URJ Announces 12 JewV’Nation Fellows: New Interfaith Outreach Incubator Selects First Cohort of Emerging Jewish Leaders

Contact: Lauren Theodore, 212-650-4154

New York, NY; Jan 26, 2017 – The Union for Reform Judaism has selected twelve fellowship recipients for the launch cohort of the JewV’Nation (pronounced “juvination”) Fellowship, an innovative year-long project incubator and leadership development program supporting emerging and accomplished Jewish leaders and creative interfaith outreach initiatives.

12 fellows – located primarily in the greater New York City area – will complete 10 projects throughout the URJ’s program during which they will engage in cutting-edge professional and leadership development seminars from February to December 2017, including a three-day retreat at URJ Kutz Camp in March. Each project will receive a micro-grant of $3,000 and fellows will have access to the resources of the URJ including training in leadership, program development, community organizing, and fundraising.

The JewV’Nation Fellowship program is led by April Baskin, URJ’s Vice President of Audacious Hospitality, who has just been named by the Center for American Progress among the “12 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2017.” JewV’Nation seeks to engage leaders by centering the stories and experiences of diverse, dynamic Jewish leaders and communities. The fellows will define and create exciting and contemporarily relevant Jewish programming with URJ support of resources and strategies to bring their best ideas to life.

“Each JewV’Nation project serves a unique population and constitutes an important piece of a compelling narrative about the vibrancy and gifts in the Jewish community,” said Baskin. “We’re thrilled to see how the creative approaches of these individual projects can help cultivate each other and begin to fulfill their tremendous potential to shape the Jewish future in collaboration with our congregations and organizational partners.”

As part of URJ’s 2020 Vision, Audacious Hospitality is a transformative spiritual practice rooted in the belief that we will be a stronger, more vibrant Jewish community when we fully welcome and incorporate the diversity that is the reality of modern Jewish life.

The JewV’Nation Fellowship is managed by Zoe Goodman and supported in part by a Jewish Funders Network grant from Avenues to Jewish Engagement for Intermarried Couples and their Families, in honor of 2015 Genesis Prize Laureate Michael Douglas.

The 2017 URJ JewV’Nation Fellowship Projects are:

Exploring Jewish Mysticism
Evan Miller
Led by a board member of Tribe NY, Exploring Jewish Mysticism aims to include Jews, and Jew-interested millennials in consistent monthly meetings to learn about foundational aspects of Jewish Mysticism, particularly Kabbalah. Evan’s goal is that this project creates meaning, inspiration, bonding, and community through text study and reflective inclusion of a different side of Judaism.

Kendell Pinkney and Vanessa Hidary
Kaleidoscope is a narrative-arts driven initiative that seeks to highlight well-crafted, deeply personal monologues by Jews of Color, and non-exclusively Ashkenazi communities. Kaleidoscope seeks to expand the cast of their traveling show and complete a workshop curriculum for communities looking to develop their own narrative-arts program.

Jewish LGBTQ Inclusion
Sarah Kipp
Sarah’s project seeks to weave together narratives of Jewish LGBT individuals, their families, and allies to send a sharable video message of hope and welcome to LGBT individuals who feel isolated in their identity. Ultimately, Sarah hopes to showcase the video during a concert featuring Jewish musicians. The narrative video and concert video can then be used as educational tools in synagogues across North America.

Spiritual Autobiography
Yvonne Eschner
Yvonne’s own Jewish journey is incredibly compelling. A former minister who converted to Judaism to honor the lost memory of her Jewish family, Yvonne seeks to use her spiritual training to guide groups of interfaith couples through the creation of their joint spiritual autobiography.

Jewish Community School
Magda Reyes
The product of a partnership between a Reform and Conservative synagogue, the new Jewish Community School in Pennington, NJ, seeks to provide supplemental Jewish education to an increasingly interfaith community that has been reticent to join the formal synagogue community. Magda’s project is focused on developing an outreach strategy to encourage families to participate in Jewish education that feels open, warm, and inviting to interfaith families.

Go Down, Moshe
Marques Hollie
Go Down, Moshe will explore the shared narrative between the Jewish and Black communities of bondage, deliverance, and redemption through a series of educational public performances (concert recitals with a lecture element) of carefully selected Negro spirituals expressing the Pesach liturgy in song. 

Queens Jewish Project
Danielle Gold and Jesse Irizarry
Danielle and Jesse plan to create active programming for young adult Jews in Jackson Heights, Queens and the surrounding neighborhoods of Elmhurst, Woodside, and Corona. These communities have a noticeable lack of Jewish programming in an otherwise bustling New York scene and the pair hopes that young Jews will be more likely to continue to live their lives Jewishly and further develop the Jewish community in the neighborhood as they mature, move through the milestones of life, and raise their families in central Queens.

Muslim Jewish Conference
Rachel Delia Benaim
As part of the larger Muslim Jewish Conference, Rachel plans to bring her keen insight to expand the reach of the organization to monthly programs and a large annual conference in the US. Each workshop will revolve around a different theme, including religion and gender, religion power and human rights, living as a religious minority, conflicting historical narratives, and art as a means of religious and political expression, and will ultimately work to foster mutual understanding and highlight the key values and challenges between the faith-based communities.

Jews of Colour – Toronto
Rivka Campbell
Rivka, a Jew of Jamaican descent born and raised in Toronto, seeks to build community among Jews of Colour in her Canadian city while opening dialogue among the white Jewish community about the experience of Jews of Colour. Partly through convening, and partly through other resources, Rivka hopes to share stories that widen the concept of what it means to be Jewish in Canada and throughout the world.

Deborah Fishman
FED – like TED, but you get fed – is a social club featuring events with creative food, inspirational ideas, and the company and creative energy of your matched dinner companions. Speakers often provide “food for thought” in the form of 10-15 minute talks rooted in their passion and expertise. Some dinners feature musical or dramatic performances in addition to or instead of a talk. For instance, there was a Purim talk with a Burlesque theme and a Rosh Hashanah performance with a jazz violinist who performed riffs on “Aveinu Malkeinu.”



About the Union for Reform Judaism 
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay relevant and innovative, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.

Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the largest and most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with nearly 900 member congregations and work that inspires, connects, and educates millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.
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