In February, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore awarded a round of micro-grants to help boost new Jewish projects and organizations.
The six projects, which were awarded $1,000 each, focus on a range of topics from technology to music to holidays.
“The goal is really to help up-and-coming leaders and organizations to grow and seed and act on new ideas that foster Jewish identity or build Jewish identity,” said Marjorie Manne, who chaired the JBIG (Jewish Baltimore Innovation Grants) committee.
For Anna Caplan, the JBIG grant means she’ll be able to pool together resources for her Baltimore Jewish Music Education Project.
“It really seems like there [aren’t] that many people around doing what I do, which is doing early childhood music in a Jewish setting, and I felt for a while that the resources for people who want to do it are lacking,” she said.
She said that while there are books and CDs out there, it’s hard to narrow down all the best materials and filter content for age levels. She’s compiled a lot of material on her own, but with the help of the JBIG grant, she will amass more resources. Her hope is to create not only a collection of songs, but also lesson plans, holiday songs and information on how to introduce and teach songs to different ages. The materials would go on YouTube and other online shareable formats.
“There is a lot of potential for these projects to have a big impact for a small investment.” — Marjorie Manne, chair of the JBIG committee
“For families with young children, being able to connect through music, it’s something that’s really easy for families … it’s something that you can do together and can be very meaningful,” she said. “Doing music with your children, I think when you’re doing it in a Jewish context, it adds another layer of meaning.”
Towson University junior Rachel Fredman is planning Festival of Unity: A Jewish, Deaf and Art Collaboration for next Sukkot. The festival will bring deaf and Jewish culture together with ASL workshops, a service project and a craft festival featuring deaf and local Jewish artists.
Fredman said the grant will help bring in speakers and teachers and pay for supplies and renting a room on Towson’s campus. She said like Judaism, deafness creates community.
“It’s not just an identifier, it’s how they live their life,” she said. “It’s who they are.”
Josh Rosenstein is helping put together The First Fruits Chavurah Harvest Shavuot Celebration, a camping trip that will include an all-night alternative tikkun, a midnight cheese feast, potluck meals and family and intergenerational programming as well as a contra dance. The event is happening in conjunction with the East Bank Chavurah, a 30-year-old Baltimore Chavurah that Rosenstein, his wife, Teri, and another couple are hoping to reinvigorate.
“We wanted to have some kind of dynamic, new exciting things happen in the context of this Chavurah. [We said,] ‘Let’s take on Shavuot. Let’s make Shavuot an exciting, participatory, experiential holiday,’” he said. “The Chavurah has a non-secret agenda of wanting to bring in some new and younger folks to take on the mantel of this Chavurah and bring it into the next generation.”
Another project awarded in the first round of JBIG grants was the Free Inclusive and Participatory High Holiday Services in Downtown Baltimore, which will be geared toward young adults living in the city. The services will be lay-led, highly participatory and accessible. The project seeks to inspire young Jewish adults to the find post-college Jewish community connections.
The University of Maryland, College Park will be home to JHacks, a hackathon that will include a Shabbaton with speakers and a panel discussing Jewish identity in the technology industry. After Shabbat, there will be a 24-hour hackathon in which Jewish students from all over the country will join together to create new technologies using coding skills.
Light of Souls will take place in Baltimore’s sister city Odessa, Ukraine. It will link generations through common interests and crafts by inviting children, adults and families to create handmade toys, pictures, Judaica, candles and soaps as well as other items. The creations will be donated to boarding schools or sold at an auction with proceeds going to a local charity.
Applications for a second round of JBIG grants are due May 31.
Manne hopes the grants give the new ideas a bump in opportunity.
“I think they’ll really add to the community and allow for the depth and variety of experiences we were hoping for,” she said. “There is a lot of potential for these projects to have a big impact for a small investment.”