Mini-Grants to Create “Ripples of Change” in Jewish Life

ROI Community of Young Jewish Innovators has announced the forming of a $100,000 Micro Grants Fund – to be allocated in small portions of not more than $1,000 each among its 550 members.

The idea is to empower young Jewish innovators and help them get started in their bids to impact on the Jewish world. To kick off the new campaign, ROI is rolling out a two-minute video starring “Mini Me” Verne Troyer, the diminutive Hollywood celebrity, extolling the power of micro-grants to make a mega-difference.

ROI Community provides professional development and financial support to its young innovator and activist members. Over the past five years, these members have launched hundreds of projects in more than 100 communities and in over 30 countries .

The new fund is “an innovative philanthropic tool,” explains ROI Community’s Executive Director Justin Korda, “leveraging small amounts of money at a critical time in the development of these early- to mid-career adults and their initiatives… In the coming years, our goal is to invest hundreds of $1,000 grants, creating ripples of change among one million young Jewish adults who are looking for creative entry points into Jewish life.”

Micro Grants will support ROI members in four areas:

  • Travel to and participation in conferences to help them grow professionally and/or provide important exposure for their project;
  • Training and skill building through special courses or executive coaching;
  • Event sponsorship to boost grantees at a pivotal time; and,
  • Corporate support, including such services as legal, media relations and graphic design.

The Micro Grants program is building on the success of ROI’s Speakers Bureau. “We backed members with small grants to speak at conferences they would not have otherwise been able to afford to attend,” said ROI Grants Manager No’a Gorlin. “Through these subsidies, not only did grantees gain exposure for their innovative initiatives, they were also able to impact policy, network with funders, and build new collaborations.”

For example, last November, Andre Oboler of Australia was granted a ROI Speakers Bureau grant, enabling him to attend the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism in Canada, which brought together parliamentarians and other experts from 40 countries. He is now part of an international policy working group formed there.

In August 2010, StandWithUs’ Michelle Rojas-Tal of Jerusalem keynoted at the Australia Jewish Educators Conference in Melbourne, attended by nearly 400 Jewish educators from Australia and New Zealand.  As a result, she was invited to speak at schools across Australia and is now collaborating with the Australian Zionist Federation, providing StandWithUs materials, resources, speakers and workshops both in Australia and Israel.

“These outstanding young Jewish innovators are creating Jewish communities in their own image,” said ROI Founder Lynn Schusterman. “We’re thrilled to be a part of that. I may make it possible, but they make it happen.”

ROI explains on its website that its name stands for “return on investment,” a common business term referring to the achievement of a desirable outcome through wise investment. Furthermore, ro’eh in Hebrew means shepherd, “which in our tradition has always symbolized a position of leadership.”

By Hillel Fendel

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CIE to Deconstruct the web of hate – if funding can be found

Adam Kamien, Deconstructing a web of hate, Australian Jewish News, 7 January, 2011. Pg 4.

A NEW website aimed at mobilising world Jewry, governments and community organisations against the proliferation of online anti-Semitism will be launched on January 24.

The Community Internet Engagement (CIE) site is the brainchild of social media expert Andre Oboler, who has consulted with governments and community organisations around the world.

According to Oboler, theCIE will be a hub for research, education, technology support and advocacy.

He said social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as YouTube and others, are easily manipulated by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic campaigners and need to be properly held to account.

“The idea is to build some software whereby artificial intelligence, as well as more wide-spread engagement, would allow us to track pretty much all online anti-Semitism,” Oboler said.

The CIE got off the ground in 2008 thanks to funding from The Pratt Foundation, and has since been coopted by the Zionist Federation of Australia.

Oboler is currently rattling the tin for the CIE and told The AJN his is hoping to raise $2 million, a significant portion of which will be used to create unique software. He would not be drawn on the nature of the program though, citing “trade secret issues”.

“The Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Weisenthal Centre have given up on doing empirical measuring of online anti-Semitism. They Reckon the Internet’s too big, too complicated,” Oboler said.

The co-editor of Australian Jewish online discussion forum Galus Australis, Rachel Sacks-Davis, also believes combating online anti-Semitism is a near insurmountable pursuit.

“I commend any efforts to encourage Jewish community organisations to engage in the online environment as this will help these organisations to communicate more effectively with the Jewish community. However, it is unlikely that it will be an effective way to combat online anti-Semitism,” she said.

“Until anti-Semitism is completely eradicated from the world, it will not be eradicated from the internet. The best strategy for the Jewish community is to create online spaces for Jewish expression, which provide opportunities for people – both Jewish and non-Jewish – to have positive interactions with Jews and Jewish culture.”

But Oboler is adamant inroads can be made. He believes the creation of an online equivalent of the Community Security Group could significantly reverse worrying trends towards anti-Israel and anti-Semitic campaigning on the internet.

“The result would be we would have a handle on what was happening and we would be able to start reversing some of the public opinion losses that we’re suffering,” Oboler said.

To donate to the Community Internet Engagement project contact Andre Oboler through his website

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JPPI report on Global Antisemitism Cites CIE’s Director

A new JPPI report (October 12, 2010) provides a survey of prominent research on the phenomena of antisemitism around the world. In it’s discussion on online antisemitism the report refers to three articles by Dr Andre Oboler:

The report notes that “Few organizations are targeting and combating the online anti-Semitism”. It makes no mention of the Online Antisemitism Working Group of the Global Forum, nor did it note the creation of the Community Internet Engagement Project as the first mainstream group focused exclusively on Internet Antisemitism. The report was released just before the ICCA meeting which added further commitment to tackle online antisemitism.

One significant disagreement I have with the report is the suggestion, based on information from the ADL, that “anti-Semitism in cyberspace is virtually impossible to quantify, both because of the high dynamic of the medium, and because the information on the net is infinite, and it is almost impossible to reach it all”. This is clearly untrue as the implication is that search engines are also impossible. The premise would also suggest the entertainment industry should give up on efforts to prevent online piracy. As a technical premise, the argument is deeply flawed. Both the ADL and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have been using this argument as smoke screen to put the problem of monitoring of online hate into the “too hard” basket.

The problem is not too hard, it just requires a new approach and a more specialized expertise. This is exactly the problem CIE was created to solve, and we are working on it. Unfortunately we don’t have even a fraction of the budget of organisations like the ADL and Simon Wiesenthal Center. Without sufficient resources progress is slower than it needs to be. In 2007 I asked Issac Hertzog (then the Minister responsible for combating antisemitism)  who was going to pay for the work that needs to be done online. Despite raising that question in the Jerusalem post in 2008, with the exception of a very small pool of donors, we are still waiting for an answer. More than hand wringing, right now what’s needed is funding.

- Andre Oboler

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