Joshua Venture back from hiatus to nourish new ideas

The fellowship that launched Heeb magazine, JDub Records and S.F.’s own New Jewish Filmmaking Project is back.

After a four-year hiatus, the Joshua Venture revised its structure and its approach, tacked on “Group” to the end of its name, hired new staff and found new funders. It has resurfaced to offer eight Jewish social entrepreneurs unrestricted early-stage capital, professional development and a community of peers.

“I am a better person for having had this experience,” said Sam Ball at a recent information session about Joshua Venture Group at UpStart Bay Area, an S.F.-based incubator for local Jewish social entrepreneurs. “I use techniques I learned with Joshua Venture on a weekly basis.”

Ball, director of Citizen Film and the New Jewish Filmmaking Project, was among the first cohort of Joshua Venture fellows in 2001 to 2003.

Lisa Lepson addresses a group in San Francisco. photo/stacey palevsky

Ball and another Joshua Venture alum, Mitch Braff of the Jewish Partisans Educational Foundation, both spoke recently to a crowd of 30 hopeful, prospective fellows with ideas ranging from social justice projects and environmental endeavors to learning initiatives and Web-based efforts.

A second information session was held three days later at the David Brower Center in Berkeley and drew another 15 Joshua Venture hopefuls.

Braff and Ball chimed in throughout the San Francisco informational session, but the meeting was led primarily by Lisa Lepson, the new director of Joshua Venture Group. Lepson now is spending time traveling around the country to promote the reinvented fellowship.

“We know there are particularly innovative communities in New York and the Bay Area, but we’re also interested in unearthing what is going on in the rest of the country,” said Lepson, who has hit the ground running since she began the new post June 22.

Lepson begn her nonprofit management career in California, getting her MBA from UCLA and then spending 1996 to 2005 in the Bay Area. During that time she worked for Berkeley Hillel, Juma Ventures and the S.F.-based Upwardly Global, a social entrepreneurial organization that brings together underemployed immigrant professionals and employers.

As the director of Joshua Venture Group, she will spend the next two years working with the eight fellows once they’re chosen in April.

“We want to expand and reinvigorate the Jewish community,” Lepson said. Fellows should have an idea or a fledgling organization that “addresses demonstrated needs not being filled.”

The fellowship is now called the Dual Investment Program, which means that the resources and funding fellows receive will bolster them as individuals as well as their organizations.

Fellows will receive $40,000 in unrestricted funds each year of the fellowship, and an additional stipend for health insurance and organizational support.

They will attend two five-day retreats each year and be in constant contact with Joshua Venture staff, who will connect fellows with resources and mentors who can provide coaching and guidance.

“We’re investing in these fellows, and we’re looking for fellows to similarly invest in us and give what they can to it,” Lepson said. “We want to transform the Jewish world and the world Jewishly.”

Applications for the Joshua Venture Group fellowship are due in January. To apply, or for more information, go to

Stacey Palevsky