Israel Innovation and Impact Grants

Guided by the goals of strengthening Greater Washington’s relationship with Israel and Israel itself, Federation convened an Israel Task Force in 2021 to define the priority areas for our overarching Israel strategy: creating immersive experiences, fostering dialogue, and encouraging social innovation.

In exploring these priorities, Federation’s Strategic Planning & Allocations (SP&A) Committee worked for several months to research potential new partners and program ideas in addition to the efforts run by our core partners. Following a review of innovative proposals and live interviews, 21 of 33 applications were awarded funding: a total investment of $797,500.

Read on to learn more about each endeavor, and to watch the pitch videos that sparked our community’s interest in these exciting new programs.

Explore the Funded Programs

Aguda (LGBTQ+)
Pride in the Living Room

Pride in the Living Room is one of Aguda’s most influential projects. It was brought to life after the terrible attacks against the Israeli LGBTQ community, including the deadly shooting at the TLV Gay Youth Center and the fatal stabbing of 16-year-old Shira Banki at the Jerusalem Pride parade. As part of this project, in the first week of August on the same day when Shira Banki was murdered, Aguda conducts “Pride in the Living Room” gatherings across the country, bringing together LGBTQ speakers and non-LGBTQ audience members for open discussions about personal life challenges, tolerance, equality, and shared society. The gatherings are held in large liberal Israeli cities and smaller traditional communities in the periphery, including Israeli-Arab communities where LGBTQ people are highly stigmatized and condemned for religious and cultural reasons.

Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP)

AlumHub is a program that brings together alumni coordinators from shared society and cross-border peacebuilding organizations across Israel to learn from each other’s best practices, maximize resources, and conduct joint programming to professionalize existing alumni engagement. AlumHub acts as a force multiplier, targeting alumni coordinators who will then apply the tools and best practices learned through the program within their organizations, offering alumni the skills and opportunities to be peacebuilders throughout their lifetimes. Moving forward, AlumHub will work with the alumni coordinators to develop platforms that address their communities’ needs, while priming their young alumni to be stewards of dialogue and change in their societies. Coordinators will meet monthly to network, learn from, and share each other’s experiences. Additionally, they and their alumni will participate in an annual conference, the largest convening of the community, to instigate conversations to generate momentum toward social and political transformation inside both Israeli and Palestinian societies.

Amal Tikva
Amal-Tikva Leadership Institute

Amal Tikva Leadership Institute (ATLI) is the first ever professional development program for innovative peacebuilding for Israeli, Palestinian, and Northern Irish activists. The four-month joint program of Amal-Tikva (Jerusalem) and ReThinking Conflict (Belfast) includes 12 virtual trainings, one overnight seminar, and a 10-day trip to Northern Ireland, Israel and Palestine. After three decades of people-to-people programs, we know as peace activists that dialogue alone will not bring about peace. Peacebuilding efforts need strategic, innovative, and collaborative leadership, and ATLI aims to provide that by: (1) Equipping activists with the knowledge and skills needed to make a real impact; (2) Building cohorts of peer Israeli and Palestinian leaders who will support one another over the long term, and (3) Introducing innovative approaches to social change from a peacebuilding perspective.

Net@ Youth Technology Program – Fostering Dialogue in Mixed Cities

Net@ Youth Technology Movement, founded in 2003, creates social mobility for disadvantaged youth living in the socioeconomic and geographic periphery by instilling technological excellence and leadership skills for children in 5th-12th grade. Net@ is the only youth movement in Israel that integrates students from all religions and communities, with 50% of Net@ students coming from Arab society. The program has 18 chapters across Israel—in Jewish, Arab, and mixed localities — serving 1,800 students every year. The Fostering Dialogue Program will allow us to make a greater impact by connecting Net@ students from mixed cities in shared life activities and dialogue. Additionally, the students will use their newly gained technological knowledge to lead new initiatives in the community in mixed groups, promoting tolerance and trust on the societal level. This will create a model that we can scale in all chapters in mixed cities.

Arava Institute
Arava Institute for Environmental Studies

Arava Institute seeks an innovation grant for a new project that will create immersive experiences and foster dialogue, using a shared commitment to the environment as a lens through which American Jews can build a relationship with Israel and their Israeli Jewish and Arab peers. Israeli Jews and Arabs and American Jews will participate in a nine-month program to learn the skills of dialogue and explore questions of identity, ideology, and coexistence. And then, a group of Israeli Jewish and Arab participants will travel to Washington DC for a week-long immersive experience with their American peers. As a follow-up to the exchange, we will also establish a series of events (virtual and in-person) involving Institute alumni, faculty, and leadership who will visit the DC community and continue to build relationships with the cohort. Additional funding will allow us to welcome the DC cohort to the Arava Institute.

Berl Katzenelson Center
Young Change-makers Advance an Equal and Inclusive Vision in Israeli Society’s Spheres of Influence

Leading the way, TOGETHER: Young Change-makers Advance an Equal and Inclusive Vision in Israeli Society’s Spheres of Influence will facilitate dialogue amongst diverse groups of graduates of BKC’s various leadership tracks and join an impactful national network, in advancement of an equal, just, and inclusive vision for Israel. The program will focus on young, up-and-coming changemakers who are likely to pursue influential roles in central arenas of Israeli society—IDF, public/civil service, local and municipal governments. The program will be comprised of three main activity clusters: (1) Action-driven leadership development along major tracks of influence—municipal, civil and public sector; (2) Dialogue-driven national network of young changemakers from diverse backgrounds (Haredi, Druze, LGBTQ, Kibbutzim, peripheral university students, etc.) where they exchange experiences, expertise, content, and opportunities; (3) Policy-driven outreach that complements the work of the network, re-positioning issues of national importance from the perspective of young Israelis across the spectrum of society, such as employment, work-life balance, and education.

EcoPeace Middle East Environmental NGO Forum
Good Water Neighbors: Water Diplomacy

Good Water Neighbors: Water Diplomacy is a unique program developed by EcoPeace Middle East that creates awareness among young Israelis about their water realities and provides them with the tools to take action to protect their future water security. Program participants are given the knowledge and skills needed to become agents of change in the protection of shared water resources and create regional connections and networks that enable them to work collaboratively to advance water-related solutions.

Encountering: NextGen Leadership Initiative Pilot

Encountering: NextGen Leadership Initiative Pilot is an opportunity for a select cadre of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington future next gen leaders to join a cohort-based program equipping them with the multi-vocal and multifocal leadership education to face the unique challenges posed by 21st century Jewish sovereignty. Forming a DC-based micro peer leadership community, this cohort will both enjoy a specialized arc of in-person and online learning opportunities, as well as gain membership into Encounter’s national network of Executive Leaders. This DC cohort will participate in Encounter’s signature Intensive Leadership Seminar in Israel, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, and an additional immersive day of leadership learning designed for this cohort. Through this pilot, Encounter will provide a proof of concept for an essential and too-oft missing piece of Jewish leadership education for those who care deeply about Israel, the flourishing of the Jewish people, and the future relationship between the two.

ENTER: The Jewish Peoplehood Alliance

One2One is an innovative educational exchange between Jewish high schoolers in Israel and the Diaspora launched in 2021. In partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Education, this initiative brings the “mifgash” experience online. Through a series of individualized, scripted encounters, spread out over several weeks, teens from Israel and English-speaking Diaspora communities have an opportunity to explore “big ideas” like Jewish peoplehood, human rights, and “arvut hadadit” (mutual responsibility), while also discussing shared interests and engaging in cross-cultural dialogue. Over 600 teens participated in the pilot year and, this year, in partnership with RootOne, thousands of teens from Israel and North America will take part in the program. The proposed program offers to expand the existing format and include an additional 250 Day School teens from the DC area who are not eligible for RootOne vouchers to take part in their own individualized encounters to meet Israeli teens.

Hagar Jewish Arab Education
The Center for Shared Culture in the Negev: Building a New Paradigm

The Center for Shared Culture — Thaqafat — is a multigenerational effort to create a new paradigm of shared culture for Jews and Arabs in the Negev. The program has two strategic goals: (1) to create opportunities for Arabs and Jews to share cultural experiences and informal education; and (2) to make Arab culture accessible for Jews in the Negev, while highlighting the common cultural roots both peoples share. The result will be a dramatic expansion of shared space for multicultural dialogue. The program will draw on the experience and social capital accrued by the Hagar Association’s dynamic Arab Jewish educational community over the course of 15 years, in partnership with municipalities and other organizations. Programming will be informed by empirical data derived from a professional survey of cultural preferences of residents of the region. A pilot program is currently underway to determine the most effective areas of intervention.

Hand in Hand
Dialogue-Based Student Communities

Dialogue-Based Student Communities uses HIH’s expertise in facilitating Jewish-Arab dialogue to provide a select group of Jewish and Arab young adults learning at Israeli universities with the framework, guidance, and tools to engage in meaningful dialogue, create a shared community, and undertake social action initiatives advancing equality and shared society. Dialogue-Based Student Communities consists of more than 180 dialogue, learning, training, and volunteering hours over the course of the academic year. Through this program, participants will: evolve past stereotypes and alienation; deepen their capacities to engage positively with one another; develop greater mutual understanding and connection; acquire a greater sense of social responsibility, purpose, and belonging; and develop skills equipping them to engage in and initiate grassroots social change. In order to assist them in participating fully in the program, participants live close to one another in shared apartments during the year and receive an annual stipend towards accommodation expenses.

Jerusalem Season of Culture
Feel Beit Winter

Situated between East and West Jerusalem, Feel Beit is the JSOC culture house and community incubator, run by a team representing all of Jerusalem’s religious and ethnic communities. FeelBeit has already become a year-round hangout for a growing ecosystem of artists and audiences aspiring to shared society. During the cold winter months, our performance venue, club, and bar are transformed into a magical “Art of Meeting” hub featuring musical events, intellectual and creative salons, open mic nights, and culinary experiences. Creating an atmosphere of respect, acceptance, and creativity conducive to dialogue, facilitated by art and culture, is in itself an art form. The intentionality of the guest lists, content, and take-aways of these curated evenings—some of which are targeted to the linguistic and cultural needs of particular groups, while others are designed to appeal to a wider audience — make them both intimate and super creative.

Lotus (Portland Trust)

Lotus is an NGO established to address the lack of quality employment opportunities for young orthodox Druze women who are not allowed to drive or work outside the village or in a mixed-gender environment due to tradition and religious practice. Lotus is run by a unique model that enables quality remote employment modeled to fit the Israeli hi-tech industry. The women take part in a thorough Bootcamp training to be hired by leading firms while working from the Hub in the village, (we currently have 54 developers). This year, the NGO is expanding the areas and scope of activities to include four cycles per year. We will establish an additional Hub in the Galilee. We require your support to train an additional 80 women and help to create a new Hub in the Galilee to allow more women to integrate and overcome religious and gender barriers.

Onward Israel
Onward Israel: Engaging Washington Young Adults with Israel

Onward Israel is looking to expand the engagement of young adults from Greater Washington through a new concept in immersive, meaningful Israel experience programs that integrates remote and in-person components, through the Career Passport and Career Passport for Young Jewish Professionals programs. In addition, we look to hire a part-time local Onward Israel coordinator to recruit for these programs and for the existing Onward Summer Internship program. Career Passport provides a framework for young adults to come to Israel for a month-long immersive living experience while continuing to work remotely for their employers. This program has great potential to engage young adults (half of Birthright participants are post-college). Career Passport for Young Jewish Professionals focuses on young adults working for Jewish communal organizations and offers a way to engage them in an immersive Israel experience while strengthening their ability to engage others with Israel upon their return. Onward will work with The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington on applicable travel dates and educational program content.

PeacePlayers Middle East
PeacePlayers Rising Stars

The Rising Stars project will scale PeacePlayers Middle East’s impact by strategically introducing the organization’s basketball and peace education programs proven to positively transform attitudes and build friendships between Jews and Arabs in new communities across Israel. Forty exceptional leader-athletes, ages 13 to 18, will be recruited from around the country to take part in the project’s three-year intensive training program designed to foster cross-community dialogue and enhance their leadership and athletic skills. Over the course of the first year of the project, participants will take part in a series of 12 day-long workshops, three overnight retreats, and ongoing hands-on training. At the culmination of the project, participants will have gained the skills and tools necessary to replicate the program in their own communities, scaling PeacePlayers Middle East’s successful programming to untapped communities.

Pnima Israel
The Service Channels Plan: From Recruitment Crisis to Service Renewal

As part of Service for All, the proposed project presents an innovative model for developing a shared Israeli ethos based on uniformity of service and a real opportunity for mobility, self-development and a pan-Israeli sense of belonging, building both a particular and a group identity alongside engagement in meaningful social endeavors. As an alternate to military service, this program engages young Israelis in a health care related mechina (service program) to both train them for future employment and imbue a sense of purpose and belonging to those who are not set to serve in the IDF. In the last two years, in light of the COVID challenge, health care training has proven to be an area in which diverse populations can operate together in a field with a growing need.

Road to Recovery
Respite for Gravely Ill Palestinian Children Treated in Israeli Hospitals

In addition to driving Palestinian patients, RtR organizes joint activities with patients, patients’ families and volunteers. These activities provide valuable opportunities for positive interactions between Israelis and Palestinians, facilitating dialogue in a positive atmosphere that promote cross-border relationships based on mutual respect. Of particular concern are the pediatric patients we drive. These children all have serious, life-threatening ailments. Due to the ravages of disease and the poor economic status of their families, they lack opportunities for leisure, play, and respite activities that are available to their healthy peers. RtR organizes recreational and rehabilitation activities to alleviate some of the pain and potential psychological effects of illness and long-term hospitalization. The proposed project involves two respite days (240 children each) in a recreational park with a pool for Palestinian pediatric patients and their siblings. Fun activities will be organized, and meals will be provided.

Nurturing a Reflective Israeli Leadership for Living Together

Israel has become aware of its dazzling cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity. However, without a roadmap for living together well, this diversity can tear the country apart. There is a prevalence of initiatives that bring people together, but little is done to articulate what living well together means. Good intentions alone lack the depth to achieve a future that works well enough for all. The year-long program, leaning on Shaharit’s vast experience as intellectual leaders for the past decade, will recruit 20 emerging leaders from the breadth of Israel’s diversity to explore the challenges of living together and envisioning a shared future. Through bi-weekly meetings with academics and thought leaders, along with study trips throughout Israel and potentially abroad, the participants will deepen their visions of Israel as individuals and as a growing community of leaders for the common good.

Tech Careers
Technology Training for Ethiopian Israeli Women

Based on our comprehensive model, Tech-Career’s Salesforce Implementers Program for Women provides professional training and acquaints students with the demanding work environment and culture of Israel’s tech industries, ensuring that they attain jobs. Salesforce is a CRM service that companies may tailor according to their specific needs. As experts in the platform and its adaptation, implementers are in high demand, while the required skills may be acquired in a relatively short time period. The five-month program includes lectures, tutorials, guest speakers, industry projects, and ongoing support. Participants live at home and studies take place at the Tech-Career campus in Lod and via Zoom. Additional program components: financial assistance to ensure participation of sole wage earners, laptops, career preparation and enrichment (e.g., CV writing, job interview simulations), visits to high-tech companies, mentoring by experienced professionals, and intensive placement activities during and after the course to ensure graduates begin working in the field.

Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM)
TOM@university DC Hub

The goal of this program is to build a Washington DC TOM@ university hub with three universities (Georgetown, George Washington and Gallaudet) and with three universities in Israel. TOM identifies universities as an ideal ecosystem for human innovation: students are eager to use their skills and talents on behalf of others; faculty see TOM as a complement to theoretical learning with hands-on, experiential learning; underutilized campus innovation labs and Makerspaces; administration’s long-standing commitment to the local community and target population. Together teams will work together to solve identified needs of individuals and communities through teamwork and innovation. Through our global network of communities, TOM incorporates Tikkun Olam, authentic connection, and appreciation for Israel and Judaism in an impactful way. TOM undertakes a serious process to identify and onboard student leaders who are dedicated to creating social impact on campus while also creating a meaningful connection with Israel and the rest of the world. The launch of the DC Hub would take place in spring/summer 2022 for the 2022-23 academic term.

Tozeret Ha’aretz
Shevet Achihm

Shevet Achim will bring together the members of the different tribes: secular Jews, ultra-orthodox Jews, modern orthodox Jews and Israeli Arabs to sit together around the tribal fire and engage in constructed dialogue around the challenges and dilemmas of the Israeli society today. We believe that Israeli society will not be able to face its challenges as a democratic society without recognizing our internal diversity and each tribe’s unique stand and values. Our vision in Tozeret is to create an equal and unified Israeli society and build bridges between the different tribes by creating dialogue, and an ongoing way of addressing the challenges and dilemmas we face together, and finding our common ground, mutual values and identifying the center that we can all stand around and support.