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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

(Courtesy of OU) The Orthodox Union (OU), the nation’s oldest and largest umbrella organization for the North American Orthodox Jewish community, has announced a cohort of six winning non-profit organizations that it will support through its new Impact Accelerator. Launched in early 2018, the OU Impact Accelerator was created to provide mentorship and early-stage funding for Jewish nonprofit entrepreneurs and their ventures.

The organizations chosen for the first cohort are working to address a broad range of communal issues, from families managing mental illness to at-risk youth. Other winning organizations offer unique educational opportunities.

“The Impact Accelerator was developed to facilitate social entrepreneurship, to allow creative minds within our community to bring forward new and exciting programming to meet pressing, unmet needs,” said OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin. “This creativity, coupled with guidance, mentorship and resources from the OU, will stimulate the growth and development of these crucial endeavors.”

The six winners were chosen from 57 applicants. The first cohort of the OU’s Impact Accelerator will include:

NechamaComfort: Founded in 2016 by Reva Judas, NechamaComfort supports families who have suffered miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. The organization seeks to help at the immediate time of the loss as well as ongoing individual, family and group support. NechamaComfort offers training programs for medical personnel, therapists and clergy to help them better address the needs of their clients and congregants. The organization also hosts awareness programs for communities and workplaces, providing guidance for participants on being supportive of friends, neighbors and co-workers.

GrowTorah: Founded in 2015 by Yosef Gillers, GrowTorah develops educational Torah garden programs for Jewish schools and communal organizations, incubating emunah, environmental stewardship, compassion for creatures and tzedakah. Participants explore Jewish values and Torah lessons through the fundamentals of gardening, farming and planting.

Yedei Moshe: Founded in 2018 by Yael Wedeck, MSW, and Rivka Ariel, Yedei Moshe is a program that seeks out and helps businesses hire at-risk youth. The group matches at-risk youth and employers and provies personal mentoring and support for both to help facilitate long-term success.

imadi: Founded in 2016 by Chana Esther Schechter, Zeldy Oppen and Goldy Jaroslawicz, imadi empowers individuals and families facing mental-health difficulties by providing support, guidance and education. The organization’s goal is to establish functionality in homes that are suffering due to mental illness.

Young Talent Initiative (YTI): Founded in 2017 by Chananya Begun, YTI is dedicated to the musically talented 16- to 21-year-old segment within the Orthodox community, infusing them with spiritual inspiration and practical knowledge of their areas of interest. The program connects these individuals with experienced mentors as well as professional music training and production platforms centered around helping them to access a deep spiritual connection to Judaism though their own unique creative musical abilities.

Torah Anytime: Founded in 2006 by Shimon and Rubin Kolyakov and Yosef Davis, Torah Anytime provides access to recordings of hundreds of Torah lectures given around the world, uploading them to a free-to-access website. The organization’s goal is to enable Jews around the world to access Torah lectures from a wide array of speakers at their convenience.

Led by Founding Director Jenna Beltser and the Accelerator executive board, chaired by Charlie Harary, the OU’s Impact Accelerator will pair members of the selected cohort with experienced professional mentors and provide them with OU resources and network infrastructure. The entrepreneurs will take part in a customized curriculum of business skills, coaching, funding and implementation strategies over the next six to nine months to accelerate their ventures.

“The ventures we chose for the cohort are working on critical issues in our communities,” said Beltser. “We are so impressed with the leaders of these organizations and believe in their dedication and capability to change the landscape.”

The initial application process for the first cohort included completing an online form by May 2018 followed by interviews with the OU innovations team and the pitching of ventures to the OU innovations board. Part of the criteria for projects chosen included that candidates be Orthodox nonprofit entrepreneurs who live in and cater to the North American Jewish community. The OU innovations team also looked for applicants who have operated their ventures for one to four years, already proving to begin to service critical needs of America’s Orthodox community through innovative solutions.

“The hope of the Impact Accelerator was not only to assist and advance early-stage Jewish communal projects but also to encourage a greater focus on social entrepreneurship,” said OU President Moishe Bane. “The winning selections are introducing new and innovative ways of advancing the Torah study, religious inspiration and our halachic obligation to care for mind and body.”

Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union (OU) serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY and Birthright Israel/Israel Free Spirit trip organizer, and Yachad, the National Council for Jewish Disabilities, among many other divisions and programs. For more information, visit https://www.ou.org/.