Nefesh B’Nefesh presents 2021 grants for 'Zionist innovation'

Grants awarded to organizations and grassroot initiatives run by Olim working to improve their communities while impacting Israeli society.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Recipients of the IZI grant
Recipients of the IZI grant
Yonit Schiller

Nefesh B’Nefesh, which works in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and JNF-USA to facilitate Aliyah from North America, has chosen seven recipients for its 2021 “Initiative for Zionist Innovation” (IZI) grants.

The IZI grants were created to support projects run by Olim (immigrants) who are committed to strengthening and improving their communities throughout Israel. Nefesh B’Nefesh runs the initiative together with the Steinmetz Herskovitz Family Fund.

The recipients were awarded their grants by Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, and IZI Prize benefactors Marty and Pearl Herskovitz in a ceremony held at the NBN TLV HUB. The 2021 IZI recipients include:

  • ProSheva – An organization that strives to fill in the gap for young professionals who are not otherwise affiliated with another community (religious or otherwise) in the city of Be’er Sheva.
  • OPEN - “Olim Portal for Environmental Networking & Integration,” an informal meet-up group for Olim in Tel Aviv interested in learning and sharing their experiences about different environmental topics in Israel.
  • Yakar Tel Aviv – A thriving metropolitan Jewish community with a strong Anglo base that serves as a home for North American Olim in Tel Aviv.
  • Givat Shmuel Community (GSC) - Serving as a support system, informational resource and social outlet for English-speaking Olim of Givat Shmuel.
  • NCSY Israel - The premier organization for teens in Israel, dedicated to connecting, inspiring and empowering teen Olim by encouraging passionate Judaism through Torah and Tradition.
  • Becky Kupchan Berkman & Andrew Katz - Be'erot Beit Midrash – An organization providing a variety of high-level Jewish study opportunities in English to the community of Anglo Olim living in Be’er Sheva and surrounding areas throughout the Negev.
  • Kochav Darom Community - Kochav Darom, an organization aimed towards families with young children living in Be’er Sheva searching for that feeling of connection and warmth that comes from belonging to a close-knit community.

Through IZI, Nefesh B’Nefesh encourages Olim with a passion for community building and integration to pursue their creative ideas. The initiative offers mentorship, networking assistance, seed funding and logistical support, allowing Olim the opportunity to help grow communities throughout the country and effect change within Israeli society.

“We are thrilled to award this year’s grants to an exceptional group of Olim who are focused on empowering their peers and effecting change within their own communities,” said Rabbi Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh. “We received a broad range of creative submissions and it is truly inspiring to see so many Olim driven to create positive changes within their immediate surroundings as well as on a national level.”

The finalists were chosen from a large group of candidates, all of whom have made Aliyah from North America and the U.K. As part of the submission process, the innovators were asked to provide a mission statement for their initiative, a basic business plan and an explanation of how Nefesh B’Nefesh can help further their projects.

“The Steinmetz Herskovitz Family Fund believes in the potential of Olim to improve the communities they live in, specifically because they have already done so in their previous Jewish communities,” said Marty Herskovitz, Oleh and philanthropist. “We are certain that by providing them, in conjunction with Nefesh B’Nefesh, with seed money, organizational skills and a support network they will build vibrant, supportive and intellectually stimulating communities that will serve as a model for cities across Israel.”

Candidates were chosen by a special committee consisting of community leaders, Nefesh B’Nefesh staff and members of the Steinmetz Herskovitz Family Fund.

Recipients of the 2021 Nefesh B’Nefesh ‘Initiative for Zionist Innovation’ Grants:

Rachel Gang – ProSheva
Pro Sheva strives to fill-in-the-gap for young professionals who are not otherwise affiliated with another community (religious or otherwise; because there is more than one way to celebrate being Jewish) in the city of Be’er Sheva. The organization aims to create a community that the founders had wanted when they first arrived. There are currently 30 active members constantly seeking other like-minded people to join their initiative.

Amir Cahn and Shirley Ben-Dak - OPEN
“Olim Portal for Environmental Networking & Integration” (OPEN) is an evolution of a grassroots movement led by volunteers living in the Tel Aviv area, which began in 2016 called “Tel Avir.” Tel Avir is an informal meet-up group for Olim in Tel Aviv interested in learning and sharing their experiences about different environmental topics in Israel. The movement began by holding monthly events in English at bars, incubators, hostels, and community centers bringing in Israeli and international experts to discuss pressing environmental issues in a friendly and open setting.

OPEN have become an official Israeli non-profit (‘amuta’) that has received “good standing” status by the official Israeli non-profit registrar, held 30 events (physical and virtual post COVID) in English (each attracting between 60-100 people) on a range of topics including, but not limited to solar energy, urban sustainability, environmental activism, circular economy, sustainable fashion, corporate social responsibility, and a beach clean-up.

Rabbi Chananel Rosen - Yakar Tel Aviv
Yakar Tel Aviv is a thriving metropolitan Jewish community with a strong Anglo base that serves as a home for North American Olim in Tel Aviv. Their goal is to expand the community’s existing English programming and programming geared toward North Americans in order to create a stronger community for new and existing North American Olim in Tel Aviv, while strengthening the entire Yakar Tel Aviv community. Yakar offer opportunities for Jewish learning and Jewish life, which serve as a resource for North American Olim to connect to and contribute to a familiar model of Jewish community while being part of a bustling modern city like Tel Aviv.

Dovid Levine - Givat Shmuel Community (GSC)
GSC has served as a support system, informational resource, and social outlet for English-speaking Olim in Givat Shmuel since 2013, the Givat Shmuel Community (GSC) and its many initiatives have helped cement our city’s unparalleled rate of successful Aliyah for lone Olim. The community’s primary objective is to empower successful Aliyah for our community residents, and ensuring they not only remain in Israel, but thrive here, as active members of society with access to the support and resources necessary to enhance their quality of life. The organization is powered solely by dedicated community volunteers
Yosef Ginsberg & Michael Kahn - NCSY Israel
NCSY Israel is the premier organization for teens in Israel, dedicated to connecting, inspiring, and empowering teen Olim by encouraging passionate Judaism through Torah and Tradition. Since 2015, NCSY Israel has enhanced the religious and national connections teens have to Israel, positively impacted their attitude towards National Service, and provided them with integration support to acclimate into Israeli Society.

Becky Kupchan Berkman & Andrew Katz - Be'erot Beit Midrash
The goal of the Be’erot Beit Midrash is to provide a variety of high-level Jewish study opportunities in English to the community of Anglo Olim living in Be’er Sheva and surrounding areas throughout the Negev. Over the past ten years, the number of English-speaking Olim to the Negev has grown tremendously, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Nefesh B’Nefesh - KKL Go South initiative. Many of these Olim are searching for continuing Jewish study – through both traditional text study and more contemporary Jewish and Zionist thought. However, the opportunities to do so in their native language can be lacking in the South. While there may be relevant lectures, shiurim, and conferences in Hebrew, most Olim find it difficult – in terms of language and culture – to access or participate in these. The Olim in Be’er Sheva are dispersed among a number of different communities, including various liberal and traditional Orthodox, Chabad, Conservative, and Reform synagogues, and the student community at Ben Gurion University.

The vision of the Be’erot Beit Midrash is to provide learning opportunities in partnership with all of these different communities in order to reach as many Olim as possible and to build a singular community that embraces and engages these various “micro” communities. The goal of the Be’erot Beit Midrash is to offer consistent learning opportunities that shine a light on local English-speaking scholars and educators, in addition to special guest speakers and scholars from the center of the country who otherwise would never have a platform in the South.

Menucha Saitowitz - Kochav Darom Community
Kochav Darom is aimed towards families with young children living in Be’er Sheva searching for that feeling of connection and warmth that comes from belonging to a close-knit community. They have already begun programming that includes family holiday parties, monthly women’s events, toy/clothing swaps, English-language Torah classes, and more. They would ultimately like to find a physical space to use as a community center for weekly davening, programming, classes, and more.

The community aims to attract young religious olim living in other parts of Israel who are having a difficult time with the high cost of living in these areas, but feel they need a core community of English speakers. Kochav Darom would like to show them that there is a vibrant, affordable alternative - in a gorgeous desert oasis with more children’s activities and playgrounds than anywhere else in Israel.


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