Sometimes worthy enterprises, from both the nonprofit and the corporate worlds, do not survive over the long haul. That’s always a pity. But when a Jewish organization as influential as BimBam shuts down because of flagging financial support, it’s more than a pity: It’s a shanda, and it reflects poorly on the state of Jewish philanthropy today.
After a glorious 11-year run under its founding director Sarah Lefton, BimBam was forced to close this week. As our story shows, BimBam (originally named G-dcast) was that rare Jewish nonprofit that leveraged digital media to bring engaging, intelligent Jewish education to audiences of all ages — but mostly kids.
In addition to scores of delightful animated shorts about the holidays and the weekly parashah, BimBam made insightful films such as “How to Talk to Your Kids About God” and “Teaching Your Kids to Say I’m Sorry.” BimBam taught kids how to bake challah, make matzah covers and tzitzit, blow the shofar, and even how to fashion Jewish toy slime out of glue, borax, cornstarch, shaving cream and a splash of Manischewitz.
And who could forget the animated sacrificial eScapegoat for Yom Kippur? That adorable cartoon capra actually made it to the cover of J. one year.
In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a Jewish educator in the country who has not drawn on BimBam’s materials to teach valuable lessons about Jews, Judaism and Jewish values.
Writing on Facebook after hearing the news, Jewish LearningWorks CEO David Waksberg noted, “BimBam has been the most creative and impactful Jewish educational innovation of the 21st century.”
BimBam consistently modeled Jewish education as something vital.
Howard Freedman, director of the S.F. Jewish Community Library, also shared his appreciation for BimBam: “I’ve loved it — for myself, for how it engaged my kids, and for how it has consistently modeled Jewish education as something vital without a stale aftertaste.”
In the responses from the community, we saw genuine sorrow expressed over the demise of BimBam. But we also noticed another emotion: anger.
How is it that the Jewish community, locally and nationally, could not continue to support a universally celebrated organization that did such superb work on a comparatively tiny budget?
Clearly, the Jewish communal world is not immune to the problem of wealth inequality. An organization such as BimBam might get by for years on the largesse of foundations, federations or individual philanthropists, and then suddenly find the rug pulled out when donor priorities shift.
We would argue that innovators such as BimBam, which brought a fiery love of Judaism to countless numbers of kids, should always remain a priority.
Luckily, BimBam content will live on. The Union for Reform Judaism will post on its website all BimBam videos, including its swan song: a compelling series for kids telling the story of King David and two dark, complex videos for adults on Masada and the Bar Kochba Revolt.
Thank you, Sarah Lefton, executive director Jordan Gill and your brilliant team, for 11 years of providing unparalleled Jewish learning. We can’t wait to see what you’ll do next.