Reflect Cincy: Creating connections in the Jewish community

The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati (TJF) has introduced a new small grants program that allows organizations and individuals seeking to foster Jewish connection to request funding.

In a 2019 research study conducted by Brandeis University, it revealed that many in the Jewish community seek more connection with the Jewish community but experience barriers to participating in traditional Jewish institutions. 
 
TJF recognized this and has created Reflect Cincy, an experimental pool of grant funding designed to spark new experiences and thinking around Jewish connection in Cincinnati which targets young adults without children, interfaith families with children, and families with children under the age of five years old. 
 
“TJF believes that these individuals and their stories matter,” says Kim Newstadt, director of research & learning for The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati. “The findings served as the impetus for JFC to experiment with funding priorities in complement to its support of existing institutions.” 
 
Because many of these individuals and families are not in positions of influence and decision-making in Cincinnati’s formal Jewish community, current policies and programs may not reflect their actual needs and desires. This means that traditional methods for building strong Jewish communities are currently leaving many people out. 

JFC and the Reflect Cincy team recognize that making change is hard. The organization wants to support people who want to try something that is unproven through testing and learning.
 
“Because of this, the process is more than submitting an application,” says Newstadt. “Prospective applicants and curious end-users were invited to come together during the November Community Info Sessions and December Training Sessions. Attendees began to share ideas and shift the paradigm around how initiatives are designed, by placing the user at the center of their work. Those who ultimately become grantees will receive further coaching and support on how to test and iterate.”

In the next two years, TJF seeks to deeply impact the culture of the community, as well as how the Jewish community is served. The goals are twofold: at the communal level, they hope to see more organizations and individuals who test, iterate, and learn. At the people level, they hope to see more underrepresented segments who feel a sense of belonging and connection to their Jewishness and who are in positions of influence in the design and implementation of proposed initiatives.

Organizations (with 501c3 status) and individuals were eligible to apply. The organization encouraged individuals to submit an Emerging Idea and sought to help with finding a fiscal sponsor. Individuals were encouraged to schedule time with us to discuss where they are in the process of finding a fiscal sponsor before they submitted an Emerging Idea. More details on eligibility can be found on the website.

Emerging Ideas are under review, and those who move forward will be invited to submit a full application. Final grantees will be awarded in June.

Read more articles by Kareem A. Simpson.

Raised in the inner city of Covington, Kentucky, Kareem Simpson is an author, innovator, community enthusiast, military veteran, serial entrepreneur, foodie and lover of all things creative.