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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Dr Oboler’s report on the ICCA and online hate

Published as: Andre Oboler, The ICCA tackles online hate, Internet Law Bulletin, Febuary / March 2011


In November 2010, the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA) held its second conference; parliamentarians and experts from over 40 countries attended.

The conference, held at the Canadian Parliament, was hosted in partnership with the Canadian Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. Australian involvement included Michael Danby MP, Senator Scott Ryan and four Australian experts.

The Ottawa conference ran working groups in parallel tracks for the Experts Forum and the parliamentarians. The conclusions of each pair of working groups were delivered to a combined plenum and informed the drafting of the Ottawa Protocol that was unanimously adopted by the parliamentarians.

The Online Antisemitism Working Group had a panel of five speakers. Christopher Wolf, a US technology lawyer, discussed Anwar al-Awalaki whose YouTube videos incite racial hatred and terrorism. Wolf called on the technology companies to deny their services to this virtual hate rally, as they would to a real world hate rally.

Rabbi Cooper, of Simon Wiesenthal Center, questioned the American approach of more speech in response to hate speech. He showed the link between online hate and terrorism. Marc Saltzman, a technology journalist, spoke on smart phones that allow updates on the go, with less thought. He argued we need the right combination of law, education and activism to address online hatred.

Cathy Wing, Media Awareness Network, focused on children now constantly exposed to hateful content. She expressed hope that online education against racism may have an impact. I examined the question of regulation and argued the social contract gave government an ultimate and irrevocable responsibility. The overall impression was that online hate is a fast moving field with a need for rapid access to both technical knowledge and government consideration. This was reflected in the final protocol.

The Ottawa Protocol notes that the gathered parliamentarians are “alarmed by the explosion of antisemitism and hate on the internet, a medium crucial for the promotion and protection of freedom of expression, freedom of information, and the participation of civil society”. The statement encapsulated a number of concerns expressed at the conference. Most notable was the concern that, left unregulated, the online world may be far less free than idealists believe. Racism and intimidation can dampen participation by minority groups and damage democracy.

The Ottawa Protocol commits the gathered parliamentarians to “establishing an international task force of internet specialists comprised of parliamentarians and experts to create common indicators to identify and monitor anti-Semitism and other manifestations of hate online and to develop policy recommendations for governments and international frameworks to address these problems”.

The establishment of a task force that contains both members of different parliaments and leading international experts is an opportunity. It creates a resource of international technical expertise for members of parliament and a dialogue for sharing best practise.

Most significantly, it provides a multilateral foundation from which companies can be addressed, monitored and held to account.

Dr Andre Oboler,
Director, Community Internet Engagement Project
Zionist Federation of Australia.

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