It all begins with an idea. A glimmer the eye, a slight, crooked grin, or a muffled smirk. When a person gets a good idea, it’s obvious.
The good ideas of Ottawa’s emerging generation are changing the way community members are coming together and even changing the very landscape of Ottawa’s Jewish community.
The Single Dating Diva Workshop, Shabbat @ Shopify, and the Punk Jews film screening at the ByTowne Cinema all had grant funding from the Emerging Generation (EG) division of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.
With such successful and meaningful ideas being approved for grant funding, you’d think the review committee would be swamped with even more event and project applications.
That’s not the case. It seems the EG grant program is the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s best-kept secret. According to EG representatives, the committee has seen a decline in applications and has received, on average, just one application per month since 2013.
Applications do not simply get a stamp of approval and a cheque sent out. They are carefully scrutinized for six criteria, including Jewish content; an action plan for marketing and execution; budget; impact size; uniqueness; and how integral the grant is to the idea.
Ariel Fainer, the Federation’s EG director, and Byron Pascoe, chair of the EG Grant Committee, review each application with the six members of the grant steering committee and can award up to $2,000 per project or event.
Both Fainer and Pascoe said they have noticed that the committee tends to receive applications in waves depending on the time of year, and especially around holidays. While Pascoe said holiday-themed events can provide the “spark” of Jewish content the grant application needs to strongly demonstrate in order to receive funding, applicants should take care to ensure their application gets considered.
“There have been a variety of holiday-related initiative applications, which in turn may provide a spark for the Jewish content component of an event,” he said. “The EG Grant is meant to get new initiatives off the ground, so growing the budget of an annual party related to a specific Jewish holiday is not a great fit for the EG Grant.”
That said, the mother-daughter team of Susan and Brittany Finkelman can boast one of the most successful holiday parties funded by the EG grant – and it all came down to the idea.
More than 40 unaffiliated Jewish families in Orleans attended their Chanukah party this past year, connecting more than 150 people – mostly of interfaith households – to the Jewish community.
“I think we, as a Jewish community, have a responsibility for these families, for the children,” Susan Finkelman said. “To ensure that they have some sense of connection to the Jewish community… Living out here in Orleans, and being so far from the organized Jewish community, plus being interfaith is sort of a double-whammy. I think, I hope, they all felt welcome.”
There is a special aspect about this project. It’s an intergenerational act of love.
Susan herself said she is in her 50s and would have been ineligible to apply for grant funding if she hadn’t teamed up with Brittany, who is 27. The event was Susan’s brainchild after an inspirational conversation and call to action with Rabbi Barry Schlesinger of Agudath Israel Congregation, and a fateful meeting with Bram Bregman, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s vice-president of Community Building at an Ottawa Senators hockey game, who explained the EG grant program to her.
The rest took long hours, an application resubmission, and plenty of outreach, which resulted in more young families becoming connected with the community.
For Fainer, she said she sees those successful applications as making an incredible difference in the community.
“It’s a really great way to get grassroots initiatives off the ground and it really enables everybody to take part in Jewish programming for our community,” Fainer said.
For Finkelman, she said she’s still actively engaged with many of the unaffiliated families who attended in the party, with an email mailing list 50 families strong and many thoughtful ideas up for discussion.
“I know a lot of the parents out here are hoping to get a [supplementary Sunday] Hebrew school up and running again,” Finkelman said.
For more information about how to apply for grant funding, visit http://jewishottawa.com/emerging-generation and follow the links.