Joshua Venture Calls It Quits

The Jewish Week reports that Joshua Venture, the Jewish non-profit incubator responsible for Storahtelling and JDub Records is closing up shop.

In a Feb. 18 memo e-mailed to those connected with the group, Joshua Venture executives wrote that although the project has “achieved real impact and the need for the program still exists … the current incarnation is not sustainable despite efforts by the board, founding funders and other funding partners to move it forward. Therefore the board has decided to close down operations.”
The decision came as a surprise and disappointment to the current group of fellows, whose two-year term will end on March 31.

Well… there goes my grant application.

7 thoughts on “Joshua Venture Calls It Quits

  1. well that blows that they’re not continuing. not only were they responsible for Heeb, J-Dub and Storahtelling, but they did a valuable service to young, forward-thinking Jews by giving them an ideal to shoot for — i often think, “i really look up to those joshua venture fellows, they’re really something — if i could ever get off my lazy ass and do something helpful for my fellow jews and humanity, i’d wanna do it their way.” i guess hillel really called it — if not now, when? ‘shkoyach to all the cohorts who got in while the gettin’ was good, and better luck to everyone else with cool, viable non-profit ideas spinning around in their heads…

  2. Three application deadline delays, the loss of Brian Gaines- did anyone else see this coming? I can’t figure out how Joshua Venture couldn’t manage to continue. Something not being said, and as a finalist for the last cohort, I think JV owes it to us to explain exactly why it closed.
    “Even with three major backers – the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund and the Righteous Persons Foundation – each contributing between $750,000 and $1 million over Joshua Venture’s five years, plus six-figure donations from other major foundations and individuals, money ran short.”
    Two cohorts of eight for a total of sixteen fellows over five years, each provided with the equivalent of $100K in cash, services and other benefits for $1.6M over the whole endeavor for fellowships. If what Jewish Week reported is true, that each of the donors contributed $1M per year for five years, it means there was $15M available for operations, program expenses, etc. Even if staff and expenses were $1M annually and no additional money was raised, there’s $8M left for cash reserves, an endowment or program and operations expenses for another five years. Where’d the other money go? Hard to tell- there is no 990 or annual report available.
    Why JV, Bikkurim and Natan are the only programs like this? For all the our communities bemoan rampant assimilation and disaffiliation, they fail to allocate ample resources and programming dollars to help combat the continuity problem by empowering our peers. There should be a national JV-style program with twice as many fellows, and given the amout of money being donated to continuity programs each year, its should be a relative snap.
    Those of us who have been developing institutions and organizations relevant to our generation’s mindsets deserve more than a just a shot at one of eight JV fellowships every other year, and now none not at all. If our communities are serious about recapturing the imagination and energy of our generation, a robust supporting mechanism must be put in place to nuture the vibrant ideas of hundreds of young leaders doing great things for our communities.
    To that end, I’d like to propose to petition UJC’s Renaissance and Renewal Pillar, each of the major national Jewish movements and organizations along with the supporting foundations of JV to create an entity to follow up on what JV started and ensure that future programs can continue to enrich Jewish life and culture in America from the bottom up.
    If you’d like to sign on to help me get this started, email me at jewishfringe at kfarcenter dot com.
    Adam Davis, Director
    KFAR Jewish Arts Center

  3. This is why we need self-sustaining projects; relying on old Jewish ways of keeping things going obviously hasn’t worked. If you raised your ad rates to their proper place in the market, you might not be so worried about getting grants.

  4. We don’t have ads. We’re a cultural presenter, not a blog, or wereyou directing your comment to Mobius? Either way, you miss the point. While Cherendoff and Steinhardt square off philosophically in the JPost about how money should donated and for what, they could be leading by example where JV dared to go. The story hasn’t been covered at all. There was clearly a lot left unsaid about JV in the article, but the point is that JV gave people like us a shot at bringing our ideas to life.. That’s something very rare in our community, where most initiatives are to down (no wonder they often don’t work…)
    Cherendoff and Steinhardt both miss that grass roots projects by and for young Jews, like Kfar, like jewschool, like campusj, like 200 other projects across the country, could really benefit from drop in the bucket support compared to what they’re used to giving. The ripple effect would have serious implications. Rather than dump money into institutions that are struggling to stay relevant and often haven no appeal to young Jews, why not give some of it to that which is working? The establishment scratches its head, funders argue about why they should give, and those of us in the trenches DOING can’t figure out why we’re struggling and not earning a salary.
    What we need is to band together and lobby funders like Steinhardt, who want to save Jews not Harvard, and Charendoff, who needs to be inspired to give, and make them see how we at the grass roots level, with little overhead, a lot of passion and entrepreneurial spirit (how the much more inspiring), are often doing more to engage and “save Judaism” than anyone else. They should put their money where their jpost ink is.

  5. Forward Forum
    Build an Open Tent Instead of Guarding The Communal Gates
    By T. Belzer, A. Lau-Lavie, and R. Avni
    June 17, 2005
    A few months ago, Joshua Venture quietly closed down. We are proud that during its four-plus years of existence, our fellowship of Jewish social entrepreneurs piqued the interest of hundreds of unaffiliated young adults who had felt alienated by increasingly conservative and creatively stagnant Jewish institutions.
    We are proud, but we are also worried. We fear that the closing of Joshua Venture may have a chilling effect on other aspiring entrepreneurs. We are concerned that Joshua Venture’s difficulty in obtaining financial support signifies a deeper resistance by major Jewish institutions to cultivating new ideas.
    Joshua Venture was an organization dedicated to cultivating the next generation of leaders — this, at a time when the vast majority of young Jews in their 20s and 30s have no Jewish communal affiliations whatsoever. We fellows were fortunate to have been offered the opportunity by Joshua Venture to join the small minority of young Jewish entrepreneurs and visionaries who are actively cultivating Jewish identities and contributing to a Jewish future.
    Despite its end, an independent evaluation showed strong expressions of the organization’s programmatic success since its founding in 1999. Through direct service, workshops, broadcasts, publications and performances, Joshua Venture reached more than 700,000 people and capitalized more than $3,000,000 for a Jewish renaissance in North America.
    What’s more, Joshua Venture was instrumental in injecting a breath of fresh ideas into the American Jewish community.
    It launched Heeb Magazine: The New Jew Review and the nonprofit record and event production company JDub Records, both of which have evolved into cultural standard bearers and community conveners for 20-something Jews who seek to fuse their creative and ethno-religious identities. It supported creative and educational efforts such as
    JustVision, which uses cutting-edge video and Internet technology to connect interested audiences with Israelis and Palestinians building peace in the Middle East. It backed intellectual endeavors such as The Storahtelling Project and the forthcoming book “Jewish Identity at Work.” And Joshua Venture placed equality and access at the forefront by supporting organizations that worked for the inclusion of people of color, people with disabilities, Jews by choice, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews.
    But Joshua Venture is no more. It closed for a variety of reasons, including problems with infrastructure and an inability to raise adequate funding. Joshua Venture’s closing underscores the dynamics of generational change that continue to stymie growth in the American Jewish community.
    It is an age-old problem, one that is reflected in the story of Joshua Venture’s biblical namesake. Joshua was the young heir to the leadership of a people on a journey to a promised land. Groomed for his new role by Moses, Joshua began the precarious transmission of tradition, wisdom and leadership from one generation to the next.
    While the biblical narrative depicts a smooth transition of power between Moses and Joshua, rabbinic legend offers a number of differing interpretations. In one telling, Moses graciously understands that a different leadership style, a re-imagining of myths and a new journey were required for the next generation to thrive. Alternatively, Moses is depicted in some rabbinic texts as a leader who is suspicious of Joshua’s intentions, bitter that he will be deprived of reaching the promised land and reluctant to hand over the reins.
    Like the biblical Joshua, young leaders today encounter reluctance even from those most concerned about Jewish continuity. Yet we have also been blessed with an abundance of support. As with Moses, conflicting responses are understandable, since the very nature of young leaders’ creative contribution includes an implicit criticism of what currently exists.
    If we are to learn anything from the story of Joshua, it is the recognition that any emerging agents of change must receive widespread communal support to succeed. Perhaps the very paradigm set up by Moses and Joshua is not the best approach for encouraging leadership.
    Rather than the current old guard’s practice of guarding the communal gates, perhaps the Abrahamic tradition of maintaining an open tent — of accepting and nourishing that which is unfamiliar — is a more compelling, ethical and refreshing strategy for engaging young leaders. Our challenge to ourselves and to the community is to support the innovators in our midst, no matter how young or unconventional, and to make sure they are welcomed.
    Tobin Belzer, Amichai Lau-Lavie and Ronit Avni are former fellows of Joshua Venture.

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