L.A. nonprofits awarded UpStart grants

June 29, 2017  | Jewish Journal

Three Los Angeles nonprofit Jewish organizations — JQ International, The Open Temple and Pico Union Project — have won three-year grants from UpStart Accelerator, an organization that supports innovative and entrepreneurial programs designed to improve Jewish life.

Each of the nonprofits, selected out of 92 applicants, will be given $5,000 a year, along with access to professional trainers, webinars and other experts to help expand their community programs and outreach efforts. Nine organizations won grants nationally.

The overall goal is to help the organizations accelerate their growth with support that helps them bring their services to larger numbers of Jews.

“Through engagement with mentors and a three-year rigorous practice, our goal is to move from ‘scrappy startup’ to an institution that will serve the Jewishly curious and those who love us for decades to come, said Rabbi Lori Shapiro of The Open Temple, a Jewish community in Venice that blends arts and Judaism as a way to inspire curiosity in Jewish life.

JQ International is a West Hollywood-based group that provides support and services to help members of the Jewish LGBT community fuse their sexual orientation and Jewish identity.

Pico Union Project, a multifaith cultural arts center founded in 2013 and located just west of Staples Center, serves the Jewish calling of “love your neighbor” by bringing together diverse cultures through song, story, art, food and prayer.

The three organizations “are all serving very large, yet underserved communities, and they are all-around community building,” said UpStart’s Los Angeles representative, Jocelyn Orloff. “They are providing an access point to Jewish life for people who specifically don’t have access to it.”

The mission of UpStart Accelerator is to provide tools and assets that help community organizations make their programs stronger by extending them to a greater number of people.

“We have grown tremendously in the last couple of years and our programs and services have exploded,” said Asher Gellis, JQ International’s executive director. “The demand for us has increased exponentially. It is a critical time for our development, to have strategic consulting and support as we expand what we are doing in the community.”

Zachary Lasker, Pico Union Project’s executive director, echoed Gellis, citing the advantages he expects from joining other organizations across the country that have connected with UpStart.

“I hope to emerge with a network of eight other colleagues and organizations who are doing awesome work and who can be collaborative partners,” he said. “I hope that this program will provide us with the time and space to learn from and collaborate with partners engaged in similarly innovative work, to optimize the support of our lay leadership and to further experiment with our business model.”

UpStart, a national organization based in San Francisco, is merging with three other community-focused groups investing in Jewish programs — Joshua Venture Group; Bikkurim; and the U.S. arm of PresenTense, an Israel-based organization. The groups affiliating with UpStart this year are the first to work under the merged organization.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented demand for — and investment in — organizations bringing something new and fresh to Jewish life,” said UpStart’s CEO Aaron Katler. “Nowhere is that clearer than in L.A., where we saw even more Accelerator applicants than in other parts of the country. We’re excited to partner with these three organizations to accelerate their growth and to support them in maximizing their community-changing potential.”

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