Fund, Diane P. & Guilford Glazer Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York, Leichtag Foundation, UpStart board members, and individual donors including Laura & Gary Lauder and Steve Miller for their generous contributions to this fund.

In the coming days, weeks, and months, we will continue to evolve our response to meet the needs of these bold leaders, and to ensure that we seize the Jewish future with a spirit of creativity, inclusion, and relevancy.

Learn more about our plans in my latest eJewish Philanthropy piece, where I talk about how we can collectively build a “better normal” for Jewish life and continue the progress we’ve made over the last 20 years.

To gain insight about the ventures and bold leaders in our network or to learn more about how you can ensure a thriving future for Jewish life, please contact Stacye Zeisler at

Our purpose is to enable entrepreneurs to bring bold Jewish ideas to light. We help them reach Up to people in new ways that are meaningful, more inclusive, and create a brighter future for our Jewish community and the world we share.

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