Jewish Experience Microgrants create funding opportunities for unique initiatives in the community
By Matthew Horwood
Thanks to generous donations to the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s 2019 Annual Campaign, organizations and individuals in the community have begun benefitting from Federation’s Jewish Experience Microgrants program.
The Jewish Experience Microgrants program is meant to fund events, projects and initiatives that “connect people, meet a unique need, or fill a gap in our Jewish community.” The new iteration of Microgrants grew out of the Federation’s Emerging Generation Grants program, and was developed to align with Federation’s Jewish Superhighway initiative.
Sharon Diamond, chair of the Committee for Jewish Experience Microgrants, said Federation wanted to broaden the EG Grants program to “create more opportunities to engage different demographics, backgrounds and levels of connection to Jewish community.”
Diamond said Jewish Experience Microgrants will fund up to 75 per cent of the cost of a project, and can provide up to $2,500 in funding, decided on a “case-by-case basis.”
Once an application is submitted, it is reviewed by the Jewish Experience Microgrants Committee. When an application is approved, a funding agreement is finalized between Federation and the microgrant recipient.
The Gatineau Pre-Shabbat Dinner, organized by Congregation Machzikei Hadas on July 12, happened in part due to a Jewish Experience Microgrants.
Stacy Goldstein, director of community building at Congregation Machzikei Hadas, said the aim of the pre-Shabbat dinner was to serve Jews who are underserviced due to their geographic distance from the “Jewish superstructure,” specifically those living in Gatineau and Orleans.
“We wanted to take down barriers and give Gatineau’s Jewish families the chance to meet and develop their own community identity in Gatineau,” she said.
Goldstein said the microgrant offset the costs associated with the dinner, made it inexpensive for families to attend, and made it more affordable for the hosts – Gail and Dan Pfeffer – to offer their home to host the dinner.
Another Jewish Experience Microgrants recipient was the Ottawa Kosher Food Bank (OKFB) for its Stock the Freezer program, in which community members prepare dishes to be frozen for distribution to OKFB clients.
Dahlia Milech, manager of the OKFB, said the first session of Stock the Freezer was geared toward bar mitzvah-aged students and their parents, and the next four sessions will have different community groups preparing foods.
OKFB received a $1,000 microgrant, which was spent on ingredients and packaging materials. Milech said she didn’t think the program could have been possible without the funding.
“I think it was initially very important to use Jewish Experience Microgrants in order to create knowledge of what this program actually is, create interest and work out the kinks before going further with it,” she said.
The PJ Library Book Club – which was created three years ago to allow women to discuss books and socialize – received an $800 Jewish Experience Microgrant to cover expenses associated with hosting meetings at member’s houses.
Emma Mallach said members would initially meet at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre. But as the book club grew in size, members began hosting the gatherings at their homes.
Mallach said the PJ Library Book Club applied for a microgrant because members believed it would be a great way to offset the costs associated with hosting the gatherings, as well as “ensure the long-term sustainability of the club.”
Mallach said the microgrant will enable the club to “continue to thrive and hopefully grow over the next year or two.”
ther Jewish Experience Microgrants have funded a Shabbat Shopify Dinner held in the ByWard Market for young professionals, screenings of the films “Monkey Business” and “Punk Jews,” and a community Havdalah potluck dinner at Stanley Park.
Diamond said the Jewish community’s interest in Jewish Experience Microgrants has been “significantly higher” than she expected it would be.
“As somebody who has really been in the weeds in this community, I love seeing the new ideas coming through and success stories coming out of it,” Diamond said. “So reach out to Federation if you have an idea.”
Visit https://jewishottawa.com/giving/jewish-experience-microgrants for more information or to apply for a Jewish Experience Microgrant.