Yet it is my belief that the next big Jewish idea will not be hatched inside a board room. It will not be the result of a research study. It will not come from within an institution at all. Rather, the next big Jewish idea will be the work of a young, independently minded individual seeking to address the needs of his or her own self or his or her own immediate community.
But the next big Jewish idea will not meet institutional funding guidelines — or at least, that’s what the rejection letters will say. It will be for any number of reasons: The project is too local; too global; too narrow; too ambitious; the subject too political; the creators too eccentric. Perhaps they’re more creatively-minded than business-minded and are thus bad at writing grants. Maybe they’re too young, or too idealistic.
And sometimes the grantmaker themselves are so disconnected from the realities of what the Jewish public needs — like the funders who don’t even have a computer on their desks — that you’re done before you’ve even started. Sometimes funders just don’t get it; or they do get it and they feel threatened by it. They’re afraid to give up too much control. They want safer bets.