New local faces and old in this years Slingshot

Of the seven Jewish organizations with local ties highlighted on a list of the country’s 50 most innovative Jewish groups, six have been there before.

For the seventh, G-dcast, a website that aims to raise Jewish literacy through a weekly online Torah cartoon series, the first-time mention in the annual Slingshot directory is proof that small organizations can make a big difference.

Among Bay Area winners Oct. 18 at “Slingshot Day” in New York are (from left) Mitch Braff (Jewish Partisans), Rachel Brodie (Jewish Milestones), Aliza Craimer Elias (ICS) and Sarah Lefton (G-dcast). photo/courtesy of aliza craimer elias

“It was really exciting to learn G-dcast had made the cut,” said its creator, San Francisco resident Sarah Lefton. “Slingshot is a prestigious national honor — most of the organizations have been around a lot longer than we have and have more than one full-time staff member.

“This is a validation that we are really making an impact on Jewish literacy and raising the bar for Jewish new media.”

Among the cutting-edge groups named again in the Zagat-style guide is the Institute for Curriculum Services, a program of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council. This year marks ICS’ second appearance on the list.

The institute focuses on promoting accurate instructional material on Jews, Judaism and Israel. This includes monitoring how Jewish history is told in textbooks. The agency also works with state agencies, teachers and textbook companies to obtain corrections to inaccuracies, such as a prevalent fallacy that Jews were the principal persecutors of Jesus. 

“It’s a nice recognition of the impact we have on Jewish education,” said Aliza Craimer Elias, ICS director of program development and national outreach. “It also exposes ICS to a wider audience nationally and opens the door to new funding opportunities.”

Also securing its second Slingshot spot is Be’chol Lashon (“In Every Tongue”), a San Francisco–based organization that works to grow and strengthen Judaism through ethnic, cultural and racial inclusiveness.

Be’chol Lashon activists work to build networks of Jewish leaders committed to encouraging Jews from all backgrounds to play dynamic roles in Jewish life.

The Hub at the JCC of San Francisco, which holds concerts, art shows, holiday festivals and other events that draw in young adults, also joins the two-time appearance list.

The program estimates nearly 10,000 people have participated since the JCCSF hired actor-rapper Dan Wolf in 2006 to expand the Hub’s lineup of happenings originally created by Amy Tobin.

Today, holiday festivities at the Hub include a Purim event that attracts hundreds of costumed participants, as well as eight days of Chanukah celebrations. It also produces a Chanukah Survival Kit for newcomers to the JCCSF living far from home.

Meanwhile, making its fifth appearance in Slingshot is San Francisco’s Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation, which offers a “Resist” curriculum that teaches seventh- through 12th-grade students about the thousands of Jewish partisans who fought against the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Across the bay, Moishe House, the Oakland-based international nonprofit that provides rent subsidies for 33 Moishe Houses worldwide, including three in the Bay Area, is on the list for the third time.  

And Berkeley-based Jewish Milestones, a community resource for Jews preparing for lifecycle events, is making its sixth appearance.

Slingshot was founded six years ago as an annual compilation of 50 pioneering Jewish agencies. The list is selected by members of Grand Street, a network of 18- to 28-year-olds who are or will soon be involved in their family’s philanthropy.

After Slingshot was first published, the original group of funders decided to establish the Slingshot Fund to help support the innovative, and often nascent, organizations featured in the annual guide.

For more information, visit www.slingshotfund.org.