Four of the 50 most innovative Jewish organizations in North America are based in Atlanta, according to the 2016 Slingshot Guide.

Just days before the start of its seventh annual spring festival, the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival joined second-time honorees Jewish Kids Groups, JScreen and SOJOURN: Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity in Slingshot’s 11th guide, revealed Monday, March 7.

THe 2016 Slingshot GUide

The 2016 Slingshot Guide

In adding the AJMF to the list, the guide cites the festival’s expansion into a year-round, regional force working with partners and leading the charge on the South’s Jewish cultural scene. One evaluator wrote that the organization “is truly meeting a population where they are and giving them a positive, creative outlet for expression.”

The four very different Atlanta nonprofit groups on the list were selected from more than 230 nominations made last spring and survived a review and evaluation process that lasted from June through December.

The Slingshot Foundation began recognizing Jewish innovation and judging organizations’ impact and leadership in 2005 in an effort to help funders add creative, effective recipients to their giving.

“Slingshot is the stamp of approval for innovation in the Jewish world. Jewish Kids Groups is honored to be selected for this year’s guide and especially thrilled to be amongst four innovative organizations selected from Atlanta,” JKG’s founder and executive director, Ana Robbins, said in a news release.

She, SOJOURN Executive Director Rebecca Stapel-Wax and music festival Executive Director Russell Gottschalk were among the 25 nonprofit innovators the AJT recognized in July. No one from JScreen was on the list only because we couldn’t decide on one person to recognize.  

“These organizations and projects are being run by passionate and dedicated professionals whose tireless efforts are making the Jewish world a better place for everyone,” Slingshot Executive Director Stefanie Rhodes wrote in the guide’s introduction.

Selected organizations are eligible for grants from the Slingshot Fund, a peer-giving network of young donors with an eye for identifying, highlighting and advancing causes that resonate with the next generation of philanthropists.

Aside from the four Atlanta-based honorees, recognized innovators with high profiles in Atlanta include the PJ Library, which is nearing a decade of distributing free books to Jewish children in the area; the TAMID Group, which has a chapter at Emory University furthering its mission of connecting undergraduates to Israeli entrepreneurship; Moishe House, which just moved one of its two local houses to Inman Park; and first-timer Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy, which works with Atlanta Jewish Academy, the Epstein School, Torah Day School of Atlanta and Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael.

Among Slingshot’s reasons for keeping the three repeat honorees on the list:

  • JKG’s “disruptive innovation” is changing Jewish education by making it fun, interactive and relevant for children and parents and in the process is connecting with interfaith families.
  • JScreen has tested more than 4,000 people in less than three years to see whether they carry genetic diseases, in part through partnerships with organizations old (Hadassah) and new (Moishe House).
  • SOJOURN does more work in suicide prevention than any other Jewish LGBTQ organization in the United States and has been instrumental in blocking religious liberty legislation so far, although that fight continues.

“SOJOURN is proud to be selected in this year’s guide, and thrilled to be part of the amazing community of the hundreds of innovative Jewish organizations included in the guide over the past 11 years who continue to create positive change in the Jewish community,” said Leanne Rubenstein, the board president for SOJOURN, which just had its big annual fundraiser, Purim off Ponce.

Sarah Rueven, Slingshot’s board chair, said, “Innovation is a critical component of today’s Jewish community. Slingshot is highlighting the work of organizations that strengthen Jewish life by making it more relevant to our generation. We are inspired by projects that help people connect with the Jewish community in ways that both feel fresh and honor our traditions. The 11th edition of Slingshot is the most compelling and diverse guide yet. Readers will learn about valuable new projects and gain insight into the emerging needs in Jewish life, as identified by our community’s top leaders.”